REVIEW: BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001)

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BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001)

The story takes place in 18th century France in the rural provence of Gévaudan. There seems to be some sort of creature on the loose that is killing the locals and spreading fear across the land. Royal naturalist and soldier Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) has been sent along with his Native American companion Mani (Mark Dacascos) to investigate. Soon Fronsac finds himself surrounded by intrigue, conspiracy, murder, betrayal and a pair of beautiful women (Émilie Dequenne and Monica Bellucci) who could be the death of him. All this leading up to the inevitable confrontation with the “Beast of Gévaudan”.

Wildly entertaining French film is directed by Christophe Gans from an imaginative script by he and Stéphane Cabel, that is inspired by real events. It’s an enchanting dark fairy tale that blends almost every type of genre from horror to drama to fantasy to mystery to action. There are stunning visuals, sumptuous costumes and amazing scenery and sets, as Gans weaves a tale of monsters both human and otherwise. There is blood, gore, sex, breathtaking martial arts and intense intrigue, not to mention some old fashioned romance as Fronsac falls for both the feisty nobleman’s daughter Marianne de Morangias (Dequenne) and the mysterious and possibly deadly Sylvia (Bellucci). Gans presents a noble hero to root for in Fronsac, some dastardly villains, such as Marianne’s brother Jean-François (Vincent Cassel) and possibly a monster, too. The action is incredibly fast and furious, the creature sequences as intense as any horror and the romance can be both charming and sizzling depending on the content of the scene. It’s the type of entertainment they don’t make any more, a film with both an involving story and something for everyone…the only thing missing is a musical number. The cinematography, by frequent Guillermo Del Toro cinematographer, Dan Laustsen is absolutely stunning and there is a wonderfully atmospheric score by Joseph LoDuca (the original Evil Dead).

The cast is large yet all bring something to their roles from nobles to clergy to savage gypsies and brothel beauties. Le Bihan is close to perfect as the noble and heroic Fronsac. He’s a handsome and charming rogue who is also very intelligent and when needs must, a complete badass. Would love to have seen him return in another tale. Émilie Dequenne is beautiful and enchanting as the spirited Marianne. Not hard to see why Fronsac falls easily for her. Mark Dacascos creates a strong character an the Iroquois warrior/mystic Mani. He’s a bit of a mystery, soft spoken, but highly skilled in martial arts and has some great fight scenes, as well as, stealing a few scenes. The great Vincent Cassel is a very strong villain as the deranged and dangerous Jean-François. He’s a man who’s allowed inner turmoil to make him twisted and cruel. Monica Bellucci oozes sex appeal and danger as the mysterious and sexy Sylvia. Who is she really? You’ll have to watch the film to find out! There are many supporting players and characters and they all perform well.

This flick is a personal favorite and almost twenty years after first seeing it, it still entertains. The blend of action, mystery, horror and romance is spectacular, as is the sumptuous design of the sets and costumes. The cast are all close to perfect and the characters they play are endearing, charming and detestable depending on whether they be villain or hero. It’s a dazzling popcorn movie directed with loads of heart and given enough depth and intrigue in the screenplay to give it some nice substance as well. An enchanting and dark fairy tale for adults.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) Muskets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2014)

This version of the classic tale is from Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans and is a sumptuous telling of the story. French film has a merchant (André Dussollier) escaping a band of ruffians and wandering through a snowstorm into the castle of The Beast (Vincent Cassel). The creature commands he must stay, but will allow him one night to say goodbye to his family. When he returns home and relates his tale, his youngest daughter Belle (Léa Seydoux) sneaks out and goes to the Beast’s castle and offers herself in her father’s stead. The Beast is enchanted with her and thus begins a relationship that turns from fear and defiance to love…a love that may be The Beast’s only hope of becoming the man he once was. But, there is trouble ahead for Beast and Belle as her brother Maxime (Nicholas Gob) has offered up the riches of Beast’s castle to the gang leader Perducas (Eduardo Noriega) as payment for his debts.

Directed from a script by he and Sandra Vo-Anh this is a visually spectacular interpretation of the classic story and has a much welcome dark edge to it. It is entertaining and only looses it’s grip somewhat in a very CGI heavy last act when Perducas and his thugs raid Beast’s castle and he defends it with colossal moving statues and the local flora and fauna and it gets a little overindulgent. Belle’s disdain turning to love also could have been handled better as it happens a bit too quick, though her dreams of how The Beast came to be are well done and very effective. The costumes and make-up are elegant and the sets and FX are top notch and the cast all seem to fit and play their roles well, especially Vincent Cassel, who plays beast and prince equally well and the enchanting Miss Seydoux as Belle. It may be a bit of a flawed telling, but still very enjoyable and if nothing else, a visual feast for the eyes.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NECRONOMICON (1993)

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NECRONOMICON (1993)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

This is actually a fun anthology the uses the amusing framing story of H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs) himself visiting the library of a mysterious sect of monks and sneaking a look at the forbidden book of the title and thus unleashing three stories based on actual works of the author. Now we know where he got his inspiration.

First story, The Drowned, is the best and most Lovecraftian of the three tales. It’s directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood Of The Wolf) and written by Gans and Brent V. Friedman. It tells the tragic tale of Edward De LaPoer (Bruce Payne) who has recently lost his wife in a terrible drowning accident and now has inherited a run-down, old seaside hotel from a distant uncle. He discovers the original owner of the building Jethro De La Poer (Richard Lynch) also lost his family tragically at sea and used a book called the Necronomicon to resurrect them. Not heeding how horribly Jethro’s story turned out, Edward finds where the book is hidden in the house and plots to resurrect his own lost love. This story is very well acted by Payne and has some of the best SPFX of the anthology in it’s presentation of resurrected ghouls and Cthulhu-like creatures. It has a nice atmosphere of dread and a great visual look from Gans. As far as evoking Lovecraft, this segment nails it perfectly.

Second story, The Cold, is entertaining, too as it finds nosey and obnoxious reporter Dale Porkel (Dennis Christopher) confronting a woman (Bess Meyer) in an old Boston house as to the whereabouts of the original owner, a Dr. Madden (David Warner). Madden is suspected of being over 100 years-old and Porkel claims he can tie him into a series of disappearances unless the women tells him everything. Be careful what you wish for, as Porkel gets a tale of love, murder and trying to cheat death that is chilling in more ways than one. Another entertaining story, this one directed by the 90s Gamera series’ director Shusuke Kaneko and written by Friedman and Kazunori Ito. This segment combines a tragic love story with a gruesome tale of a scientist trying to cheat death while at the cost of the lives of others. It earns it’s title from the fact that Madden’s cheating of death only works at very low temperatures. The segment is well done, has some very good FX and the cast all perform well, especially David Warner as the ill-fated Madden. Christopher lays it on a little thick, but is only in the beginning and end of the segment.

Final story, Whispers is the weakest, but still provides skin-crawling entertainment. It’s written by Brent V. Friedman and Brian Yuzna, who also directed the segment. This tells the story of a cop (Signy Coleman) who is pregnant from her partner Paul (Obba Babatundé). Her overly emotional state while in pursuit of a mysterious suspect called The Butcher, causes an accident that allows the injured Paul to be taken hostage. She pursues them into what appears to be an abandoned building, but soon finds there is an unspeakable and otherworldly horror waiting for her and her unborn child in it’s depths. Segment is OK, but marred by some over-the-top and uneven acting and a story that’s too contemporary to fit in comfortably with the previous old-fashioned tales. What we finally find in it’s lower levels is gruesome and unnerving and well portrayed by some charming prosthetic effects and Yuzna does have a cinematic style that works well with the subject matter. The story is entertaining, but not as much as what came before and it also lacks the other stories’ charm, though it does have some of the most unsettling visuals.

Obviously, after the final tale, we finish the framing story of H.P. Lovecraft’s search and seizure of the Necronomicon and hint at possible future installments which sadly never happened. The framing segments are fun and also directed by Brian Yuzna and co-written with Brent V. Friedman. This segment has a charming old-fashioned movie serial feel and does get to have a little fun with prosthetic make-up FX in it’s last act. Too bad the film never took off enough to continue the adventures of Coombs’ H.P. Lovecraft. That might have been fun.

This is, overall, an entertaining movie. The stories may be uneven, but they do capture the flavor of the celebrated horror author’s work and the wraparound story actually involving Lovecraft is charming and fun. The FX throughout are delightful prosthetics, gore, miniatures and rubber creatures with some slightly cheesy visual FX that are all the more fun for it. The cast are fairly solid, accept for a few overdone performances, such as in the last story, but are balanced out by the strong work of Payne, Lynch, Warner and the always welcome Jeffery Combs. A fun and nostalgic anthology that deserves a decent blu-ray release!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 necronomicons.

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CHRISTOPHE GANS’ “LA BELLE ET LA BETE” GETS A BEAUTIFUL LOOKING TRAILER!

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I am a huge fan of French director Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood Of The Wolf and after his visually impressive but, only moderately entertaining Silent Hill adaptation, I am pleased to see he is returning to his lush period work with a retelling of the classic Beauty And The Beast… and it looks like a sumptuously filmed version at that!
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