REVIEW: UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS (2017)

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UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS (2017)

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At this point the makers of the Underworld series aren’t even trying to lure in new viewers, just keeping the loyal fan base of this franchise interested and happy. But even the most loyal viewer would have to admit that with this entry, entertaining as it may be, the saga is starting to run out of gas. Blood Wars finds vampire hottie, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) having abandoned her daughter, to keep her safe and now being pursued by Lycan and Vampire alike. The wolves want her hybrid daughter’s blood to become more formidable, to tip the scales in their war with the vampires. Vampire councilwoman Semira (Lara Pulver) wants the latex covered Selene’s powerful blood so she can overthrow her coven leaders and take over. Selene’s only allies are Vampire Elder, Thomas (Charles Dance) and his hunky son, David (Theo James), who gained heightened abilities when given some of sexy but dour Selene’s blood in Underworld: Awakening. Still with me? Of course new Lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies) is out eradicate the vampires once and for all and has some bloody secrets of his own to help him accomplish this and poor, curvy, quick-triggered Selene is caught in the middle of it all. What a bloody mess!

Fifth go-around is competently directed by newcomer Anna Foerster from a script and story by Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward and is entertaining enough to pass the time. You have to be a fan of this series to appreciate the theatrical melodrama mixed with bone crunching action, but even then, it’s getting far too familiar to really set this new chapter apart from the last one…or any of the others. The filmmakers have realized this stuff has more of a cult audience and this flick has half the budget of the previous flick and thus is smaller scaled and delivers far more of that melodrama than some of the previous entries. There is still a decent amount of action, though it is fairly by-the-numbers and is nothing beyond what we expect from this series by now. It’s in the Twilight-esque moments that the film is weakest, thought, thankfully, those moments are usually bookended with some blood-spattering as the rapid fire editing keeps things from stagnating and us from thinking too much about how silly it all is. That is also one of the film’s weaknesses as there is little time to let dramatic plot points resonate and sometimes the movie jumps forward a little too quick for it’s own good. Selene’s final confrontation with Marius is a good example, it’s just over too quickly to have impact, despite a shocking reveal in it’s midst. The editing can be choppy in spots, as if there was an effort to get to the action more quickly and the opening chase is hard to follow as a result of being a bit too rapidly cut…much like the opening chase in the James Bond epic A Quantum Of Solace. Foerster seems to have a good visual eye and the snow set scenes are especially eye-catching, but if the series is to continue…and there are indications it is going to…they need to really shake things up a bit and give the series some new blood…pun intended.

The cast all take this stuff very seriously and it helps us do the same. Beckinsale can basically play Selene in her sleep at this point and the story has her a bit more sullen than usual. Pouting over her lost daughter and love Michael (played in flashbacks by both original actor Scott Speedman and stand-in Trent Garrett, who looks nothing like him) Selene is quite the sourpuss here, although she still looks stunning in latex and seems to cheer up when blasting Lycans or ripping out their spines. Theo James is a fine hero as David. The actor does the vampire heartthrob thing adequately, although the character does seem to only have been added to lure in the Twilight crowd who have nothing new to watch. Charles Dance is regal and noble as Thomas. A class actor giving the role strength beyond the simple script. Tobias Menzies is menacing enough as Marius, though he could have used a bit more charisma and Lara Pulver gives leading lady Beckinsale a run for her sexy money as vampish vamp Semira.

Overall, the movie did entertain, but only for fans who have enjoyed the previous flicks and are forgiving to the familiar material. Even so, the series needs some freshness injected into it or it may start to lose even it’s most loyal followers. Perhaps have Beckinsale’s Selene pass the torch to her wayward daughter and let mom’s latex covered buns only cameo, because, to be honest, we’d miss those latex covered buns if they were gone completely…after all, bullets, blood and buns is why we watch these movies.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs for fans only.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE MOTH DIARIES (2012)

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THE MOTH DIARIES (2012)

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The Moth Diaries is a supernatural horror set at an all-girl boarding school where young Rebecca (Sarah Bolger from Emelie) is sent after the suicide of her writer father. She befriends the pretty Lucy (Sarah Gadon) and all seems well until the arrival of strange new student Ernessa (Lily Cole). Lucy is drawn to Ernessa and the more Rebecca tries to find out who this mysterious new girl really is, the more she begins to believe that she is faced with the very type of vampiric creature that she is reading about in her literature class. As the bodies pile up and everyone attributes Rebecca’s suspicions as a product of the troubled emotions left over from her father’s death, Rebecca decides she must deal with this monster herself. But is Ernessa truly a creature of darkness, or is Rebecca suffering delusions born of her grief over her father’s suicide?

Based on Rachel Klein’s novel, Moth Diaries is one of those movies that tries hard, but sometimes too hard for it’s own good. There is a very gothic mood to it and writer and director Mary Harron tries to give it the same period feel of a Dracula story despite being set in modern day. There are some nice visuals and effective scenes and the cast all perform well. But sometimes the film is a bit too obvious for it’s own good. Some of the scenes come across as a bit silly when maybe a bit more subtlety would have been better. Some of the voice narration by Rebecca comes across as forced, telling us things we already have figured out for ourselves. The film probably could have benefited from some of the sly humor that Harron used to perfection in the classic American Psycho, but here the tone comes across as a little too serious and it also can’t decide whether it wants to be a straight horror or something more along the lines of a Twilight movie with it’s melodramatics.

Moth Diaries is not a complete failure by any means and it has  entertainment value, but it could have been a lot better if the filmmakers weren’t trying too hard to create a goth classic in the same vein (sorry, had to) as Dracula, but with the melodramatics of the Bella and Edward saga. Maybe trying to appeal to both the Twilight crowd and the gothic horror crowd, but sometimes you can’t have it both ways. Certainly worth a look, just go in with moderate expectations. Also stars the Underworld saga’s Scott Speedman.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs.

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