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Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires (2009)

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Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. VampiresReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Sam McConkey, Paulino Hammer, Mike Lawler, Mark Alderson, Adrienne Embry, Charlotte Bell, Rich Williams, Shari Wiedmann

Directed by Dustin Rikert


I’d never heard of Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires until I found it listed on a Thai DVD website I peruse every so often. Werewolves vs. vampires is worth $7+s&h in my book. Imagine my disappointment that the film never actually delivers on its promise. A less misleading title would have been Death Hunter: Some Guy Bitten By A Werewolf Partially Cured By An Antidote That Leaves Him With All The Abilities Of A Lycan Without Actually Transforming Into One Begins Running Around Looking Like A Chemo Patient Blade But Barely Uses His Lycan Powers Vs. Werewolves & Vampires. A cumbersome title, for sure, and probably would have taken up the entire front of the DVD case; just abbreviate it down to DH:SGBBAWPCBAATLHWATAOALWATIOBRALLACPBBBUHLPVW&V for short.

Director Dustin Rickert previously helmed the absolutely terrible Alien Invasion Arizona (review here). Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires, which still doesn’t even have an IMDB page, is only marginally better if only by virtue of actually displaying some visual ambition given the nominal budget and for having fewer dead spots, not to say the pacing isn’t constantly starting and stopping.

One major bit of advice I would like to give Rickert is to not film night scenes if the lighting crew hasn’t bothered to show up for work that evening. The movie opens with an African-American couple camping at night in the desert being stalked by a wolfman with black facial fur and a stationary animatic of a fully transformed werewolf. Everything was so dark I could barely discern any of the action going on. Then another couple is shown talking while driving down the dark desert road, and my eyes still had to strain to get a decent look at their faces. Rickert will later on switch to using a blue filter on scenes obviously shot during the day and just try to pretend this is all happening at night. Thankfully, by the last half hour, it appeared as if the electricians finally found their way to the set.

A guy named John Croix and his wife are running low on gas as they drive through a section of the Arizona desert where vampires dwell, werewolves run wild, and mountains of human skeletal remains somehow go unseen by man. The couple makes references to better movies like Motel Hell and Wolf Creek, although they really should be referencing From Dusk Till Dawn since they end up in an isolated bar populated by vampires. The head vampire, his name escapes me, adds Mrs. Croix to his collection of brides while John narrowly escapes into the desert, where he wanders for days dying of thirst as spaghetti western music plays before getting bitten by a random wolfman. Rescued by a crossbow-wielding figure in a black cloak, Croix is injected with a werewolf anti-venom that knocks him out for a month and awakens to learn he is now a mortal with lycan abilities. The werewolf-vampire hunter named Van Ness, who looked to me like a retired birthday party magician, trains John to use his powers to save his wife from the head vampire and deal with any pesky werewolves that might come around.

This flick reminded me a bit of Wolvesbayne, another movie that promised werewolves vs. vampires and never quite delivered. The hero of that film actually transformed into a werewolf, unlike Death Hunter, whose newly half-lycan hero merely demonstrates his ability to run at super speed via laughably sped up footage, and then has him barely use this or any other of his lycan superpowers in combat. He might as well have just gotten back in his car and run down any werewolves that cross his path seeing as how these werewolves have a pesky habit of running out in front of the only cars speeding down these deserted roads.

The writing displays such a child-like simplicity that you’d swear this was a movie written for children that was then made into a movie not appropriate for children. Did you know that silver can kill werewolves? I know – shocking. Were you aware that holy water and a stake through the heart can be fatal to vampires? This is remedial level werewolf and vampire lore presented in a revelatory manner by Van Ness. I kept waiting for Croix to reply with a hearty “Duh!” Turns out the ultimate weapon against vampires: Read your Bible, son. Having faith factors more into killing the main vampire than being half-lycan, so much that making his character half-lycan is nearly irrelevant.

An R-rated kids’ movie or just screenwriting as hackneyed as it gets? Sample some of the eye-rolling dialogue.

“I’m going to give you the choice I never had.”

“Just like a rookie to bring a knife to a gunfight.”

“Can you walk?”
“Does a vampire have fangs”

“How ’bout some fire, scarecrow!”

Right when Croix armors up in preparation of going vampire hunting to save his wife, the moment when the film should be getting you pumped for the big showdown, the filmmakers choose to throw us a curveball by spending ten minutes introducing a completely new set of extraneous teen characters that become comic relief sidekicks to Croix, yet then doesn’t even include them in any of the actual vampire hunting to follow. They’re just there to engage in unfunny banter with Croix on his way to the vampire’s lair. Two thirds over, and suddenly Death Hunter turns into a dumb buddy road comedy when it should be setting the stage for the final life or death battle.

But at least I learned how you play strip poker in a car. Everyone draws a card and the person with the lowest card has to remove an article of clothing. Shoes do not count. Draw the joker and you have to take it all off. First of all, this is more like strip war than strip poker. More importantly, passengers playing this game are one thing, but the person driving the automobile? Lucky for the distracted driver he only hits a werewolf. Next time it could be an actual human. Remember, friends don’t let friends strip and drive.

1 1/2 out of 5

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

  • Before We Vanish
4.0

Summary

Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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