Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Son of Dracula (1943)


The Universal Pictures monsters are responsible for the success of horror franchises. And just like modern franchises, these classics have varying degrees of quality. Dracula spawned three sequels, SON OF DRACULA being the second sequel and arguably the best just behind the original.

When Count Alucard (Lon Chaney) comes to Dark Oaks, a plantation owned by the Caldwell family, mysterious deaths begin to occur. From Madame Zimba (Adeline DeWalt Reynolds), a gypsy fortune teller who warns that Alucard is not who he says, to Colonel Caldwell (George Irvin). The story begins to unfold as Kay Caldwell (Louise Allbritton) marries Alucard unbeknownst to her fiancee' Frank (Robert Paige). When Frank is overcome with jealousy and tries to kill the Count but instead kills Kay in the process he finds that there is something different about Count Alucard. From here an investigation into the origins of Alucard and the murder surrounding Kay and why she has been seen alive since the night of the murder.

This is a vampire story centered around a classic tale of jealousy and deceit and is reminiscent of classic Film Noir titles. The direction from Rober Siodmak is tight and the sets look good. There are numeous transformation scenes which look pretty damn good almost 70 years later.

Chaney may never receive the credit he deserves for how well he handles the role of Count Dracula due to having to follow the legendary Bela Lugosi. Chaney's Dracula, the son of Lugosi's, is a much more menacing character than that of Lugosi's. He was not afraid to hurt you if you got in his way, and he didn't shy away from violence or confrontation. That said, he had an underlying feeling of sorrow or regret which made his performance that much more impressive. Chaney wasn't the Drac that Lugosi was, but he was great in his own right.

A worthy entry into the DRACULA series and one of the better sequels to come from the classic Universal monsters.


Monday, July 27, 2009

SESSION 9 (2001)


I have been thinking of what to write in this review for the past 48 hours since watching Brad Anderson's SESSION 9 for the first time. On a basic level its a psychological horror film. Revolving around the deteriorating mental condition of those within.

SESSION 9 revolves around an asbestos cleaning crew that secures a much needed job at an abandoned mental institute in Danvers, MA. What should be an average albeit rushed job encounters complications due to the long hours, stress and personal histories of the team. Gordon (Peter Mullan) is the owner of the company, and has a new baby at home who seems to be unnerving him quite a bit. Hank (Josh Lucas) is sleeping with Phil's (David Caruso) ex-girlfriend and law school failure Mike (Stephen Gevedon) begins to play old tapes documenting sessions of a girl with multiple personalities. As the tension between team members and their own minds begins to build one by one they seem to snap.

SESSION 9 captures the atmosphere, natural tension and down right creepiness that these old hospitals for the clinically insane possess. It is not often in this era of film that a psychological horror movie is smart, well written and perfectly executed. The film sets firm values in love and loyalty. We repeatedly see a short memory of Gordon getting out of his work van with flowers for his wife. Hank is depicted as an early 30s male who thinks its funny that he stole his co-workers girlfriend. It is this loyalty to love that can cause a decent man to lose control.

The events in SESSION 9 are built up slowly, and allow plenty of character development. Every character is very easy to relate with, which really helps the viewer become part of the film. You hinge on every word and each and every sign of body language. When Mike starts to play the tapes of the young girl named Mary Hobbes sessions with the doctor it acts as a soundtrack to the descent in to madness. As each tape plays we can clearly hear Mary's state declining further in to this psychosis as her alternate personalities split more frequently. The audio of the tapes makes for a perfect overlay of the events that are taking place at the hospital. Disappearances, betrayal, and plotting lead to deaths that don't stop building.

The final "reveal" sequence is one of the finest I have seen in a horror film in quite a while. Every end was tied, and it brought together a near perfect movie flawlessly. SESSION 9 is very reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING, and while very few movies in the genre come close to the quality that Kubrick's masterpiece does, Brad Anderson's SESSION 9 comes close.


The Return

Its been eight long months but the return is here. Regular reviews, rants, raves, and random thoughts on the subject of all things horror and exploitation are on the way.