Two films that get less respect than I think they deserve
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 02/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Carpenter's Vampires and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein make for a most interesting cinematic duo. Both films engendered a degree of dissatisfaction among many viewers that I still find difficult to understand, as I believe both of these films are true classics of the horror genre. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a masterful motion picture. While it does take a few liberties with Shelley's classic novel, it does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the original story, specifically the humanity of the creature. While a little over-the-top at times and surprisingly gory, this film forcefully echoes Shelley's philosophical, moral, and ethical questions, and by so doing redefines the creature in its original image. What I have always found to be the most crucial scenes in the story are here displayed in all of their troubling glory, and perhaps it is the heightened intellectual nature of this film that explains why a surprisingly large number of people find disappointment where I find stimulating triumph. There are enough horror-laden scenes to capture the attention of the general horror lover, but the real substance of this story, for those who prefer their monster to serve as a complicated, amoral representation of man himself, is ambrosia for those who are more fascinated by the questions Frankenstein raises than by the horrors he unleashes.Mary Shelley's monster is not evil, nor is he a monster in the stereotypical sense by which he has come to be viewed by modern audiences. He is most definitely a victim and a creature deserving of much sympathy. Abandoned by his creator, his first interaction with mankind finds him fleeing a mob intent on hurting him for no reason apart from his ugliness. He takes shelter in a pigsty adjoined to a simple house in the country, and through a crack in the wall he not only learns to read and write, he gets to experience vicariously the joys and travails of family life. He becomes a guardian angel of sorts, secretly helping the family survive and prosper. At Christmas, in a truly touching scene, he finds a gift the family has left outside for their secret helper. One day, he gets a chance to actually interact with the blind old man of the house, sitting and conversing with another human for the first time in his wretched life, but all too quickly the family he had come to think of as his own, chases him away with blows and curses. If your heart does not break at the sight of the creature sobbing in the forest after this ultimate betrayal by mankind, you are the true monster. This whole scene is absolutely critical in terms of explaining who the monster is and why he does what he goes on to do, yet most film adaptations skip this scene entirely. Only now does the creature vow to seek revenge on the creator who abandoned him; only now has this ultimate victim become a monster in the form of amoral man.The ending goes beyond the scope of the original novel, and it does so in a strikingly grisly way, but the overall effect of this film is true to Shelley's original vision. Robert De Niro gives a particularly compelling performance as Frankenstein's monster, the look and feel of the late eighteenth-century setting is spot on, and the musical soundtrack complements the plot extraordinarily well. This exemplary albeit somewhat effusive adaptation hits the core messages of the story dead on and stands, in my opinion, as a truly impressive cinematic accomplishment.John Carpenter proves he hasn't lost his mojo with his darkly intriguing film featuring two of the most frightful creatures on Earth: vampires and one of the Baldwin brothers. Jack Crow (James Woods) and his crew of modern-day vampire slayers don't mess around, a fact which is made clear in the most vivid of ways in the opening scenes of the film. While the gore is not excessive by any means, there's blood enough to somewhat sate the avaricious desires of the horror-loving viewer, and I could have watched vampires being hauled out into the sun to spontaneously combust all day long. Crow is a little bothered by the fact that the "master" he expected to find was a no-show, but the ancient vampire soon decides to crash the party the boys throw back at the hotel. Crow escapes with his right-hand man Montoya and Katrina, a vampire in the making. A consultation with the Catholic priests overseeing the whole secretive vampire-slaying business provides him with an unwanted new helper in the form of Father Adam Guiteau and the knowledge that he is not dealing with just any old vampire - he is dealing with the legendary Jan Valek, a renegade priest who became the first recorded vampire in history back in the 1300s. Throw the rules out of the window because this thing is personal now, and Crow will stop at nothing to destroy this most powerful of enemies. John Carpenter's Vampires is a bold and refreshing vision of vampirism in an age when good vampire movies are quite rare. Woods really seems to relish his role as vampire slayer, evoking the type of obsession that was required of his character. The opening twenty minutes are just fantastic, and Carpenter manages to carry most of that same passion and energy throughout the remainder of the film, closing out with an ending that truly satisfies and takes nothing away from what has come before. Frankly, this numbers among the best vampire movies I have ever seen."
I've Read Mary Shelly's Frankenstein
pollyworth | Wisconsin | 06/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've read the book and have seen most frankenstein movies, and let me tell you this movie follows the book closer than any other. It's a real heart-stopper at parts, very shocking and it tells the story that Mary Shelly invisioned. Robert Dinero does a superb job as the monster. If you like good, smart horror flicks, you cant go wrong with this one."