Thursday, December 3, 2015

George Plantagenet Day, February 18

George P, Man of the Hour

It seems like every day of the year commemorates something. I don’t know how it’s determined what day commemorates what but I think a Tweet and FB share is all that’s required. So I want to designate a holiday myself! Let 18 February henceforth be known as George Plantagenet Day!

Queen Elizabeth .
Eat your heart out Elizabeth II
Who was George Plantagenet you ask? He was the 1st Duke of Clarence and brother to King Edward IV of England, thus a royal prince. George was not happy with his brother the king, especially the woman he chose to make his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, who was by far the hottest queen to ever rule England.

For this and a variety of different reasons George rebelled against his brother in hopes of becoming king himself. That didn’t work out but seeing how George was his brother, Edward forgave him. A few years later George took another failed opportunity to depose his brother and again Edward forgave him. Finally, after his third failed attempt to seize the crown Edward had enough. George was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

Back in the day the axe was the usual method of execution for a nobleman (a much better way to go than the alternatives). “Off with his head” the queen of hearts would have said. George was not the sharpest tool in the shed but Edward IV allowed him to choose his own method. George was a drunk amongst his other faults (which explains a lot) and chose to be drowned in a barrel of malmsey wine (Madeira). On 18 February 1478 the execution was carried out. There are no I witness accounts but records from the Tower of London do show that a barrel of wine had been delivered just prior to the execution.

I believe Lord Plantagenet is a much better candidate for miscreant English rebel than Guy Fawkes. So hence forth, on 18 February we should remember him and raise a glass of malmsey wine in his honour.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Medieval Zombies - Ask a Mortician

This is a web series I came upon accidentally that may interest those of us preoccupied with death and what happens next. Caitlyn Daughty's series Ask a Mortician series talks about all things related to the grand finale' She is also the author of Smoke Get's in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematorium. This video isn't specifically about vampires but revenants, their predecessors. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Byzantium - Mother and Daughter Bound for Eternity

Byzantium is the story of two women, a mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton) and her daughter, Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan).  If Lestat and Louis had been female their story may have looked something like this. It’s a story that moves back and forth between the present and the past. It tells the story of their lives before they became vampires, how they came to their immortality and how those things have affected their lives for centuries.

The movie opens with young Elle, forever 16, standing on the balcony of their apartment in a council estate somewhere in the UK. A stark contrast to the opulent surrounding we usually associate with the undead. She is writing and narrating the end of a story, tossing the pages over the edge because it’s a story she must never tell. A secret. Below she sees an elderly man picking them up, he looks up their eye’s meet and Eleanor joins him. He invites her in for tea and they began to talk.

The scene cuts to a strip club where Clara is doing a lap dance. She has her back to him and he makes the mistake of grabbing her from behind. Bouncers scramble but she already has done some damage. They sack her on the spot. As she prepares to leave a blond man enters the club. He’s showing a picture and sees Clara. He lunges for her and she smashes a liquor bottle in his face and takes off running. Unfazed the man is in hot pursuit. After a long chase he finally gets hold of her.

Finished with tea, the old gentleman tells Elle he’s had enough of this life on earth and he’s ready to leave. “Are you sure?” she asks. He says yes and offers her a bit of advice, “Don’t keep your secrets. Tell someone.” With that Ellie opens an artery in his arm and begins to feed. She has become an angel of death, only taking the elderly and infirm, giving them a gentle and peaceful ending.

Back at the apartment the blond man is demanding to know Elle’s whereabouts. “She is an aberration”, he tells her now docile mother. Clara goes to the bathroom to fetch a towel to clean the head wound she gave him at the bar. He watches her closely but turns his back long enough for her to hide a piano wire garrote behind her back. Seduction is Clara’s great power, the man lowers his guard momentarily and she whips the garrote around his neck and pulls until the man, also a vampire, is decapitated.

Eleanor comes in to find her mother covered in blood, “Pack your bags, we’re leaving!” They pack despite Elle’s protests, Clara douses the corpse and apartment in gasoline, lights it, and they are off to another town. There are secrets even Elle doesn’t know about.

Clara lived a very hard life. Sold into a brothel as a young girl, she knows how to use her charms, enhanced by vampire powers, to lure men to their deaths as well as bend them to do her bidding. Her mortal life taught her of the cruelties men can inflict on women. If they do so in her presence they aren’t long for this earth. A harlot herself she protect ladies of the night who are not immortal.

So why is it that a beautiful and powerful vampire is scrambling on the streets, running from town to town when she could easily place herself and her daughter in a life of luxury and stability? That is the story that unfolds as they relocate to a seaside resort in England. The story of the past is told in Elle’s words and finished by her mother’s.

The script is wonderful. While Clara’s voice is very modern. Elle’s is very much 19th century. It’s hard to believe the two are two could be so close, the brash outspoken mother and her gentle, soft spoken daughter. Yet there are moments when you can see the coldness even in her sad eyes. Her mother would give up everything to protect her daughter

Which brings me to the actors. All are amazingly good. I felt myself being seduced Gemma Arterton’s Clara and moved by the sufferings of both these women at the hands of men.

There are villains, the evil and cruel Captain Ruthven Jonnie Lee Miller), the cold and imperious Savella (Uri Gavriel). Then the seemingly indifferent Darvell (Sam Riley). And a wonderful supporting cast including, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Morag, Better known to Orphan Black fans as Mrs. S.

I loved this movie but then I like my vampires somewhat literary and complex, like an Anne Rice story, more drama, less mayhem. Add it to your list of movies for Halloween.

Currently on Netflix

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Unwanted - Carmilla Goes to Twin Peaks

What would you get if you mixed Carmilla, added dash of Lost Souls then had David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet)) produce it? Something like The Unwanted. The film by no means uses the same sequence of events as the book but most of the important events of the book do happen. Is this lesbian love thwarted by a vengeful man? Or is it lesbian vampires? You decide. It has elements of mystery, a thriller and horror.

First, let's change the setting. Leave the Austrian castle behind and replace it with Southern Gothic. Think Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. It begins with a young woman entering a small, southern town after getting off The Greyhound. Her name is Carmilla Karnstein (Christen Orr). She is in search of her mother, Mircalla (Kylie Brown),who disappeared long ago. Her last known address was a remote farmhouse currently occupied by young Laura (Hannah Fierman) and her widowed father, Troy (William Katt). While searching for the truth,Carmilla takes up residence in an Airstream trailer located at the edge of the farm. 

Running parallel to the story of Laura and Carmilla is the story of their mothers, Mircalla and Karen (Lynne Talley). The story is told in flashbacks and the present with deepening narratives, the truth in a police report replacing the lies told by the father. We get deeper and deeper into this world of saphic romance and an angry, vengeful patriarch.

This is not your typical vampire story. You may wonder if it's a vampire story at all, although the story arc is the same as the novella on which it's based. 
The sets and lighting are great as are the performances of the principle actors. A very clever production, made with a very low budget.  The pacing is slow, like a hot summer day in Mississippi. If you're up for an art house vampire movie, check this one out. If you know the original book, you'll like it even more!

"You are mine, you shall be mine and you and I are one forever!" - Carmilla 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Transylvania Pays Homage to Dracula

Call me a lazy bitch and you would only be half right. I haven't posted here in two weeks but I have a new movie reviewing gig on another blog, LGBT Perspectives Magazine . This is also a lazy post, a news article but one you're sure to love!

Pay with Blood!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The White Queen - A tale of lust, treachery and witchcraft

Nursing a Game of Thrones hangover? You might check out this BBC/Starz production. The War of the Roses was part of the inspiration for the popular HBO series. This miniseries tells the story of the rivalry between competing families for wealth, position, power and the love of a woman. But this really happened!

Six hundred years ago two groups fought for control of England; The Lancasters of the Red Rose on one side, the York of the White Rose on the other. The winning family would win control of the kingdom. The story is filled with the treachery of  brothers against brothers, , friends against friends and lovers against eachother. Lots of battles and sex to hold your attention.

The White Queen is Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV. She was without a doubt the hottest queen to ever rule England. She charmed young Edward with her looks and wit into marrying her, the first commoner to marry an English king. It was later alleged she and her mother used witchcraft to ensnare the king into their beautiful trap.

It has a good script, good actors and is fairly accurate on the history of real events. See if The White Queen can charm you, too. 

Streaming on Amazon Instant Video, The White Queen

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Tale of Two Demons Part 2 - The Conjuring

It's been forever since I wrote the first part of this topic starting with The Omen. I didn't have many kind words to say about it and I bitched about demon movies in general, but I digress.

The Omen was a 1976 movie set in that time period. The Conjuring is a 2013 movie set in 1971 and of course "Based on a true story". Indeed, it was based on a true story at least to the extent of it's original telling by demonologists and paranormal hunters Ed Warren(Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). You may recall the Warrens as the family saviours of the original Amityville Horror story. True or not the films makers did everything right to engage you with the characters then scare the hell out of you as their lives come undone.

The story opens in a college lecture hall where Ed and Lorraine Warren are screening a short film about the Annabelle Doll story, one of their earlier investigations and a 2014 release by New Line Cinema. We learn what they do and how they work which is, of course, in close collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church. 

Enter the Perrin family; Roger (Ron Livingston), Carolyn (Lily Taylor) and their five daughters. The station wagon pulls up to a lovely old country home in rural Rhode Island. Lots of innocents for demons and spirits to terrorize. Bad things start to happen. All the clocks in the house stopping at the same time, the youngest girl makes a new invisible friend. The family's nights are filled with strange noises and doors closing, seemingly by themselves. Dad Perrin is a long haul trucker and the nocturnal activities escalate while he's away. Finally, they decide they need help and seek out the Warrens. We're all set up and our haunted house movie starts to roll.

I've curbed my snark for this review because this is one of the best horror movies I've ever seen. It starts with a good story told with a great script. They employed great actors, people whose work I've admired in non-horror films. They all give grade A performances.

The film doesn't rely on special effects to give you a scare. They use camera angles, darkness and the soundtrack to build tension. There isn't a lot of CGI in the movie. Haunted house movies with slight variation all tell a similar story; they use the same plot devices. It's all about the execution and The Conjuring does it very well.  If you haven't seen it, pony up the $2.99 to watch it on Amazon Instant Video

Now for my complaints. There is a common element not in just The Conjuring but in many other horror movies. Our demon, Bathsheba, was allegedly a descendent of one of the Salem Witches! The so called witches of the Salem trials were not witches. They were victims of mass hysteria and a land grab by their neighbours. Witches are no more evil than any other religious group. They simply follow a polytheistic, nature based spiritual path. It differs from the Abrahamic religions followed by most Westerners. If you want to know about the witch trials and Salem, Arthur Miller's play The Crucible is an excellent place to start. It's allegory of the McCarthy persecutions in 1950s America. Also, as noted elsewhere, the story is an ad for the Catholic Church and Christianity as a whole. Gotta demon? You better convert.