Thursday, February 10, 2011
Demons - "They Bite"
And a British entry in the "vampire" theme, Demons was a thankfully shortlived show from 2009 that was an attempt at doing a Buffy-esque show in the UK...
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (shiny 1080i HD... although again, it's that ridiculous i that UK shows seem to be determined to use).
We open with a woman getting attacked by a small creature - looks a bit like a gremlin - in her office at night; the Gremlin leaps out the window and hides in the cloak of a pallid guy with sharp teeth... vampire? We don't know. We do know the girl is dead, and someone with a daft American accent is investigating the death ahead of the police. Apparently it was a high school, and there's an important pupil there...
Cue important pupil, in bed. The guy with the daft American accent is going through his fridge. His name is Rupert Galvin, and he makes a mean omelette. The boy's mother, Jenny, knows him - he's an old family friend who's been out of touch, and the boy, Luke, has plenty of questions about him. Rupert, it appears, is Luke's godfather.
Rupert wants to know if Luke sees things in the corner of his eye that aren't there. He also wants to spend the evening with him - Luke would prefer to go to a party - and Rupert keeps throwing things at his head; this time a letter that he isn't allowed to open until he gets home, and a piece of advice - "They Bite". There's some photos inside of him as a baby, along with an old one listed on the back with "Abraham V-H". Oh, and the gremlin thing appears to be in his apartment...
Luke appears to spend all his time without a shirt on. This doesn't improve the quality of the storytelling, but I suppose it must distract a segment of the audience from it. Luke catches the gremlin just before his girlfriend shows up, but it's chewed its way out of the bin he trapped it in. Oh, and mysterious cloaked guy is standing on a nearby rooftop watching him (in daylight).
Luke meets Rupert at a concert, where a very talented, but blind, pianist is performing. The pianist, Mina Harker, knows Rupert. Oh, and she's conveniently psychic, getting flashes of various images when she touches Luke's hand. She gives him a locket from around her neck and sends him on his way. Rupert is a "warrior"... as were Luke's father and Abraham... they fight freaks and inhumans, supernatural beings and different species, and something about the half-life.
They don't name the inhumans, they just grade them and smite them... like the wrath of god. So there aren't exactly any "vampires" then? The V-H stands for Van Helsing... apparently Bram Stoker stole their family name (and Luke going by Rutherford is because it's his mother's name). Okay, so there are rivers underneath a famous London meat market - there are also lots of tunnels and a rat which can get fried by Rupert's pulse gun; anything up to a type 7 can be fried by one (the gremlin is a type 3). The locket gives him the combination to a mysterious door although at first it flashes so fast that he can't see it. And then we get the hidden lair... Or the Libary of Abraham Van Helsing... or The Stacks.
I'll admit, it's a very pretty CGI set, but we're supposed to be focused on Luke's father - who left a videotape for him telling him everything in the library is his and he should use it wisely. His father was killed by the freaks and Rupert was there. Luke's mother doesn't know anything about it. And clearly someone's hunting Luke. He's the last Van Helsing and he has little choice but to start "fighting and smiting". But obviously, he'd rather chase his girl...
The girlfriend, Ruby, gets approached by the mysterious guy in cloak and Luke goes to save her, but there are also three guys with silly bear makeup and reasonable martial abilities. Luke does a reasonable job with two milkcrates and a metal pipe, but after running the three henchmen off, the cloaked guy puts in an appearance. Rupert shows up to smite the gremlin thing, but the cloaked guy gets away. The henchmen were type 4s and the cloaked guy is a type 5, so clearly they're reporting to someone.
Mina and Ruby hit it off like a house on fire... assuming you've soaked in it gasoline first! Ruby's against Luke going to the Stacks with Mina, but he decides to go anyway, and Ruby's packed off home. Luke gets a strange gun with magic ammo that vapourises freaks. Rupert shows a slightly softer side by giving Ruby a number to call day-or-night if anything happens. Which is good, as she may need that number sooner than they think. Creepy cloaked guy has been in the lift in her building.
Of course, the phone number would have been much more useful if Rupert hadn't been out of the car getting a hot-dog when she called! Luke thinks he and Ruby are just friends but Mina's clearly seen the truth of it; he's still not sure he wants Ruby involved in all this "fighting and smiting" business. We get the requisite hostage call from Ruby telling Luke where he should meet them... and not to bring Rupert. Oh, and finally, the villain - he moves really fast, but he's got a very silly haircut and a beaked plastic nose... and he monolgues like the best of them. His name is Gladiolus Thripp, which should tell you everything you need to know about him!
According to Mina (via her psychic ability) and Rupert, Thripp is a type 12 bounty hunter. So who's he collecting a bounty for? Luke's got the bear-faced guys following him again, and a decoy in Ruby's chair leads to Thripp having the magic gun. Rupert shows up and finds his gun doesn't work on Thripp, but Thripp can fly, and he's got some sort of banshee scream thing going on. Luke gets his magic gun back... and Thripp has Ruby at sharp-fingernail-point. Luckily, the magic gun has no effect on normal people, so Luke shoots Ruby, and then shoots Thripp, who explodes, and they all go home.
So, er, where are the vampires? There's supposed to be a bit about Mina in episode 4 and we have to assume she's got some sort of connection to Dracula, but this episode was particularly vampire-free, especially considering all the "they bite" hints they dropped. So we have no idea what abilities vampires have in this show. We do have lots of other creepy creatures, but as they're never going to be given names, we're pretty much in the dark about them. It's a bit like ghostbusters where Egon would babble on about them hunting a level 12 free-floating phantasm and the audience would have to nod along as if they had any idea what the hell he was on about.
And we have Philip Glenister doing the worst American accent ever; at least when Buffy had people with British accents they cast people who vaguely knew what they were supposed to be doing! Luke and Ruby are "typical teenagers" and therefore we can expect all the usual angsty teen drama that Buffy did so well and this show is sure to botch horribly. And we have Mina Harker, who I'm sure is blind just so she can get away with staring at nothing and looking completely blank-faced.
Fortunately, there are only 6 episodes of the thing, so we haven't got to put up with too much pain!
Vampire Checklist: Err... what vampires?
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Angel - "City Of"
So, on to the spin-off, which I've seen slightly fewer times than Buffy's opener...
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Oooh, creepy stalker guy gives voice-over. And he's drunk at a bar. Or at least, he's faking being drunk at a bar so he can keep an eye on the two vampires playing pool behind him so when they leave with the two girls, he can go deal with them. He's got a really awesome coat here. And does that lead vampire look familiar? If I'm interpreting IMDb right, it's Josh Holloway from Lost. Okay, Angel can fight, and he's got those handy spring loaded stakes in his coatsleeves. And he clearly hasn't quite got his thirst for blood under control.
So Angel's got his underground apartment-cum-Batcave. And he's got Doyle, a half-demon sent by the "Powers That Be". And we get all of Angel's backstory in a 1 minute monologue which I guess works as an introduction for new viewers. Doyle gets visions from the Powers - mind-splitting images that show him who Angel should help.
Doyle's vision is of a girl - Tina - who Angel's supposed to help. He offers to provide a friendly ear, but she thinks he's been sent by some guy called Russell, and considering she pulls pepper-spray on him, I'm guessing Russell isn't a nice guy. Tina wants to be an actress, and she's going to a "fabulous Hollywood party" but foolishly takes Angel with her (well, he offers her a ride and then gets to stand around looking confused). Angel manages to get an agent, and meet an old friend, Cordelia Chase... who's still coming across as shallow as ever.
Tina, however, isn't having such a good time. Stacey, one of Russell's men, arranges to have Tina grabbed in the parking lot, but trapping Angel in an elevator with two guys isn't really going to end well for the two guys. The joke with the two identical convertibles is kind of fun though. Cordy's fabulous acting career clearly isn't going as well as she made out at the party.
When did Angel learn to use a computer? How is Russell in Tina's apartment? He does say he owns the building, so is the whole building fitted with necro-tempered glass? Angel gets there too late to save Tina... which isn't going to help his conscience very much. Russell has a lawyer (Lindsey) from Wolfram And Hart, who's happy to cover for Russell's murder. Unfortunately, Russell's decided to pick up something else for a snack, and he's decided on Cordelia.
The bit where Cordelia works out where Russell is a vampire is really well written. I guess it's a good job Angel's about to break in as at least someone's in with a chance of saving her from being alone in his fortress-like home. The guys with guns aren't exactly part of Angel's plan though. And those are some really good gates that Doyle tries to ram with the car!
Russell clearly thinks he's untouchable, especially with Lindsay in the room. But Angel doesn't exactly endear himself to the law-firm by pushing their client out of a very high window! So Angel ends up with a firm that helps people, and an employee in Cordelia.
Vampire Checklist: See Buffy, but add that they clarify the mirror thing, and vampires don't appear in them.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - "Welcome To The Hellmouth / The Harvest"
This might be less a synopsis and more a ramble-along, as I've seen these particular opening episodes more than a few times...
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Wow, Julie Benz looks young in the opening scene of this show. Admittedly, I love the way they play with the conventions in this opener - the jock who used to go to the school, and the scared girl accompanying him in his break in, but she's the vampire (and he's from CSI isn't he? Is that Danny from CSI: NY?). More bopping-around-the-room-worthy theme music with this one.
Ah, Sarah Michelle Gellar while she still had a job (and no-one had yet noticed she can't really act... or maybe she just got sucked into the black-hole that is the Freddie-Prinze-Jnr-zone). Xander's the obvious goof-ball, and Willow's dressed as a nerd and knows stuff about maths. Jessie's sort of "the other guy" at the moment, which is pretty much all he needs to be, as he's here just as a character-foil for Xander's growth and to show that not everyone can survive the vampire-related-shenanigans.
There's a lot of library related hints in the opening of this episode - do you think they're trying to tell us something? Cordelia's clearly the head of the social scene but she's a bit of a bitch, and Buffy's clearly had some character growth since her cheerleading days as she's clearly feeling sorry for the taunting of Willow.
I like Giles' level of glee at meeting Buffy and pulling out the "Vampyr" book. Buffy's clearly trying to keep a low profile, but the dead body isn't going to make that easy.
I don't know what it is about this, but the picture quality really isn't all that great.
Oh look, creepy stalker guy... oh, no wait, it's just Angel, who, let's be fair, once we get some back story, is creepy stalker guy. Playing mysterious stranger and giving her gifts is so not the best way for things to turn out well.
So, our first view of the Bronze, and it's basically a warehouse with a stage at one end and a bar at the other. There's a bizarre seating-cum-pool area in the middle where the stairs are. Giles shows up - gets the 4-1-1 on The Harvest and Buffy's incipient crush on tall-dark-and-brooding - and points Buffy at the vampires.
The whole "master rising from a pool of blood" effect is very silly. Why was he in the pool of blood anyway? And how does he just rise up out of it as if by magic? And the first of Sunnydale's eleven cemeteries puts in an appearance. Why does Darla play the victim here when Luke shows up? She's encountered Slayers before, so presumably she must know what she is just from the initial fist-fight?
Okay, so part 2, and Jessie's been taken, Buffy has to spill the whole deal to Xander and Willow. Willow shows that she's got a slightly criminal streak having decrypted the City Council's files. Buffy's standing jump over the school gates is pretty impressive, especially backwards. Oh look, creepy stalker guy is back. But how did he get into the mausoleum considering it's daylight. The subterranean entrance is padlocked and he doesn't have the key, so he didn't come in that way. Was he there all day? Did he go in while it was still night and wait for her? That takes the creepy-stalker vibe to a whole new level.
So Jessie gets turned, Xander and Buffy get trapped underground with an army of vampires trying to break into the room, and Willow manages to ruin Cordelia's computer-class work. The Master does quite an entertaining job with his minions. And Giles and Willow do more research. Considering they have an hour and a half, there's quite a lot of filler "research" in this.
And so, back to the Bronze for the army of vampires. Jessie's already there dancing with Cordelia. Buffy is grounded but sneaks out anyway. It's nice that she wears Pike's leather jacket to the fight. But she does drop Mr Pointy, which isn't the best way to fight a vampire. Luckily Luke is a moron and she can trick him with the whole "sunrise" thing.
Vampire Checklist: They're dead, and they're faces are deformed, but only when they're feeding. Holy water and crosses burn them. Beheading, fire, stake through the heart and sunlight turn them to dust. Making more vampires requires the whole big sucking thing. No mention of mirrors yet.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Blood Ties - "Blood Price"
The first of the Canadian vampire shows, a short-lived show from 2007 is up next...
Aspect Ratio: Non-anamorphic widescreen... and yes, that's a bit annoying...
So we open on a woman walking along a street at night making a phone call, then cut to some guy performing some sort of magic ritual, and then back on the street where another guy gets attacked by someone who looks like "the freaking Prince Of Darkness." The woman gives chase but the cloaked attacker disappears. Cue theme music (with actual title sequence and theme music and everything).
The woman, Victoria "Vicki" Nelson, used to be a cop, so having to stick around to be questioned by her ex-partner, Mike Celluci, leads to some mild flirting and a bit of hostility. Vicki left the force due to bad eyesight... and is now trying to take up as a private investigator. This isn't the first body with the same injuries.
Coreen Fennel comes to Vicki - she was the girlfriend of Ian, the dead guy - and she's convinced Ian was killed by a vampire... which is why she didn't go to the police. The fact that Ian was drained of blood tends to lend credence to Colleen's story, but she still comes across as a crazy woman. But she is willing to pay for a couple of days of Vicki's investigation to try and find something.
Cut to vampire in bed with a girl - Henry Fitzroy, graphic novelist (yeah, really!) - and he gives the girl the brush off (as an aside, is that the annoying perky blonde from the last season of Charmed?) with a little bit of hypnosis. Unfortunately, the "vampire" has made the papers, which Henry isn't exactly pleased about... as if people start looking for vampires, they might find him...
Henry and Vicki both find a symbol drawn on the wall by the body when they run into each other doing their own investigations; Henry manages to slip away before Vicki manages to talk to him though. Vicki's friends with the pathologist so manages to get in to see the body.
The guy performing the magical ritual - Norman - is stalking Coreen at her coffee-shop job. Scratch one up for "vampires are dead during the day" for this one - Henry comes back to life as night falls. Norman's back to performing his crazy ritual... and he's got simple requests from his Australian demon: new clothes and a car, in return for blood and souls. Celluci and Vicki have bad chinese together; he's been doing some digging into her eye condition in an attempt to get her to rejoin the force, but she's clearly bitter about it and the fact that she wouldn't be allowed to do anything but desk duty.
Australian demon kills another woman. Mike and Vicki share a kiss, but she's got work still to do. Ian worked at Club Nirvosa, which is what you'd expect from an underground heavy metal goth club. Henry's followed the same lead... but unfortunately for him, Vicki's immune to his hypnosis. Ian had a beef with a couple of guys in the club - Henry questions them (finding out Ian got them thrown out), but they decide they want to take all his money and he's forced to "deal" with them... draining them while Vicki's in the club probably isn't the best idea.
Henry escapes to the rooftop - can he fly? Just climb really well? He nearly doesn't make it home beofer sun-up - clearly vampires here are highly susceptible to sunlight. A hot-dog vendor tells Mike that the killer formed out of a swarm of bats. Norman's got himself a shiny new Porshe and fancy new clothes, but that doesn't appear to be helping him with the ladies; he's still a creep.
Vicky's spotted that the murders are starting to look like the points of a pentagram, which means she's going to try and predict where the next murder takes place. Henry's spotted the same pattern, but he's working off a previous ritual he witnessed a couple of hundred years earlier. Norman's setting up the girl who blew him off earlier, but in return he wants Coreen to love him... which the Australian demon can't do (but can put Norman in touch with a more powerful demon who can give him what he wants once the pentagram is finished).
Henry fights off the Australian demon, but Vicki shows up and gets the wrong idea about him. He accidentally knocks her out and runs off with her before the police show up... cue end of part 1 credits.
Henry's kidnapped Vicki and taken her back to his apartment... and he fills her in on the demon, as well as the fact that he's a vampire. No garlic or crosses will harm these vampires. Henry's almost 500 years old. Stabbing himself through the hand and healing the injury just about manages to persuade her he's telling the truth... which doesn't exactly make Vicki's night!
At least having the pilot in two parts mean I get the theme tune a second time... it is quite a catchy tune. Henry tells Vicki that because she's resistant to his hypnotism, he only has two options - trust her or kill her. He's going to try trusting her (oh, and vampires move faster than the eye)... and he wants to team up - he hunts the demon by night, she hunts the guy summoning the demon by day.
Henry Fitzroy claims to be the son of Henry VIII... and being an artist of graphic novels is the bit that disturbs Vicky! It was 1890, at the Hellfire Club, that Henry first ran into demons. And that's interesting - the previous encounter involved trading blood and a soul... Henry's blood and soul... in return for freeing the demon. So vampires aren't soulless.
Coreen's still convinced it's a vampire. Norman's still being seduced by the Australian demon. Vicki's looking for recent thefts and locates a bunch of thefts around the university, but it doesn't narrow it down much. Henry avoids the dark arts, but he has a way of tracking the demon... oh, and vampires appear in mirrors. We get Henry's origin story - including the tragedy that two vampires cannot share the same hunting ground, their territorial instincts drive them apart. Henry gets pretty seriously cut up by the demon and has to feed on Vicki to heal. She gets him home and is there to witness his death at sunrise.
Heh. The doorman at Henry's building is carving stakes during work. I'm not sure a croquet mallet is really what they were thinking of when they talked about pounding a stake through the heart! Unfortunately, he thinks it's Henry who's the vampire. Luckily for Henry, Vicki answers the door in her underwear... and she's still getting dressed when Henry comes back to life. Henry has a contact at the university who might be able to point them at a number of students who might have an interest in demonology.
Mike wants to bring Vicki in for a lineup as she was spotted at the latest attack, but she's willing to bring him into the case as far as the list of names is concerned. Norman abducts Coreen for his final demon-summoning ritual. Vicky follows a message from Coreen to Norman's apartment, but nearly ends up being the final sacrifice in the ritual. Henry shows up to try and reverse the summoning - Vicky manages to break the pentagram and Norman gets sucked to hell, but not before Mike shows up and sees the demon. Vicki's ended up with a nasty looking tattoo on each wrist and an assistant in Coreen (who's willing to keep quiet about Henry in return for the job).
You know, I kind of like this one. Yes, it's based on a book series (which I read after seeing the show), and it's typical vampire romance, but the love triangle between the three leads is extremely well played. They get all the basic vampire lore out of the way fairly quickly, and get on with the important things - the romance and the crazy detective stories - and you've got a nice mix of the over-enthusiastic, believe anything Vicki and the no-nonsense logical explanation seeking Mike, with Henry thrown in to mess with his head. I'm not entirely convinced by the chemistry between Vicki and Henry yet - she seems entirely too quick to accept his abduction of her, his vampirism, feeding him her blood to heal him, and stripping half her clothes off to fend off the bellman; but maybe that's all just part of her recklessness showing through.
Obviously you've got some tensions remaining for the show: When does Mike find out? What are the effects of those nasty tattoos Vicki's been left with and when's the demon going to put in another appearance? Considering Henry basically beats you over the head with it, when's Christina, the vampire who turned him, going to show up? And will turning Vicki into a vampire cure her eyesight?
And I have to rave about the theme again (which requires some bopping around the room as it plays over the end credits). For reference, it's "Live Forever" by Tamara Rhodes... and her website appears to be partucularly unfriendly to my browser, so I can't actually check out any of her other work.
Vampire checklist: Appear in mirrors, immune to garlic and holy icons, dead during the day, harmed by sunlight, transformed by the whole big sucking thing, can hypnotise with their eyes.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Blade: The Series - "Pilot"
A thankfully short-lived entry from 2006, next up is the tv-version of the Wesley Snipes starring film series...
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
So, does this pick up after one of the movies? We open in Moscow, so maybe it follows on from the very end of the first film? Anyway, there's a guy on a motorcycle in a utility tunnel, chasing a guy in a Russian military uniform. Clearly it's supposed to be Blade on the bike. Wasn't Blade taller than this in the film? There's some fairly average martial arts between the military guy (who's a vampire) and Blade... and Blade gets his lead to Detroit and a name, Marcus Van Sciver. Oh, and there's a ridiculous amount of blood when Blade slits the vamp's throat.
Okay, creepy cop picking up a prostitute and taking her to a meat-packing warehouse... where vampires in the rafters drag her off and eat her. Marcus gets introduced killing a guy called Zack for trying to pry into the secrets of the "House of Cthon" where all of Marcus' secrets are kept. Then we get introduced to Krista, a veteran of some war, and Zack's twin sister. Unfortunately, her "welcome home" party is the time when the police come to the house to tell them that Zack's dead.
Creepy cop is there when Krista identifies the body. Krista notices that Zack has a strange tattoo on his neck, that creepy cop brushes off as a gang sign. Blade's got a new headquarters set up (well, his currently unnamed tech-guy has set the HQ up). The sun's down and Blade's gone hunting... well, either that or he just wants to go to a really rubbish underground club. His magic sunglasses tell him who's human body temperature and who isn't, but he gets into a fistfight with the tattooist in the back room who's got pictures of the vampire glyphs amongst his available art.
Krista goes to Zack's apartment and happens to be there at the same time Blade is searching the place. Chasing him with a knife when he can clearly jump out of a third floor window doesn't seem like the best idea. Blade has trouble controlling himself when Krista cuts her arm during the chase, but he slips away. The creepy detective doesn't want to help her with the investigation of Zack's death... so she pulls the fire alarm and steals the file from his desk.
Blade doesn't have inhalers for his serum any more (was that the third film? I think that's where Doctor Summerfield showed up, but I'm not certain) and his tech guy isn't having much luck recreating the technology. Krista tracks down a guy Zack was arrested with... who has the same tatto as her brother... and who drops a small vial of powder. Between the tattoo and the powder, she tracks down a mysterious author, Professor Melvin Kaylow, who's got garlic hanging by his door and deliberately doesn't invite her in. The vial has "ash" in it, a drug that gives someone the abilities of Hominus Nocturnii for a few hours... and the "ash" is actually the ash from a vampire. Was the Mark Specter reference with werewolves a deliberate reference to something, or just a throwaway.
She gets a lead on the House of Cthon from the author... and then gets her jeep rear-ended by someone who then steals it. Mysterious whispers lead Krista into an adjacent building (with a handy "renovated by Van Sciver" sign on it just in case the audience need a reminder of the villain although to be fair, most will have fallen asleep by this point) where she gets jumped by a couple of vampires.
Okay, shooting vampires doesn't work - blowing big holes in their faces doesn't really appear to faze them very much. But fortunately Blade's there with his magic vampire-killing zap gun. Krista continues to try and shoot them even though she can clearly see her gun doesn't work. At least she accepts that vampires exist after the fight. Okay, vampires don't like garlic. Good to know. Blade does his disappearing act, so Krista has to go back to the Professor to get some answers.
I'd narrate the rest of this... Krista does some investigating, gets in over her head, yada, yada, yada, but I'd have to care, and this is just painfully bad. The script is bad, the acting's bad, Van Sciver gets to chew the scenery but is so bland it's frightening. Krista gets herself turned but we don't really care about her, so it's not as if it matters... I mean, this is a girl so stupid she monologues with the evil vampire rather than just blowing his head off.
Vampire checklist: Crosses and holy water don't work, but garlic, sunlight and ultra-violet light, and silver, are all perfectly good methods of dealing with them. Transmission of vampirism just requires an injection of vampire blood and then a death, so there's very little sucking (well, other than the show itself).