Saturday, 30 October 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 3 'Witch'

Prospective Pom Pom Girl Pictures, Images and Photos

Writer: Dana Reston
Director: Stephen Cragg

What's the sitch?

Buffy is looking to expand her interests at Sunnydale High. First stop is trying out for the cheer leading squad, something she used to do in her last school. Unfortunately her fellow cheerleader wannabes are being injured by an unseen force. One bursts in to flame, another goes blind and then Buffy herself becomes mystically poisoned. Giles suspects witchcraft – black magic. But who would want to hurt cheerleaders and why? The gang sets out to identify and then stop the supposed witch, whoever he or she may be, before Buffy succumbs to the dark magic that's rapidly killing her.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
The first non-vampire story, Witch is also the first episode of Buffy to use genuine honest to god metaphor for the trials and tribulations of teenage life. It's domineering parent syndrome with a vile mother insanely jealous of her daughter's youth who uses dark magic to relive her own youth though her rather clutzy teen offspring.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
The witch of course. And a cute black cat that makes Giles (and us) jump. “Nice...kitty...” he murmurs, getting over the shock.

Why it rocks
1. Metaphor. Like I said, it's the first time the series uses the supernatural as a metaphor to highlight teen troubles. And it does it in a fun, creepy and clever way.

2. A Buffy hug. Buffy is really sweet in this episode as she tries to befriend poor Amy.

3. Creepiness. Witchcraft is presented in a cosily familiar way with a cauldron and a spell book familiar (the cute black cat that freaks Giles). So far so Harry Potter. But the episode also manages to make witchcraft properly creepy. Witness Amy's mum's attic room where she does her spells. Those dolls are icky. Plus the poor girl in school who loses her mouth. And Amy's mum's final horrible fate which is something that amusingly continues in to next season with Oz saying how the statue's eyes seem to follow you around the room. Heh.

4. Xander loves Buffy. Xander fretting over asking Buffy out is charming and funny with the audience cheering him on and hoping for the best. His present to her is cute but is mostly there as a plot point.

Why it sucks
Nobody seems to question Giles hanging around with students quite as much as he does. Nowadays he'd be put on a list.

Does anyone else ever use the library? What are the school paying Giles for? Actually this turns in to a knowing and running gag later on in the show.

Again with Giles; the poor guy gets knocked out in the first of many head traumas to come. This is one cliché I hate in TV land.

It's Buftastic
Buffy does her rendition of the Village People song Macho Man. Buffy dances in to her kitchen wearing her cheerleader outfit singing, “Macho macho maaan. I want to be...a macho man.” Seeing her mum making fresh orange juice, she bounces up to her and says, “Oh, hey, juice.” This never fails to make me laugh. Perfectly timed, perfectly silly, perfectly Buffy.

Dialogue to die for
Xander: “I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away.”

And another thing
We see Giles' car for the first time – the knacked out old Citroen.

Amy (Elizabeth Anne Allen) becomes a recurring character but is doomed to turn in to a rat for three years and live in a cage with Willow before finally being restored to human in season six. She is also one of the main villains in the season 8 comic book continuation.

How many stakes?
Plunge three and a half in and watch it dust. 3.5 (out of 5)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 1.2 'The Harvest'

Buffy Pictures, Images and Photos

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: John Kretchmer

What's the sitch?
Part 2 of the pilot follows directly on from part 1 with Buffy trapped and about to get bit by nasty vampire lug Luke. Of course she escapes, rescues Willow and Xander but finds out Jesse has been taken. A rescue plan is formed but not before Giles informs them that the evil vampire The Master, trapped by mystical energy beneath the town, intends to use his minion Luke to take the blood of many that night (the titular Harvest) in order to be freed from his mystical prison and thus open the Hellmouth, unleashing all hell on earth and destroying the world. Yikes!

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
More of the same from part 1. Plus Buffy and her mum's relationship is explored nicely. The troubled teen angle with Buffy's mum fearing that her daughter is headed off the rails again is used to good effect and results in Buffy getting grounded. A major problem when trying to save the world.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
Same bunch - nasty vamp The Master (Mark Metcalf), nasty vamp Luke (Brian Thompson) and lovely/nasty vamp Darla (Julie Benz). Mmm, Darla.

Why it rocks
1. If part 1 was the set-up then part 2 is the pay-off. And what fun it is too.

2. Shocks and death. Yep, a major character buys it. A Whedon trademark. Plus real, innocent people get killed as we watch. And a vamp gets his eye gouged out as a punishment. Nice.

3. Mythology. Giles spells out to the gang (now dubbed Slayerettes by Willow) what vampires really are and how they came to be. I loved his explanation about our world's real history, saying that (in a dig at Christianity) “Contrary to popular mythology it was never a paradise...” According to Giles the Earth was originally a demon realm where magic and ancient evil reigned until natural creatures evolved, i.e. man, and learned to banish the ancient ones in to another realm. Now only vestiges of the original demons remain in the form of vampires (really a form of demonic possession) and various other supernatural types. This is all very Lovecraftian with the Hellmouth and the banished ancient ones being straight out of the Necronomicon. Great stuff.

4. The direction. John Kretchmer ramps up the spookiness, tension and excitement for part 2. The sequence underground where Buffy and Xander go to rescue Jesse is great – especially when it turns in to a mini siege. The vamps are really freaky with deathly pale faces, dripping fangs and eyes that shine out of pitch black darkness as they slowly close in for the kill. It's all rather Carpenteresque with a dash of George Romero. Creeptastic.

5. The end fight. At the Harvest, Buffy kicks bloodsucker ass in a well staged smack down. Plus there's a great ending to the fight as “vessel boy” gets it due to slayer trickery followed up by some high impact staking. It's Joss doing one of his usual subverting things again.

6. The last words of the episode. As Buffy, Willow and Xander wander off while making light of Giles' warnings of dangerous things yet to come, Giles turns away and utters in exasperation: “The Earth is doomed.”

Why it sucks
Jesse's final death is anti-climatic and almost throwaway. Plus the stake is nowhere near his heart.

The vamps – especially Luke – come across as a tiny bit thick.

Speaking of thick vamps...why only take a half-dozen or so vamps to The Bronze for The Harvest when there's a potential army of 'em loitering down below? The Harvest is a huge deal and they now know there's a slayer in town to stop it. Stupid vampires. They deserve to get slayed.

The showdown at The Bronze takes place on a Friday night. But at episode's end the gang appears to be back at school the very next day. Tough education system in Sunnydale having school on Saturdays.

It's Buftastic
We get the hero shot at the end of the final fight. That slow pull-in on Buffy, hands on hips, bathed in blue, staring icily at the remaining vamps...who promptly release their hostages, turn tail and run. Whedon said to director Kretchmer “Give me the Spielberg.” And so he did. Think Indy in Temple of Doom. It's so cool they used it as the final hero shot in the credits.

Dialogue to die for
Xander: “The dead rose. We should at least have had an assembly.”

And another thing
We get to know Angel's name. We meet Harmony (Mercedes McNab) for the first time. Plus Willow shows off her computer skills - something that will come in very handy over the next few years. Oh, and this episode's last “The Earth is doomed” line is repeated by Giles in the final ever Buffy episode 'Chosen' just before Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles split up and head off in to the shows final ever battle.

How many stakes?
It's five by five. 5 (out of 5)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 1.1 'Welcome to the Hellmouth'

"I'm so mentally challenged" Pictures, Images and Photos

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Charles Martin Smith

What's the sitch?
After burning down the gym of her LA school and being subsequently expelled, Buffy Summers relocates with her mother to the town of Sunnydale where she wants nothing more than to go to school, make some new friends and live like a normal teenage girl. The last thing she wants is to deal with the forces of darkness and slay anymore vampires, no sir. Unfortunately for Buffy her new school's librarian, Mr Giles, ruins all of that on her very first day. As does the discovery of a dead body stuffed in to a student's locker. A body with puncture wounds in the neck and completely drained of all its blood. To make matters even worse Buffy's two new friends Xander and Willow accidentally discover that she's the Slayer and that vampires are real. Then when Willow and another friend called Jesse get kidnapped by a gang of vamps on a mission, Buffy heads out to rescue the pair...only to end up cornered in a crypt about to be savaged by one very big and very bad looking bloodsucker. To be continued.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
The metaphor is the main one that underlines the series: High School is hell. But this is primarily about introducing the main characters, the concept and the style of the show. And to keep people watching for part 2.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
Nasty vamp The Master (Mark Metcalf), nasty vamp Luke (Brian Thompson) and lovely/nasty vamp Darla (Julie Benz). Mmm, Darla.

Why it rocks
1. Simply, this is a great first half of the pilot. This is the set-up for the story as well as for the show as a whole. Whedon sets up everything and everyone with such economy and style that you feel like you've known these people and their world for ages. That's something Joss can do so well: effortlessly impart so much info in such a short space of time...and you hardly notice because you're having way too much fun.

2. These are wonderful, fully formed characters given life by great performances. We instantly love Xander and Willow. Nicholas Brendon and Alyson Hannigan make sure of that. And SMG as Buffy... Well, she simply owns the role from her very first scene. An icon in the making. Kudos too to Anthony Stewart Head for making Giles something more than the stuffy clichéd British academic he could so easily have been. Plus he likes Bovril. As do I. Way to go British man. A special mention goes to the delectable Julie Benz in her first appearance as vampire Darla. She's gorgeous and sexy as hell. Darla was originally supposed to die at the end of part two but was kept alive for six more episodes. She'd then go on to appear in a few historical flashbacks before being brought back to life proper a few years later in Buffy spin-off series Angel. And thank God for that. Watch Angel seasons 2 and 3 if you doubt me. She's an evil goddess. All praise The Benz.

3. The look of the show. I forgot how dark much of this season looked especially the pilot. Sometimes the lighting can be so dark you can hardly see what's going on, which is good as it uses deep blacks and dense shadows in real old fashioned horror movie fashion. There's also an additional night time colour pallet of sickly yellows and dark blues to help make things a tad unsettling. Interestingly season one was shot on 16mm film as opposed to the usual 35mm. This gives it a slightly grainy, slightly rough look and helps enhance the overall mood. Then there's the set designs. Though done on the cheap (as was the whole of season 1) they are great. The Master's lair, a ruined church buried by an earthquake, is Gothically sumptuous in a dilapidated way. And the set of nightclub The Bronze is perfect with its deep dark corners and industrial overhead walkways and blood red pool tables. It's an instantly cool place where you wanna go hang out.

4. Horror. This may be a fun comedy/action/drama but it's also a horror story. And horror is never too far away. Joss makes sure of that. There are two good jumps in the teaser alone - a sudden smashed window and the vampire reveal. Later on a dead body suddenly falls on to an unsuspecting girl, Buffy is thrown in to a tomb next to a rotting corpse and shortly afterwards a hungry vampire falls upon her from out of nowhere. I know this might seem tame now but back in the day I can imagine a few screams and leaps in seats.

Why it sucks
1. I gotta say that David Boreanaz first appearance as Angel, though a great scene with a great stunt, is hampered by his then rather limited acting ability. Thankfully we know he gets a lot better plus you can feel the red hot chemistry between him and SMG even this early on. Oh yeah, and his big collared Harry Hill shirt is hilarious. Not a good look.

2. The budget. This is modestly budgeted TV although Joss and co. certainly made the best of what they had. But it is glaringly obvious that the school consists of just one short corridor shot from different angles. And though the library set is great and kind of iconic now its a shame it didn't match Joss' original concept – much bigger, darker and scary with rows and rows of books to get lost in.

It's Buftastic
Buffy kicks some major vampire butt for the very first time while unleashing Spider-Man style quips.

Dialogue to die for
Buffy (describing how vampires are made): “They suck your blood. You suck their blood. It's a whole big sucking thing.”

And another thing
Ill fated Jesse (Eric Balfour) was originally going to be in the credits for episodes 1 & 2. But Joss ran out of money to re-cut the titles.

Jesse asking Cordelia to dance at The Bronze and being harshly rejected by her is taken word for word from a real experience of Joss' back in high school. Poor guy.

The whole season was shot and finished before it aired. This allowed Joss and co. to go back and tweak episodes. New material for 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' was shot and inserted in to it after they'd finished the final episode of the season 'Prophesy Girl'.

Alyson Hannigan was not the first actress to play Willow. Riff Regan was originally cast and appeared as Willow in the unaired presentation Joss shot to sell the show to the WB. All the other cast members stayed the same from presentation to series. The role of Willow was recast because Regan, though fine, lacked the shy vulnerability Joss was after.

It was actually Alyson Hannigan who suggested to Joss that cult LA band Nerf Herder, who she was a fan of, should provide the now classic Buffy theme. They did. And the rest is history.

How many stakes?
Almost a full house for Mr Pointy. 4 (out of 5)

It's Whedon brilliant!

mutant enemy grr arg Pictures, Images and Photos

I've now bought and devoured SFX magazine's Joss Whedon special where they review every single episode of television he's produced. And may I say what a great job SFX have done with this double issue ode to the man many geeks call god. It's utterly comprehensive and full of new interviews and mucho other cool stuff. If you are at all a fan of the man then I highly recommend you rush out and purchase it asap.

However, after an online conversation with a fellow Whedonite, as well as not agreeing with the SFX opinion on some of the Buffy eps, I've decided to undertake my own little episode guide/review for all seven years of slayage. Okay, so maybe it's just an excuse to break out the DVD's and rewatch them again right from the start, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for the Slayer. And after I'm done with the Bufmeister I may then carry on to Angel and Firefly if the excitement still has me. And if I haven't found anything more meaningful to do with my time.

Anyway, back to Buff. Here's the format for the guide:

- Episode number and title
- Writer
- Director
- What's the sitch? (basic plot outline)
- What's the sitch beneath the sitch? (episode metaphor)
- Who's giving us the wiggins this week? (episode villain(s))
- Why it rocks (what's really good about the episode)
- Why it sucks (what's not so good about the episode)
- It's Buftastic (single best moment of the episode)
- Dialogue to die for (best line in the episode)
- And another thing (any other points of note)
- How many stakes? (an overall episode rating out of five)

I'll post individual episodes as and when I rewatch them and amongst the rest of the usual rubbish I put on here.

So lets get cracking.

The time: early 1997. The place: the seemingly quiet and unassuming town of Sunnydale, California.

However looks can be deceiving. For Sunnydale lies smack bang on top of a hellmouth, a mystical convergence attracting all sorts of dark and dangerous forces to it, forces that threaten the world and could even bring about an apocalypse or two. But luckily for us a very special teenage girl is about to arrive in town. And although she doesn't want to, she'll be forced to battle the forces of darkness and keep a lid on all things hellmouthy while trying to have some kind of a normal life.

So grab yourself an extra pointy stake and prepare for a major case of the wiggins cuz things are gonna get freaky.

Monday, 11 October 2010

If this is the Afterlife then count me out

MiCrO1 Pictures, Images and Photos

Resident Evil: Afterlife

I’m not a fan of this franchise. At all. I quite like the first Resident Evil movie if for no other reason than Milla was cute in it and that laser slicing and dicing scene was sweet. Apart from that it was not so much. The second one, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, was terrible on every front. The third, Resident Evil: Extinction, was not too bad but I can’t remember much about it…zombie crows maybe? And Ali Larter. Yum!

When film number four came out last month in the now obligatory 3D I really didn’t wanna pay good money to see it. I’d seen the trailers and thought it looked rubbish – highly derivative and ripping off The Matrix ten years too late. I had the strong feeling it would indeed be just as rubbish as it looked. But giving writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator, Death Race) the benefit of the doubt I sat down on Sunday and gave it a watch, hoping for the best (for free I hasten to add and not in 3D).

Guess what?

It was actually worse than I thought.

God I was bored.

Anderson has basically made a film with no story. And no characters. And no excitement. And no tension. And despite some nice photography, no style at all. Anderson thinks that style means aping The Matrix whenever he can. But in his mind that just means the endless use of slomo for jumping, shooting, dodging, hitting, rather than creating and filming skilfully crafted action sequences with real visual impact and coherent structure. But then coherent structure is almost entirely missing from this film, the bulk of which takes place in a grimy abandoned prison where Milla arrives and must help the stranded people inside escape and get to a ship in the harbour. And that's pretty much it. And when they do eventually get to said ship, Milla finds this bad guy from the movie's beginning (who she thought was toast) waiting to trap her. Now, I had no idea who this bloke was when I saw him at the start…only that he was doing the worst Agent Smith impression ever. Utterly cringeworthy. So when he comes back at the end I'm still baffled. However by then I'd long since given up caring about any of it and was reading a magazine. Out of the corner of my eye I saw shitty Smith dude and Milla have an equally shitty matrixesque fight while some other stuff happened to the lunk from Prison Break and cute Ali Larter. And then (thankfully) it ends...BUT with an obvious set-up for yet another RE film. Please God make them stop!

There is no story here folks, nothing. Land a plane in a prison, meet some very dull, one dimensional characters, get on a ship, have a fight, The End. None of the monsters are remotely interesting - except the big bloke in the shower with the axe, and that was ripped off from the vastly superior Silent Hill movie.

Now look, I don’t mind formula schlock.

Hell, I love me some quality formula schlock.

But this ain’t quality.

The script is basic back of a postage stamp stuff with no thought to originality, character or dramatic tension. Stuff just happens. For example the whole subplot about Wentworth Miller stuck in the Hannibal Lecter cell is not developed and goes nowhere. I thought they might pull a twist on us and try to introduce a cool badass anti-hero character such as Carpenter would do. But, no, he is exactly who he says he is - a charmless lunk. Milla, bless her, not the best of actresses, still looks the part, though age is slowly creeping up on her as it is to us all. Still, she can still kick ass and fire guns pretty good. Ali Larter is okay, reprising her role from the last RE, but everyone else is either awful or makes no impact at all.

I can’t stress how much I hated this. I was sooo bored by it. Unforgivable for any film. I couldn’t care less what happened to any of the so-called characters and I just wanted it all to end so I could watch something else instead, something remotely interesting. Paint drying for instance. Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe it would have come across better in 3D at the cinema. I dunno, but I doubt it. A turd in 3D is still a turd...only closer to your face.

In the past I’ve been an apologist for the much hated (in geek circles) Paul W.S. Anderson. I like the first AVP movie. I love Event Horizon. But what with the rubbish Death Race and now this...Yikes! (0/5)

He's gonna Hex you up

Jonah Hex Pictures, Images and Photos

Jonah Hex

Based on the DC comics character and comic of the same name, Jonah Hex is a big budget, supernatural, sci fi, revenge western that was meddled with by the studio, trimmed down to just over seventy minutes, and then dropped in to the 2010 summer movie season…only to land with a leaden thud before quickly disappearing in to obscurity. The critics derided it and audiences avoided it.

Gotta say...I thought it was pretty good fun, some perfectly enjoyable hokum.

Sure, the script was unoriginal but it flowed well enough and mostly made sense. Mostly. Josh Brolin was pretty good, all gruff and growly as the damaged and vengeance seeking Jonah while Megan Fox was hot and spunky as Lilah, the hooker with a soft spot for him (though her role serves no real purpose other than eye candy to be rescued). Michael Fassbender was a suitably nasty-but-charming henchman and John Malkovich, who came in for a lot of stick for being over the top with plenty of scene chewery was also perfectly fine in what was in reality a fairly standard Malkovich bad guy role. The action was standard fare with the usual build up to a big show down and explosions at the finale but it was watchable with some reasonably good FX. And any film with a horse armed with dual gatling guns you gotta give props to.

Jonah Hex’s biggest problem is that it is light weight and utterly unoriginal drawing on all sorts of movies and comic books while adding nothing much of its own. Still, it’s brisk and reasonably entertaining and was far, far better than the intensely dull tedium of Resident Evil: Afterlife, the film I watched immediately prior. In contrast, the experience of watching Jonah Hex was like watching Toy Story 3. Bliss. (3/5)

Is this bad? It's a Dead Cert it is.

Dead Cert (2010) Pictures, Images and Photos

Dead Cert

Dead Cert is a truly dire British gangster/vampire mashup movie with the germ of a fun idea: modern London gangsters (as popularised by Guy Ritchie and Mathew Vaughan) meet vicious vampire bloodletting. Layer Cake meets From Dusk ‘till Dawn if you will.

Dead Cert tells of a gangland turf war in which reformed gangster Craig Fairbrass loses his beloved and newly opened lap dancing club to some dodgy eastern Europeans led by The Bill’s Billy Murray (!) in a bet over a bare knuckle boxing match that ends up killing Fairbrass’ man in the ring Apollo Creed style. Thinking he’s been cheated and feeling bitter about the death of his boxer (who was also his wife’s brother) Fairbrass recruits his old gang mates and heads back to the club to take out the Euro trash and reclaim his life. Only problem is said Euro trash is really a gang of ancient vampires keen to return to London and their long lost power base. Cue one hell of a bloody (awful) showdown in the club.

Dead Cert is a goofy and daft idea for a movie, but also a potentially fun idea. I say potentially cuz the idea is utterly squandered here. Let me list the main problems:

1. The script is awful with poor characters, naff dialogue and plotting that makes little sense (it is never explained exactly why the vamps want the club).
2. The acting is dull and wooden even from old pros like Dexter Fletcher.
3. The direction is flat and amateurish with no talent for shot composition, no sense of pace or flow to the story and no excitement or tension whatsoever.
4. The vamps are hilariously bad and about as scary as the Count from Sesame Street.
5. Billy Murray is in it.
6. Billy Murray produced it.
7. There is no humour at all…at least no intentional humour.
8. Craig Fairbrass is in it.

Arguably the most telling thing that this is utter rubbish is when you have the seasoned, always entertaining and frankly bonkers actor Steven Berkoff in what is essentially the Van Helsing role…and he’s as crap as everyone else. And when Berkoff is crap you know you’re in trouble.

It’s pretty obvious that the only way Dead Cert got made was due to favours from friends. I mean how else would you get the likes of Dexter Fletcher, Steven Berkoff, Jason Flemyng and Danny Dyer (in a blink and you’ll miss him cameo) in this rubbish? Okay, so maybe Danny Dyer. I can think of only one thing that I really truly enjoyed in Dead Cert and that was the presence of some very attractive young ladies in various roles - especially the gorgeous Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty. But that’s just a very base male response that I’m not proud of and that has nothing to do with the quality or lack thereof of the film. But there it is anyway.

Bottom line: Dead Cert is dead awful. Avoid. (0/5)

Friday, 1 October 2010

It's Dark Days as Stella strikes back...kinda.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days

30 Days of Night: Dark Days is the sequel to David Slade’s excellent 2007 adaptation of the popular IDW graphic novel 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. 30 Days of Night told the tale of a band of feral vampires who attack the isolated Alaskan town of Barrow after the sun sets for a month. The original graphic novel was a big hit in 2002 spawning sequels and offshoots that are still ongoing. Dark Days was the first sequel published and told of how vengeance craving Barrow survivor Stella Olemaun heads to LA and writes about what really happened to her town, using her book and its related publicity as an attempt to expose the truth about vampires amongst us.

In 2007 Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures produced the movie version of 30 Days of Night starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George and directed by David (Hard Candy) Slade. Though in my opinion fangtastic, it was given a middling critical and commercial reception upon release. But despite not being a big commercial hit, the powers that be have decided there is still on screen cash to be made from Niles’ nasty blood hunters…as long as it doesn’t cost them very much to produce.

So welcome to the movie sequel: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days.

And guess what?

It hasn’t cost them very much to produce.

This is a direct to DVD sequel shot in Canada (where else) with almost no budget and a recast female lead. Out goes the always good, always cute Melissa George as vengeful Stella to be replaced by Kiele (A Perfect Getaway, Lost) Sanchez. And to be fair, Sanchez is fine, even if it is a strictly one note performance - all scowly and sullen and not saying much at all. But that’s okay cuz in this story Stella is a severely damaged character hell bent on doing lots of damage of her own to the vamps of the world.

Now, I haven’t read Dark Days for a while, so I went back and quickly skimmed through it after watching this film. What I discovered is that the film’s story is a fair bit different. It’s simpler, less character based, more of a straight forward, slightly dull, overly familiar vampire hunt/stop-their-next-evil-plan type story. It’s very basic A to B to C plotting broken up by a couple of okay fights, a few nicely gory deaths and a bit of morose bathroom sex before ending with a girl on girl smack down as Queen Vamp Lillith (Mia Kirshner wasted in a nothing role) meets Stella for what is a (literal) bloodbath finale. Elements from the book are present in the film if pretty thinly sketched: FBI Agent and vampire wannabe Norris who gets his undead wish and causes Stella plenty of grief; the vampire Queen Lillith; the ‘good’ vampire Dane who Stella allies with. But these elements are used differently and less effectively in the movie with Dane being possibly the biggest disappointment. He is potentially the most interesting new character and yet he is rapidly sidelined and is only in two or three scenes. Instead, what we get is more focus on the small group of human vampire hunters who work with Dane and who recruit Stella. Problem is they are a pretty bland, useless, forgettable bunch. But in the end, as we would expect, it all comes down to Stella. It is our mightily pissed off heroine who must stand alone and defeat the nefarious Lillith’s evil plan, a plan which involves yet another vampiric maritime trip up north.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days is an okayish direct to DVD effort. It's better than most of its low budget ilk but is not a patch on David Slade’s excellent original. It's solidly directed and does manage to look pretty good despite its obvious low budget. I liked the photography with its gritty washed out days and sodium yellow lit nights. And the film also has a solid central performance from Ms Sanchez and some rather nice blood and gore to excite our interest. But what lets Dark Days down is the obvious cheapness of the whole affair, its pacing problems (it gets rather slow in parts) and the overly familiar and predictable storytelling. What is also rather annoying is that Steve Niles co-wrote this movie with director Ben Ketai. Niles could and should have done a better job of adapting his own work as this flat, formula script couldn't have taken him more than a few hours to bash out. C’mon, Steve, try harder next time. (2/5)