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Posts tagged “occult

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Paramount Pictures had run their course with Jason Voorhees, and gladly sold the rights to New Line Cinema for them to do with it as they pleased.  What they gave us was something that remains a mixed result for many fans.  Personally, I really love Jason Goes To Hell.  I believe it to be a great, original storyline that dared to do something drastically different with the franchise.  The filmmakers populated it with a very solid and impressive cast, and put together an inventive script.

An FBI sting operation at Crystal Lake succeeds in blowing Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) to pieces, and all believe he is permanently dead, except for bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams).  Interviewed on the news program American Case File by Robert Campbell (Steven Culp), Duke claims that Jason is not dead, and that he is the only one who knows how to send him to hell for all time.  He sets a bounty of $500,000 to paid for doing so.  Meanwhile, Jason’s demonic heart takes possession of person after person on a path of death back to Crystal Lake in the effort to be fully reborn in the body of another Voorhees.  Coincidentally, Robert Campbell is dating Jessica Kimble (Kari Keegan), the daughter of the woman Duke seeks out in Crystal Lake, but he doesn’t get far as he is locked up for insulting the town Sheriff.  The father of Jessica’s daughter, Steven Freeman (John D. LeMay), eventually encounters Duke after Diana Kimble (Erin Gray) is accidentally killed, and he learns the truth about Jason and what it will take to destroy him forever.

Many fans are content with just leaving all the origins and explanations for Jason being whatever he is unknown.  However, at a certain point, a franchise has to look back on itself, and realize that some sense has to be made of its menacing slasher juggernaut that continually comes back from the dead.  In this case, I believe Dean Lorey and Jay Huguely succeeded in conjuring a story that takes itself seriously while dealing with some fantastical ideas.  This film turned the franchise around from its campy decent into cheap horror, and back into a far gorier and violent direction.  It lays several implications upon Jason’s undead origins such as with the Necronomicon from Army of Darkness sitting inside the Voorhees house.  Granted, it was likely a prop happenstance due to the same effects company working on both films, but it’s presence alone enhances the occult and supernatural implications of the film.  It certainly helped spark the idea for a Freddy vs. Jason sequel, ultimately adapted into a comic book, featuring Ash Williams fighting against both slasher foes.

The addition of the Creighton Duke character was pure brilliance.  A hard edged bounty hunter with the secrets to what Jason is, and what became of his family lineage injects that air of mystery and urgency into the plot.  I have become a big fan of Steven Williams from 21 Jump Street to The X-Files.  He’s an incredibly talented actor capable of a wide range of characterizations.  As Duke, he’s got charisma that really grips an audience.  He can have an mischievous wit when he offers answers to Steven Freeman in the jail, but also has an intense, captivating energy when finally delivering those answers.  Duke’s a man with a dedicated purpose, and a confident, bold attitude backed by his rugged skill set.  He doesn’t offer trust easily, thus, reinforcing a sort of loner attitude.  He doesn’t back down from anyone, but has the intelligence to remain focused and level headed.  He’s not blindly obsessed with destroying Jason.  He knows he cannot do it by himself, and must come to trust that others will do what is necessary when the time comes.  Creighton Duke is one of my absolute favorite characters of the entire franchise, right up there with Tommy Jarvis.  Steven Williams’ performance is immensely entertaining and compelling.

On the opposite side of the hero spectrum is John D. LeMay as Steven Freeman.  He’s very much just an average guy with no special skills, but has his motivations.  He desires to see and hold the child he helped father with Jessica, and wants to see both of them protected from this murderous evil out stalking them.  LeMay starred in the unrelated Friday The 13th: The Series where he solidly played a similar protagonist, but Steven is even more unlikely.  He’s not at all a man of action, but when forced into extraordinary circumstances, he rises to the challenge by doing whatever it takes to survive and protect those he cares about.  LeMay gives the role plenty of light-hearted charm, and an audience easily feels for him when things go terribly awry.

This is undoubtedly the best cast assembled for a Friday The 13th movie.  There is just a wealth of credible talent throughout the ranks, and they are all handled excellently by director Adam Marcus.  For the most part, they project a grounded feeling that works towards the very serious dread and horror that is present in this film.  The diner owners, Joey B. & Shelby, are kind of comical, but in a way that sells Joey’s heartless exploitative nature and Shelby’s warmer sensibilities.  However, Steven Culp is probably the best of the supporting cast giving us a very sleazy, unscrupulous news anchor in Robert Campbell.  This is a guy who has deceived Jessica into a romantic relationship only for the chance to exploit her family for his own personal gain.  Culp puts in an excellent performance as a character you love to hate, but there’s more to it that I will touch on later.

This is undoubtedly the goriest movie of the entire franchise.  The filmmaker made the blood thick and plentiful.  The scene of the coroner consuming Jason’s enlarged heart is beautifully disgusting and graphic.  The gooey black blood oozes and splatters all over.  It’s an amazing effect, yet again provided by the masterful talents at KNB EFX Group.  They really went all out for this installment creating very elaborate effects which are seen in all their glory right there on the screen, in the unrated cut, of course.  New Line Cinema was the first to officially release an unrated version of a film in this franchise, and this couldn’t have been a better film to do that for.  The practical effects work is absolutely spectacular, and the visual effects are also highly impressive.  There is nothing at all that is just mediocre or sub-standard in this film.  Everyone was fully dedicated to making a high quality feature, and I applaud each and every one of them for that commitment and hard work.

Yet, this isn’t just a mindless splatter flick.  There is plenty of classic Friday The 13th style suspense.  Adam Marcus shows a talent for crafting solid atmosphere and tension.  The film has a dark visual tone creating a gritty feel that tells you this is going to be straight-on horror.   Lighting is quite moody with rich, deep blacks that really strengthen that hardened atmosphere.  It’s a hell of a great look for this film that really sets it apart from the rest of the series in a very good way.

What many fans count as a negative mark against the film is that Jason himself is barely in it.  He spends most of the runtime jumping from one temporary body to another in pursuit of a permanent resurrection.  However, this does allow for an unexpectedly menacing and kick ass performance by Steven Culp while possessed by Jason.  He tears through the diner massacre sequence savagely.  It’s absolutely awesome.  Of course, there is no discounting Kane Hodder, but he does appear lethargic in this film.  Possibly, this is due to the padding added to his costume to reflected a bloated and malformed Jason.  It definitely adds more bulk that works well in contrast to everyone in the film, but Hodder just seemed to have a harder time throwing himself into the end fight scene.  Regardless of that, he still delivers a performance up to his established standards for Jason Voorhees.

Now, Harry Manfredini’s score in this film is a split opinion for me.  It is quite good, and might be one of his best of the series.  Unfortunately, instead of using an orchestra, the entire score is synthesized.  He takes what he regularly would have done with an orchestra and apply it to a synthesizer, and it just loses far too much in that transition.  While the composition is very good, the sound of shrieking strings on a keyboard sound like the score to some cheap direct-to-video horror flick.  There are times it doesn’t sound that bad, but certainly from the opening credits and elsewhere, it has always given me that feeling.

I know I am not the only one who believes there are many places to take the Friday the 13th concept outside of its formulaic comfort zone, and to me, this film shows it can be done with the right ambition and talent.  It’s certainly a concept that you will either like or won’t, and it’s understandable if you don’t.  Many are happy to revisit the standard formula, and just see Jason killing innocent campers.  However, I find that many franchises could use an infusion of new ideas.  It’s only unfortunate that most times, those new ideas become bad ones that result in poor movies.  Thankfully, the right talents were employed that did love the series, and wanted to do something more supernatural, graphic, and demonic with Jason without betraying the core of his character.  Many would argue otherwise, but this is my opinion on Jason Goes To Hell.

I do hardly believe that even New Line Cinema was serious about this being The Final Friday considering they just picked up the rights to the character.  The ending of this film blatantly and cleverly sets up Freddy vs. Jason, so, there were obvious plans to keep utilizing Jason however they could.  Regardless of that issue, Jason Goes To Hell is one of my top favorite Friday The 13th films, and I feel it is one of the best and most successfully innovative of the series.  There’s a first rate cast here that really push the film towards that more serious, convincing tone instead of one of camp, which is refreshing.  The make-up effects are off the chart incredible giving us more gore than any other film in the franchise, before or after, but it has no lack of genuine suspense or terror.  If you care for a return to more serious horror for this franchise, and don’t mind more fantastical ideas injected into the concept, I strongly recommend giving Jason Goes To Hell an honest chance.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – The Producer’s Cut (1995)

This has become a very well known version of Halloween 6 to fans over the years, most deeming it superior to the theatrical cut.  It has never been officially released by Dimension Films, and can only be found in bootleg form on both VHS and DVD.  Today, you can actually find the full cut freely on YouTube. Among other things, the altered ending is also due to the passing of Donald Pleasance following principal photography, but that was hardly the catalyst for the extent of these changes.  As explained in the review of the theatrical version of this film, Halloween 6 was turned into a mess of a film in post-production following poor test screening reactions and severe creative differences between director Joe Chapelle and the film’s producers.  Thus, this version of the film was dubbed “The Producers’ Cut.”  Suffice it to say, there are distinct and dramatic differences between this version and the theatrical cut.

The setup and premise for the film remains basically the same as the official theatrical release, but this cut follows a slightly different chain of events.  There are alternate death scenes with some happening later in the film, allowing characters to survive longer than in the theatrical version.  One of those is that Jamie Lloyd is not killed by Michael, but rather, dies in the hospital later on by the hands of the Man in Black.  This adds back scenes of Loomis and Wynn in the hospital that better explain how Tommy runs into Dr. Loomis there.  Overall, the film gives more time to developing the relationship between Doctors Wynn and Loomis.  Right from the start there is an extended introduction scene, and as the story goes along a different chain of events, there are more scenes of them together which build them into a stronger, more prominent part of the plot.  More foreboding seeds are planted towards the rune of Thorn as well.

Music cues are also different in mostly eliminating the false scares throughout the film, and you will find no trace of wailing rock guitars anywhere.  The score is more in the traditional Halloween style with a focus on atmosphere and tension.  A definite difference from the start is Donald Pleasance doing the opening narration instead of Paul Rudd’s Tommy Doyle.  We also get a flashback to a never used, never seen ending to Halloween 5 where Jamie, portrayed by Danielle Harris, is abducted by the Man in Black.  Of course, where this version of this film departs from the theatrical version is more in the final act.  I won’t go spoiling much, but everything after Tommy and Loomis are knocked unconscious is almost completely different.  The film follows through on the occult aspects it establishes instead of the nonsensical genetic cloning swerve the theatrical outing offers.  Several scenes throughout the final twenty minutes were re-shot with a heavily revised script, leading to the more ‘by-the-numbers’ ending we eventually got.  The Producer’s Cut ending is less action-oriented, and more plot centric using the idea of the runes to cancel out Michael’s own power to allow for a potential escape for some.

I believe this version is a definite improvement over the theatrical cut.  The film follows its own logic throughout whereas the theatrical cut veers off track, essentially disregarding the development of the story at the start of the final act.  The Producer’s Cut retains a consistency and continuity within its own story, and with its predecessors.  While it requires the story to delve further into bizarre territory, it seems more satisfactory.  More importantly, it is all rather well explained through the course of the overall film.  This is mainly done by Tommy, but in the final act, Terrence Wynn goes further in depth about the motives behind it all.  The film doesn’t envelop itself in clichés or formulaic horror film scenarios building up to or during the film’s conclusion.  It presents a climax and ending which respects the development of the story, serves the tone and themes appropriately.  It also leaves a much clearer opening for a sequel with a definite storyline to follow down.  Unfortunately, this storyline and its continuity were shelved and ignored by the makers of the subsequent sequels.  While I would’ve liked to see such a proper continuation, I don’t believe it would’ve been successful.  Any non-fans would be turned off and lost with such a continuation.  This is merely by the fact of long-stretching mythology and continuity that newcomers would be unaware of.  Of course, this would allow for even lower box office numbers.  I’m sure the death of Donald Pleasance wouldn’t leave much confidence in the franchise’s future along this path, either.

I don’t see a real point in reviewing the acting since the quality of the performances don’t change from one cut to the other.  Rarely, if at all, does an alternate take appear, and it’s more a fact of extended and additional scenes appearing throughout.  Although, aspects of the editing should be addressed.  Whereas the theatrical version is far gorier than previous Halloween films, this cut removes a good deal of the gratuitous bloodshed.  This helps to put it back on track with the other Michael Myers outings, and much like with Alan Howarth’s score, keeps the horror focused more on atmosphere and suspense than on shock gore value.  I believe both cuts of the film were done by the same editor, Randolph K. Bricker, and so, the quality of the editing is quite consistent between both versions.  Of course, without a doubt, the story flows much better in this version.  This is probably because there’s more story here to work with between various characters.  Even the timeline alteration of Jamie’s death offers up a well-timed plot turn, and a slightly tighter pace about one-third of the way into the film.  It also keeps the idea of the Man in Black alive where he’s barely present in the theatrical cut.  Also, bare in mind, the Producer’s Cut was put together first.  So, the theatrical version’s gratuitous gore was all added in later, but still, several small character moments were excised in the theatrical version.  In regards to the Strode family turmoil, while they are nice touches, I don’t think either cut is exceptionally better or worse because of their presence or absence.  Still, it helps to give an extra touch of depth to one or two characters.

I can honestly say that I do find more enjoyment in watching this version of the film, but watching a multi-generational bootleg copy, no matter what lengths skilled fans go to improve the experience, is not something I would do often.  I really feel that if Dimension Films had any intention of releasing the Producer’s Cut officially on a properly mastered DVD or Blu-Ray release, they likely would have done it already.  Still, it is an investment in time and money, and there’s no guarantee that they still have all the necessary elements to present the complete film.  Sometimes, audio tracks or film elements are lost.  Beyond that, who knows what condition the master print is in.  I’m not saying these are absolute certainties, but there are numerous factors to take into consideration.  Of course, if they don’t show the initiative, we’ll never know.  Regardless, if you ever have the opportunity to view this version of the film, I believe it is worth your while if the more occult aspects of the story intrigue you.  Like I said, it’s readily available on YouTube, for the time being, so it costs you nothing to give it a look.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

The early-to-mid 1990s were generally not a good era for horror films.  The slasher craze of the 80s was dead, and the few surviving franchises were really limping along, creatively and/or commercially.  Now in the hands of Dimension Films, who had already begun tarnishing the Hellraiser franchise, Moustapha Akkad pushed forward with a sixth installment in the Halloween series.  It would explore the origins of Michael Myers, and follow-up on the events in The Revenge of Michael Myers.  It had good beginnings, but what could’ve been a very solid and satisfying film for certain fans, turned into a real mess with an obscured potential.  It just goes to show that certain franchises shouldn’t be given to certain studios.

Following six years later, much has changed for our familiar characters.  Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) has retired after suffering a stroke during his last encounter with Michael Myers.  Almost everyone believes that Jamie Lloyd and Myers died that night.  Although, it is October 30th, 1995, and things are about to change further.  In actuality, Michael survived, and Jamie (J.C. Brandy) has been held captive by the Man in Black and his cohorts all this time.  Jamie has since been impregnated, and is now mother to a newborn baby boy.  In an escape attempt, Michael pursues her relentlessly.  Meanwhile, shock jock Barry Simms (Leo Geter) holds a radio broadcast about the return of Halloween to Haddonfield, and one of his callers is a panicked Jamie Lloyd, calling out for help.  Among those listening are Tommy Doyle (Paul Stephen Rudd) as well as old friends Dr. Loomis and Dr. Terrence Wynn (Mitch Ryan).  Of course, it is not long before Michael claims his niece’s life in quite a gory fashion.  While the child is lost to The Shape, Tommy soon tracks the baby boy down, and chooses to protect him.  Loomis & Wynn soon join the hunt for Myers, but ulterior motives loom in the shadows for some.  Meanwhile, relatives of Laurie Strode – including Kara (Marianne Hagan) and her young son Danny – now occupy the old Myers home, and are in danger of Michael’s boundless evil.  Tommy, quite obsessed with the truth about Michael Myers, believes he has discovered the origin of his evil, but how this version of the film progresses, it eventually becomes irrelevant.

It is rather easy to see how this entry in the series failed to be a serious success.  The main factor is that, after poor test screenings, Dimension Films ordered the third act to be re-shot and much of the film to be re-edited to be a much less intelligible story.  However, the original version survives in the bootleg market as “The Producer’s Cut.”  In this, the theatrical cut of the film, there’s much left to be desired regarding the plot.  What begins as a supposed occult plot surrounding Michael eventually takes a sharp swerve towards some form of genetic cloning, and all things occult are bafflingly washed away.  The film also goes for a lot of cheap, false scares which only degrade the quality of the film.  Re-casting or dispatching with the character of Jamie Lloyd didn’t win any fans over either.  However, Danielle Harris did not like the script, or what happened to Jamie in it.  So, she passed, forcing the role to be given to another actress who did a fine job, but the re-casting does affect the impact of what does happen to Jamie here.

What I do enjoy a great deal about this film is what many don’t like – the entire Thorn / occult plotline.  Many despise it, but it’s much the same as I like Jason Goes To Hell.  It offers up a better explanation than just “he’s evil.”  Evil alone doesn’t make you immortal and impervious to injury or pain.  There has to be a reason, and after a while, you need to add something more to the stalk and slash formula to keep it interesting.  Whether it succeeds or fails depends on how well the explanation is integrated into the established mythos.  For me, I think screenwriter Daniel Farrands did a very exceptional job tying all the little bits and pieces scattered throughout the films into a credible storyline.  While the entire Thorn mark on Michael in Halloween 5 was purely random, trying to give Moustapha Akkad some thread to continue with into the next sequel, I find it is quite a valid revelation.  Like it or not, John Carpenter did set this up, partially, years ago.  When filming additional scenes for the network television broadcast of the original Halloween, he introduced the plot twist that Laurie was Michael’s sister.  He also introduced the idea of Michael being linked to Samhain in his and Debra Hill’s script for Halloween II.  Despite which belief system you categorize it under, Samhain is directly linked with an array of paranormal and supernatural events and rituals.  All of which involving the relationship between the living and the dead.  Therefore, while none of this origin came from a singular stream of consciousness, it all eventually fit together with perfect logic.  If for nothing else, in my honest opinion, it’s a better and more creative origin for Michael Myers than what trash Rob Zombie tried to feed us.  I don’t believe in making evil incarnate a sympathetic figure.  You shouldn’t feel sorry for evil, but you should respect its power and legacy.  The one person who survives throughout these films is the one who respects and never underestimates the evil that is The Shape, namely Dr. Loomis.

The film has a solid setup giving us plenty of mysterious and haunting elements that create suspense.  Having the Man in Black haunting Danny Strode was handled nicely, and created a driving plot element which passionately involved Kara Strode.  She’s not being randomly stalked.  She is fighting for the safety of her son, and thus, naturally forms an allegiance with Tommy Doyle.  Bringing back a character from the original film, and developing him down this path is something I’ve always strongly enjoyed.  He could’ve been the Halloween franchise’s allegory to Tommy Jarvis from the Friday The 13th films – a young protagonist who has dedicated himself to understand the evil that once stalked him, and seeks to destroy it, once and for all.  Doyle is very smartly handled in this story giving the character enough weight to bring credibility to everything he says.  Just as how Dr. Loomis could come off as very preposterous if wrongly cast, the same goes for Tommy Doyle.  Where Loomis has always brought a dreadful urgency to the plot, Tommy brings a scary vibe of mystique as he explains the truth of Michael Myers.  The addition of Dr. Terrence Wynn mixes both of those into a heavy, frightening threat, regardless of which cut of the film you view.

While all the Strode family drama was quite unnecessary, it at least has some bearing on the story and the characters.  It creates enough emotional turmoil for Kara which makes her more vulnerable and emotionally open for an audience to connect with.  However, on the down side, I definitely get that John Strode is not meant to be likeable in the least, but he actually comes off as far too stereotypical, dumb, and tiresome.  He’s a dull thud of a character that I just wanted to be rid of, and if the film spent less time with him, I would have been perfectly all right with that.  That is really the only character which fell flat for me.  Actor Bradford English just didn’t seem like a very solid fit for this role, and does little with it for anyone to take him very seriously.  He comes off like a bull-headed buffoon.  Even the crass shock jock character of Barry Simms is vehemently unlikeable, but he’s supposed to be, and Leo Geter hit the role perfectly on the mark.

Now, what further drives this away from the tone of a Halloween film is the excessive gore.  The splatter level here is more akin to that of a Friday The 13th film.  The Halloween films have, generally, been more focused on atmospheric horror than shock gore.  I can only fault director Joe Chapelle for a good measure of this.  He was the one Dimension Films called on to re-shoot sequences for Hellraiser: Bloodline.  Thus, essentially butchering everything that film had left going for it after the Weinstein’s kicked Clive Barker and original director Kevin Yahger off the project.  He’s clearly not a filmmaker who strives to fight for his vision or establish his own identity.  He does what the studio wants him to do, even if it means butchering his own film or someone else’s.  Chapelle also perceived Donald Pleasance’s performance as “boring,” and cutout several of his scene from the film, further showing Joe Chapelle’s lack of sense for good talent.  Clearly, there was a good movie under all these re-shoots and re-edits that Chapelle deserves some credit for, but he really loses a lot of that credit and respect due to his track record with this film and others.

Fortunately, the acting rises far above anything that might be lacking in the director’s chair.  Donald Pleasance, as always, delivers what had always kept this film series so unique.  He provides a dramatic and emotional weight which brings an honest credibility to the film, despite what strange turns it might take.  Paul Rudd and Marianne Hagan bring equally real and solid performances.  Rudd fashioned a definite eerie quality for Tommy making it quite apparent that he’s had a weird time of it since Halloween, 1978.  I always find myself especially intrigued by his character, hoping that a subsequent film would follow him in more depth, but that really became a dashed hope.  Beyond just the change of direction in the franchise, Paul Rudd emphatically made it known he’d never work with these filmmakers again.  He signed onto what was supposed to be a high caliber suspense film, but the studio ultimately decided to take the low road.  That being said, aside from my previous comments, there’s hardly a weak link amongst the cast.  Mitch Ryan was a welcomed addition adding some extra strength and stability.  He does an immensely effective job in his plot twisting role as Terrence Wynn.

Lastly, George P. Wilbur returns as The Shape.  He previously took on the role for Halloween 4.  The performances are about the same, but he gets to do more walking here.  You see more of his movement, but it doesn’t have that natural fluidity that Nick Castle had in the first film.  It seems everyone who portrays Myers always tried to emulate the robotic and rigid performance of Dick Warlock.  I cannot explain this approach as I believe Castle’s more natural movement made Michael seem more eerily human, and in a way, more frightening and relentless.  He seemed to move with more purpose, more determination, and thus, showed he was more motivated.

Alan Howarth, a frequent collaborator of John Carpenter’s, and the man responsible for the scores of Halloween 4 & 5 returned here.  He takes things in a different direction this time out.  This is a much heavier score with the synthesizers regularly slamming into the soundtrack with a more overbearing presence, at times.  The familiar themes of the series have a more atmospheric or polished synth sound, which I do enjoy.  It gives this film more self-identity that works, but there are undesirable elements of this score.  The music in the climax is overwhelming with shredding electric guitars in a very 80s pop-metal style.  It’s like a second rate Eddie Van Halen wannabe took over the scoring job on the film and did a terrible job at it.  This is not scary or suspenseful.  It’s just obnoxious   Now, this is something exclusive to this cut of the film.  It was another decision made by people less interested in creating a coherent and effective horror film, and more interested in just making whatever’s going to give them one extra dumb dollar – even if only makes the film worse.

Thankfully, the film is shot very well, in most part.  The cinematography has a serious approach with focus on dramatic weight and eerie atmosphere.  The lighting creates some uneasy moodiness.  The bleak visuals create a sense of foreboding and unease.  You get the feeling all the way through that this is a film that is taking itself seriously with intense, unrelenting horror, and a storyline that’s supposed to have dire consequences.  I really love how the film was shot.  It takes the blue tones of the first and fourth films, and adds an extra layer of depth and grit to enhance the more grim tone of this film.  I give much praise to cinematographer Billy Dickson on this production.

Generally, I feel this version of the film is less fascinating than its bootlegged counterpart.  Based on its own merits, the film boils down to a mindless slasher with a messed up plot progression which ultimately negates itself.  While it does have strong acting and solid production values, the studio heads botched it all up to cater to stupid fourteen year olds who wouldn’t end up being able to see the film in theatres anyway.  The whole film seems meant to build up towards answers and revelations regarding the origin of Michael’s evil.  Sadly, it’s all thrown out to introduce a new ending which makes no sense, and doesn’t bother to explain itself.  I’m not one who demands that all mysteries be solved, and all questions be answered thoroughly and definitively in a film, but things need to make some degree of coherent sense.  Simply said, the fact remains that this ending does not fit to this story.  It washes away all plot points and hints at answers the film establishes, and introduces brand new ones which come to no light.  It’s a cliché, shallow, and hollow conclusion to a film which laid the seeds for so much more.  Satisfaction, at least for me, does not come from this version of Halloween 6.


Lord of Illusions (1995)

While I have only ever seen two films directed by macabre horror writer Clive Barker, he is actually one of my favorite filmmakers.  Hellraiser was the first reason, but this film, Lord of Illusions, is the biggest reason.  Released in 1995 in the midst of a bad stretch of time for the horror genre, Clive Barker was ambitious in telling a film noir detective horror story.  Theatrically, the film was not well represented with a lot of pertinent, quality scenes cutout for a tighter runtime, and box office was not very lucrative.  I cannot find a record for the film’s budget, but I’m sure it exceeded the box office gross of $13 million.  Thankfully, the home video market allowed Barker the opportunity to release his definitive director’s cut of this excellent film, and I can’t imagine anyone watching this film in any other way.

New York private detective Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) finds himself repeatedly drawn into disturbing supernatural events, much to his strong reluctance.  He takes an insurance fraud case in Los Angeles as a change of pace, but soon, he finds himself in the world between illusion and true magic.  The world’s greatest illusionist Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor) is killed in a graphic on-stage accident, and Harry is driven to discover the truth behind it.  Hired by Swann’s gorgeous wife Dorothea (Famke Janssen), Harry delves deep into the secretive world of magic, and encounters dangerous foes including the peculiar, yet lethal Butterfield (Barry Del Sherman).  What Harry uncovers is that a cult leader named Nix (Daniel von Bargen), who could perform real magic and taught Swann to do so as well, is feared to be able to defy the grave that Swann and Dorothea put him in, and will return to exact horrific revenge upon the world.  What Harry D’Amour may come to realize is that death is the ultimate illusion.

The film sets a very dangerous, foreboding tone right from the outset.  A series of grim images of a decrepit, desolate wasteland open the picture telling you that dark, evil forces await us.  This opening sequence shows Swann and his friends confronting Nix and his followers in the Mojave Desert thirteen years prior, and sets the stage for where Harry D’Amour will enter their unsettling lives in the present day.  It clues you in on exactly what horrors Nix was capable of, and why Swann and his estranged friends now fear his return so gravely.  The production design of Nix’s stronghold is perfectly macabre and disturbing.  It has that dead-on Clive Barker dark, gritty style with a sort of grotesque beauty.  It is photographed with a generous amount of shadow using the light to accentuate only certain sections of the environment.  This style carries over into all the visually darker scenes creating a gorgeous film noir style.  This is just a beautifully shot movie in any condition of light or shadow.  While cinematographer Ronn Schmidt doesn’t have much in the way of high profile films to his résumé, I can surely tell he had a major wealth of artistic potential when coupled with the right director.

Clive Barker magnificently proves his talent and worth as a filmmaker here.  I think Lord of Illusions really is a masterpiece of supernatural noir horror.  It’s a greatly intelligent film that blends two very comparable genres together in a beautiful way.  The film sets up the horror elements first with that amazingly chilling opening sequence, but doesn’t really explain anything to the audience.  So, as Harry D’Amour is pulled into this plot, we still have questions that need answering, and it is a dangerous path for Harry to walk to reach those answers.  There are plenty of secrets that many would kill to have or to keep hidden, but Harry is an intelligent enough hero to see through the spook tactics and walls of deception to get to that truth.  The moments of horror are powerful such as the flashes Harry has of the exorcism he was involved in.  The sight of the stark white demon is nightmarishly striking.  Dorothea also has visions of blood and death which tell her that Nix’s return is soon to come.  Butterfield’s strange lackey Miller also provides much in the way of savage gore and violence.  How he survives a third story fall to the pavement enhances the bizarre nature of the film’s foes.  Clive Barker knew how to use film as a canvas for brilliant brush strokes.  Melding so many different complex aspects of this story would not be easy to do, but he had a clear and vibrant vision which he was able to realize.  Not to mention, he brought us one of his absolute best creations ever.

I really love the Harry D’Amour character as portrayed by Scott Bakula.  He is endlessly fascinating to me.  A hardened private investigator who gets caught up in all manner of supernatural danger is so ripe with potential.  The fact that he is reluctant to be wrapped up in this world, but is inevitably drawn to it makes for a great character dynamic.  He’s a man that has subscribed to many faiths in his day, possibly to attempt to find answers or solace for the evil he has faced.  It shows he’s a man of a wide open mind, but not without his skepticism.  True to being a detective, he accepts nothing purely on face value alone.  He has a probing mind with a keen intellect that makes him an interesting hero to follow.  He’s intent on unraveling a mystery in a world built upon secrets.  Scott Bakula gives a warm, soulful quality to D’Amour that comes to life opposite Dorothea.  He also shows Harry to be a capable and confident man of action making him a very well-rounded character.  He’s smart and perceptive as well as having a good heart that contrasts the darkness he’s engulfed in.  Bakula did research the role, and helped add in more traits of what Barker had previously written for the character.  The tattoo on Harry’s back resulted from that research and collaboration.  Scott Bakula does an excellent job with this role that I wish fortunes could’ve allowed us to be exposed to beyond this film, but nothing is ever truly impossible.  One can still hope for another prime opportunity to arise for Bakula and Barker to reunite.

When Clive Barker saw the headshot of Famke Janssen during casting, he knew he had found Dorothea.  Her air of class and elegance truly shines through in this role.  When Harry first sees her its in the golden late afternoon sunlight, and she couldn’t be more captivatingly beautiful.  She easily captures Harry’s heart, and that leads the two down a very passionate path.  Bakula and Janssen have a seductive chemistry that is captured magnificently by the camera.  Their love scene is gorgeous.  I like the fact that Lord of Illusions came just before Famke became a villainous Bond girl in GoldenEye.  Thus, it gives Barker some special credit for recognizing her talent and beauty before her breakout role.  As Dorothea, she is both vulnerable and strong creating a fine mix to make her a damsel in distress, but not one that’s afraid to fight for herself when the opportunity arises.

I have to admit that I love the character of Butterfield.  He’s perfectly androgynous with a slinking quality that makes him very serpent like.  Barry Del Sherman uses his body language fluidly as he slipped into the skin of this peculiar villain.  It’s wonderfully written as a dangerous, off-beat character that one might not take seriously at first glance.  However, Butterfield quickly demonstrates a lethal, sadistic quality that he uses in calculated fashion.  He truly takes deep pleasure in the torturous methods he uses, and Del Sherman absorbs himself fully into that mindset.  He portrays a wonderfully charismatic and juicy villain.  It’s also an interesting dynamic that Butterfield aspires to be Nix’s one and only apprentice, but even Nix acknowledges that there is no one else worthy but Swann.  While Swann gets to bask in the limelight of fame, Butterfield slinks his way through the dark underbelly of the world to prepare for Nix’s return, and he gets no respect for his loyalty or hard work from Nix.

Daniel von Bargen is a hell of a diverse actor that I have gained immense respect for over the years.  He can do drop down hilarious comedy, but also, put in a frighteningly charismatic performance as Nix.  What he does in the first few minutes of the film resonate throughout the rest of the picture.  His horrific power haunts Swann, and that fear translates over to the audience very sharply.  He is an awesome villain full of commanding presence and intense malevolence.  The power von Bargen throws into this role is masterful creating something that could truly haunt your nightmares in terrifying fashion.  He clearly had a fun time portraying this intense, chilling character.

Another amazingly diverse actor is Kevin J. O’Connor.  You may know him from his turn as the cowardly Beni from Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy, or from the Patrick Swayze television drama The Beast.  As Philip Swann, he gives us a very unique performance.  I like how the film opens without presenting a clear hero to you.  Swann is not a confident or particularly stable person, and not the type to gravitate to as a protagonist.  He is very shaken by fear, and later on in life, he’s not a content man.  He has fame, wealth, and a beautiful woman at his side.  However, it’s the creeping knowledge of what Nix vowed he would do, defy death, that endlessly troubles him.  If he can do that, Swann cannot imagine what greater terrors he could unleash.  Even with all the power Swann possesses, he knows that Nix is more powerful, but most importantly, he has the will to do things Swann never would.  Nix messed with his mind once, and he’s never been able to shake that.  O’Connor passionately displays the depth of those turbulent emotional and psychological elements so well.  He makes Philip Swann a greatly fascinating and fractured character that maintains the foreboding tone of the film.

The supporting cast really put their all into their roles.  They add to the eclectic flavor of these textured and distinct characters.  Joel Swetow makes Valentin a very sophisticated but shady character.  He furthers adds to the mysterious and treacherous aspects of the plot.  All of the characters appearing in the Magic Castle sequence, portraying illusionists of all sorts, also really boost those spooky and colorful qualities of the film.  It’s just a damn solid cast that Barker put together.  There’s not a single weak link anywhere at all.

Clive Barker turned to the absolute masters of special make-up effects in KNB EFX Group for this film.  Their work has been unparalleled.  Whatever they do, big or small, severe or subtle, it always hold weight on film.  What they did here is bring the gory and challenging imagination of Clive Barker to perfect life.  The make-up on the resurrected Nix is purely, excellently disgusting, as it should be.  The protrusion in his forehead is something I still cannot stomach to look at.  Conversely, the digital visual effects are damn well up to standards.  The early scene of Nix juggling fire is seamless and convincing, and the effect of Swann levitating a car over Harry’s head is quite well handled.  Of course, I’m sure many would contend with the later scene of the apparition that attacks Harry and Dorothea late in the film, but Barker wanted it to look as it did.  He did not want those effects to be dead-on realistic.  He wanted a dream-like, unreal quality to them, and to a point I believe it worked.  I’m sure something a little more refined could’ve benefitted the sequence better, but I generally have no criticism about it.

The film has a very strong, haunting score by Simon Boswell.  It’s an excellent piece of work that regularly keeps the tension and ominous qualities present, but it also has its moments of beauty as with the Harry and Dorothea love scene.  A sensual saxophone chimes in to delve into that seductive passion.  The music during Swann’s stage show is marvelously theatrical.  In its most climactic moments, the score is powerful and darkly operatic.  Overall, it’s an immensely effective composition for a film with such diverse qualities.

Lord of Illusions has its generous share of heightened tension and frightening danger.  The opening and ending sequences with Nix bring the full boar horror in all its macabre glory.  In the bulk of the film, though, we have action based excitement with D’Amour, and some gory visuals that re-instill the haunting, chilling aspects of the story.  This is not a splatter film with some brutal threat stalking the characters.  It’s very supernatural with a more ominous threat stirring up their deepest fears.  The atmosphere is very strong regularly keeping an audience on edge, and keeping them enthralled as each new layer of the mystery is pulled back.  With lives being lost as he gets deeper into this and becomes more invested in Dorothea, Harry can’t just walk away.  It’s a great way to wrap the hero up in the story, and drive him forward in the face of ungodly horror.  Harry never gives into fear, and remains determined in even the darkest moments of the film.

The final act is powerful and amazing.  It serves as the proper climax to this story which pits apprentice against master in a chilling and grotesque confrontation that still manages to keep D’Amour relevant to the outcome.  It bookends the film smartly bringing Nix back in a far more chilling state than before.  The disturbing cultist aspects of the movie really are driven home by this point, and have an ironic, vile pay-off here.  It further sells the grave lethality and power of Nix.  This entire prolonged sequence is like a slow decent into the horrific depths of hell, and there is no one better suited for the task of realizing that than Clive Barker.  This ending will leave you still unsettled as the end credits roll.

If there’s one horror film that has inspired me as a screenwriter more than any other, it would be Lord of Illusions.  This would be the genre I would want to play around in because Clive Barker realized it so well here.  There’s a vast untapped potential for this supernatural noir genre, and this film is a prime example of that potential.  Barker wrote a brilliant screenplay based on his short story The Last Illusion, and turned it into one of the best, most original and intelligent horror films I have ever seen.  Thus, it is one of my favorite films of all time.  This film far exceeds expectations realizing every element and aspect with amazing, top notch quality.  It is only a shame that the studio difficulties Barker faced with this film caused him to turn away from ever directing another film again.  Fortunately, it has not ceased him being a producer on a number of film adaptations of his written work.  I think Clive Barker is one of the best masters of horror because has never let me down.  If this turns out to be the final film he ever directs, no one could ask for a better final bow than Lord of Illusions.


Constantine (2005)

I very much love this film, and count it as an all time favorite.  I saw it twice in the theatre in 2005 because I was very much enthralled by the concept of the film and the excellent execution of all its characters and ideas.  It has since remained a strong favorite of the genre for me, and has driven my fandom of John Constantine further.  I was not knowledgeable about him before seeing this adaptation, but in the years since then, I have become a fan.  In the Hellblazer comics from DC / Vertigo, he was a blonde Englishman created by the widely revered Alan Moore and visually based off of Sting, the front man for The Police.  Obviously, that does not fit the description of Keanu Reeves, who portrays the title character as a dark haired American in Los Angeles, and there are numerous other changes here that deviate from the source material.  That inevitably irritated numerous hardcore Hellblazer fans, but since this was my introduction to him, I can allow both versions to co-exist in my fandom.   There are many reasons why I highly love this film including its gorgeous visual style, the world it showcases, and the potential of the characters.

It is said that whoever possesses the Spear of Destiny holds the fate of the world in their hands, and the Spear of Destiny has just been found and put into the hands of evil influences.  In Los Angeles, exorcist and occult detective John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) begins to see foreboding signs of something big and unfriendly coming with demons forcing their way into our world, but at the same time, the anti-social chain smoker is diagnosed with lung cancer.  It’s not so much the diagnosis that troubles him as the knowledge of where he’s going.  John was born with a gift he didn’t want, the ability to clearly recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin, and Constantine was driven to take his own life to escape the tormenting clarity of his vision, but he failed.  Now, marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life, the bitter hard-drinking, hard-living Constantine seeks a reprieve from his Hellbound fate.  He patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell, hoping in vain to earn his way to salvation by sending the devil’s foot soldiers back to the depths.  Unfortunately, he gains no absolution from the half-breed angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton), and no consolation from strenuous allies such as the ominous former witch doctor Papa Midnite (Djimon Hounsou).  They all adhere to “The Balance” which keeps half-breeds from directly interfering in human affairs in order to settle a wager between God and the Devil for the souls of all mankind.  When desperate but skeptical LAPD Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved psychic twin sister, their investigation pushes them deep into a subversive plot to use the Spear of Destiny to bring forth an evil that threatens to destroy humanity.  Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved, and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.

Director Francis Lawrence came from a music video background, and that can be hit or miss when moving to feature films.  However, Lawrence’s background was clearly a benefit as he injects a very powerful and epic visual style into this film.  Director of Photography Philippe Rousselot realizes that immersive vision brilliantly.  His composition is rock solid creating very engaging visuals that pull an audience into the story and characters.  There is depth to spare in his frames, and plenty of grace and integrity in how he shoots everything.  There’s never any handheld camera work.  It’s all fluid movement that contributes to the overall enveloping otherworldly tone of the picture.  The use of color temperatures is very key to the atmosphere as it accentuates the dramatic tones throughout with a vibrant palette.  This is a gracefully shot film with great attention to creating a unique atmosphere and tone in its visuals.

The overall quality of the visual effects are stunning.  They are exceptionally consistent and of an amazing high quality.  From subtle effects like the fiery glint in the eyes of demons to the enveloping landscape of the Hell version of Los Angeles, they create a complete, rich, textured, and full world for John Constantine to exist within that is truly convincing.  The fearsome demonic creatures seen throughout are designed with consistency and originality.  This feels like a world with its own weathered history, and attention is paid to every detail to present it as such.  The entire “into the light” effect in the climax is awesome as the shadows are literally pulled away to force the evil presence into view.  There is never just one effect used over and over again as a crutch.  The film is full of vibrant effects that give the film its fantastical flare.  Overall, every effect is just executed and presented with amazing artistry complementing Francis Lawrence’s vision beautifully.

I also very highly enjoy the score to Constantine.  It has a great atmospheric, haunting electronic style that further fleshes out the otherworldly quality of the film, but still incorporates plenty of traditional score elements that punctuate the rousing, dramatic sequences as well as the softer, more intimate emotions of the film.  Composers Klaus Badelt & Brian Tyler put together one hell of a unique musical accomplishment with this.  I’ve never heard a score quite like this before, and it works so amazingly well.  There is a great use of melody all throughout which enhances the emotional depth that this film is truly rich with.  This is definitely a film that takes a different approach to things to give an audience a very distinctive identity for an all encompassing experience.  The addition of the song “Passive” from A Perfect Circle is wicked cool in my opinion.  It truly set a great tone entering into Papa Midnite’s club.

These enveloping elements wrap together to create a very rich story with a tone full of integrity and gravity.  It can be a very haunting and scary film that uses horror elements at times, but is best categorized as a supernatural dark fantasy action film.  The action in the film are not big set pieces with spectacular stunts.  John’s not some bad ass action hero who can slug it out with a demon.  Instead, he uses his occult and demonic knowledge as well as his skills as a con artist to help him win battles.  He fights smart using the tools he has acquired which exploit the weaknesses of his enemies such as holy water, Moses’ shroud, a pair of Holy Cross brass knuckles, dragon’s breath, and various eclectic items provided to him by his allies.

This story is partially inspired by the Dangerous Habits comics storyline, which I have read.  There’s little directly adapted from that story, and is more just taking the premise of Constantine being diagnosed with lung cancer and having to cope with that.  How he deals with it and the resolutions of the comic and the film are very different, but both greatly show off John’s cunning skill as a con artist to varying degrees.

Constantine himself is very fascinating, and I think this version of him is well portrayed by Keanu Reeves.  I am quite a big fan of his work ranking Point Break as one of my absolute favorite films ever.  I find his work quite enjoyable, and he has some highly impressive acting ability.  I think his approach tends to be more subtle, and with Constantine, he really drives home a very diverse character.  Reeves showcases Constantine’s jaded personality with depth and purpose.  He brings out that worn down, weathered texture that makes the character so intriguing and surprising.  He can be an outright asshole because he’s been both plagued by the knowledge he has about the world around him, and that he’s destined to spend eternity in Hell, regardless of what he does.  He’s tired and frustrated by these rules that these so-called “higher beings” have imposed upon humanity for their own sport, and he knows there’s little he can do to combat that.  Keanu gives the character enough edge while still maintaining an underlying sense of humanity which evolves through the film.  As the story goes along, he becomes more and more invested in Angela as a person instead of just her being a cog in a larger plot.  You gradually see the bond form between the characters, and how that starts to drive John’s actions.  There’s a pivotal shift in there where he stops sulking in his own pain and starts seeing Angela’s.  He sees her regret and how far she’s willing to go to mend it.  John can still be an asshole, but ultimately, it’s just to those that deserve it.  Reeves portrays these subtle and strong emotional beats powerfully showing that there’s more to Constantine beyond that spiteful, embittered exterior.

Another subtle part of John that’s retained from the comics is how his friends constantly pay the price for his battles.  In the comics, John is haunted by the ghosts of his dead friends, and the screenwriters slipped a brief line in here about John not needing another ghost following him around.  So, it’s no wonder that he’s as cynical and jaded as he is, but it’s also these circumstances which drive him to fight.  He challenges everyone on their egotistical or hypocritical behavior, and allows no one to slide.

However, the arc for the character takes him from being a self-serving person who fights evil for his own sake to someone that does the right thing for the sake of others.  It takes nothing away from the hardened core of the character, it just makes him an actual hero by the end.  That is helped immensely by Rachel Weisz’s emotionally impactful performance.  Reeves and Weisz had previously worked together on the 1996 film Chain Reaction as love interests, and perhaps that added a stronger chemistry between them.  In this film, their chemistry is exceptionally solid and tight.  They have great back-and-forth dialogue with sharp timing and rich character dynamics.  Angela is also easily able to stand up to John’s abrasive attitude which is a welcomed quality.  Weisz strongly portrays the more emotionally and psychologically vulnerable counter-balance of the story.  This allows an audience to have a relatable conduit into the character of John Constantine and his supernatural world.  Rachel Weisz is an incredible actress showcasing a wide range of abilities here.  She is remarkably powerful bringing out the emotional pain that Angela has deep within.  However, while Angela is vulnerable, she is a police detective, and thus, Weisz never makes her appear helpless or incapable of defending herself.  She has a definite strong will and confidence about her mixed in with a grounded, engaging charm.  It’s simply that the character been impacted by tragic events, and is thrust into a potentially frightening scenario which brings out those fearful or unstable elements in her.  Weisz handles it all with dramatic weight and grace.

It is also immensely impressive how strong the supporting cast is in Constantine.  Djimon Hounsou has such an awesome presence as the witch doctor turned night club owner Papa Midnite.  His deep voice and subtle charisma give weight and gravity to his performance.  He can be greatly imposing and intimidating without even standing up in his initial scene.  Hounsou and Reeves spark a fascinating chemistry.  They play the characters with a sense of shared history which has its turbulent areas which causes friction and some antagonism between them.  The screenwriters had a good philosophy of the best way to convey exposition about a character is to show them working.  You get to know more about Midnite and Constantine through what they do and how they go about doing it than can really be conveyed through straight dialogue interactions.  This is showcased beautifully in the sequence with “The Chair” which allows John to see the path the Spear of Destiny has taken recently, and to find out where Angela has been taken.  It’s a manner of operating alluding to information that is necessary for them to know to do what they need to do, but is not necessary to be spelled out for the audience.  This further reflects the sense that this a world with a long, textured history between characters, and it is presented in a very smart way that never bogs down the film with extraneous exposition.  Midnite himself has a very pleasing arc in the story that ultimately shows Hounsou’s range and charm.  He makes the character very fascinating, imposing, but ultimately, highly pleasing.

Tilda Swinton is immaculately graceful and elegant as the half-breed angel Gabriel.  The filmmakers chose to go with an androgynous quality for the character, and absolutely wanted Swinton for the role.  They chose incredibly well.  Her performance has a gentle compassion that eventually turns into a subtle megalomaniacal mindset.  She also has an ethereal aura and presence about her that is pitch perfect.  It’s a nice dynamic when Constantine goes to see her with him ranting and calling out the hypocrisy at hand, but she offers up a very warm, motherly tone with him.  They are both trying to make each other see things from their perspective, and neither is entirely in the right.  There is a very aristocratic, snobbish mentality from Gabriel that John can’t stomach, and it works so exceptionally well for this character.  It’s such a remarkable performance that the words to describe it in depth escape me.

Now, this film was before Shia LeBouf started grating on peoples’ nerves, but here, there’s enough heart and charm with him as Chas to make his performance a pleasure.  Chas is spirited and driven to be given the chance to be of real assistance to Constantine instead of just his personal cab driver, but John just knows the danger of allowing him to do so.  Yet, Chas is eventually given the chance to show his worth.  As with everyone else, the chemistry is dead on the mark perfect.  Gavin Rossdale’s turn as the demon Balthazar is oozing with charisma.  He relishes being engulfed in evil, and that delicious smarmy arrogance just pours out over the screen.  The tension and spite between him and John is thick as can be.  You can’t help but love and hate him all at the same time.  All of the actors throughout the film really inhabited their characters with exceptional commitment and nuance, and came together as a cohesive whole to deliver something diverse and marvelous.

Of course, there is Peter Stormare’s magnificent performance as Lucifer himself.  There have been so many portrayals of the Devil over the years in cinema from some massively talented actors, and each portrayal has been unique.  Stormare takes unique to a whole new level here.  The physicality alone is unsettling as if he’s trying to uncomfortably fit back into a human form like it’s an old out of shape body suit, and it results in some peculiar and tense nervous energy.  The look is striking enough without devolving into shock.  The shaved eyebrows and shorn haircut along with the tattoos really present a standout visual that separates Lucifer from everyone else in the film.  Stormare takes all of this to forge a weirdly eccentric Devil that doesn’t need to flaunt an ego or boast of his power.  His creepy, chilling presence sells everything.  The addition of the pure white suit and bare feet was a nice touch, and it really fits the visual aesthetics of the film.

While I have nothing against a well done origin, it is very commendable that this is not an origin story spending a large percentage of the film showing how Constantine became the man he is today.  His back story is not even revealed until well into the second act as we get to know it alongside Angela, and allusions to other shared histories are sprinkled throughout.  The film treats its audience as intelligent by not having to explain every little thing.  It presents a world, gradually lays out the general parameters of how it works, and then, allows it to envelop the audience.  I like this approach for the character because there is a lot of John Constantine history that is very relevant to the character, but it would be nigh impossible to hit all the poignant marks to develop him fully in a two hour film.  Starting a film series here is very interesting because it takes John from the jaded, weathered depths to someone more purposeful and formidable.  It is a greatly executed arc wrapped up in a strong plotline backed by some excellent talents in front of and behind the camera.

It seems hard to judge where this movie stands in terms of general consensus.  It’s not one of those comic book movies everyone talks about, or includes on the list of the best or worst adaptations.  I seem to perceive this as a film that had good commercial success, but tends to get overlooked for no apparent reason.  Professional critics were divided on it, but the thing with critics is that they get paid to go see movies they are not always pre-disposed to enjoy.  This was a movie that appealed to my tastes via its marketing, and it did blow me away.  Again, the hardcore fans of Hellblazer likely had their passionate gripes with all the changes made to the established elements of the property, but it’s not a bad film at all.  It’s exceptionally well made from a filmmaker with great vision and artistry, and features an amazing cast that put their all into it.  From an objective point of view, it’s a greatly entertaining and satisfying film.  It has plenty of interesting action, an excellently crafted world, fantastic, stunning visual effects, a unique and fascinating score, and is just generally well written all the way around.  I really love this film, and I love what I’ve read in the Hellblazer trade paperbacks.  Both offer me something different but equally satisfying to my tastes for supernatural horror and dark fantasy.  If you’re unfamiliar with the property, this film can ease you into the heavier subject matter and grittier feel of the comics, but they are two unmistakably different presentations on the characters and the world they inhabit.  Taking the film on its own merits, it’s a highly imaginative, excellent piece of work that is worth investing your time and interest in.