Monster Hunting

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I’ve mentioned before that as a kid I played a game with my younger sisters wherein we pretended to hunt monsters in our basement. I was clicking around over at the awesome Dinosaur Dracula, and the retro kitsch inspired me to show you a couple of items from our  monster hunting arsenal–because if there’s one thing the Internet needs more of, it’s ’80s/’90s nostalgia.

Being the Castlevania fan that I was, I had to play the hero: my weapons of choice were a toy whip and a “crystal” decanter of “holy water.” I had a succession of cheap toy bullwhips which played the role of the Belmont’s improbable vampire-killer. The holy water vial, a recurring weapon throughout the Castlevania series, was a repurposed plastic decanter from a toy series called “Treasure Rocks.” This was one of many add-water-to-reveal-the-cheap-plastic-doodad-style toys of the ’80s and ’90s. One of my sisters had gotten it as a Christmas or birthday gift, and once the plastic jewels were revealed there wasn’t much use for the bottle anymore–except as a weapon of righteous fury against the basement undead. It was purple and dripped late-20th-century corporate sexism, but I’d fill it with water and lob it around the basement with righteous abandon. Here’s an original ad for the toy, which disturbs me because, among other things, it gives the date as 1993, which means I was significantly older at the time I was running around hunting monsters than I realized. Ah youth.

I bet the creators of that insipid ad never imagined their pretty princess sexist garbage would be used for melting the faces off of unsuspecting vampires. Just goes to show: I was an awesome kid.

Another weapon of monster destruction was this ridiculous beast, the “Eliminator TS-7.” The Eliminator was a hideous hunk of plastic that lit up and made generic machine gun and “pew pew” laser noises. Its gimmick was that various portions of the thing could be removed and reconfigured into slightly different versions of themselves. Basically it was a big gun with a removable sword thing which included a couple of different-length blades. Silly as it was, its lights and sounds made it a lot of fun in the darkened basement.

If that doesn’t scream early-’90s America, it’s only because there are no neon bike shorts, Pogs, Married… with Children cameos or Guns n’ Roses guitar solos. Regardless, machine guns and lazer swords were pretty good for anti-demon warfare.

I can’t be the only person who discovered the supernatural (and tried to shoot it with lasers) as a kid. Did anybody else play any games like this? On a related note, did you ever play any of the various “occult” children’s games that are still popular, like trying to summon Bloody Mary or using a Ouija board?

Dracula Untold (2014)

Okay, I’ve linked to this before, but check this out. This is the trailer for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. Note the over-the-top action, etc. etc. etc.

Now behold Dracula: Untold:

I’ve also pointed out the similarities here before, but having just seen the film I’m struck again by how easily it could slip into the current Castlevania mythos. Much of the elements are there already, and the plot could actually be seen as a halfway point between the original Castlevania storyline and the Lords of Shadow reboot.

None of this is necessarily bad. I love Castlevania. I just think the resemblance is uncanny, to the extent that I wonder if the filmmakers behind Dracula: Untold are fans of Konami’s venerable series.

In the film, Luke Evans is Vlad the Impaler, the prince of Transylvania–which of course doesn’t quite make sense. The historical Vlad was the prince of Wallachia, but it doesn’t matter because vampires. Vlad, who in the film was raised as a soldier by the Ottoman Turks and later returned to rule his homeland and totally not at all plot his revenge, finds himself placed in the awkward position of having to tell the Sultan that the Sultan cannot have what the Sultan wants. And what the Sultan wants is 1,000 boys to bolster the ranks of his army, including Vlad’s own son. So, you know, that’s not something Vlad supports. So there’s some grunting and some posing and Vlad kills some Turks, which is bad because of course this means WAR.

But wait, before that, Vlad and some of his soldiers discovered that there’s a vampire who lives up in the mountains. It happened at the beginning, we already knew about it, so it is not a deus ex machina, guys, okay. Jeeze.

So Vlad decides to make a deal with the devil. Or actually, he decides to make a deal with the guy who made a deal with the devil, and he gets some cool batsy powers out of it, but has thereafter to sip the most dangerous wine. Which is blood. Or, well, he will, if he can’t go three days without feeding on somebody–at which point the “Master Vampire” will be free to roam the earth again, and he, Vlad, will become a full-fledged vampire. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS.

There’s not a great deal more to it than that, I’m afraid. The plot is quite thin, mostly an excuse to string together cool action sequences and angsty posturing. But actually–and I’m as surprised as you by this–it all kind of works. At least, it does if you’re already invested in the Castlevania brand of Dracula shenanigans. Which I am.

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*Stare* *Frown*

Evans is actually a good choice for Dracula in the Casltevania vein–if they ever did a serious film version of the games, he would be a natural choice. He manages the stoic, tragic hero bit fairly well (not that there’s much substance to the role), and he pulls off the action scenes as convincingly as could be hoped in such a CGI-heavy film. The only thing he’s lacking is the facial hair.

*STARE* *FROWN*

*STARE* *FROWN* *BEARD*

Let’s be clear here: this is a ridiculous movie. It is, like most mainstream studio films, cinematic junk food. But it does vampires in a way that few recent films (or any media) have, namely, in the Castlevania way, which I like. In case you hadn’t heard. The script is fairly weak throughout, with lots of anachronistic English-accented dialogue and heaving bosoms courtesy of female lead Sarah Gadon, but everybody does their best with it, and it comes together as a fun, if shallow, action film with a few hints of darker stuff beneath the glitzy surface. The darkness, by the way, is mostly courtesy of Charles Dance as the “Master Vampire,” the conveniently local elder monster who gives Dracula his powers in the first place.

I feel like I want to give it a solid three scoops out of five, but for the sake of consistency with my other reviews, I’m knocking it down to 2.5. Because, again, Dracula Untold is not really a good movie by any stretch. But it’s entertaining, and that should be worth something. If you’re in the mood for a slick, insubstantial romp with some cool vampire imagery, this is the way to go.

2andahalfscoops