Movie Review: HELLBOY: The Golden Army

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hellboy the golden army
Universal
2008
PG-13

“It is all the same to me, my heart is filled with dust and sand. But you should know, it is his destiny to bring about the destruction of the Earth. Not now, not tomorrow, but soon enough. Knowing that, you still want him to live?”

  • The mystical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so as Hellboy, Liz and Abe return, they must save the world. Now…as the creatures who inhabit the spiritual realm gear up to unleash the legendary unstoppable Golden Army for an all out attack on the human plane, the only group capable of saving the Earth is a tough-talking hellspawn and his team…plus a new ally by the name of Johann Krauss.

Four years after the first Hellboy movie graced cinemas with a live-action version of Mike Mignola’s comic book creation, writer/director Guillermo del Toro brought us a sequel. It wasn’t supposed to take that long to make the sequel–the sequel itself was green-lit about a month after the first Hellboy was released. But, because of, shall we say, snafus, Columbia dropped the distribution rights, and was finally picked back up by Universal Studios, which, let’s face it, doesn’t always have the best interests in mind when it comes to their horror properties. But, at least it finally got made, and then released in 2008, a bit later than the projected 2006 date. Better late than never.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army, instead of featuring Nazis and mad scientists like the previous film, focuses the story on the dark roots of folklore and fairy tales, featuring some truly nightmarish yet utterly sympathetic enemies drawn from folk tales for the our heroes at the B.P.R.D. to go up against. Here, an elf prince is planning on breaking a Millennia-old truce between the humans and the magical creatures of myth and legend by reassembling the crown that controls the fabled Golden Army, something explained during the opening exposition dump flashback scene. He’s opposed by his twin sister, who escapes and seeks protection within the B.P.R.D. Meanwhile, Hellboy is having troubles of his own, both in his personal and professional life: His relationship with Liz is going through a rocky period, and due to some showboating during a recent incident involving tooth fairies, the Bureau’s brought in a specialist to keep him in check.

Personally, I enjoyed Hellboy II more than the first movie. Instead of just rehashing the plot of the first one, this one delved more into folklore and its horror roots, which I totally dig. The relationships between the main characters has advanced, further deepening the development. There’s a rather hilarious scene where Hellboy and Abe Sapien get drunk and bond over their individual relationship issues while playing cheesy love ballads. The movie also manages to make the antagonist a sympathetic character as well, providing depth and pathos to someone you know is doing something consider evil, but you can’t help but understand things from his perspective. The creature effects–and there are many–are top notch. But the best character of this movie happens to be the atmosphere and tone of the movie, which manages to attain that balance of horrorific yet whimsical that only del Toro seems to manage. Considering the film he made before Hellboy II was Pan’s Labyrinth, this seems the logical step for him to follow up.

Overall: If you’ve seen the first Hellboy, and haven’t seen this sequel yet, I am dumbfounded as to why not. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a better sequel to an already great movie. If anything, rewatching this as much as I have, this just makes the fact that del Toro was never able to make the proper third movie in his Hellboy trilogy all the more tragic. Especially given what we got in its place. Highly recommended, this.

Movie Review: The VVITCH

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movie-review-vvitch-theA24
2015
R

“Wouldst thou like the taste of butter? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”

A devout Puritan family in 1630s New England are exiled from their village, and struggle to survive in their new home situated at the edge of a mysterious forest. The sinister, witching forces in the wilderness emerge silently to terrorize them, first by kidnapping the youngest of their five children. As their life-sustaining crops fail, the clan fall victim to paranoia and fear as they begin to turn on one another, eventually suspecting teenage daughter Thomasiin of witchcraft.

I’m afraid that everything I know about the Puritan society in America’s past comes from Nathanial Hawthorne novels, and of course the Salem Witch Trials. In other words, it’s not a very flattering image that’s been presented of these sectarian Christian settlers in this country of ours. Of course, a lot of our country’s early folklore and proto-horror tales come from the fables and myths created by these seemingly uptight yet hale-and-hearty shoe buckle enthusiasts in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Some very good American Gothic yarns have sprung from this era’s imagination, to be certain.

Which brings us to The VVitch. Yes, I’m using the double-“V” usage on what is normally a “W”, mainly to keep in time with the period setting that has been meticulously researched by writer/director Robert Eggers. Meaning, he made a greater effort than just spending a couple of hours on Google, like I normally do. Puritanical beliefs and behaviors, folklore, witches, vocabulary and grammar, all brought together to make the movie feel as real and authentic as possible, and it works greatly to that effect. I have to credit the actors, who all really made the archaic language and mannerisms come across as genuine and effortless. I can imagine how tempting it could have been to make things needlessly campy; these guys pulled it off.

I am going to go ahead and point out, like so many others have, that The VVitch doesn’t fall neatly into the general area of “horror” as we know it. While there are supernatural elements in the movie, they aren’t so much seen as felt; even then, it’s left wide open as to whether what’s happening to the family is, in fact, the result of supernatural shenanigans, or if it’s the natural mental breakdown due to their circumstances, buffeted by the strong religious superstitions that come with their sect of their faith.

The VVitch is a great, Ye Olde Fashioned Gothic tale, both in the time setting and the atmosphere of the story, building up the tension and the natural paranoia slowly, filling you with a sense of dread to the point where a scene featuring a static shot of a bunny feels darkly off-putting.

Make no mistake: The VVitch is a horror movie, but it’s an unassuming one that will find its way burrowed deep underneath your skin, delighting in the way you will squirm until the end, and even then will stay with you long after the end credits have stopped rolling. Greatly recommended.