Best Halloween Films #28: Underworld (and sequels)

“…all that is certain is that darkness is still ahead. But for now, for the first time, I look into the light with new hope.”

Let me say up front, yes this is brain candy; it would never even make a top 1,000 list of movies if I were not limiting it to Halloween specific films. We all know the utterly preposterous flaws of both films so there is really no point to go over them. But let me at least sing its often overlooked praises that make it at least a fun film.

First off, unlike some movies and TV shows this was before vampires and werewolves stopped being badass. No glitter power vampires or werewolves who moonlight at Chippendale’s here. These vampires and werewolves will kill you without a moment’s hesitation and do it in superb Matrix style.

Second, just look at the cast. Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Derek Jacobi. It looks more like a Shakespeare review than a cheesy action film. It makes me wonder if the script looked a lot better on paper. I mean you have all the classic markers of great drama: betrayal and deception, star crossed love, generational intrigue, battle of good and evil. I’m not saying that Underworld is a truly great movie, it’s not…but I wonder in 20 or 30 years if you tightened up the script (especially the dialogue) and made the visuals a little less over the top, a remake might be a significantly better film…but I’ll admit any discussion of a remake is decades away.

Kate Beckinsale. Yes she’s easy on the eyes, but you also have to give her credit for bringing some depth to her character, which is quite a feat given how flat all of her lines are. It’s not an Oscar winning performance, but she does a lot with so little to work with.

It’s just stupidly fun. Admit it. It is. The action scenes never make the flaws that we are far too often these days of nonstop shaky cam chaos. Yeah they’re over the top, but compare it to Resident Evil, the Matrix sequels, or Revenge of the Fallen…all movies that if I have to watch I just fast forward past the action scenes because it’s all chaos, pointless and rather boring. The director, Len Wiseman, may not be able to save the bad dialogue but at least he doesn’t commit the sins of other actions directors of the last decade (which is probably why his Live Free or Die Hard is also so stupidly enjoyable)…(okay that most recent one was overusing the bad 3D effects, but so if everyone).

I have no illusions about how flawed these movies are, but they’re still enjoyable and a great set of Halloween films.

Now is there any deeper value to these films?  I’ll admit I’m going to be reaching and am probably just putting my own spin on this, but, hey, maybe they were trying for some depth.

Of course you have the fear of death that is the definition of the entire horror genre (it’s hard to not touch on this theme when you have immortal beings).  But again you have characters who don’t give into that, who see that there are things worse than death (like betrayal, lies, and making something false your life’s goal).  It also shows that life, even immortal ones, is rather shallow and pointless if you don’t have something to live for.

Unlike a lot of films nowadays it does manage to lay down the idea that there is good and there is evil, but that in dealing with any human (even if they’re supernatural beings, they’re still human in their behavior) action there is gray.  Usually I only get either pure black and white, or all gray.  It’s nice to know that some writers still know that you can have both.  But it also makes clear that evil needs to be opposed, I know it’s a radical concept that many people have a problem with, but it’s a fact, you need to kill the monsters (whether literal or metaphoric because of their complete lack of ethics and humanity) before they kill you because they can’t be reasoned with.

One could argue that there is some moral here about the corrupting effects of power and decadence, as seen in the overly exaggerated habits and lifestyle of the vampires in the first film, but I think they were just going with the Victorian feel of traditional vampire stories…and they have Derek Jacobi’s character in the second film being far richer and quite incorruptible, so it would be an imperfect theme.  Also being surrounded by that for centuries doesn’t corrupt Selene.  You might go as far as to say that this shows that corruptible people are corrupted by decadence…but that really isn’t that surprising or all that deep.  (Like I said, I’m reaching here and fully admit it).

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4 Comments

Filed under Death, Fear, Halloween, Movies, Popular Culture

4 responses to “Best Halloween Films #28: Underworld (and sequels)

  1. I wanted to like these movies, at least as pure brain candy, because you’re right. This was back when vampires and werewolves were bad-ass. However every time I tried to watch the films I got a migraine half an hour in…and I tried to watch both several times. It was weird…like an allergy to badly written dialogue or something.

  2. And you’re right it’s truly terrible dialogue…yet, like I said, if you had someone rewrite the lines the overall plot isn’t beyond all hope…it would never be a great film, it’s just it has the potential to be better.

  3. Pingback: It’s Halloween and that means Halloween Movies | The Conservative New Ager

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