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Review written by: Alex Sandell

For fans of werewolves and vampires, Underworld was the most anticipated thing since the seminal series Buffy the Vampire Slayer revealed that Oz (Seth Green) was a werewolf.  The movie had more of a chance of being good than a bartender had of hearing bad singing on a karaoke machine at last call.  Plain and simple:  this film was gonna kick ass.  Not like wimpy PG-13 ass-kicking, mind you.  This was going to be to monster fans what The Matrix was to fans of science-fiction.  It was going to take what it needed from past successes, toss the rest out the window and revolutionize horror as we once knew it.  Or maybe it would just take a bunch of stuff from The Matrix and add a few dozen monsters in, for good measure. 

Underworld is a damn ambitious film with a handful of incredible concepts that go almost no where.  There's a centuries long war between vampires and werewolves.  The vamps are kicking the piss out of the wolves.  The vampires have turned so confident over their impending victory that some of them have decided to go to sleep for four or five-hundred years.  Others aren't quite as tired, but are wide-awake, super cocky and annoying.  Unfortunately, no one will believe Selene (Kate Beckinsale) when she finds out that the Werewolves are up to something.  They're basically pulling a Saruman by building super fighters with the ability to turn the over-confident vamps into nifty splotches of blood and guts.

The vampires and werewolves have essentially avoided humans as much as possible over the years.  It's when Selene saves Michael (Scott Speedman) from a group of wolves that things begin to change.  But is Michael really a human?  Could he be a werewolf, himself?  Could this be turning into a modern day Romeo and Juliet (or a recent spin on the romance between a Slayer and a Vampire with a soul)?  There are so many plotlines to explore in the film, that it's a shame that screenwriter Danny McBride and director Len Wiseman are too caught up in trying to remake The Matrix to actually delve into the far more interesting story that they have buried underneath all of the wire stunts, slow-motion shots, ninja stars and guns.

Guns?  You heard right.  In all of their infinite wisdom, the creative team behind Underworld decided to upgrade the monsters from fangs and claws to guns and bullets.  What a waste.  Humans carry guns.  What makes monsters scarier than humans is the fact that they don't need to carry shit to rip a human to shreds. 

It's hard to decide what the creators of this film wanted.  If they genuinely hoped to modernize the horror genre, they failed miserably.  This film isn't the least bit scary.  It does have some decent action, even if it is a bit heavy-handed and occasionally poorly staged.  Underworld comes off as a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade and The Matrix, directed by Ed Wood.

The movie had promise.  It's just not 1/8th of what it could be.  Outside of Kate Beckinsale, the acting is alarmingly poor.  Beckinsale does a formidable job playing a thrift-store Carrie-Anne Moss. Scott Speedman is as lifeless as he was on the television series Felicity (did anyone understand what Felicity saw in this guy?).  But Speedman looks like an acting god compared to Shane Brolly.  Brolly plays Kraven, the leader of the vamps.  Whose idea was it to have him constantly screaming and yelling?  By the end of the film, you'll wish the guy was a mute.  His performance is literally one of the most obnoxious I've ever seen.

What does work is the makeup by Patrick Tatopoulos.  This guy knows what he's doing, even if he still hasn't done it in a really good movie.  The werewolves are actually worth the price of admission, alone.  They look wicked nasty, and, with exception made for the time they go all CG and look like retards, they're right up there with the coolest looking wolves to hit a film in quite a long time.  I also liked the gothic darkness of the film.  Think a darker version of Batman Returns.  For nocturnal folk such as me, the darkness was a welcome relief to my sensitive eyes. 

The entire set design reminded me of something Tim Burton would have shot his wad over.  And with a director like Burton -- someone able to realize the potential of what he actually had -- this may have turned out to be one of the best films of the year.  With Wiseman (ironic name) at the helm, it's nothing but a lackluster rip-off of The Matrix with some cool makeup effects and nifty sets.  This isn't one to rush out to on opening night, but it'd make for a decent Saturday matinee.

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Coming soon -- Reviews of The Rundown, Under the Tuscan Sun and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Other recent film reviews on THE JUICY CEREBELLUM (click on a film's title to go to its review):

The Fighting Temptations

Secondhand Lions

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Cold Creek Manor

Cabin Fever

Jeepers Creepers 2

Freddy Vs. Jason

Open Range


American Wedding


Spy Kids 3-D:  Game Over


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Sleepy Hollow

Cabin Fever

The House of the Dead


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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].