Home

CampBlood Gay Horror Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Underworld Len Wiseman 2003

Lycan, but Not Lovin'

Further proof that studios have absolutely no idea what constitutes a horror film, the limp vampires-vs-werewolves shoot-em-up Underworld is fairly inoffensive crap, but nothing to get too excited about. I don’t know where it came from (development meetings conducted on mountains of pure cocaine is my guess), but the idea that dressing up a Matrix ripoff in Halloween costumes and calling it a horror movie is simply not going to fly with anyone over 9 that doesn’t have a crippling meth addiction or parents who are blood relatives. These people have somehow come to the conclusion that louder means scarier and slow-motion equals more impact – no, and… no. But aside from this basic miscalculation of how horror elements should be used in an action film (take a page from Deep Blue Sea or Resident Evil, folks), it’s actually not as bad as many of the other recent entries into this rather lame subgenre (yes, Doom – I’m talking to you).

Although the film was billed as “Romeo and Juliet in the world of the supernatural”, this is kind of like calling Battlefield EarthI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in Outer Space”. Meaning that it’s pure crazy-talk. For one thing, Michael (Scott Speedman – and how in the hell did I forget how yummy he is in the years since Felicity? He’s like the stoner architecture student who would totally mess around with you at a party and not feel weird about it later. Not that I speak from experience.) isn’t really even a werewolf, making the Capulet-vs.-Montague idea totally irrelevant from the start. And he’s really far too busy getting the holy shit kicked out of him in literally every scene to have much time to fall in love with vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale, who has essentially hung up her “legitimate actor” cape for an “action heroine who could have been played by an ex-model” bodysuit, although she does at least bring a little dramatic weight to the role). Basically the Lycans (although I’d prefer “lichens”) have negotiated an underhanded truce with the less-than-scrupulous vampire leader, and are conducting all sorts of race-blending experiments under the vampires’ noses. Actually, it’s far too complicated a plot for such a brainless movie that has so little dialogue – in fact, the minor characters are forced to spew out so much exposition that they seem to have more screen time than the leads – particularly Speedman, who hardly has the chance to speak at all between body-blows and about whom we learn absolutely nothing other than he’s a hospital intern with a gay-seeming boss who appears to have a crush on him (Wentworth Miller of Prison Break, AHEM!).

Anyway, Selene notices that the werewolves (the vampires’ sworn enemies) are tracking humans for something other than food, and realizes that Michael is their next target. She saves him, thinking he’s the key to some conspiracy, but he’s bitten by Lucien the Lycan (Michael Sheen, who was very amusing in Bright Young Things) in the process, making him off-limits. Frustrated with the shoddy leadership skills and repeated romantic advances of Kraven (Shane Brolly – and she should really be frustrated with his atrocious acting before anything else), she awakens father figure Viktor (Bill Nighy, a gift from the gods here), who is upset that the chain of leadership has been broken (he was not due to awaken for another 100 years) but even more upset to learn that Selene’s suspicions are true – Lucien is not dead, as they had all believed, and he’s got Jungle Fever – he’s trying to create an interracial crossbreed that is stronger than either race. There’s a whole lot of blood mixing stuff in there that really doesn’t make much sense if you think about it for longer than a second, so I won’t bother. Besides, the very mention of blood is at least a reminder that these are actually vampires we’re talking about – otherwise you’d have absolutely no idea what they were, as they don’t do anything remotely vampirish (drink anyone’s blood, transform, etc.). They seem more like mildly disaffected Eurotrash than anything else.

Anyway, let’s get back to our resident pass-around-party-bottom, Michael. Apparently he’s the descendent of some dude who survived a plague, so they think his blood can handle the marriage of both Lycan and vampire bloods, which typically kill each other. And lo and behold, in poor Scott’s 34th scene of agony and torture, he finally gets both strains (Selene bites him to save his life) and becomes a big nasty hybrid. Or at least, that’s what you’re expecting – in reality, he kind of looks like a junkie covered in tar. Seriously – if the cross between the big bad werewolves (which oddly resemble the Jackal Boy from I, Madman) and the sexy vampires is a homeless surfer who got caught in an oil spill, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. But at least we get to see Speedman’s muscled back in action as he throws Viktor around the room. Mmm…ripply….

Okay, let’s just ogle Scott Speedman for the rest of the review, shall we? No sense beating around the bush – were it not for him and some waaay-better-than-needed acting by Bill Nighy, this would be yet another lavishly shot piece of shit. I have seriously not seen a man be put through such constant, relentless body horror since Brain Damage. From the first time we see him, he’s 100% victim – he is chased, beaten, thrown, punctured, poisoned, shot, bitten, everything – the poor kid is penetrated more frequently than your average Vivid Girl. Such abuse and degradation is pretty much unheard of, especially when it’s a man – granted, our Final Girls get the shit kicked out of them on a regular basis, but their boyfriends are usually either killed quickly or fairly unharmed. Here Beckinsale is the one wearing the (rubber) pants, while Speedman is constantly robbed of his power and humiliated. His body is a commodity, irrespective of the soul it carries – he is utterly dehumanized and objectified as a piece of meat.

And you know what? It’s way hot.

Sadly, other than Speedman’s pulling against his restraints and bulging appetizingly, there’s not much to watch until Nighy shows up (more than halfway through) and shows everyone else how to act through 30 pounds of latex – he’s seriously totally awesome. Beckinsale is fine, but her character doesn’t really have all that much to do other than be righteous and bounce around in rubber platforms shooting things. It’s neat to look at, has some interesting gore effects and decent action, but is honestly just another action film that uses horror as set dressing rather than a way of telling a story – like most mindless pistol ballets, it’s not remotely scary or emotionally engaging in any way. What is it with these movies – does a techno score and some body armor mean that vampires can’t be frightening any more? Let’s try a little harder than that. Unless you’ve got a hardon for beefy, sensitive surfer-types in peril (uh, Hello!), give this one the skip..

Rating (out of 5):