Bloody Birth

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 kept the vampire romance going a bit longer. By exploiting the 2 part separation of a final book thing that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows just popularized. Although to be fair, Stephanie Meyer herself said Breaking Dawn was too dense to be one movie. The title Breaking Dawn refers to a time of day that is the most dramatic for Bella’s new beginning. The chess book cover is crucial for her transformation in the story. The problem with adapting Breaking Dawn was the very mature tone. So many sexual and/or blood soaked scenes had to be shot in a way that avoided an R rating. The new Dreamgirls director Bill Condon had to keep it PG-13 for the teenage girls that made it a success. By the time I got to the 2 part finale, I knew I couldn’t avoid finally seeing a Twilight movie in theaters. Hearing women scream over Edward and Jacob, gasp at key moments, and applaud made Breaking Dawn – Part 1 all the more entertaining. Part 1 first covers the long awaited wedding between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Jacob takes his shirt off mere minutes into the opening. He understandably doesn’t attend the wedding until the end. Once again forcing the love triangle that has a pretty clear winner by now.

The wedding still manages to bring out everyone regardless. It even brings together Bella’s scene stealing parents Charlie and Renée. Alice oversees wedding preparations, Emmet & Jasper take Edward to his bachelor party, and Rosalie starts to warm up to Bella. The only people who think the wedding is strange are Bella’s forgotten human friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Despite all the obvious red flags, I can’t deny how romantic the wedding is. It even sets up Part 2 by having the Cullen’s Denali relatives in attendance. Maggie Grace is Irina, the bitter former lover of Laurent who leaves when she spots a werewolf. Though the only pack members in attendance are Jacob’s father, Seth, and a few others. While they don’t stretch out the wedding too much, the Brazil honeymoon on Isle Esme definitely feels like it’s trying to fill time. Despite the obvious danger, Bella wants to lose her virginity when she’s still human. Leading to a steamy, occasionally ridiculous, love making session. One that literally breaks the bed. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson won their last MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss since they were still together at the time. Their honeymoon consists of Bella trying to seduce Edward and playing a game of chess that references the book cover.

The real conflict finally kicks in when Bella is revealed to be pregnant with a half-vampire baby. The tone shifts to overly serious talk about what to do with the mysterious pregnancy. Carlisle is a doctor, but not an expert of this kind of hybrid. Which for the record, is called a Dhampir. With the baby literally draining the life out of Bella, she finds unexpected comfort from Rosalie. Since she always wanted to be a mother before becoming a vampire. Like the book, a lot of perspective comes from Jacob representing the outside world. Though Taylor Lautner feels more like comic relief at times. He’s less than thrilled about the pregnancy, but more than willing to protect Bella when his pack turns on the Cullens. The telepathic wolf communication is weird to say the least. Seth and Leah are the only wolves to leave Sam in order to help Jacob. Bella resorts to drinking blood in order to survive long enough to come up with the weirdest baby names. The bloody pregnancy is so intense that it’s practically disorientating. Edward turns Bella right after she dies, but Jacob stops short of killing their baby. Since he very creepily imprints on baby Renesmee. Ending with the expected cliffhanger of Bella revealing her blood-red vampire eyes. Followed by a post-credit scene of the Volturi setting up Part 2. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is better when you stop trying to make sense of literally anything.

5. Breaking Dawn Part 1

Bella and Edward get married

Preceded by: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Team Edward or Team Jacob?

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is mostly designed to sell “Team Edward” vs. “Team Jacob” T-shirts. Since Eclipse is easily the most pointless story in the saga. Stephanie Meyer wrote it mainly to focus on the obvious repercussions of becoming a vampire. The torn red ribbon cover represents Bella Swan being torn between worlds. The title Eclipse refers to the light and dark choice between Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. Teenage girls were more than encouraged to fight over whether the vampire or werewolf was a better choice. For the record, I was “Team Edward,” but that still didn’t make me see Eclipse in theaters. Although it was the last installment I saw exclusively on DVD. The new 30 Days of Night director David Slade didn’t use any color palette other than maybe white. Eclipse deals with the looming threat of newborn vampires that has no major impact on things to come. Other than tying up loose ends like Victoria. Although Rachelle Lefevre was dedicated to the role after 2 movies, she was suddenly replaced by sequel darling Bryce Dallas Howard. Victoria uses Riley Biers to train an army of deadly newborns in Seattle, but that’s not what people are gonna remember.

They’ll remember the endless, often humorous, bitter love triangle. Robert Pattinson is back stealing hearts, Taylor Lautner is back shedding shirts, and Kristen Stewart is back being the worst person to fight over. Pattinson and Stewart still won the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, but now Lautner gets a nomination too. Since Bella breaks her hand punching Jacob after he forcibly kisses her, then gives him a more romantic pity kiss at the end. But Bella is still adamant about becoming a vampire. Edward just convinces her to experience life first. So Bella graduates with her friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Despite all the talk of losing one’s soul, Edward is surprisingly Christian with his old fashion insistence of marrying Bella and letting her keep her virginity. Charlie’s cluelessness and awkward father-daughter talks are his best yet. Edward even arranges a trip for Bella to see her mother before she’s bitten. It seems affectionate, but really it was to shield her from danger. The threat of the newborns is so bad that a temporary alliance between vampires and werewolves is formed. Carlisle and Esme gain the respect of Sam and his pack. A pack that now includes important younger members Leah and Seth Clearwater.

Booboo Stewart is the young joyful Seth and Julia Jones is the sole female werewolf Leah. Her story brings up the werewolf act of “Imprinting.” An intense love connection with uncomfortable side effects. On the vampire side, Alice and Emmett continue to contribute greatly with their respective visions and strength. Rosalie and Jasper are given entire flashback sequences. Rosalie became a vampire after being assaulted and only resents Bella for throwing her humanity away. Jasper has his biggest role since his newborn status makes him the only vampire who can train everyone for battle. Although Jackson Rathbone’s sudden southern accent is pretty distracting. After Edward and Jacob debate in a hilarious tent scene, the battle commences mostly off screen. The Cullens and wolf pack fight the newborns and Edward fights Riley and Victoria. Bella uses an old wolf’s tale to distract them in time to win the fight. Part of the Volturi arrive to reveal their hand in the conflict. Jane orders every newborn, including Bree Tanner to be killed. Learn more about her in The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. In the end, Bella doesn’t change her opinion of what to become or who to be with. Eclipse at least has its entertaining rivalry to keep fans occupied.

4. Eclipse

Edward and Jacob fight over Bella

Preceded by: The Twilight Saga: New Moon & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Wolf Pack Abs

The Twilight Saga: New Moon set werewolves back in almost the same way. Stephanie Meyer found herself so attached to the story she created, that New Moon was written before Twilight was even published. Her sudden appreciation for Jacob Black caused her to give him way more attention. The title New Moon refers to the darkest time of day and darker theme. The flower petal book cover is mostly meaningless. Twilight was still so popular that every sequel was set for consecutive release. New Moon was just given the pre-title The Twilight Saga for general audiences. The new Golden Compass director Chris Weitz gave New Moon more of a golden color palette. The sequel was even harder to ignore, but I continued to only see it on DVD. While teenage girls continued gushing over Edward Cullen, another attractive monster came along to establish an engrossing love triangle. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart once again win the MTV Movie Award with their passionate kiss, but they’re just as bland as ever. Although Bella and Edward are still obsessively in love, they suddenly break up after a bloody incident on her birthday. Jasper can’t control his thirst, but it doesn’t stop Alice from becoming even better friends with Bella.

Carlisle and Esme are still caring protectors, while Rosalie and Emmett are downplayed a bit. Alice is the only vampire Bella writes to since she completely shuts out her human friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Charlie is still a scene stealer, but he also has to deal with his daughter’s constant night terrors. Bella is easily the worst in New Moon. Since she shuts down after Edward leaves and turns to life threatening situations in order to hallucinate seeing him. Poor human Mike tries to woo Bella with the stupidly titled movie Face Punch, but the only person that makes Bella feel better is Jacob. The biggest draw for female fans was the suddenly ripped Taylor Lautner. Jacob is almost always shirtless since he’s revealed to be a werewolf. The New Moon portrayal of werewolves is “unique” to say the least. Vampires continue to have a strong presence, but it’s really their turn in the moonlight. Bella and Jacob form a genuinely believable bond despite Lautner also being a terrible actor. We learn that all werewolves are from the Native American Quileute tribe. So it’s at least good for giving those actors a chance in a major movie. The most high profile actor being Graham Greene as Charlie’s friend Harry Clearwater.

Unlike their natural enemies, werewolves are warm with enhanced strength and become giant CGI wolves when angry. Just try not to think about the fact that they always rip out of their clothes, yet still end up in shorts. Jacob’s pack leader is Sam Uley. His scarred fiancé Emily shows Bella what her life would be like if she chose Jacob. Though the pack maintains a treaty with the vegetarian Cullens, they don’t hesitate to kill Laurent and hunt a vengeful Victoria. But that’s not all we see of the vampires. Edward believes Bella to be dead, so Alice returns with a vision of Edward killing himself in Italy. It’s there that we learn all about vampire politics. The Volturi maintain a law that prevents vampires from being exposed to the world. Among its primary members are Michael Sheen as their eccentric leader Aro and Dakota Fanning grown into the evil pain inducing Jane. Bella dramatically chooses to die for Edward. Ensuring her transformation into a vampire. Jacob isn’t happy about that, but Edward proposes to Bella anyway. New Moon is just like Romeo & Juliet, but no one should aspire to this love story.

3. New Moon

Bella leads Jacob on

Preceded by: Twilight & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Still a Better Love Story than Twilight

Twilight set vampires back for nearly a decade. Starting the trend of attractive modern vampires with deep romantic feelings. A far cry from the irredeemable monsters they were in the past. Stephanie Meyer got the idea of a vampire falling in love with a human girl from a dream. The book was named Twilight after the partially darkened time of day. With the iconic cover being hands holding an apple that represents the theme of Forbidden Fruit. Twilight is perhaps the most embarrassing phenomenon to occur in the late 2000’s.

It was a YA best seller that so many teenage girls I knew were obsessed with. So a movie was quickly made just as the saga finished in 2008. Meyer was kept as a close consultant with Thirteen director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg maintaining a female presence. Unlike Harry Potter, I was at least old enough to make my own decision about seeing Twilight. Being 13 at the time, I knew I couldn’t ignore the craze forever. So I personally watched it on DVD not long after its release. While I wouldn’t call myself a Twihard fan, Twilight is still genuinely mesmerizing in a good, but mostly bad way…

1. Twilight

Bella realizes Edward is a vampire

Twilight condenses its 500 page story, but manages to stay faithful to the novel. To the point that overly poetic narration from series lead Isabella “Bella” Swan will become a very common plot element. Bella is one of the most unlikable heroines in all of literature. Though she’s meant to be an average 17 year old with insecurities, Bella’s decisions make her seem more selfish and/or obsessive. Kristen Stewart guaranteed Bella would stand out since her unique mannerisms are always on display. Stewart is so awkward with her almost painful line delivery, hair touching, sighing, and vacant expressions. Though I had seen her in at least 3 other movies, Twilight was when I realized how bad her performances can be. Bella moves from her sunny home in Phoenix, Arizona to the constantly overcast Forks, Washington. Leaving her enthusiastic mother to stay with her old fashioned police chief father Charlie. Billy Burke easily gives the most underrated performance with his deadpan fatherly attitude.

Although Bella is fairly attractive, the sudden barrage of boys wanting to ask her out is hard to believe. Poor Mike never stood a chance and neither does Eric or Tyler. Bella’s only girl friends are the chatty Jessica and shy Angela. I knew Christian Serratos from Ned’s Declassified, but most people forget this was Anna Kendrick’s first recognizable role. Long before joining the Bellas, Kendrick was introducing Bella to the Cullen family. The Twilight portrayal of vampires is “unique” to say the least. All vampires are beautiful with mostly gold eyes and pale skin. Although the ghostly blue color palette makes everyone look pale. After his brief but crucial role in Harry Potter, Robert Pattinson earned the affection of millions of screaming fans as the 17 year old looking Edward Cullen. While at the same time being hated by almost every serious vampire enthusiast.

Edward is overwhelmed with thirst for Bella’s blood, but he softens up after their next biology class. It’s not until the pivotal moment when Bella is nearly crushed by a car that he shows his supernatural abilities. Edward is impossibly fast and strong, his skin is pale white and ice cold, but he’s not like other vampires. It’s only after the iconic woods scene that we really find out what that means. These vampires don’t have fangs, can blatantly be seen in mirrors, are only killed through ice-like dismemberment followed by burning, and sparkle in the sunlight. Easily the most ridiculous thing Twilight ever did to vampires. But at least they make up for it by giving vampires superpowers. Apart from super speed and super strength, some vampires possess unique gifts. Edward can read everyone’s mind except Bella’s.

Their mutual infatuation sparks a romance for the ages. Represented by a series of intense stares and Edward creepily sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep. Not to mention the fact that Edward is over 100 years old. The obvious warning signs aren’t enough to keep Bella away though. Not even when her childhood best friend Jacob Black warns her about the Cullens. Jacob is a Quileute Native American living on a Reservation with his wheelchair bound father Billy. Even with long hair I recognized Sharkboy himself Taylor Lautner. Though Jacob’s role is small with only vague mentions of his tribe’s connection to wolves. It’s really all about the Cullen family who live in a cool glass house and consider themselves to be vegetarian. Since they only live on animal blood. Carlisle is the family patriarch and trusted town physician effectively played by Peter Facinelli. Esme is the family matriarch affectionately played by Elizabeth Reaser.

Their “children” are Alice, her mate Jasper, Rosalie, and her mate Emmet. Ashley Greene stands out the most since Alice is infectiously high spirited and possesses the useful power to see into the future. Friend of the director Nikki Reed is more hostile towards Bella as Rosalie. While Kellan Lutz is just right for carefree meathead Emmet. Jackson Rathbone only stands out for Jasper’s difficulty with controlling his human blood thirst. Other than that, the Cullens are a pretty normal family. They just have to move a lot, never go out in the sun, and continually attend high school. Which makes no sense the more you think about it. Edward and Bella only share one passionate MTV Movie Award winning kiss, but Edward risists giving in to his urges for as long as he can. Until a game of vampire baseball (which is impossible to take seriously).

Although they were set up early in the movie, the villains arrive almost at the last minute. Cam Gigandet is James, a highly skilled vampire tracker and leader of his nomad coven. Rachelle Lefevre is his alluring mate Victoria and Edi Gathegi is the more refined Laurent. When James catches Bella’s scent, he does everything in his power to hunt her. Including trick her into thinking he’s holding her mother at her childhood ballet studio. The Cullens do their best to protect Bella, but she still ends up cornered. Edward comes to the rescue just as James bites her. Although Bella could’ve become a vampire right then and there, Edward sucks out the venom with enormous difficulty.

Just in time to attend the prom and receive a cryptic message from Jacob. In the end, Bella is still determined to become a vampire and forever be with the vampire she loves. Obviously, Twilight isn’t a romance to aspire to. Not just because it’s between a vampire and human. So many memes have been made about how literally anything is a better love story than Twilight. I still wouldn’t deny Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s chemistry. Which carried over into real life. The humor also works whether intentional or not. But I think the music probably had the most work put into it. From the piano theme “Bella’s Lullaby” to the Pattinson sung “Let Me Sign.” Plus Edward recreating the book’s apple cover in the cafeteria is fun. Twilight sank its teeth into cinema whether we liked it or not.

2. Twilight

Bella sees Edward sparkle

Followed by: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Beware the Darkseekers

I Am Legend is the third and only adaptation to bare the name of Richard Matheson’s original novel. Another adaptation after The Omega Man was in development ever since the 90’s. Many bankable leads and directors came and went, but ultimately I Am Legend was made in 2007. Legendary military scientist Robert Neville is now played by the always charismatic Will Smith. I was intrigued by I Am Legend since I was still a big Smith fan. Maybe I was just too young, but the aggressively bleak tone depressed me for awhile after I saw it. Not that I should’ve expected a virus wiping out 90% of Earth’s population to be joyful.

I Am Legend was still a box-office hit with a committed one-man performance from Smith. Neville experiments to find a cure and tries to maintain his sanity alongside his sole German Shepherd companion Sam. The empty New York City is full of animals to hunt, mannequins to talk to, and even a Batman v Superman banner that predicted the future. After vampire-zombies and mutants, I Am Legend blends both creatures together to create the Darkseekers. Animalistic nocturnal zombie-like albino mutants with gaping mouths rendered in really terrible CGI. The horror helps them appear more threatening in quieter moments.

Neville has some moments of levity, but the bleakness doesn’t let up for a second. SPOILER ALERT! His wife and daughter (played by a young Willow) are killed in an evacuation helicopter, they rip your heart out by infecting his dog, and don’t get me started on the ending. An enraged Neville is rescued by a surviving Anna and her son Ethan. They talk of a secret camp where Neville can cure the rest of the surviving humans. Instead of accept a new race that’s capable of human emotion like the much better alternate ending, the monsters are simply blown up with Neville sacrificing himself and passing his cure onto Anna. I Am Legend is too bleak for repeat viewings, but it is a well executed portrayal of a future to avoid.

I Am Legend

Robert Neville and Sam wander New York

Planet of the Mutants

The Omega Man (or The Ωmega Man) is the second adaptation of I Am Legend. This time the Richard Matheson novel is altered dramatically to fit the groovy 70’s. Resulting in a hoaky adaptation that’s more focused on action. I’ve known about The Omega Man for years since it was parodied on The Simpsons. The omega man is scientist Robert Neville. If he’s not in Biblical epics of the past, Charlton Heston is in the dystopian future. Only Heston can make a baron post-apocalyptic Los Angeles this entertaining.

Neville drives around with his firearm hunting the mutants that now plague the world. Instead of vampire-zombies, germ warfare started the global pandemic that either killed or turned humans into eloquent cloaked albino mutants with light sensitivity. Matthias is a zealot who leads his fellow mutants like a cult. In a lot of ways similar to Beneath the Planet of the Apes released one year prior. The battle between Neville and the mutants changes forever when he encounters more survivors.

Since this is very noticeably 70’s, Neville’s love interest is the black afro sporting Lisa. Member of a partially infected society that need his blood to create a vaccine. Neville agrees to help save Lisa’s brother and they start a passionate romance. The interracial kiss and implied love making was one of the first ever seen in a movie. Although Rosalind Cash was nervous about kissing Moses. Sadly, no I Am Legend scenario is ever that simple. Not even one with this much emphasis on survivors. The mutants snuff out Neville’s influence, but hope for the future is implied. The Omega Man brought style to the end of the world.

The Ωmega Man

Robert Neville takes aim at mutants

The Price of Solitude

The Last Man on Earth is the first adaptation of I Am Legend. It has direct influence from author Richard Matheson, but he wasn’t overly fond of the final result. Matheson’s story was one of the earliest uses of the post-apocalyptic formula we all know today. Like most early 60’s era black & white pictures, The Last Man on Earth has a very literal title. The last man on Earth is scientist Robert Morgan.

This was the first heroic role I’ve seen of classic horror icon Vincent Price. Price tragically narrates the thoughts of a lonely man who tries desperately to survive an empty world plagued by vampires. Although they only come out at night, fear mirrors, hate garlic, and are killed by wooden stakes, the vampires are more like zombies. Similar to the also public domain Night of the Living Dead. The origins of the global pandemic are recounted in an extended flashback. Robert once had a loving wife and daughter that he lost to the virus.

All he can do now is burn the leftover bodies, hunt for vampires, and lock himself in at night. He finds a dog, but most importantly, he finds another human. Since this is an American co-production, Ruth is played by an Italian actress. The original I Am Legend title refers to how Ruth and the rest of her new infected society view Robert. The last healthy man who’s ultimately unable to cure them. The Last Man on Earth benefits from the old fashioned atmospheric horror that Vincent Price excels at.

the Last Man on Earth

Robert Morgan wanders the Earth

P.S. Being public domain, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.

Insectopia

Antz put DreamWorks Animation at the top of the ant hill. Of course I grew up loving Disney & Pixar, but DreamWorks has always been a top childhood favorite as well. Even though the studio may have started out of spite. Like most rival animation companies, Jeffrey Katzenberg was a disgruntled Disney chairman who left the studio in order to make his own animated movies. Although intending DreamWorks Animation to begin with the traditionally animated Prince of Egypt, Antz was fast-tracked to 1998 just to compete with A Bug’s Life. Two early computer animated ant movies about a misfit in love with a princess who fights for his colony couldn’t have been a coincidence. It was a heated feud that made Antz & A Bug’s Life the biggest copycat movies ever made, but I never questioned it. Although I was only 3 at the time, I loved both ant movies equally. Seeing Antz with my mom and brother is one of my earliest memories.

The biggest difference with Antz (and DreamWorks) is the PG rated edge that its had from the beginning. Despite being a kids film, Antz is loaded with adult themes, sexual innuendo, and a lot of swearing. Mostly thanks to Woody Allen playing nervous drone ant Z. Z is exactly like Allen with his neurotic babbling. Antz deals with societal problems that stem from a colony that never thinks for themselves. Ants are literally assigned worker or soldier at birth. To match that realism, ants have tan exoskeletons and the right number of legs. Z feels inadequate, but all that changes when he dances with Princess Bala in a bar. A lot of unconventional Woody Allen co-stars provide voices. Sharon Stone is the feisty Bala who’s looking to rebel. Sylvester Stallone is Weaver, the muscle bond soldier friend of Z that switches place with him. Just so Z can get closer to the Princess. Gene Hackman is the despicable army ant General Mandible that leads an army to their death and plans to drown the part of the colony he deems weak. Ironically both ant movies have Lex Luthor as their villain.

Meanwhile, Anne Bancroft voices the Queen, Jennifer Lopez voices a worker friend of Z’s, Christopher Walken voices a flying ant colonel, and Danny Glover voices an army sergeant that quickly befriends Z. After cleverly singing “Ants go marching one by one,” an intense battle with termites ensues. Antz is also pretty realistic when it comes to how terrible a bug’s life can really be. Ants are decapitated, burned with a magnifying glass, trapped in water, stepped on, and swatted. Humans are only ever obscured like monsters. Z survives, but ends up with Bala after a misunderstanding. They grow closer after a few arguments and become the first DreamWorks animated couple. Along the way they trek through a picnic where they meet a couple of friendly wasps voiced by Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin. Z tries to find the fabled Insectopia which is hilariously just a trash can. Bala is discovered, but Z returns in time to save the colony that learned from his example to think for themselves. They construct an ant ladder and escape the very first use of digital water in film. The computer animation is rough, but no less impressive with its lighting and realistic textures. Antz has a unique maturity that makes it a very underrated piece of animation history.

1. Antz

Z and Princess Bala explore a picnic

Ants as Big as a House

Them! put giant killer bugs on the map. Ants were very fascinating to me when I was kid. I dealt with them a lot and frequently learned many interesting facts about their colony. So a movie about rampant 9 ft ants from the 50’s was always on my radar. My parents were big fans who watched the movie frequently when they were younger. Although I saw clips, I didn’t see all of Them! until way later. Them! is the very first monster attack creature feature starring giant bugs.

Ants are mutated as a result of atomic radiation. Ironically, Them! was released the same year as Godzilla. You’d think Them! would end up cheesy with a premise like that, but it’s surprisingly terrifying even now. The high pitched bird call they make is creepy and so is the idea of ants crushing you in their mandibles. Them! slowly builds up to their reveal with local New Mexico police officers investigating mysterious deaths and the disappearance of sugar. Their only clue is a traumatized little girl who famously screams the title.

It starts with the FBI and a few scientists examining the area, then grows into a far worse problem that requires the military. Thanks to a couple of escaped queens, the world could soon be overrun with giant ants. It gets to the point where even information from the local drunk is helpful. The ants are dangerous due to their acidic stingers and ability to tunnel deep underground. Flamethrowers do the trick after several tragic losses accompanied by early Wilhelm screams. Highly capable actors, deep questions, a simple premise, and 50’s flare help make Them! a well executed trend-setter.

Them

Giant ants attack

Trophy Wife

The Stepford Wives (2004) made the mistake of taking a genuinely creepy concept and making it a comedy. Although I use the term comedy loosely, because it’s not at all funny. Despite being released in 2004 with an all star cast including Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, and Bette Midler, I still never heard of The Stepford Wives. Discovering it was a campy version of a horror movie sounded like a bad idea. Rather than a struggling photographer, Joanna Eberhart is an already successful cold hearted business woman.

Until she’s fired and her family relocates to Stepford. The camp comes from the far more exaggerated 50’s era housewives and there way more obvious robotic tendencies. Joanna’s only normal friend Bobbie is more homely and they also make the confusing decision to add a gay couple. Plus there’s a robot dog for some reason. The shorter runtime makes it feel like Joanna’s madness and subsequent Stepfordization is rushed. Granted the original had slow spots, but at least the payoff was good.

The comedic tone means a forced happy ending. Since the wives aren’t even full robots, they can be easily turned back. Then another convoluted twist is added to make it seem like neither the men, nor the women were right or wrong. Like they were too afraid to make anyone look bad. Apparently that same sentiment can’t be said for the behind the scenes. Since none of the cast seemed to get along with director Frank Oz. The Stepford Wives (2004) could’ve been a refined thriller with improved technical advancements. Instead it became a joke.

The Stepford Wives (2004)

The Stepford wives

Remake of: The Stepford Wives (1975)