Underworld (2003) – movie review

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Movie Reviews by Dr Kuma and EDF

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen

Director: Len Wiseman

Review by Dr Kuma


I have read several lacklustre reviews of late regarding this film, but have to point out that I feel there is an apathy creeping in to some of these (*not our friends here at PHASE9 though, although I disagree with our colleague in every way, I respect his views).

UNDERWORLD is one of the best looking and most creative horror films I’ve seen in a vampire’s lifetime. It is one of the few films of the genre to come up with new twists on the well worn fables about vampires and werewolves (full moon, garlic etc), not only once, but several times.

What was the last horror film you saw that made you think “Ah, that’s clever”, then top it with another idea later. One example is that we have ‘neonesque’ bullets that store sunlight, which destroy the Vampires from the inside out. The Vampires then reply with a similar bullet whose case stores liquid silver, which is released into the werewolves bloodstream on impact, tit for tat (or bat)- just like the real arms race. The only flaws that don’t make this top drawer is that some things are just passed over (for example the Vampires in UNDERWORLD have reflections).

What really carries the movie is the wonderful Kate Beckinsale whose dark yet erotic demeanor is the closet the screen has come to VAMPIRELLA, the failed Hammer project of the seventies.

The monsters are great, the sets and acting too (some of it a bit hammy, but all the better for it – bar the usual bad cokerneee accent) and with an opening that pays homage to the modern noirs of The Crow and Batman, this movie, based on the reviews I’ve read, should really be renamed UNDERVALUED.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: Make up your own minds, but this is one of the most creative horror movies for some time, compared to something like FREDDY VS JASON it’s a bloody masterpiece!

5 out of 6 stars

Review by EDF

In a world were vampires and werewolves exist you just know they are not going to get along with each other so you should be in for a cinematic treat, but unfortunately UNDERWORLD doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

These two sub-species, Vampires and Lycans, as werewolves are called in the movie, hide themselves away from the human race but seem to have no problem in chasing and killing each other in public, which is how the movie starts. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a Vampire warrior who discovers a Lycan plot to kidnap Michael (Scott Speedman), a human doctor. Selene warns the Vampire leader Kraven (Shane Brolly) that the Lycan’s are up to something but he dismisses her.

Selene tracks down Michael but Lucian (Michael Sheen), the Lycan leader bites Michael, taking a sample of his blood with him. Believing that Kraven knows a lot more than he is letting on, Selene awakens Viktor (Bill Nighy), the five hundred year sleeping Vampire overlord. Unhappy that he has been woken up to a world still populated by Lycans, he goes after them to put an end to the war. When Selene discovers more about the Lycan’s plot and secrets about her own clan, her actions have fatal consequences for both sides.

The story premise is very promising but there are too many movies that you could compare UNDERWORLD with. From Selene’s MATRIX like clothes – and that is not a complaint on my part – to the slow motion action sequences that were used to perfection in the MATRIX movies and to the similarities between Selene and Wesley Snipes’ BLADE character, UNDERWORLD just falls down on these as well as other issues.

The film is difficult to follow at first as you try and work out who is chasing who, although this does become obvious later on in the movie. Fight scenes do not advance the storyline and when they happen, an extra chunk of back-story comes along as an after thought which might have benefited as flashback scenes, if only just to give these characters more emotional weight.

The sad thing is that I love Gothic looking movies such as BLADE, THE CROW and DARK CITY, but the story and direction just fails in UNDERWORLD, a movie that I have been waiting in anticipation to see. Oh well, I cannot say my two hours were totally wasted, mainly due to Kate Beckinsale who is one of the very few high points of the movie.

3 out of 6 stars