Thursday, June 14, 2007

Film Of Ronin Stalled For Castlevania Adaptation

After Stomp the Yard made more money than was expected, Sylvain White became something of a hot property (note: money was the convincer, not some sudden awareness that he'd made a surprisingly good film - because he hadn't). He's been attached to numerous projects, most famously a film of Frank Miller's Ronin comic books. That film has now been shelved, at least temporarily, while White makes a film for the Castlevania videogames.

Now, the Castelvania games are fine - if massively overrated - but there's no suggestion at all that they're going to make for a good film so the project might as well be unrelated, should be considered as though it was cooked up from scratch. A script by Paul W. S. Anderson, directed by Sylvain White? That's looking a lot like the recipe for another Van Helsing.

Gothic horror sits uncomfortably with modern popcorn pictures, for me at least. After James Whale and Tod Browning and other, undoubtedly populist, filmmakers actually managed to make entertainments out of great gothic stories while retaining appropriate atmospheres, tones and Freud-baiting undercurrents, it seemed like we were on a slippery slope. Half way down, we whooshed through the house of Hammer, past the garish, lusty, liberated take on the same old stories, settings, characters but by then, a lot had shifted. Complete the shift, get up to date, and we end up with a gothic horror that's predicated entirely on style, on semi-buried subtexts, on pantomime pieces.

The last great gothic horror film classic - and I mean great - was Ridley Scott's Alien. It was surprisingly similar to the early Universal horrors, but used modern cinema technology in exciting, unparalelled ways, mixed in tropes from other genres, scrambled the signals, wove the gothicism into a tapestry. But this gothic weave was powerful, and almost every scene was clad in it like ivy creepers. It was a timeless, classic dread and a primal, animal sexuality that crept through the corridors of Alien.

We've had great horror films since with a splash of the gothic - and plenty of horror films that went all out with the gothic, but weren't great. Aesthetically, only Tim Burton seems regularly convincing in standing steady a few paces back up the slope but - so far - he hasn't tried to horrify us. I'm sure he could, though. And then some - if he went all out.

Could Castlevania be a grand gothic adventure? Sure. Will it be? Well, only if Anderson's script and White and his crew are interested in the idea. And why would they be? The commodity-gothic that they're needing to trade on, I expect, is the same thing tromping in and out of Hot Topic all day long. Gothicism as a can of spray-on cobwebs, not as a deep, scarlet romance of horror.

Expect Pirates of the Caribbean with Vampires instead of Pirates. At best.


Harmen said...

Castelvania overrated? May I ask witch games you've played out of the series Brendon?

Or is the Metroid franchise from Nintendo more to you're liking?

Brendon said...

You've kind of hit the nail on the head. Castlevania is a kind of not-as-good Metroid.