I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
In film, the vigilante has been one of the more popular character types, especially in the world of fantasy and sci-fi. These kind of stories about people who go on personal, blood-thirsty vendettas to exact revenge or save humanity make extremely thrilling experiences.
Summit Entertainment’s THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, starring Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood, opens this weekend and fits seamlessly in this sub-genre. It poses all the ingredients of a fun vigilante flick, following the story of a witch hunter (Diesel) who goes against evil forces beyond humanity to save the world from suppression.
With the release of THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, Fresh Fiction looked back at other great, interesting supernatural vigilante films.
This one is more of a sentimental pick than anything else. The BLADE films were (somewhat) groundbreaking for their time– though, we are pretending the third installment doesn’t exist. Based on the Marvel comic books, the series had a mega action-star in Wesley Snipes playing the titular character with a charisma that yet to be tapped into for contemporary comic book films. Not to mention, distributor New Line Cinema gave the filmmaker (the great Guillermo del Toro) creative license to build a world that was meaningful.
The wafer-thin plot structure of these films is stretched due to the sheer visual intrigue that was completely geared to del Toro’s strengths as a filmmaker. His motive was simple, give the audience the adrenaline that quenched their thirst for fear and excitement and the rest will fall into place. But there was a quality to BLADE 2 that wasn’t given its due credit. It has the genre film trappings that fans love. Gore, comedy, sexy people playing vampire and a visual style that for the time was without equal.
Del Toro crafted a formidable villain played by Luke Goss (who del Toro used again in HELLBOY 2). But fans will also notice cult heroes Ron Perlman and the insanely popular Norman Reedus (aka crossbow Daryl) in scene-stealing supporting roles. While this film is flawed, it’s dripping with raw charisma of the early 2000s and showcases a director with a clear vision that was just starting to unleash his vast amount of macabre tricks upon the United States.
– Cole Clay
Long before he broke box-office records and quenched the thirst of nerds around the world, Peter Jackson broke into the US with this comedy-horror flick. Not a stranger to this hybrid formula (if you haven’t seen DEAD ALIVE, go watch it right now), THE FRIGHTENERS relied on more laughs than gore, but had the creep factor to serve as the background.
Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) has been investigating paranormal activity for the past several years in the quaint town of Fairwater. The activity though is all part of a con as the ghosts (John Astin, Chi McBride, and Jim Fyfe) work with Frank so he can make a living. However mysterious heart attacks start happening, and Frank soon bears witness to the Grim Reaper killing the townspeople. Coupled with the fact that his wife died under mysterious circumstances a few years ago, Frank soon becomes suspect number one and he must take matters into his own hands.
I won’t give away the identity of the killer, but the movie is good fun, with fantastic effects as well. Michael J. Fox is more somber than his normal roles, but the charm is there, as well as with his cohorts. Also, there is a fantastic shot of weird injected into the narrative in the form of FBI occult specialist Milton Dammers, played with odd fervor by horror fave Jeffery Combs. If you’re not into horror in the strict sense of the genre, then I can’t recommend THE FRIGHTENERS enough.
– Jared McMillan
Let’s face it, THE FIFTH ELEMENT is a wildly entertaining jumble of vigilantes, action, love, comedy and aliens. Not only does it feature all of that, but it forges together a story filled with as many twists and turns as it contains aliens and jaw-dropping visuals– along with classic Chris Tucker screams.
In the Luc Besson penned and directed film, fate drops a vulnerable yet powerful woman (Milla Jovovich), who is described as the “perfect” being who will control all the five elements of the universe. But it’s where she is dropped that makes this one of the ultimate vigilante tales of ordinary and skilled people going against evil forces– she’s dropped on the cab of a down-on-his-luck taxi driver, naturally bringing him into the mix to save existence from destruction.
– Preston Barta
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER opens tonight at 7 p.m. in participating theaters, and opens nationwide tomorrow.