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Ink & Pixel: Hotel Transylvania 2

10.13.2016

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fan-base, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at steveseigh@joblo.com so we can discuss it further.

Ahhhh … Autumn is finally here in New York, my friends! If you listen closely as the wind blows, you'll hear the soothing sound of dead leaves rattling in the breeze. If you breath deeply, you'll catch the intoxicating aroma of wood burning against an open flame. For us, Halloween is just a few weeks away, and the time has come to place the finishing touches on this year's costume of choice. Where I come from, October is the time to stay in, take in a horror movie marathon, and give thanks to all the creatures that go bump in the night.

I thought we'd try a little something different this week. Rather than focus solely on the film at hand, might I suggest that we take a hard look at two of the film's characters and their real-life histories as well? Sound good? Nice. Because when it comes to such classic monsters as the vampire, werewolf, mummy, and other gruesome ghouls of film and fiction, there is undoubtedly a lot to dissect. So please, join me as we take a look back at HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2, and the many horrors that roam its hallowed halls.

Directed by Russian filmmaker, Genndy Tartakovsky, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 is a 3D computer animated horror-comedy released in 2015 by Columbia Pictures. Written by long-time collaborative duo, Robert Smigel and Adam Sandler, this sequel to the questionably received but lucrative original would make a fine addition to your October Watch List. The second theatrical installment of this spooktacular franchise stars Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, and the legendary Mel Brooks. What's that? You say that's not enough star power for one film? What if I told you that Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Dana Carvey, and Rob Riggle were also a part of this animated monster mash?

The story of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 takes place 7 years after the 2012 original. At the start of this sequel, Mavis, Dracula's only daughter, marries her human fiance, Johnny. Shortly thereafter, Mavis becomes pregnant with what Drac can only hope is a pure blood vampire. Though things take a turn for the curious when, after the little guy is born, he shows no immediate signs of “popping his fangs”. As time marches on, Mavis begins having second thoughts about raising her son, Dennis, while remaining in Transylvania. Drac, terrified at the thought of his family moving away, quickly hatches a scheme to make living outside the hotel walls look like a bad idea.

The plan is to have Johnny (who wants to stay put) take Mavis away for the weekend to visit her in-laws. While there, Drac and his friends will do their best to scare the fangs out of Dennis. If all goes as intended, the young vamp-to-be will have made his full transformation to vampirism by the time his parents return. Essentially, Drac figures that with Dennis having gone full-monster, it will be easier to convince Mavis to stay. That being said, this is a comedy, and you can bet your entire stash of this year's Halloween candy that plenty will go wrong before the sun begins to rise.

In taking a look at the colorful cast of characters from the HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA franchise, you'll find that it's not just the classic movie monsters that fill Dracula's elaborate manor with drool, slime, and moans of despair. In keeping your peepers peeled, you're bound to notice the likes of living skeletons, mer-people, demons, and hordes of the living dead. And although I'd love to systematically scrutinize them all, I think it best if we remain focused on just two of the more popular panic-inducing beasties.

Let's begin with his eternal fanginess, Dracula. Commonly referred to as the Lord of the Vampires, Dracula was a character featured and popularized by the 1897 Gothic horror novel DRACULA by Irish author Bram Stoker. Throughout the years, this blood-sucking bandit of the night has appeared in countless motion pictures throughout most of our cinematic history. Some would say that it all began with F. W. Murnau's 1922 German Expressionist horror film, NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR – which at the time served as an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker's novel. Though perhaps the more popular debut for the character was in 1931, when Bela Lugosi flashed his fangs in the Tod Browning and Karl Freund directed DRACULA.

Since that time, Dracula has managed to creep through the shadows and into films like: HOUSE OF DRACULA, VAMPIRA, THE MONSTER SQUAD, BLADE: TRINITY, and much more! The concept for Dracula dates back to the medieval times, or as some would suggest, to a time when the gods of Norse Mythology ruled both above as well as below. Today, there are groups of individuals who fancy themselves as real-live vampires – stating that a rare disease introduced to the human immune system during the Black Plague had somehow been passed to a select few throughout the generations. In addition to the belief that an endogeneous retrovirus which causes true vampirism to naturally flow through their veins, some carriers of the disease have altered their lives to live by the code of their unique heritage. This can include the drinking of blood, avoidance of daylight, and participation in erotic practices where “victims” willingly allow themselves to be fed upon. It's a lifestyle with a lofty upkeep for sure, but who am I to judge?

Next, we have European folklore's full-moon menace, the werewolf. The belief in an affliction known as lycanthropy developed during the Late Middle Ages, spreading almost in unison with the growing notion of witchcraft. If you were unfortunate enough to be bitten (or in some cases scratched) by a person who is carrying the mythical condition, it was said that the victim would then transform into a ferocious beast while under the light of a full moon. Of course, proof of the existence of true werewolves has been a difficult matter throughout the course of history. Clinical Lycanthropy however, is most certainly a real thing. It's a psychiatric condition actually, one that involves the patient experiencing an elaborate delusion in which they're convinced that they already have or will soon transform into a supernatural wolf-like monstrosity.

In regard to the silver screen, it was in 1935 when Kentucky-born director, Stuart Walker, shot WEREWOLF OF LONDON that gave us our first lycanthrope in film. Though it wasn't until 1941, when George Waggner presented us with THE WOLF MAN - starring Lon Chaney Jr. as the sacrilegious shape-shifter. As a part of the Universal Monsters brand, Waggner's version of the man-turned-wolf served as an inspiration for several other werewolf-related pictures in the years to come. Personally, the werewolf is my favorite of Universal's pantheon of classic creatures. Part of the reason why is that I find their condition to be quite tragic. More often than not, individuals suffering from lycantropy have had the condition thrust upon them by circumstance. Though what it really comes down to is this - I really dig a gruesome werewolf transformation, the more painful the better, I say.

Thankfully, Hollywood has treated us to some inspired transformation sequences throughout the years. Not that this is any sort of definitive list, but some of my favorite full-moon-freakouts can be found in such films as: GINGER SNAPS, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, THE HOWLING, and Netflix own HEMLOCK GROVE.

Despite a smattering of lukewarm reviews, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 managed to drain a total of $473,226,958 from the wallets of parents across the world. Not only is that a respectable sum, I'd wager that total becomes particularly impressive when you consider that the film was made using a budget of just $80 million. About a year ago, director of the first two films, Genndy Tartakovsky stated that, “HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 is going to happen without me. Two is enough. I have a lot of other ideas, and I kind of have to express them and have them come out.” Well, it seems that a lot can change in a year's time, given that Tartakovsky was recently confirmed to direct the next installment of the franchise.

Okay, here it comes. Now, I'm well aware that dog-piling on Sandler and his friends is all the rage these days, but I'm not about to do that. I like the HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA movies. That's right, I said it. In fact, I enjoy them a lot. For me, Sandler's decent into lazy paint-by-numbers comedy is very clear. First, there were the salad days, a time in which we were treated to such juvenile gems as BILLY MADISON, HAPPY GILMORE, and THE WEDDING SINGER. Not long after that, things took a turn for the offensively worse with cinematic stinkers like MR. DEEDS, ANGER MANAGEMENT, and I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY. These days, films like PIXELS, THE RIDICULOUS 6, and THE DO-OVER aren't worth the hard drive space it takes to store a single frame of their fart jokes and abhorrent racial profiling.

All of that said, the HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA films are visually polished, occasionally well written films that - if you pay attention to their subtext - are better than anything the Sandler-lead ensemble cast of comedians have done in years. I dig Dracula's over-protective nature toward his only-daughter, Mavis. As a father who has lost his partner-in-parenting, Drac displays an affection for his “honey bat” that I find refreshing. All too often are parents absent from their child's adventures on screen, and so I appreciate the importance placed on making this family film about just that – family.

Aside from much of the more familial aspects of the film, there's also a fair amount of laughs to be had. Whether it's Drac's apathy for the ways in which time has changed the world, a clever jab at the very nature of the monsters who come to stay at the hotel, or the not-so-subtle social commentary pertaining to creatures living among humankind – a lot of what these films have to offer lands for me personally. Am I saying these movies are perfect? Hell no. There's plenty of groan-inducing moments, too. However, and especially in the case of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2, I feel as if the good far outweighs the bad. Enjoy your October, folks, and I'll see you in two weeks with yet another spooky installment.

Extra Tidbit: Halloween is just around the corner! Some will choose to be the Batman, while others will become The Joker.
Source: joblo.com

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