Simply, the region below the surface of a planet or the diametric opposite surface of a planet - the antipodes. 'Underworld' is also commonly used to refer to the criminal element of a society - see the American Underworld Dictionary.



A common dimension in most of the world's religions and belief systems, the underworld generally refers to the land of the dead - the place where dead souls come to rest.

Inevitably, we have one or two gods assigned to this realm, presumably keeping an eye on the corpses and handling two major responsibilities:

  1. Order The Greeks assigned Hades to divide up their land of the dead into two regions:
  2. Punishment - check out 'Seasons of Mist' by Neil Gaiman or 'Satan' by God.

Paranoid as humans are, they generally have the entrance to the assorted underworlds guarded by a fearsome beast of some sort (see Cerberus if you're into the classics or Garm if you like snow) the task of which is more about keeping you out than keeping the dead in.

The Greek underworld - probably the most popular, but, again, all the voters are dead - has five rivers:

  • Acheron (river of woe, the Phlegethon and the Cocytus flow into the Acheron)
  • Cocytus (wailing)
  • Lethe (river of forgetfulness: the new dead drank from this river to forget the pain of their earthly lives so they could be free in Elysium)
  • Phlegethon (a river of fire)
  • Styx (the entrance to the underworld, across which souls of the dead were ferried by Charon)

AMJ graces us with a nice list of local underworlds below - also consider:



Finally, "Underworld" is a 1997 novel by Don Delillo. It's a story about "trash, nuclear holocaust, and mass consciousness" ... or so nexxus tells me.

If you are interested in hearing the magic that is Underworld live, you can either wait for the release of their forthcoming live CD and DVD (titled everything, everything), or you can join the RTSR-trade (Ride The Sainted Rhythms - after an UW lyric) mailing list, which is devoted to the trading of bootleg Underworld live recordings.

There is an FTP server (ask politely on the mailing list for the IP address) containing many gigs of generally high (in some cases superb) quality MP3 files, remixes by fans, deleted Underworld releases, setlists, and so on.

If you've not had the pleasure of seeing Underworld live, or if you have and wish to relive the experience, this list and FTP is highly recommended.

Particularly good are the CD-quality bootlegs from Tilburg, and another unknown German gig - just awesome on headphones late at night..

Web site: http://welcome.to/rtsr/
Details of the mailing list can be found there.. Enjoy.


Footnote: Also of interest is a 3 hour DJ set that Rick Smith & Karl Hyde did on BBC Radio 1 in February 2000, which is extremely eclectic (only about 30% electronic music) and very, very good indeed.
Underworld are gods. They really are. Let me share with you their story. The original guys from Underworld (plus a few other guys) got together in the early eighties under the name Freur and sold out very very quickly. For nearly the whole decade, they toured with pop bands, like the Eurythmics, which was fun for awhile, but then became very sour. They had no artistic freedom, and they were constantly being told things like "Make this shorter so we can make a music video out of it" or "You can't use live instruments on a house track", etc etc.

They got really sick of this and in the early nineties disbanded. The core Underworld members Rick Smith and Karl Hyde started a design company called Tomato (www.tomato.co.uk), which to this day has been extremely successful, with such clients as Nike, Adidas, Intel and Volvo, to name a few. Tomato has done books, tv/radio commercials, web sites, music videos and even architecture -- all very well. Eventually, tomato made enough money that Smith and Hyde had enough money to start their own label and build a studio. This is how dubnobasswithmyheadman was born. They had complete artistic freedom now (on their own label), and basically told mtv to go fuck themselves when they asked them to edit their stuff for airplay. Later, DJ Darren Emerson joined, although he left the group amicably earlier this year to get back to djing. They're one of the most important groups in electronic music ever. They've really pushed what people thought was okay to do with electronic music and have made some incredibly original tracks in many different styles.

The land beneath us. The realm of the dead. The realm of the evil dead. You get the picture. Some parts are good, some parts are bad--depends on who you believe. The Greeks had two divisions; the Buddhists have eight. Christians think only evil people go there; the Celts said only gods go there. Go figure.

Names for the Underworld:

  • Hell/Hel: Anglo-Saxon, goddess of the underworld, daughter of Loki. "Concealed place," where dwells the serpent chewing on the roots of Yggdrasil.
  • Muspelhiem: Norse, land of fire to the south. Sometimes identified with Hel/Hell.
  • Niflheim: Norse, land of ice to the north, and realm of the dead.
  • Valhalla: Norse; home of Odin and of the warriors who died in battle, where they feast and fight for eternity. Everyone else goes to Hell.
  • Hades: Greek; god of underworld who gave his name to the place. "Half-blind"? divided into two areas:
  • Sheol: Hebrew "the grave" Whether the Jews ever believed this was an actual place is up to debate; most Jews I've spoken to do not believe in an afterlife.
  • Gehenna: Hebrew; "valley of the sons of Hinnom". The dump outside Jerusalem's walls where they burned trash; also associated with the immolation of children in worship of Moloch. More of a New Testament type of thing.
  • Jahannam: Arabic, derived from Gehenna
  • Abyss: Book of Revelations' name.
  • The Lake of Fire: same.
  • Infernum/Inferno: Latin, "the firey place," an idea derived from the Hebrew Gehenna. Actually, it's derived from Proto-Indo-European *ṇdher- meaning "below, underground"
  • Uffern: Welsh, derived from the Latin "inferno"
  • Annwn/Annwfn: Welsh "the Not-world"? More an Otherworld of the sidhe than a land of the damned, or even the dead, but later conflated with Uffern.
  • Avalon: Welsh afallach--"Land of Apples." Where King Arthur and the Grail rest, a place of peace.
  • Tir na nOg: Irish "The Land of Youth"--where the blessed few get to go, instead of being reincarnated. Kinda like Nirvana. This concept is less hell than heaven, but still an underworld--an under-the-waves-world, actually.
  • Sidhe: The hollow hills, where the Tuatha De Danann dwell underground in Irish mythology.
  • Tech Duinn: The House of Donn, lord of the Dead in Irish myth.
  • The Blessed Isles: Celtic concept, similar as the above.
  • Buddhist hell: recounted under "hell," and I will not repeat it here.

Title: Underworld
Running Time: 121 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for violence/gore and some language
Release Date: September 19, 2003
Studio: Screen Gems

Perhaps the most important thing to realize about Underworld is that it is primarily an action film: not a groundbreaking exploration of the vampire mythos. That being said, Underworld actually had more of a plot than I expected. I saw it the day after it opened, having only a single viewing of the downloadable trailer and a few comments from friends on a BBS to go on. I'd heard that it was "pretentious", "like Romeo and Juliet, only with vampires and werewolves", and "pretty to look at." I have a feeling a lot of people went to see Underworld with the impression that it was going place much more of an emphasis on the vampire society and mystique than it actually did. The vampirism and lycanthropy were there mostly for aesthetic effect on what was basically your standard action flick.

We meet our viewpoint character, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale), in the film's first few moments. Dressed in a form-fitting vinyl suit, a Matrix-esque overcoat, and the sexiest boots I've ever seen, her inner voice narrates to the audience that she is a warrior in a centuries-old battle between vampires and werewolves. First impression: this would make an excellent premise for a video game. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I liked the Resident Evil movie. I'm a sucker for the chicks with guns subgenre. There isn't much dialogue in the first few minutes of Underworld, unless you consider bullet exchange a form of conversation. A shootout ensues in a subway station, here we meet our first few werewolves, or "lycans", as they are referred to in the film. In the scuffle, Selene discovers a werewolf hideout, and realizes that perhaps the opposition is stronger than she and her vampire clan had suspected. She returns home; "home" being a massive high-tech mansion somewhere outside the urban sprawl. At this point, I made the following observations about the reality portrayed in Underworld:

1.) The reaction of humanity as a whole to the existence of supernatural humanoids is not going to be explored; this movie isn't about "normal" people.

2.) If you put a vampire and a werewolf together in a room and took their guns away, the vampire would be ripped to shreds.

3.) For creatures that presumably have had several human lifetimes of practice with firearms, these vampires and werewolves have fairly poor aim. (though one might argue that any increased weapon proficiency will be countered by an equally proficient ability to dodge.)

4.) This entire movie is most likely going to take place in the dark. And it will be raining constantly (which might account for the vampires' apparent fascination with vinyl).

Selene returns home in the midst of a party to celebrate the forthcoming Awakening of one of the great clan leaders, Marcus. It is not really made clear why several vampire elders are kept in storage for centuries at a time; perhaps these vampires are so old that periodically they need to rest in order to regenerate. Right now, the decision-maker for the clan is an extremely irritating vampire called Kraven. He is, to put it mildly, a dick: rude, self- important, and a terrible dresser. I practically (okay, literally) laughed out loud when he walked into the room demanding that Selene put on something "elegant", while he was wearing a sparkly Liberace shirt. Nipping at his heels is Erica, looking like Vampire Barbie: she is, for some incomprehensible reason, infatuated with Kraven. Kraven has eyes for Selene, but one gets the impression he feels entitled to her; she is not attracted to him in the least. Considering the way he treats her, this is perfectly understandable; he barks orders at her and slaps her, and she is SO not into that sort of thing.

Here we have our first mention of Victor, another vampire elder currently in the midst of a very long nap. Victor had been the clan leader prior to Kraven, and Selene obviously has a lot of respect for him. She looks up to Victor like something of a father figure, and seems extremely bitter now that Kraven, rather than Victor, is in charge. There's a lot of, "Victor would never agree to this!", "If only Victor were here right now!", "You just WAIT until Victor hears about this!"

When Selene suggests that the werewolves are fortifying their numbers in secret, she is met with scorn and disbelief. Using a surveillance recording, Selene also figures out that the werewolves were following a human. Apparently, this is quite a big deal. Selene gets the impression that the lycans must have some nefarious purpose in mind for this human, a young medical intern named Michael Corvin. Though she has no idea what this purpose could be, she figures that it does not bode well for the vampires. She sets out to find Corvin, to see what special characteristic he might have that the lycans would be interested in.

Selene finds Corvin at his apartment. She is just a bit too late, however; the lycans are already there. We have another action sequence, a scuffle involving plenty of wall- climbing (the lycans have Spiderman-like abilities) and seemingly inexhaustible rounds of ammunition. Something happens to Corvin during this struggle (take a wild guess what it is!) and Selene saves his ass, only to have him save her ass a few scenes later. This presumably forms some sort of bond between the two, or at least the beginning of an understanding. It doesn't lead to very much. Those of you who were looking forward to vampire-werewolf sex (or any sort of sex whatsoever) are going to be disappointed. I actually found it kind of refreshing NOT to have the vampires portrayed as sexually obsessed. I also do not believe that the comparison to Romeo and Juliet is a good one; the only plot element shared by R&J and Underworld is the idea of two members of rival clans forming some sort of alliance.

One of the things I always pay close attention to in works of fantasy where humans are suddenly made aware of things outside their previous paradigm of reality is the believability of the humans' reactions. In some cases, acceptance of things outside the norm seems to occur too quickly and without sufficient incredulity. Corvin, however, seems appropriately terrified and confused. The movie does a good job of integrating Corvin into the world of vampires and werewolves -- and we eventually discover why this confrontation was probably inevitable.

Perhaps because I wasn't expecting much in the way of plot, I was pleasantly surprised by the story element of Underworld. I generally get a bit smug about predicting plot twists, (I had Sixth Sense figured out within the first 30 minutes or so), but this movie managed to slip one by me without my noticing the warning signs. There is much hidden in the past (Selene explains to Corvin that "digging into the past is forbidden"), and when it is brought to light, the characters are forced to make some major adjustments to their allegiances and points of view. I found myself at a loss to state who the good guys were and who the bad guys were; everyone seemed to have their own agenda, and everyone was willing to achieve it through unsavory means. If I had to pick sides, I'd have to say Selene and Michael were the most admirable, since they seemed most willing to question the origins of the conflict between the vampires and the lycans. Plus, Selene was pretty damn hot. (This movie did suffer from a lack of attractive males; Corvin just looked goofy, the werewolves looked like members of 80s thrash metal bands, Kraven was obviously trying way too hard, and Victor had...issues.)

Overall, I definitely enjoyed Underworld. It had enough stroboscopic lighting effects, sudden noises, and eye candy to satisfy my pathologically short attention span. However, I concede that perhaps going into a movie with low expectations, and enjoying it in part because it exceeded those low expectations, means that Underworld was by no means a "great" movie. A fun movie, yes. A deep philosophical commentary on alienation and supernatural abilities as metaphor, not on your life. They could certainly have done more with the vampires; the bit about the sleeping elders still bothers me a bit...what exactly are the conditions for immortality, anyway? Plus, there was a conspicuous lack of blood- sucking. I think there may have been one single instance of a vampire actually biting someone in the whole film; the fangs seemed mainly decorative. I also think that Hollywood really needs to stop shopping at the Matrix outerwear boutique; why couldn't the vampires have had cloaks, for pete's sake? Why is it always those damn trench coats?

If you are going to see Underworld, do so as a diversion. You aren't going to learn anything new or experience much of a mindfuck. If you can find the element of fun and relax your inner cynic, you will probably enjoy this movie.

A sequel is apparently in the works; the film's creators envision Underworld as the first of a trilogy of films.

Numerous noders messaged me regarding the lawsuit filed by roleplaying game publishers White Wolf. White Wolf officials allege that Underworld's setting and characters are, in fact, copied from the games Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Author Nancy A. Collins, whose short story Love of Monsters was published by White Wolf in 1994, claims that Underworld's plot is lifted from that very story. I've never played the games in question, nor read the story, so I can't speak for the legitimacy of the lawsuit. However, the archetypes of vampires and werewolves have existed in literature and film for many years. I would imagine that there is bound to be some perfectly innocent overlap.


CAST:

Selene                    Kate Beckinsale
Michael                   Scott Speedman
Viktor                    Bill Nighy
Lucian                    Michael Sheen
Kraven                    Shane Brolly
Singe                     Erwin Leder
Kahn                      Robbie Gee
Erika                     Sophia Myles
Dr. Adam                  Wentworth Miller
Raze                      Kevn Grevioux
Amelia                    Zita Gorgog
Dignitary                 Dennis Kozeluh
Soren                     Scott McElroy
Trix                      Rodd Schneider
Rigel                     Sandor Bolla
Nathaniel                 Hank Amos
Gunshot girl              Zsuzsa Barsi
Pierce                    Rich Cetrone
Taylor                    Mike Mukatis
Candidate #1              Sandor Boros
Candidate #2              Janos Olah
Death Dealer Captain      Andreas Patton
Mason                     Danny McBride
Sonja                     Jazmin Damak
Wolfgang                  Atilla Pinke
Zsuzsa                    Judit Kuchta
Timea                     Vanessa Nagy
Michael's old girlfriend  Ildiko Kovacs
Werewolf Performers       Briane Steele and Kurt Carley

CREW:

Director                  Len Wiseman
Screenplay                Danny McBride
Story By                  Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride and Len Wiseman
Producers                 Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi and Richard S. Wright
Director of Photography   Tony Pierce-Roberts
Creature Designer         Patrick Tatopoulos
Production Designer       Bruton Jones
Art Director              Kevin Phipps
Editor                    Martin Hunter
Casting                   Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood and Celestia Fox
Costume Designer          Wendy Partridge
Music                     Paul Haslinger
Key Make-Up Artist        Trefor Proud
Key Hairstylist           Giovanni Giuliano

References:

http://romanticmovies.about.com/library/weekly/aaunderworldcast.htm (an odd resource, because I didn't find this movie particularly romantic)
http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/art-main.html?2003-09/25/11.00.film
http://www.white-wolf.com/
My own viewing of the film.

The Underworld soundtrack is a masterpiece fit to accompany this spectacular and realistic vampire movie.

To put together the album Lakeshore Entertainment called on Danny Lohner, bassist for Nine Inch Nails and soundtrack writer for movies such as Natural Born Killers. Lohner does the more ambient noise throughout the film. His band Renholder does the tracks "Down in the Lab" and "Death Dealer's Descent," which are featured in the movie's impressive action sequences.

Most of the tracks, however, are contributions, remixes, or collaborations by the best artists around today. The first song, "Awakening," is an exhilarating rock romp by the group The Damning Well. Wes Boreland (Limp Bizkit guitarist), Richard Patrick (Filter front man), Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle's drummer), and Danny Lohner make up The Damning Well. This eclectic but promising mix delivers a solid rock song.

Other music on the disc includes "Worms of the Earth" by emo band Finch, "Hover (quiet mix)" by TRUST Company, and "Rocket Collecting," an interesting tune from actress Milla Jovovich. The soundtrack as a whole is a brooding work, abruptly changing gears between soft instrumentals, darkly melodic duets, and glaring industrial rock. The constant presence of string sections, soft piano, and breathy lyrics smoothly conveys the romantic feeling of the vampire underworld, while the simple rhythm of drum machines repeats endlessly in the background, like the exhalations of a lonely robot, bringing the dark, rainy city streets to life.

The largest influence on the album besides Lohner's vision is the input of the band A Perfect Circle. Two APC songs, "Judith (Renholder mix)" and "Weak and Powerless (Tilling My Grave Mix)," give the album a boost of driving industrial energy between softer songs. Josh Freese and Maynard James Keenan (see Tool) of APC both contribute as well to David Bowie's song "Bring me the Disco King (Loner Mix)" which is a simple and quiet masterpiece of ephemeral chanting and powerful balladeering. John Frusciante, ex-Red Hot Chili Pepper, lays down an otherworldly guitar riff.

Skinny Puppy, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Icarus Line, and others also contribute songs. Puscifier, yet another collaboration, boasts both Maynard and Lohner, with Milla and Lisa Germano on background vocals. Their song "Rev 22:20" is at once dark, beautiful, and suggestively evil.

The soundtrack probably had its origins in the lost effort The Tapeworm Project, which was similarly dark and ambient. A Perfect Circle was one of the biggest contributors to this project as well, probably because they had a similar vision: APC songwriter Billy Howerdel originally set out to write scores for horror films before he got Maynard to join the project.

Braunbeck and I rented the 2003 vampire/werewolf action flick Underworld this evening, hoping for a bit of fun, entertaining eye candy. And while this movie provides plenty of pretty faces, taut bodies, special effects and action sequences, when the closing credits rolled I was filled with an overwhelming sense of "Eh."

Underworld is a derivative film with good set design and a decent enough cast laboring under a poor script and unwise direction. It could have been a fair dinkum popcorn movie if only it didn't take itself So. Very. Seriously.

It treats itself like the next coming of The Godfather while ungleefully ripping off a host of other works: The Matrix, Aliens, Alien 3, An American Werewolf in London, Blade, White Wolf's World of Darkness, Clive Barker's Tortured Souls, and on and on. (Having said that, I found Nancy Collins' lawsuit against the filmmakers for supposed plagiarism laughable because her work wasn't exactly breaking new ground, either). It boggles my mind that the writers of Underworld convinced themselves that making vampirism and lyncanthropy the result of viruses is a new and original idea as they claim in the DVD featurette.

The Blade movies are nearly as derivative but are saved by their sense of humor.

Underworld has no humor. None. Ever. Director Len Wiseman evidently told Kate Beckinsale to act as much like Trinity as possible in her portrayal of Selene: "You're in the Matrix! You're here to kick werewolf ass! Don't ever smile, and don't ever pick a lock or watch to see if you're being followed! You're too much of a badass to be stealthy! But, um, you'll faint for sure from blood loss when you get stabbed in the shoulder. Honest."

While the lovely Beckinsale and other actors often come off as wooden or half-asleep, Shane Brolly as Kraven (subtle naming, yes?) snarls and scowls so much he looks like he's going to give himself a hernia delivering even the simplest lines.

The real shame, though, was casting Michael Sheen as Lucian and then never giving him a chance to show off any of his considerable charm or comedic skills. It's a double shame since Lucian turns out to be the most interesting character in the film, but once the audience figures this out, he gets killed (needlessly, too, since his henchman left the blood he needed right beside him in an earlier scene, and furthermore he could have asked for the blood from the heroine later ... oh, nevermind).

There was actually the core of a good idea in this movie, but it was buried by hasty, incomplete storytelling. The movie never bothers to establish the "rules" for its immortals, and has supposedly intelligent characters turn dumb as bricks for the sake of moving the action along. For instance, why does Michael go right into his darkened apartment without seeking a weapon of some kind when his door has obviously been kicked in by an intruder?

In another instance, after the aforementioned scene where Selene gets stabbed in the shoulder by a nogoodnik, she's driving herself and hero Michael down a dark road. He tells her to pull over because she's lost a lot of blood, and she snarls that she's just fine -- and promptly faints. The car goes off the road, hits a barrier and flips spectacularly through the air to land in a lake, river or bay (we never got the sense we were near water to begin with, so it's uncertain). The car sinks, the windows craze menacingly, and while the hero cracks his head, badass immortal Selene is down for the count. He shoots out the window, which implodes spectacularly, and he somehow gets himself and Selene out of the car and up onto the shore beneath the dock, where he gives her CPR, she wakes up, and he faints.

Later, she tells Kraven that her still-unconscious hunky human "saved my life." Whoa. Wait a minute -- she's a vampire. She's immortal. The script so far has established they're vulnerable to sunlight and ultraviolet light, but since when can they drown? The movie never tells us for sure, nor does it tell us why Selene conveniently fails to notice the huge gaping bloody bite wound on Michael's neck. Nor does it tell us how and where Selene captures Lucian's creepy lab assistant later on so that she can prove to Viktor that Lucian's alive.

I turned my brain off before we even hit "play" on the DVD; I was willing and able to suspend disbelief, but the movie just can't support the weight of its own plot holes.

The more grim gritty gunplay I saw, the more I hankered for the suspense and black humor of Dog Soldiers or even an episode of Angel.

nothing nothing nothing nothing light nothing light nothing nothing nothing nothing in front of her nothing in front of her seeing light seeing light in front of her nothing nothing light in front of her seeing green seeing light seeing nothing in front of her light reflection she was sure was seeing light seeing nothing seeing light in front of her eyes light up her face as she saw white nothing nothing green door crept in front her eyes light up in the repetition repetition she was sure she was sure she was light in the green in repetition repetition and she picked up the light she focussed the nothing she was reflection she was nothing she was light she was nothing she green nothing door she picked up the door seeing seeing she seeing she found nothing she crept in the door she crept out the door she crept in front of the nothing nothing nothing nothing and in front of the repetition she repetition she repetition she picked up the nothing and opened it she leaned forward picked up the light she focussed the nothing was sure she was sure she was repetition in the light under nothing she crept under nothing she crept under repetition leaned forward she picked up the leaned forward she picked up the repetition she in the green she in the she in the she in the nothing door she was seeing nothing seeing nothing seeing repetition she opened her eyes she reflection seeing the green light she focussed leaned forward and opened focussed leaned forward and opened the umbrella in the light the green the nothing nothing nothing nothing in the light she leaned she leaned she leaned a little forward in the morning the morning at the corner the corner seeing her eyes she seeing her repetition repetition repetition in the light she opened she opened her light at the corner her light her light at the corner she was sure she was sure she was umbrella reflection saw green she was opened her umbrella she saw she leaned forward just crept out she leaned forward just opened her umbrella she saw a green light at the corner at the corner at the corner she stepped out nothing nothing nothing nothing light she light nothing

Un"der*world` (?), n.

1.

The lower of inferior world; the world which is under the heavens; the earth.

That overspreads (with such a reverence) This underworld. Daniel.

2.

The mythological place of departed souls; Hades.

3.

The portion of the world which is below the horizon; the opposite side of the world; the antipodes.

[R.]

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail, That brings our friends up from the underworld. Tennyson.

4.

The inferior part of mankind.

[R.]

Atterbury.

 

© Webster 1913.

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