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Underworld is a 2003 action horror film directed by Len Wiseman and written by Danny McBride, based on a story by McBride, Kevin Grevioux, and Wiseman. The film centers on the secret history of vampires and lycans (an abbreviated form of lycanthrope, which means werewolf). It is the first (chronologically, the second) installment in the Underworld franchise. The main plot revolves around Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire Death Dealer hunting Lycans. She finds herself attracted to a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), who is being targeted by the Lycans. After Michael is bitten by a Lycan, Selene must decide whether to do her duty and kill him or go against her clan and save him. Alongside Beckinsale and Speedman, the film stars Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, and Bill Nighy.

Underworld (2003 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLen Wiseman
Produced by
Screenplay byDanny McBride
Story by
Music byPaul Haslinger
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byMartin Hunter
Distributed byScreen Gems
Release date
  • September 19, 2003 (2003-09-19)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
Budget$22 million
Box office$95.7 million

An international co-production between companies from the United Kingdom, Germany, Hungary, and the United States, the film was released on September 19, 2003. Upon its release, the film received generally negative reviews from critics, but a smaller number of reviewers praised elements such as the film's stylish Gothic visuals, the "icy English composure" in Kate Beckinsale's performance, and the extensively worked-out vampire–werewolf mythology that serves as the film's backstory. A surprise hit, the film grossed $95 million against a production budget of $22 million. The film was followed by Underworld: Evolution, released three years later, and by three other films.


For generations, a secret war has been waged between vampires and Lycans, an ancient species of werewolf. Selene, a Death Dealer, a vampire specialized in assassinating Lycans, tracks two Lycans. Selene's motivation goes beyond duty; she wants revenge because, 600 years ago when she was a mortal child, Lycans slaughtered her family. The vampires believe they defeated the werewolves centuries ago and killed their leader, Lucian, and that they must kill the surviving Lycans. Selene locates the Lycans' den and learns they have developed a new kind of UV bullet capable of killing vampires.

Selene arrives at the mansion of her vampire coven and, recounting these events, urges an attack on the Lycans; but the vampire regent, Kraven, dismisses her proposal. Selene determines that the pair of Lycans may have been following a human, Michael Corvin, and continues her investigation. In a Lycan lair, a scientist named Singe tests blood from kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family, trying to find a pure source of the ancient and powerful Corvinus bloodline. Soon after Selene finds Michael, the pair are attacked by Lycans, including their leader, Lucian. Lucian bites Michael, but Selene helps Michael escape and the two become attracted to each other.

Selene discovers that Kraven was the only witness to Lucian's supposed death. Sensing a conspiracy, she awakens a dormant powerful vampire elder, Viktor, who has been hibernating. Selene's coven is ruled by a rotating trio of vampire elders—Viktor, Markus, and Amelia—who take turns ruling over the coven while their fellow elders hibernate. Viktor is angered by his early awakening, as it was Markus' turn to take Amelia's place as the coven's leader. He refuses to believe Selene's warnings about Kraven's treachery, and orders Selene to acquiesce to the vampire hierarchy. Kraven, meanwhile, has secretly planned to kill Amelia and her companions with Lucian's help.

Selene informs Michael about the feud and her past. She then binds him, fearing that he will kill innocent people after he changes into his Lycan form at the coming night's full moon. Selene captures Singe while Michael is captured by Lycans. She returns to the mansion with Singe, who admits to Viktor that the Lycans are trying to combine the bloodlines of the two species with the Corvinus Strain, the shared source of both the Vampire and Lycan bloodlines, to create a powerful hybrid. After Kraven flees the mansion because Singe has revealed his cooperation with Lucian, news arrives that Amelia, who was coming to awaken Markus, has been killed by Lycans. Viktor kills Singe and tasks Selene to kill Michael.

While Michael is being held captive, he learns from Lucian that Viktor's daughter, Sonja, and Lucian were lovers. Lucian tells Michael that the Lycans were slaves to the vampires. When Viktor learned that his daughter had been impregnated by a Lycan, he killed her to prevent any crossing of the two species, which led to the war. According to Lucian, such a crossing would create a hybrid creature that would be more powerful than both the vampires and Lycans.

Selene arrives with a group of Death Dealers to kill the Lycans and Kraven for his treachery. Kraven shoots Lucian with a newly designed bullet that kills by poisoning a Lycan's bloodstream with silver nitrate. Selene rescues Michael, who is shot by Kraven. Kraven tells Selene it was Viktor who killed her family. Lucian stabs Kraven in the leg and convinces Selene to bite Michael, transmitting the vampire virus into his bloodstream. Selene complies, and Kraven flees after killing Lucian. Viktor arrives and admits that he killed Selene's family, though he believes she should be grateful as he spared her and made her immortal. He reveals the truth of his love for Sonja – that his choice to have her killed was to protect the vampires and that he must now kill Michael to protect the vampires once more. Selene eventually kills Viktor with the assistance of Michael, who is now a hybrid. Selene and Michael leave the Lycan lair, now enemies of both species. At the mansion, blood from Singe's corpse seeps into the sarcophagus of a hibernating elder, Markus, a carrier of the original Corvinus Strain.


Legal controversyEdit

The film was the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by White Wolf, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins, claiming the setting was too similar to the Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse games, both set in the World of Darkness setting, and to the Sonja Blue vampire novels. White Wolf filed 17 counts of copyright infringement, and claimed over 80 points of unique similarity between White Wolf's gaming systems and the film. White Wolf, Inc. also said the script was very similar to a story entitled The Love of Monsters (1994), which they published, written by Nancy A. Collins.[3][4] In September 2003, a judge granted White Wolf an expedited hearing. The lawsuit ended in a confidential settlement.[5]

Box officeEdit

The film grossed $51,970,690 in the US and $95,708,457 worldwide.[6] Underworld was released on DVD and VHS from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.


As of January 2012, Underworld has a 31% overall approval rating on film-critics' aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 157 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Though stylish to look at, Underworld is tedious and derivative." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Roger Ebert said, "This is a movie so paltry in its characters and shallow in its story that the war seems to exist primarily to provide graphic visuals".[8] However, some critics were more favorable: the New York Daily News praised it as being "stylish and cruel, and mightily entertaining for certain covens out there".[9]

Salon reviewer Andrew O'Hehir gave a mixed review, stating, "[B]y any reasonable standard, this dark vampire epic — all massive overacting, cologne-commercial design and sexy cat suits — sucks," but that " least it gives a crap", conceding that despite the movie's flaws, the complex vampire-werewolf mythology backstory "has been meticulously worked out".[10]



Underworld Soundtrack
Soundtrack album
ProducerDanny Lohner
Underworld film series soundtrack chronology
Underworld Soundtrack
Underworld: Evolution
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [11]

The film's soundtrack was produced by Danny Lohner and distributed via Roadrunner Records. Lohner (born 1970), a bass guitarist, guitarist, and keyboardist who has recorded with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, contributed several songs to the soundtrack under the pseudonym Renholdër. Lohner included a song by Skinny Puppy, a Canadian industrial band; a song by The Dillinger Escape Plan, a US band which performs an aggressive, technical style of hardcore punk called mathcore; a song by US alternative rock/post-hardcore band Finch entitled "Worms of the Earth"; a song by The Icarus Line, a band known for its abrasive form of rock music; and Lisa Germano, an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in alternative rock and dream pop.[citation needed]

Music critic Bill Aicher noted that the "soundtrack follow[s] in a similar gothic vein" to the visuals, and stated that it "does an excellent job setting the dark mood" by using "a veritable who's who in the genre", with an "impressive array of metal, hard rock, industrial, and otherwise gothic-themed tracks".[12] Aicher noted that since "a majority of the selections [are] written, produced, or featuring Lohner, the album retains a sense of cohesion throughout, making it much more a complete product than has generally been the case with similarly-themed products."[12] In particular, Aicher praised the rearrangement of David Bowie's "Bring Me the Disco King" (previously released in its original form on his studio album Reality earlier that month) as the soundtrack's strongest piece. This version of the song, which features Maynard James Keenan (from Tool and A Perfect Circle) and guitarist John Frusciante (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), was praised by Aicher as "[d]ark, brooding, sad, and twitchy".[12]

Track listing
1."Awakening"The Damning Well4:15
2."Rev. 22:20"Puscifer4:39
3."Throwing Punches"Page Hamilton3:42
4."Rocket Collecting"Milla Jovovich & Danny Lohner5:42
5."Now I Know"Renholdër & Amy Lee0:57
6."Bring Me the Disco King" (Danny Lohner Mix)David Bowie (featuring Maynard James Keenan & John Frusciante)6:06
7."Optimissed"Skinny Puppy3:49
8."Down in the Lab"Renholdër & Amy Lee1:46
9."Judith" (Renholdër Mix)A Perfect Circle4:23
10."Suicide Note"Johnette Napolitano5:26
11."Baby's First Coffin"The Dillinger Escape Plan4:01
12."Hover" (Quiet Mix)Trust Company3:10
13."Falling Through the Sky"Renholdër1:01
14."Weak and Powerless" (Tilling My Grave Mix)A Perfect Circle3:02
15."Worms of the Earth"Finch2:35
16."From a Shell"Lisa Germano2:57
17."Death Dealer's Descent"Renholdër & Amy Lee0:55
18."On the Lash"The Icarus Line4:04
19."All of This Past"Sarah Bettens4:28
Total length:1:07:07
Underworld (Original Score)
Film score by
ReleasedOctober 14, 2003
LabelLakeshore Records
ProducerPaul Haslinger and Lustmord
Underworld film series score album chronology
Underworld (Original Score)
Underworld: Evolution

Sequels and prequelEdit

A sequel, titled Underworld: Evolution, in which Marcus full awakens, was released January 20, 2006. The prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which gives more detail about the creation of the Lycan species and Lucian's hatred, was released January 23, 2009. A second sequel, Underworld: Awakening, was released on January 20, 2012, and a third sequel, Underworld: Blood Wars, was released on January 6, 2017.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Underworld (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 2, 2003. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Underworld (2003)". British Film Institute. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  3. ^ "WHITE WOLF, INC. and author NANCY A. COLLINS sue SONY PICTURES, SCREEN GEMS and LAKESHORE ENTERTAINMENT for "Underworld" copyright infringement". Archived from the original on February 12, 2008.
  4. ^ "Court Awards Expedited Injunction Hearing to WHITE WOLF and NANCY A. COLLINS in "Underworld" Suit". Archived from the original on January 20, 2008.
  5. ^ "Collins and White Wolf v. Sony Pictures". Archived from the original on June 8, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ "Underworld (2003)". Box Office Mojo.
  7. ^ "CinemaScore".
  8. ^ Roger Ebert, Underworld Moovie Review & Film Summary (2003)
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "Underworld" - The film has developed a strong cult following overtime. Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Underworld (Original Soundtrack)". Allmusic.
  12. ^ a b c "Maynard and Borland and Bowie, Oh My!". Music review by Bill Aicher
  13. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved July 12, 2016.

External linksEdit