Sunday, March 05, 2006

Box of Blood - review

Contains Spoilers

From Anchor Bay comes this collection of vampire movies on DVD. Looking at the set the first thing to note is the funky packaging. The slip case of the set has a “blood pack” attached. Now it night just be me, but pressing the pack and watching the pretty patterns is great fun in itself. However packaging, no matter how funky, is no reason to buy a DVD set. What is important is the contents and this set will not let you down.

The first disk is “In Search of History: the Real Dracula”. This documentary is a look at the historical figure of Vlad Tepes and also goes into the life of Bram Stoker. Not a bad little documentary for what it is, produced by the History Channel.

Next in the set is “Dracula” (2002) This version, staring Patrick Bergin, is a modernised version of the tale that follows the story fairly closely for all its updating. It certainly isn’t the best version of Dracula but it is worth a watch in its own right.

Next we have “Near Dark” (1988). Kathryn Bigelow’s western style vampire flick is an absolute classic. Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) meets a beautiful but mysterious girl named Mae (Jenny Wright). A the end of the night Mae bites Caleb, who stumbles home feeling ill. Before he can reach home he is kidnapped by Mae’s “family”. Caleb has been infected with vampirism and the vampires insist that he become as depraved as they or he will die. With some of the most violent imagery in a mainstream vampire movie, especially the bar scene in which Bill Paxton’s Severen character steals the show. Despite the ending – I have to switch the film off with five minutes to go as the ending is so depressingly saccharine sweet – this is one of the best vampire movies ever released.

Next we have “Nosferatu” (1979). This is Werner Herzog’s remake of the classic film and stars Klaus Kinski in the title role. In this the Nosferatu is most definitely the plague carrier, and the movie is beautifully shot. For those that are unaware, “Nosferatu” (1922) was one of the earliest vampire movies and was based upon Stoker’s “Dracula”. The original is still an outstanding piece of cinema, but this remake was exceptional in its own ways. The disc in this set has the English and German version – the latter being 12 minutes longer. This is a darkly beautiful movie with a haunted atmosphere.

Next is “Vampires: Out for Blood”(2003). This is, unfortunately, the low point of the set. Detective Hank Holten (Kevin Dillon) is a mess after his wife leaves him, but is given the job of looking for a missing girl. Thing is, she’s a vampire and Hank gets chosen to become one of the undead. Luckily his ex-wife (Vanessa Angel) is a novelist who specialises in vampire books – so she knows a thing or two about the undead. Together they seek the head vampire, in order to kill him and save Hank. However his ex-wife’s motives are not exactly pure, and by saying that I know you can see exactly where this film is going. This is a below average movie that stands out from the other films in the set due to its pure badness.

The final movie is “Vampyres” (1974) – AKA “Daughters of Dracula”. Staring Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska this is a marvellous piece of euro-erotic horror. The two girls are vampires, though at the beginning of the film you see them in human form, slain as they lie together in bed. When we next see them they are hitchhiking and luring unsuspecting men back to their ramshackle house and their deaths. When they find Ted (Murray Brown), unusually they keep him alive, but weak. Ted, it is implied, is their killer, though he doesn’t recognise the girls and the film itself is a metaphor of revenge. Cast into the mix an innocent pair caravanning in the grounds of the house, who get drawn into the horror. This is a marvellous movie. (As an aside there is a novelisation of this film by Tim Greaves that is really worth a read, though it is not involved in this DVD set)

All in all this is a fantastic set with a quoted running time of 531 minutes and deserves a definite 10 out of 10 for sheer volume of content.

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