Saturday, April 08, 2006

Stakes – review

Director: Joe Ripple

Release Date: 2002

Contains spoilers

Also known as Vampire Stakes, this is a low to no budget flick that I got in a four film set called Vamps. As such I began watching the movie with very low expectations.

The movie begins with two muggers attacking a ‘mark’. There is a flash of lightning through the alley, with fingers of electricity reaching around ala the Terminator movies and three people appear; two women and a man. The muggers confront them and the newcomers vamp out – ripping the muggers and the victim apart.

We cut to a lab. This is an alternative earth, the skies are red and the planet is overrun by vampires. Three humans have created a machine to jump across to our Earth – presumably to escape the bloodshed. There is Shannon Wallace (Ashira Zima), scientist Dr. Brian Smithers (Steven King) and combat priest Father John O’Grady (George Stover). They realize that three vampires have already gone through their portal, and on seeing the security footage they realize that they are all ‘purebloods’. Worse still it is the vampire Queen Alyssa (Leanna Chamish) and her bodyguards Dragus (John Michaelson) and Raven (Syn DeVil).

The three humans jump across to our world, blowing the machine up behind them. Meanwhile the invading vampires seem to be looking for someone within the telephone book. At this point my heart sank a little, with the portal effects and the searching for someone I could see a real Terminator rip off coming. I was wrong – the portal was similar but then they simply search for someone they can use to get a hiding place. In this case they choose Elizabeth Fleming (Erin J. Corsair), a city developer, kidnapping the woman’s daughter, and then holding her hostage, so that she will do as they require.

The three human visitors drug a detective, Jake Bishop (Jamie Bell), so that they can explain what is going on. Before he is able to come out of his paralysis they leave him with a paging device and tell him to contact them if he finds any strange deaths – such as neck wounds. Meanwhile the vampires are hunting.

Bishop faithfully calls them when he is called to a crime scene with two young people, their throats mauled and their bodies drained. Smithers scans them and confirms they are infected. Here it is probably best to explain the rules of the game with these vampires. A dead body that is infected can be stopped from turning with a holy water injection, crosses hold the vampires back and they can survive short exposure to sunlight. A bullet will stun them for a second but only a stake, through any major organ, will destroy them. When they are staked they “dust” in much the same way as the vampires in Buffy.

Unfortunately the visitors have not faced a pureblood on their world and do not know what will kill them.

Cutting to the chase, Bishops’ partner is killed as they investigate the vampires. Then Fleming calls the cops and they get a firm lead. They end up fighting Dragus, bullets simply ricochet off him and a stake shatters on his chest. However, during the confusion holy water is spilt onto a stake and it is able to penetrate his flesh – though it is thrust into his legs and not in a killing place. Dragus kills Wallace, decapitating her, and escapes.

The heroes work out were the vampires must be and then Bishop has an idea. He freezes holy water, with a steel rod centre for support, to create ice stakes. These do prove effective against the purebloods and so the final confrontation begins.

Fantastical as ice stakes might be, it is an example of the fact that there are some novel ideas in the movie. There was one moment where a vampire is rushing Bishop and is staked, the dust remains cover him as the dust continues along the trajectory of the vampire. I liked that little scene.

However the film is not of a high quality. The movie looks like it was filmed on a digi-cam and the effects are of a poor digital type, for example, the vampires’ eyes flash red but it is an obvious digital effect added in post-production and looks poor for it – coloured contacts would have looked so much better or indeed not changing the eye colour at all would have been fine. The filmmakers have really tried with the effects, but to be honest the lack of budget causes them to look awful and the use of digital effects rather than physical effects makes them look even worse. They would have been better off with some fake blood, coloured lenses and leaving it at that, kudos for trying though.

I must also mention that there is a gratuitous sex scene in the movie which is simply there as a sex scene and has no plot functionality – frankly it leaves you thinking why rather than causing you to become hot and bothered.

The acting is not fantastic by any stretch, however, all the actors seem to be earnest and this is the key to the movie. The entire film feels like a labour of love, despite its problems, and I have to respect that. This is not a great movie, but it is a movie that genre fans can watch and get something from – unlike some poor vampire movies it does not feel pointless. Perhaps with more budget we might have found a cult classic. I feel mean giving this 3.5 out of 10 and caveat the score with if you are a low budget or vampire genre fan at least give it a go – there are a lot worse out there.

The imdb page is here.


Chloe said...

really excited to find your site via technorati. as a vampire i like to keep up with media representations of my kind - and okay, maybe i won't be renting "stakes" anytime soon. thanks for taking one for the team.

- chloe

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Chloe, thanks for posting - remember I got Stakes in a four movie set, so there might actually be worse in the set! that said I've reviewed worse on the page!lol