Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Requiem for a Vampire {2006} – review

DVDDirected by: John Orrichio

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

So I noticed that there was a film that shared its name with Jean Rollin’s opus and then I read the synopsis and I think to myself, I have to see that…

The basic story of Requiem for a Vampire is that a clan of vampires, living in New Jersey, use a blood bank in order to fulfil their needs. The patriarch of the family – Michael (Matt Locker) - is rich, owns a compound, a nightclub, sings in a rock band and has political ambitions. His wife Adelaide (Mona Sethi) goes out for a walk and a man attempts to rape her. She grievously injures him and then feeds. Suddenly she is ill, his blood is tainted.One troublesome feed

Though they do not say so directly, it is clear that he was HIV+. The virus proves extremely virulent within a vampire’s physiology and she quickly dies. The family is distraught, they want to have a ceremony but a vampire has never died before (that they are aware of) and so they turn to anthropologist Tara Wolf (Jamie Stone) and her parapsychologist friend Rosemary Guiley (played by herself). The first of the problems raises it’s head here, Rosemary Guiley is actually a paranormal investigator (I have discovered, as I hadn’t heard of her before, though I admit I realised, as I checked for this review, that her books have been spotted – though not purchased - by myself). The blatant product placement of her book “Vampires Among Us” was bad enough but, whilst I guess she was in the film to offer an authenticity to the proceedings, actor she is most certainly not.

Tara has found an old reel to reel tape of an “ancient one’s” funeral being described – Michael turns Taralogic hole, as vampires came from all over the world to the funeral, how come not one of them could have offered the details of the ritual – and will help the family on one condition, that she is turned. Rosemary’s role, well it is tagged on it appears – she gets to write an eulogy! Incidentally, the anthropologist, who recorded the ritual in England in the 30s, mentions that to be told where the ritual was he paid gold coins. No. He’d have paid in pounds, shillings and pence – as hard as it is to believe 1930s England was not Middle Earth.

This basic premise could have been good but there was so much superfluous story. There is the sub-plot of Jerry (Bob Smith), from the health department, who is suspicious of the blood bank. He photographs the entire Adelaide attempted rape and feed and then… well he tries to sell the pictures to a local paper and then extort money from the family. This plot goes nowhere until he witnesses the ritual and communicates it to the reporter until he is stabbed by a human servant. The plot is then quickly tied up, at the end of the movie, in a letter that mentions that no one missed Jerry and the reporter and her editor had a terrible accident.

Having mentioned the feed, the finding of the body by the cops was, again, superfluous as it wasn’t mentioned again. Perhaps if the family had bought them off it would have been worth shooting the scene, but in truth it was unnecessary.

There is a sexual sub plot with household help Henri (David B Powers) who has been promised immortality. Michael has a homosexual sex scene with him that seemed pointless other than to make Henri suicidal as he wasn’t turned. I want to add that I am not against the scene for any homophobic reason, just because it adds nothing to the film in a plot sense. Suckle then turnHowever it does, in turn, lead Michael’s sister, Lenore (Deana Enoches), to turn Henri. This, apparently, annoys Michael but we hear nothing else until the ‘letter scene’ at the end of the film where it mentions that Michael is still annoyed. The only other purpose of Lenore seems to be to do a bit of voice over, to hint at an incestuous relationship with Michael and to let upset men suckle at her breast for comfort.

There is a sub-plot about Michael’s band that does nothing and one about his political ambitions that weVampire dies - dancers appear! don’t actually hear anything about until the final scene. In fact let me mention, for a second, the God awful musical interludes that add nothing to the film. When Adelaide dies, the bagpipes and guitar with white clad dancers and Henri’s niece Clair (Cathy Loch) singing was so out of place. I guess someone had watched “The Two Towers” once too often and tried to replicate the mood of the funeral scene (specifically the woman singing aspect)… and failed.

In the hands of Rollin it might have been geniusAll this distracts from an original idea - suddenly vulnerable vampires having to develop a funeral ritual for one of their own. This funeral could have been brilliant, if shot by the right director (let us say Rollin as the film shares its name with one of his). The funeral starts with a casket being carried to a field. A mock crucifixion is awaiting it. The Christ figure gets down and is led away and then the two crucified girls get down, disrobe and dance naked around the casket. Once they leave the body is removed, held aloft to the sky and then placed on a bier (on the tape it said in a pit) and burned. As I say in the right hands it could have been a genius piece of surrealistic filmwork.

The vampires drink blood. There is no mention of the sun, but we only see them at night. Sleeping in coffins is not necessary, holy symbols and other such things are not effective (Michael’s best friend is a priest and sits by Amelia’s death-bed). Young vamps are so angst riddenThrough Tara we discover that they are strong, can read fast and learn at an astounding pace but have a terribly quick anger (though presumably it is the young ones that suffer most from that).

The acting is generally bad, which doesn’t help, I just couldn’t suspend disbelief, worst still because the dialogue was so corn-ball in places.

I had high expectations from this film, probably a silly thing to have, and the central premise was unique and interesting – though why someone who is dead need worry about HIV/AIDS is a question best left ignored. It needed honing, superfluous plotting cleaned up and a more proficient cast in order to live up to that great central idea

I really hate giving this movie such a low score, it had an intelligent premise that is so lacking in many of the straight to DVD films that are flooding the market, but can do nothing more than give it 2 out of 10. A great opportunity lost.

The imdb page is here.

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