Thursday, October 19, 2006

Vampire hunter - review

video box

Directed by: Sean Gallimore

Release Date: 1995

Contains spoilers

Before I watched this film for review I tried to find a little something about it on the net. Difficult as there isn’t even an imdb page for the movie that I could discover. Sticking the DVD in for a second I jumped to the credits and discovered it was directed by Sean Gallimore. A tad more googling and I find the smallest amount of material on Gallimore’s own site. So, before we enter the fray (so to speak) let us note that this film was shot for a mere $5000, it was shot on Hi-8 video and edited on a primitive PC. This truly is shoe-string stuff.

The other thing to note is I think that this had previously only had release on video before ending up on the Brutal Bloodsuckers set and it wouldn’t surprise me if the print was taken from VHS, we get bands of pink down the side of the screen occasionally and the dialogue sounds like it was recorded in the toilet. However, despite limitations Gallimore has created something for very little and it is better than many of the low budget movies out there.

Sean Gallimore as John O'RyanThe film itself is a bit of a fantasy play-out for Gallimore. Ex-marine, weapons expert and martial artist John O’Ryan (Sean Gallimore) has now settled to civilian life as a fantasy artist. Gallimore himself is a fantasy artist and a martial artist, which is why I say that it is a bit of a fantasy fulfilment movie. However we get ahead of ourselves. The film starts with a woman in a gallery, bound and gagged. A man enters holding a gun and suddenly a vampire, Morgan Bane (Leonardo Millan), appears. Given the budget, to have him appear from animated smoke was a brave move. Bane admonishes the man for being armed with a gun, he takes his jacket off and reveals garlic and stakes. A second vampire, a kind of heavy metal comedy vampire servant, also joins in. The man is quickly despatched. It seems that Bane is bored of immortality and is looking for a challenge.

He insinuates himself with John and his wife Heather (Erin Leigh), through John’s artwork. However when they first meet a man, Ramone (Frank Swarez), a short life for the heavy metal vampireattacks Bane with a stake. John stops him and Bane’s bodyguard pulls a gun. Aiming a water pistol at Bane (filled with holy water) Ramone is able to escape. When he gets back to his apartment the long-haired vampire is waiting for him. Ramone despatches the vampire but I did like the idea of the vampire spitting blood at his enemy to distract him.

John decides, through his instincts, that he dislikes Bane and refuses to do business with him. However he left his portfolio at the gallery and returns the next day to retrieve it. He is prevented entering a back-room by the bodyguard but fights his way in and sees a coffin. On his way home he is followed. He stops the car and is approached by Ramone who warns him that Bane is a vampire and after Heather. When he gets home Bane is in his house. John places a cross on the table before him but it has no effect and Heather wonders why John, an atheist, has a cross. As he leaves Bane tells John that you have to have faith to make a cross work. John gets his cop pal Ray to break into the gallery to check Bane out.

Ray is a vampireThe next night Ray turns up at John’s house and he has been vampirised. After some fighting John kills his friend and discovers that Bane has taken Heather. It is up to John, with Ramone’s help, to get heather back and stop Bane.

Gallimore, as I said, is a martial artist and you can tell. There are at least two long practice sequences, a sparing sequence as well as Ouch!fights with his martial arts buddies who are in the film. The martial arts look good, the choreography of the fights perhaps not so as it is clear on many occasions that no contact is really made. This is, of course, the inexperience of an amateur filmmaker. There is some gore involved and, given the budget, it works quite well.

As for the vampires well they are standard - crosses, holy water, garlic and stakes through the heart, as well as needing an invitation to enter a home are all present and correct. They can hypnotise, appear from mist and (we hear but do not see) turn into bats. After staking their bodies dissolve to bones within 24 hours – again unseen but given the budget that is not surprising.

Bane in monster formAt the end of the film Bane changes into a monster vampire. As you can see from the screenshot, the makeover isn’t brilliant but again we are talking budget restrictions. It was a brave move, perhaps, and given the level of the film not too shoddy compared to what it could have been. That said the glowing red eyes of the vampires actually worked well and put other low (and some higher) budget productions to shame.

The direction is functional but nothing special and the acting isn’t the greatest ever, but again I’ve seen worse. Unfortunately this could have been better if played more for laughs – the long hair vamp was quite a comedy character and probably underused – though I’m unsure as to whether the actor could have sustained full comedy. It is a labour of love but everyone seems so earnest and that gravitas makes this fall apart a little, it is difficult to look moody when grasping a super-soaker as a weapon.

My biggest problem was within the scripting, however. The story is basic but, worse than that, there are things within it that don’t ring true. John is told Bane is a vampire and, whilst he might not accept it immediately, he does produce a cross before Bane – why would he do that, especially as an atheist? John wants Bane checked out and so his cop friend Ray immediately offers to break into his gallery, surely he’d do background checks and such like? Also Bane wears a Kevlar vest, making him impervious to stakes. Kevlar is great for bullets but, as far as I know, useless for such things as knives (and presumably, therefore shards of wood). Modern Kevlar has been developed that is good with knives but this movie was eleven years ago. I wait to be corrected by someone who is a Kevlar expert, however, as I admit my knowledge of the ins and outs of body armour is limited.

All in all, in the grand scheme of vampire movies this is not great (though certainly not the worst) as it adds nothing really to the genre. I recognise that this is a labour of love, I recognise that Gallimore did more with $5000 than I could ever contemplate doing myself and therefore I feel that the 2 out of 10 I am going to give this is slightly unfair but ultimately justified, if this were for free streaming I'd be singing its praises but as a commercial piece it didn't really cut the mustard. The one thing I will add is that I respect the tenacity that went into making this film and the fact that they did a lot with (virtually) nothing.

Gallimore’s page for the film, with trailer, is here.

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