Saturday, October 07, 2006

Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe - review


Directed by: Matthew Hastings

Release Date: 2005

Contains spoilers

It is a rare occasion when Amazon recommends a region 1 film to me, being that I live in Region 2 and, so, when they recommended this I thought; it’s cheap so I may as well. I fully expected to hate the movie and found myself pleasantly surprised. That is not to say that it is the best film in the world, this is a lower budget, take your brain out B movie and yet it has a certain something.

From the title (it also has an alternate title “Bloodsuckers”) you can tell that this is a sci-fi, in fact this owes much to Whedon’s “Firefly” (2002). Essentially we are in 2210 and humanity has colonised the stars, this is a pessimistic view of humanity, the type of humanity who would strip mine an entire planet. We have discovered that there is intelligent life out there and it is all vampiric.

The vampires are not the vampires of superstition, crosses, sunlight and holy water don’t work and there types are many and varied. We meet a few of the species in the movie. a voorhees vampireThe first type we meet are the Voorhees. These are more your typical vampires, they are fast, can run up trees and are of a decent intelligence level. They heal too quickly to make conventional weapons much more than a slowing down tool and must be killed by penetrating the bony chest cavity and piercing the heart. Obviously their name is given in reference to the Friday the 13th (1980 onwards) movies.

When we enter the film a V-San (or vampire sanitation) crew from the starship Hieronymus (which I wondered whether was in reference to Boch or to the vampire hunting assistant in Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter) are cleaning up the voorhees gory mess. This is a rag-tag crew made up of Captain Churchill (Joe Lando), Roman Kuchinsky (Aaron Pearl), Rosa Wong (Leanne Adachi), half-vampire Quintana (Natassia Malthe) and rooky second in command Damian Underwood (Dominic Zamprogna).

true face of the voorheesIt is through Underwood, on his first mission, that we are told much about the Voorhees. They appear to be flesh eaters, they can infect humans and turn them (as can many of the vampire species) and, when seen on scanners, they are rotten, skull like creatures.

Following the clean-up (and it is clean-up and not rescue) they get a distress call from a research station. There they find one survivor, Fiona (A J Cook) and we meet the next type of vampires, Leatherfaces (in reference to ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)). This type of vampire hunts in large packs, they wear the skin of their victims as trophies and they are bleeders, shoot one and they will eventually bleed out. During the mission they loose Dominic Zamprogna as UnderwoodChurchill and Underwood has to take command. The crew is at odds. We have heard that Underwood was booted out of the military because of a disaster that occurred and, we later discover, he took the blame for due to misplaced loyalty. Rosa and Roman blame him for Churchill’s death, they also dislike Quintana because of her vampiric nature. Underwood has realised that the defence systems of the research station had been shut off prior to the attack and suspects foul play, he has to pull the crew together to solve the mystery.

Natassia Malthe as QuintanaQuintana is played by the very beautiful Natassia Malthe and is one of the best reasons to watch the film. Not only gorgeous, the character is fascinating and I had the feeling, as I watched, that this is how Bloodrayne should have been played. Her character is the daughter of two scientists who were captured and turned and her childhood, amongst humans, was a science experiment. She has to drink plasma, can read minds and can sense vampiric presence. There is an interesting “sex scene” between her and Underwood. She cannot physically have sex as she will go “Black widow” during and has vampiric tantric sex, where she stimulates his mind and makes him feel that he is having sex with his, now dead, wife (Carrie Flemming). This was clever and a tease, one expected to see Quintana (hence the tease) but the introduction of the concept of Underwood's now deceased wife built the character even more.

The film is gory, no doubt about that, and one feels that the majority of the budget was blown on gore and cgi spaceships. That is generally no bad thing but the cracks do show occasionally and one of those times is on a space station. a hungry vampire hostThey realise the space station has been overrun and end up in an outside location shot that made little sense as this is a floating station in space. They would have been better sticking to internal shots that might have been samey but would have been more logical, the location did jolt. Whilst there, they realise that all the deaths were caused by a vampiric creature who injects a deadly venom that necrotises the flesh of the victim, they like their food dead but still warm. When they see it, just one it appears, Quintana does not know what it is and they waste it.

the true vampire emergesUnfortunately it is the host, not the actual vampires, these are worm like vampires that take over a host (and several are in the same host) called Vermus Nosferatii. The worms flee the dying host and it is an Alien (1979) type moment. Most are killed, by electrocution through tasers, and they capture one that Quintana gets to speak. The creature is clearly a hand puppet (you can see the fingers below the construct) but that didn’t really matter – I just thought it was an ingenious use of budget.

The rest of the main actors are fair enough, in general, Zamprogna as Michael Ironside as MucoUnderwood very much comes across as the altogether eager rooky that he is meant to. Probably the most disappointing performance was by Michael Ironside as Muco, the Voorhees leader and big bad of the movie. He played the role much too pantomime, which is a shame as I like Ironside generally. Unfortunately some of the incidental human characters, including that of Fiona, were poorly portrayed.

This movie has problems, it is true, but I was able to detach brain and thoroughly enjoy myself. There is good characterisation and tension between the characters and a rich background that, if all things are fair, should lead to much fan-fiction being produced. It has been commented that this felt like a pilot for a series and that is true, and down to this background within the film I feel. Parts of the plot do not stand to scrutiny (Underwood being the key to the entire thing was altogether too contrived) and some of the acting is poor, but most of the main characters are played with competence. Probably the key to the entire film was the fact that they added a high level of ingenuity, though much of the plot and look could be traced to other films it felt like they had thought outside the box when they constructed the film which offered a creativity often lacking in modern low-budget films.

This is B movie heaven, expect no more and you won’t be disappointed, however it will irk the traditional vampire movie fan. I did like the cross-reference, in the names of the vampire species, to other horror movies – it could have back-fired but was actually a nice touch. There are sfx and location problems, but if your brain has been taken out you can live with it and the makers did well with what was obviously a lower level budget. I’m going out on a limb here and giving this movie 5.5 out of 10, probably too strong a score but given as this is a film I will definitely be watching again – though perhaps it helped that I expected to hate it.

The imdb page is here.


Mateo said...

I don't think I would like this. I blame the Blade movies for popularizing the futuristic matrix-like vampire movies. It's completely overdone by now, I think. Give me a cliche victorian era vampire movie before the scifi variety, even.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

That's a fair comment. Though I didn't labour the point I did mention: "it will irk the traditional vampire movie fan" and that was where I was coming from.

TheGirlInTheDreamSea said...

ı am looking for this film like over a 6 years.ı am literally suprised that i found it here.ı watched the entire vampire films just to find it.thank you, for real.thank you..

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no worries :)