Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The last Sect – review


Director: Jonathan Dueck

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

The last Sect is an odd movie that veers towards greatness and yet gets lost someone on the way. We begin with Van Helsing (David Carradine) playing the flute. That amused me as images of Kung Fu sprang to mind and, as later we see him performing some Tai Chi type exercise, I am sure it was completely on purpose. His son, Tone (Jordan Dyck) comes in and says he is on to something.

Overtones of Kung FuSydney (Natalie Brown) is a journalist. Her photographer, Sam (Sebastien Roberts), is at her apartment. They are to go to interview a woman named Anna (Deborah Odell), the owner of a female orientated dating agency called Artemis. Before they leave Sam shows Sydney a pirate web-cast called TVW (the vampire web). It depicts in a very stylised way a vampire feeding scene. A man is strapped to a table with a bondage gag in his mouth. Several vampire women feed from him.

broadcast from TVWSam, later, claims that no-one knows who broadcasts TVW, but Tone has discovered that it is broadcast from the Artemis servers. He has had his findings checked and they carry seven of Van Helsing’s markers for ascertaining whether a vampire sect is involved in a situation.

Outside Artemis, whilst they wait to gain entry, Sam hallucinates that he is with a woman, who then walks past. He also sees flashes of imagery from TVW. Once inside it is Sydney, upon meeting Anna, who starts having hallucinatory visions – of Anna.

We later see Anna tell the vampire women that she has found a candidate. For what you might ask? Natalie Brown as SydneyThat is revealed by Van Helsing who tells us that every millennia the vampires reach the peak of their power but are also at their most vulnerable. They must hibernate and they pass their essence into a vessel for twenty five years, a vessel who must offer herself willingly. Van Helsing must find the matriarch vampire (Anna) and the vessel (Sydney) before it is too late. He calls in the help of stone cold vampire killer Karpov (Julian Richings). Anna must seduce Sydney and make her come to their aid willingly.

after the feedOf course the use of seeking nourishment of a deadly kind via dating agencies has been done before in an episode of Kolchak (episode 19 - The Youth Killer) and whilst it wasn’t particularly vampiric it did spring to mind as I watched the film. The use of the internet as a hunting tool has been used in films such as Eternal and Vampire Sisters - however The Last Sect does it in a much more stylised and well-rounded way than those two films. So, what went wrong?

It’s difficult to put my finger on. The dialogue flows well, the acting isn’t half bad and the production values seem high and yet… It probably has a lot to do with pacing. The film gets lost in itself, it seems to me, and the result is that the movie, whilst offering a surrealistic worldview, is very slow moving at times. The pace seems almost Hunger-like and yet cannot carry that slower pace with the same panache. Bizarrely (in a seduction dream scene between Anna and Sydney) Anna, word for word, comes out with a line from The Hunger and there is more than a little of a Catherine Deneuve look to Anna.

Julian Richings as KarpovIt probably also has a lot to do with the characters, the dialogue flows naturally for the most part and yet I never really knew the characters. In something with a slower pace one would expect there to be much fuller characterisation. I wanted to know who Karpov was, the film didn’t elucidate, I wanted to learn about Van Helsing but, despite some story about his grandfather, I did not. Indeed I only worked out that Tone was his son in the last 10 minutes of the movie and we never do discover what the connection between Van Helsing and Karpov is. Van Helsing knows Anna by her true name, Anastasia, and yet we never really know the connection between the two.

A gaggle of VampettesThe vampires themselves are also somewhat under-explored also. They show up on film (Sam comes out with some cock and bull about the internet being digital not film but I think we can safely ignore that). They are only active at night, yet there is no indication whether sunlight is an issue or not. They feed on blood and, as their power grows, the number of feeding web-casts increases, from weekly, to daily to four times a day. Karpov despatches one with a needle – how is not explained - and two by shooting (though we later discover he is using wooden bullets) followed by decapitation. They can be tracked by an artefact (I think called the Helios Ra) that Van Helsing has, though in truth it seemed fairly pointless.

They give off no heat signature, as a living person would, they can cause hallucinations and enter dreams. zombie vampire ghoul thangCrucifixes do not seem to work. Karpov also despatches several zombie like men, billed as ghouls, who were obviously victims of the vampires, he does this by stabbing them. Why one of these creatures attacked the security guard who was employed at the building is unexplained, why it then attack Sydney is also unexplained. I’ve listed a lot of genre elements built into the film and yet I still feel they were under-explored. Much I have extrapolated; other things seemed only half investigated by the film.

I said at the head of the review that the film veered towards greatness and I stand by that. Pacing and lack of clarity held this back. I kept hoping I was watching a classic and yet that hope crumbled before me. As it transpires I’d say this is hovering around average and will give 4.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


michael said...

need password for The Last Sect

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'm sorry but I'm afraid I do not understand what you mean by this.

Simon Dyda said...

Bought this today. Tried to resist but couldn't due David Carradine being in it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Simon Carradine was a hero, but like his father he made some bad flicks... this isn't great and, as I said in the review, the shame is that it could have been