Friday, May 11, 2007

The Thirst – review

Director: Jeremy Kasten

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

I posted recently about the release of this, straight to DVD, and pointed out the wonderful cover. The cover is still wonderful and the film itself has a strong cast (maybe not A list but of a certain competent level none-the-less) – it’s just a pity that the film itself didn’t match nor did the performances match the strength of casting.

The film starts of well enough. Glimpses of a hand and frock coat, an antique turntable and a woman walking down the street (who is obviously a whore). She enters a hotel, goes to a room and meets the man in the frock coat, whom we later discover is called the Duke of Earl (Neil Jackson, who played vampire boss Van Sciver in Blade the Series). She is getting undressed as he approaches and slavers.
This is something the vampires do in the film; they produce copious amounts of saliva, flooding from their mouth, when they feed. Unfortunately, the whys of this are not explored at all and the reaction is not consistent. It was also difficult to get a screenshot of the effect, the one here is from much later in the film with the two vampire sisters (one played by Kylah Kim and the other by Ave Rose Rodil).

The whore screams and the Duke rams a lamp down her throat, which leads me to another point about the film, it really does not shy away from gore but I’ll discuss that in more detail later.

Maxx (Matt Keeslar) is at a 12 step programme. He laments being clean as his girlfriend Lisa (Clare Krammer) isn’t. He explains that she is also a stripper. We see her on the dance floor when she starts puking blood and collapses. We then discover she isn’t on drugs, she is terminally ill with cancer. Her doctor points out that it is high time she told Maxx but she refuses. During the night a ‘therapist’ named Mariel (Serena Scott Thomas) visits her but she isn’t really a therapist and she slavers! Suddenly Lisa wakes up and calls Maxx.

She tells Maxx she has cancer and he goes ballistic as she kept it from him. It seems like he tries it on with fellow 12 steps attendee and friend Macey (Charlotte Ayanna) and she tells him to go to Lisa and support her. He does but she has left the hospital and by the time he gets home she has committed suicide.

We get the funeral and then relief shots of a distraught Maxx whose beard gets thicker and thicker. Then his friends Macey and Jason (Erik Palladino) take him to a Goth club, where (surprise, surprise) he thinks he sees Lisa. Convinced she is alive he tries to dig up her grave but is arrested and so returns to the Goth club. We see the Duke openly attack someone in the club and then Maxx meets Lisa just as all Hell breaks loose. He follows her and her fellow vampires to a bible camp where they are holed up, is captured by vampire leader Darius (Jeremy Sisto) and Lisa turns him.

The next night he goes on a hunt with the Duke, the sisters and Lenny (Adam Baldwin) – whilst Lisa and Mariel remain for some not so innocent fun with Darius – and Maxx seems to revel in the slaughter and feed (eventually). Getting back, with a victim for Lisa, she gets all prim and proper and anti addiction on him. As a result he contacts Macey, sleeps with her and tries to turn her, failing to do so (I’ll explain why in a sec). Lisa turns up, he is sorry that he is addicted again and they go cold turkey but, of course, the family (as the vampires are known) are after them…

The vampire lore in this is really screwed up. Firstly only a female vampire can turn someone and the only reason for this plot point seems to be to make Maxx sorry that he killed Macey and thus willing to go cold turkey. Next we have the slavering, which is never really explained. Diseased blood can injure them, we discover but this only leads to an aborted plotline.

The killing methods are also weird. Sunlight will do the trick and most are killed that way. However it seems odd that the Duke turns up and says that Maxx and Lisa will come back with him now or die and then they toss him out of a window and he burns up as it is daytime – how were they meant to leave as he had demanded? Despite the fact that bullets have no effect we see the sisters die, one by having her brains dashed out with a rock and the other by axe in the chest.

I did like the concept that the vampires fake letters from extremist groups after their attacks, to avoid detection. That said these notes are written in Arabic by Lenny, who happens to be an Arab. The paleness of his skin is put down to many centuries out of the sun – no, a darker skin tone is a natural part of someone’s genetics, not a tan! Plus, of course, he is immortal and unchanging.

I mentioned gore and it is plentiful and fairly well done, even if the blood colour is off at times. Necks are torn open, gushing blood in a pattern that owes more to Kill Bill then to real world biology. We even get a skull split from behind and a vampire lapping from the gaping wound. The problem is the film doesn’t know if it is a drama about addiction or a balls-out gore fest. As a result the gory scenes don’t seem to work that well. There is a large slice of Near Dark, psychotic vampire clan and plenty of gore, but it never reaches the heights the earlier film reached nor does it portray the absolute psychosis of the clan as proficiently. On the other hand the addiction aspects are marred by poor characterisation, glib perspective changes and poor scripting.

The actors do their best, though they struggle with a poor script. One has to question the affected accent used by Jeremy Sisto. I did like Jackson, however, playing a very different type of vampire to that from Blade. The film has some nice use of arty scenes, but again they don’t really fit in what, for a great proportion of the time, is a gore-fest. Again they got lost in what they were trying to produce. Herein lies the rub, the film looks quite good and the production values are fairly high, they even managed to get in a professional cast, but lack of focus and unconvincing story just killed this off.

I had really high hopes for this film and they were dashed. If you want a visceral film about a psychotic vampire clan stick with Near Dark, if you want a drama about vampirism as an addiction watch either The Addiction or Habit. As for this, well 3 out of 10 is probably over-generous, unfortunately.

The imdb page is here.

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