Sunday, June 03, 2007

Vampire at Midnight – review


Directed by: Gregory McClatchy

Release date: 1988

Contains spoilers

Yet another film caught when broadcast on Zone Horror, this is an odd one to say the least. The film is really more about someone who believes they are a vampire and yet displays most of the standard supernatural elements, plus one of the worst excess of eighties cinema – the dance routine!

the first victimThe film starts strangely, as the lounge lizard type song just doesn’t seem to fit either a horror film or a police drama. A car pulls out of a house and drives to an overlook. On route we see a gloved hand pat the obviously female passenger’s leg. When parked we see the truth, she is dead and bite marks are on her throat. The driver, Viktor Radikoff (Gustav Vintas), pulls her out of the car, takes her necklace and drives away.

jenny and rogerWe see the cops find the body and the detective in charge is Al Childress (Robert Random). There is comment that this is the ninth vampire murder and the cops have no leads. In a shop is Detective Roger Sutter (Jason Williams) with uniformed cop Lucia Giannini (Esther Elise). Lucia believes that perhaps the vampire killer is actually a vampire but Roger, a homicide cop who is not on the case, doesn’t believe in the supernatural. They get a call on the radio, there is an officer down nearby.

Roger legs it to the scene and a uniformed cop is covering an alley. His partner is down and held hostage by three armed men. Roger has him recite loudly the Lord’s Prayer – to distract the bad guys – as he goes over the roof and takes them out. We have just hit one of the big problems with the film, it is riddled with clichés and Roger is one of them. The bad boy, reckless cop who is in trouble with his captain (Ted Hamaguchi) and just can’t help getting involved in someone else’s case.

a flash of fangOur vampire is somewhat of a mystery. The film does its best to show us a real vampire posing as a hypnotherepist. In actual fact he is not a vampire at all, but clearly believes he is one. He has, we discover at the end of the film, false fangs but does bite (as well as slashes) throats and drinks the blood.

the sleep of the deadThe trouble is the film throws in elements that seem more supernatural, one example being a scene where we see Radikoff sleeping on a slab, the scene cuts to a business woman (one of his clients?) getting undressed and showering, shaving her leg and cutting herself. Cut back to Radikoff snapping awake. Perhaps the film is simply playing with us but the implication is that the spilling of blood has awakened him. At another point he truns his head away from a cross in repulsion.

a vision of a victimWe see several of his clients in action. One is a comedian (Jonny Solomon) and the scene is well done with the comedian, at the end of his show, seeing a woman in the audience bitten and killed and then Radikoff running on stage with a blade and stabbing him. It is a vision and indicates that the comedian knows that Radikoff is the killer. He is murdered for his trouble, but not before letting Roger known that he knows the killer – but is unable to say Radikoff’s name. During this section Roger shoots the indistinct fleeing figure of Radikoff, to no avail. Later we discover he wears a bullet proof vest.

dancer gets itAnother pair of clients that we see are a couple of dancers, who incur his displeasure because the male dancer thinks Radikoff is creepy. This section seemed to be there because, being an eighties film, we had to suffer the excesses of an extended dance scene!

Jenny has a visionThe main client we see is Jenny (Lesley Milne) a pianist who Radikoff chooses to programme as a bride. Bizarrely she has visions of this, but we cannot see when he might have programmed such visions into her prior to her having them. The problem is Jenny is Roger’s neighbour and he is in love with her. Oh the irony.

eye mojo works rather wellRadikoff is portrayed as a powerful hypnotist and uses a jewel as a focus. All well and good, but it is clear that at times he simply uses his eyes. When captured he tries to escape by hypnotising the two cops taking him in. His hands are cuffed so he cannot use his focus and he manages to get one by making eye contact in the rear view mirror. He also manages to get them so controlled that they are going to blow each other apart on his command. That is some pretty powerful hypnosis, though the question must be asked, as he has it at the end of the scene, why'd they let him keep his focus when in custody?

Radikoff's focusThe film has an excellent premise – talented hypnotist who believes he is a vampire. The problems lie in the fact that the film is slow, has clichéd characters and has moments that are improbable. Radikoff drains the victims dry – yet one wonders how he could drink so much blood himself without being physically ill and without getting drenched in blood. He seems incapable of leaving physical evidence behind and yet never seems that careful. The cops are at a loss (Radikoff kills Childress when they accidentally meet and the scene, again, makes little sense as Childress does not know he has the killer with him), so did none of them do checks on the victims? They say that there is no common pattern but there must have been an audit trail of payments for Radikoff’s services. The character Lucia seems to be there for a sex scene only.

yumMost of the acting is average but Vintas is great as Radikoff – really pulling off the creepy guy persona to a tee. Generally, however, there is none of the atmosphere one would hope for, this should have summoned feelings of films like Seven, it felt like a below average cop show.

A great idea, badly executed. This isn’t one to search out but might be worth catching on TV if nothing else is on. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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