Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vamp or Not? Dead Heist


When I first heard about this movie, conceptually, my warning flags were raised. After all, most horror flicks that heavily feature rap-stars in the cast, that I have seen, have proven to be not too good. However, as I discovered more about the film I became intrigued with the almost vampire/zombie hybrid concept I was reading about. As it turns out this is a well made little independent movie but is it vamp?

The film starts with a very nicely shot little prologue that neatly interweaves scenes of a man, we later discover to be known only as The Hunter (Big Daddy Kane), investigating the scene of an ‘abandoned’ car. This is entwined with scenes of the fate of the driver and his passenger and The Hunter plotting a travel pattern on a map.

Most important within this would seem to be the fate of the couple. They are lost and see a man running along the road. Despite the passenger thinking him creepy, the driver slows to ask for direction. The passenger is pulled from the car and into the foliage nearby. The man tries to find her and something gets him in the dark. More important, however, is the mapping of movement of the creatures that got the couple and the calendar of moon phases we see.

Jackson (D.J. Naylor) ha made some bad choices in life and is working security for Hustle (E-40). He wants out but discovers he must do one more job.

Brandon Hardin as SkiSki (Brandon Hardin), Malcolm (Dominic L Santana), Trey (Michael Braxton) and Bone (Chris Bailey) are small time hoods, who sell drugs for Hustle but have big ideas of getting off the street. Malcolm’s uncle is in prison for armed robbery, he hit over twenty banks before he was finally caught and tells Malcolm of a certain small town bank which is a holding bank for many other banks. They decide to rob it.

D.J. Naylor as JacksonThey need weapons and ask Hustle for help. It seems they bungled a previous job and so he demands a hefty cut for his help. He then decides he needs some insurance. When they turn up at a motel near the town they find Jackson waiting for them, who takes over the plans on Hustle’s behalf. He tells them they will rob it the next day and he will scope out the town and the bank, by opening an account.

Tracie Dinwiddie as KateIn the town he meets the sheriff, who is suspicious of the stranger in town. Jackson goes into a weapons store and meets the Hunter who tells him to stay in that night as it is a new moon. He explains that there is something out there, not quite vampire and not quite zombie, but Jackson (reasonably) thinks he’s a nut. He heads for the bank and is approached by the sheriff’s deputy, Kate (Tracie Dinwiddie). They chat on route and she goes in the bank with him.

The would be bank robbers aren’t too happy that their plan has been hijacked and Ski decides to rob the bank that day, whilst Jackson is still in there. During the course of the robbery things go awry as Kate triggers the silent alarm and the gang kill one of the cops who investigates, which causes wheelman Bone to run and leave them stranded. There is a stand off but the sun is setting and we see creatures emerging.

Bone meets his endThe cops are taken out by the creatures and the gang don’t know what is happening - though Jackson remembers the warnings given by The Hunter. In a moment of comeuppance, Bone, who is at a gas station, becomes fodder for the creatures. Then they see Hunter fighting through the creatures, heading for the bank and they let him in. He tells them what he knows of the creatures – which is where we will investigate the vampness of these things – but he wants them dead… at any cost…

Becky the infectedThe creatures really are a mismatch of zombies, the infected from '28 days later' and vampires. The creatures run in packs and are stronger than before they were infected. This infection stems from Government experiments. It seems the army were trying to create an artificial plasma and an experimental batch killed the test subjects, but they weren’t really dead. By the time the base realised what had happened it was too late. The whole base, bar Hunter, were infected including Hunter’s wife, Becky (Michelle Mims).

zombies or vampires, you decideThe creatures crave blood – very vampiric – and feed once a month as they emerge from hidey holes, hunting and migrating south. Those bitten are infected. The reason for this once a month on the new moon pattern isn’t really explained in the film but Bo Webb (the director) has explained on his MySpace page that they cannot stand the light of the sun, even when reflected from the moon – again vary vampiric.

Despite this sunlight aversion, Hunter only knows one way in which they can be killed. A head shot won’t do it, as the film illustrates at one point, it is a shot or knife through the heart. Again this owes much more to the vampire myth than the zombie genre. going for the throatThey are attracted by the scent of blood and tend to aim their bites at the neck or wrist, which is vampire like. They seem to have lost most cognisant thought, just wanting to feed and spread their infection, which is zombie like and they make a panting noise. Of course bank robberies going wrong and the involvement of vampires has been done before, most notably in From Dusk Till Dawn 2.

Big Daddy Kane as The HunterThe film itself is well acted for the most part, although there were some sections where I felt English subtitles for the street talk would have been useful! If I had one main gripe it would be that the film ended rather abruptly, however to extend the ending would have only meant more gun battles and so perhaps the abruptness was appropriate and Webb got the balance about right. There was also a moment were disbelief was shattered as we get a touching moment between two main characters, one bitten, with the infected running around ignoring them as they talked… that fell out of the universe they had created. However these are minor things in a film that surpasses its independent roots and was, surprisingly, very entertaining.

As for ‘Vamp or Not?’ this seems a real mismatch of pseudo-scientific and supernatural, after all heart shot only kill rules seems more supernatural than science orientated. It is also clearly a hybrid of both the vampire and zombie genre – but enough that it should find its place on vampire filmographies. The MySpace link I put above does have the director's thoughts on this, with some of the technical reasons why they went along the paths they did and is well worth a read.

The imdb page is here.

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