Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Insatiable – review


Directed by: Chuck Konzelman & Cary Solomon

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

Never judge a book by the cover, or a DVD for that matter. But sometimes, just sometimes, it works out fine. I like the cover to The Insatiable, it has the elements a vampire genre fan would like after all – female vampire crawls in blood. Crack the cover, put the disc in, and you know what… I was really taken by this low budget effort.

Sean Patrick Flanery as HarryWe start with images of Harry Balbo (Sean Patrick Flanery), his morning routine, his job and the death of his fish. It was a nicely constructed little run through that let us know a lot about Harry, though we find out much more as the film progresses. Harry is one of life’s losers, not for any bad reason but he is shy and retiring, he doesn’t have much luck with the ladies and he is picked on at work. Work is as a clerk for a flange firm and he also performs part time building supervisor work at his apartment building for breaks in his rent.

One night he is on his way to the local store when he is approached by vagrant Sammy for some change. He tells Sammy he will bring him some food. He nips into the local store and, after some banter with store clerk Ronnie (Brad Rowe) – mainly about his new girlfriend – plus a look at a newspaper headline about a serial killer known as the “head ripper”, he buys a hot dog and goes to find Sammy.

Tatiana has fedHe can’t see the man but then a turning car’s headlights illuminate the alley and he sees a vampire, later we discover she is Tatiana (Charlotte Ayanna, who was in the poor The Thirst), attacking Sammy. We hear what is obviously Sammy’s head being ripped off and she jumps three stories through a window. Harry does what most of us would do; he hyperventilates and then passes out.

The cops get there but the detective, Loper (Boyd Kestner), doesn’t believe Harry’s story. Neither do his work colleagues, Chet (Josh Hopkins) and Javier (Jon Huertas). Javier is a dick, there is no other way to describe him, and he loves to pick on Harry but during the verbal assault Harry finds a perfect adjective to describe the vampire – feral. Javier points out that Harry is not mentioned in the paper’s three-page report and so he goes to see Loper, who states again that he doesn’t believe Harry and also states that he isn’t a suspect – he doesn’t believe Harry would have it in him. Harry has a theory, however, that the heads are ripped off to hide the bites.

Back at the store Ronnie is looking pale, states his girlfriend is killing him with her sexual appetites and has a plaster on his neck. Harry is beginning to put two and two together and researches vampire on the net (whilst Nosferatu plays on TV). He reads that female vampires are also sexual predators, the word succubus is mentioned. In his sleep the pieces finally slot together.

the result of a vampire's scratchHe goes over to the crime scene and touches Sammy’s blood. This is not explained but he then ‘sees’ the vampire with Ronnie – why Harry has this psychic link to Tatiana, which he uses twice in the movie, is one of the puzzling aspects to the film, but perhaps it is fate as is mentioned later about another aspect. He goes to Ronnie’s place and sees Tatiana feeding on Ronnie but, due to a knocked over pot plant, she sees him, leaps at him and scratches his face, tasting the blood.

Still concerned, especially when he hears that Ronnie is dead, he goes online and meets someone called Nightstalker. After much persuasion Nightstalker believes him and says he must kill the vampire. Harry doesn’t know if he can do it but Nightstalker informs him that now she has a taste of his blood she can track him anywhere. He has to stake her, to immobilise her, and cut her head off. He asks for help but Nightstalker refuses, he is a paraplegic.

Michael Biehn as StricklandAs luck would have it Harry has to go and fix the toilet of a guy called Strickland (Michael Biehn), who happens to be Nightstalker. This is the fate aspect I mentioned, or so Strickland thinks and this wonderfully circumvents the ridiculous coincidence of this part of the plot. Later in the film we get a brilliantly acted description of how Strickland lost the use of his legs when faced with a vampire in Vietnam. Strickland, who is tracking nine vampires worldwide, narrows down her hiding place, using serial killer tracking software, to twelve locations. Harry does find her in one of the buildings but can’t kill her, especially when she opens her eyes and pleads.

The cageInstead he comes up with a plan to capture her, in a cage he constructs in his basement, but once he has got her he has a dilemma… he can’t kill her but neither can he feed her.

This is a black comedy at its heart, and I chuckled along with the film in places. It has been likened to Dance of the Damned and I guess I can see that but, to be honest, the dynamics are very different, with the vampire being the captive rather than the victim, and the earlier film really did not have black comedy at its heart.

a dream of mistThe vampire lore has been fairly covered. I should add that they avoid sunlight and they must feed; a lot. Tatiana hunted nightly and had six lovers to feed from at any given time and the blood must be fresh. Also she can whisper in Harry’s dreams and change form, as in she shape shifts into a blonde in case Harry finds that form more appealing. They are strong, although not strong enough to break the toughened steel bars, and Tatiana is hit by a bus, to no ill effect, at one point. Harry dreams that she appears as mist but that isn’t an ability she actually possesses – after all the cage wouldn’t hold her.

Charlotte Ayanna as TatianaThe dialogue is excellent and the thing that really makes this are the performances. Ayanna is sultry as Tatiana but there are two real powerhouse performances. In his short screen time Biehn is excellent, although he is pretty much a cipher and plot enabler he gives the performance unexpected gravitas. Flanery is superb as Harry, the man who can’t kill the vampire and so tries to feed her – starting with cute little bunnies. We sympathise with Harry and we understand his dilemma, this is all down to Flanery.

The plot with the cops bubbles in the background but doesn’t go very far and, like Biehn’s character, seems to add motivation for other plot lines rather than be there for its own sake and there is an on-running saga with a neighbour, Cindy (Amanda Noret), and mistaken (by Harry) intentions, that also doesn’t go very far as a plot but adds depth, and sadness, to Harry’s character.

what could the bunny be for?The effects are minimal, probably due to budget, but fast cuts and judicial lighting hide any major flaws. This is not a gore fest – but the film isn’t about that. It is a black comedy and, to be honest, the soundtrack enhances that feel.

I really did enjoy this one and, in my opinion, it is a little gem. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Eamus Catuli said...

I was a big fan of this movie as well, and was wondering if you new what the song was thats playing in the end where cops discover the blond girls appartment?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Eamus. Checked on the DVD and did a lot of googling but it isn't clear I'm afraid. If I do work it out I'll post but I'm not holding out much hope.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this movie. I only noticed one movie goof, but I was wondering if you know the title of the song playing when Balbo is building the cage.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The track when he is building a cage is Backbone performed by Michael Kisur

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was looking for the "Backbone" song, but I still can't find it anywhere. Are you sure that's the right artist?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

redeye-20 - I'm sure on the artist.

When asked about the track, I dug the DVD out, listened to the song(s), checked the song credits at the end and it was obvious with Backbone, due to the lyrics, that it was the song in question.

The artist name was pulled from the credits. Perhaps it was done specifically for the soundtrack - there hasn't been a soundtrack CD released as far as I am aware.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for finding that information for me.

Anonymous said...

I really love this movie also. I'm still hoping for a sequel. Charlotte Ayanna is so sexy and gorgeous. One of the hottest female vampires ever! Top 3 for me easily! Her eyes are..wow..amazing!

Kelly J. Cooper said...

I just saw this on the SciFi Channel and couldn't read the note on the neighbor's door at the end... something about "I guess I did have it in me" or something?

And they don't show what makes the cops gasp when they go in... what did the note say & what did they see?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Kelly J Cooper. The note reads: "I guess maybe I did have it in me after all - love Harry"

You don't see what the cops see but... given the blood on the note and the way their eyes rove around the room (clearly taking in the ceiling) one imagines it was a bloodbath in there with blood and flesh strewn across the apartment.

Kelly J. Cooper said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!