Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kingdom of the vampire {1991} – review

stand alone dvd

Director: J R Bookwalter

Release date: 1991

Contains spoilers

A little background is required here. This film has been floating around my awareness for a while but I had heard that it was rubbish. After all, there are two comments on imdb and one of them was from the person who plays a little boy in the film (Rory Moushey) and he calls it a waste of space. That is some bad publicity. Now, the fact that a vampire film is meant to be awful has not stopped me watching it but, given the price of the DVD, I had not seen this film.

Recently it was remade and this original film was released as a double feature with the new version. It turned out that it was cheaper to get the double feature disc than get the stand-alone. So the version I have watched for this review is on the same disc as the new version – however I have put the stand-alone cover at the head of the review.

The film itself is meant to have been re-mastered for the double feature set. Well, who knows just how bad the print of the original release was because the one I watched ain’t too great. The film itself was shot on camcorder but that doesn’t necessarily make this a bad movie. It has other aspects that do that job just fine.

mom and jeffThe film begins with Jeff (Mathew Jason Walsh) working in a late night store. He closes up and heads on home. As he walks through the door there is blood on the floor. He calls out to his mom (Cherie Patry) and she is sat eating cookies and watching TV. When asked where she got them from she tells of a girl (Christina M Bookwalter) who came door to door selling them. She then says that there is a mess in the kitchen, for him to clean up.

a mess in the kitchenIn the kitchen the girl is dead. When he hasn’t cleaned up, the harridan of a mother screeches at him until he does what he is told. As he does so the mother tells him of the things she did to the girl in a graphic way that was just intended to shock. He takes the (all too small) bagged body to the shed and we see that there are other bags in there. Her arm falls out of the bag bloodied and he tastes the blood and then bites the wrist.

trying bloodThe girl starts to move and he hits at her with a hammer and then stumbles from the shed and wretches. The mother can smell the blood on him and mentions, briefly, the kingdom of the vampires – before humanity hunted them down – and how his father was a king, a concept which Jeff denies. Her anger knows no bounds.

Nina kisses JeffAs the film progresses we get a brief meeting with Nina (Shannon Doyle), an all too innocent girl, with no sense of clothing, who falls for Jeff. We get the attack on the Halloween boy and his mother (Jo Norcia), tricked into the house and then set upon by mom and the reluctant Jeff. This leads to the sheriff (Tom Stephan) taking an interest as she was his sister-in-law and an interesting moment as he arrives at the house during the day and Jeff seems rather ill - thus he can be in sunlight but it makes him feel sick.

over excitedJeff seems to be going through an awakening, he tastes cookie girl’s blood, attacks some drunken bozos and develops fangs when Nina kisses him. We could ask the question of why it has taken so long for Jeff to develop his vampire nature, given that the sheriff remembers the case of Dupree from when he was a child – a vampire the townsfolk burned to death – who was obviously Jeff’s father.

contemplating stakingMother and son have only just returned to the town, under different names, and perhaps vampires take a long time to mature – the film is not explicit. Jeff himself considers staking his mother but hasn’t got the guts. The relationship with Nina stalls and she goes to his home, and is captured by his mom… leading to the film’s ‘climax’.

mom at HalloweenStory wise, the idea of mother and son vampire was interesting but not well held together. The two became caricatures. This had much to do with the acting, which we will get to. First I should mention that the effects were poor, but that is to be expected from a low budget flick, in the main the worst excess were hidden by cutting away. A scene where mom eats a kitten, hardly new or shocking given the scene in Count Yorga, vampire, is shown in silhouette.

the screaming harridan in actionWhat lets this down is the acting. The incidental characters are blooming awful and there is no chemistry between Jeff and Nina. Jeff himself comes across as less an introvert and more the perennial whiner and his mother is fun at first but the screaming harridan act gets tired very quickly.

An interesting opening premise but let down by poor scripting, loose storytelling and poor acting. 1.5 out of 10. We will see if the remake can do better.

The imdb page is here.

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