Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Vampire Conspiracy – review


Directed by: Marc Morgenstern

Release Date: 2005

Contains spoilers

We are back in the realm of low budget film making, though sometimes it feels like we never truly leave it, and face to face with a movie that does actually rise above budgetary concerns. It does this in one simple way – story. To be honest, on the face of things, the story might seem a little hokey but, as the film progresses, you come to realise that it is masterfully done. Now all it needs are the budget born bugbears expelling.

The film begins with two men arguing in a grey-white room. They seem to be blaming each other and one, unnamed, seems to have had an indiscretion with an under-aged girl. Creatures come in. Now these are our low level vampires and we will discuss them later, but they are animalistic in their movements. The other man, Peter Church (Jaret Sacrey) suggests they don’t look them in the eyes – whether this has an effect or not is debatable – and then pushes his companion into them and runs into a maze like corridor.

Jean-Marc Fontaine as Thelonius Von RhylosHe seems to be pursued by something and then the head vampire, later revealed to be Thelonius Von Rhylos (Jean-Marc Fontaine), is stood above him. Now Rhylos’ look is awful, and illustrative of the negatives of the film, he looks like a French fop – and indeed that is deliberate as he hails from Revolutionary France. However one would have thought that he would have updated his look over the centuries. Never mind. Anyway he offers Church, who has suddenly found God, a way out of the ‘game’.

The contestantsJanet (Sarah Boes) awakens in a room with no doors. She doesn’t remember anything since she was at home, she has been on an intravenous drip by the bruising on her arm and one of her companions guestimates that they have been there five days by the bruising.Let us look at who is in the room as these are our main characters. Janet, who we just met, is a cop. There is Brian Samuels (John Lopes), an engineer. The mouthy Mitchell Jobidan (Ron Mazer) is a lawyer. Sam ‘Shiv’ MacKenzie (Adrian M Pryce) is a drug dealer. Finally Vera Nichols (Christiane Garcia) is a professor who teaches folklore.

Also in the room is an unconscious Church, who has bite marks on his neck – something that causes Vera to start. She teaches folklore issues at the university and is our main source of lore through the film. Unfortunately the lore is crap – as she doesn’t know what she is talking about – at one point she claims that the vampires are suffers from a disease and names it the highly contagious porphyria. Of course that is an inherited disease but it is not bad lore, it is a character who does not know what she is talking about and admits so in the end.

appearance of the vampireThe vampire appears and tells them they are in a game, a maze that they must survive. The winner is the one who lives and he or she inherits the vampire’s treasure – as he will be dead if there is a winner. There is suddenly a door in the room. It sounds below average so far, I know, but believe me the story is better than that. Let me look at the negatives first as, by this point I was worried myself.

With the minionsThe film lacks budget. The minion vampires (called minions of succubi for some reason) look poor in the main. A group of out of work actors with blood round the mouth who cannot stage fight well. The effects are not brilliant and the locations are, for 98% of the film, similar grey-white rooms and grey-white corridors. These things came from budget. The dialogue sounds a little poor and the main actors are amateur. However all this could be solved with a higher budget remake. One thing that is not born of budget but bad filmmaking, in my opinion, is the use of shaky cameras. Stop it.

Now that is a bad hickeyHowever as the story progresses you become totally dragged into the film. Each character knows or has affected another in a convoluted but brilliantly realised storyline. None of this is accidental. Church, acting as the vampire’s assistant, has manipulated their lives for five years to bring them to this point and thus they are not just fighting the vampires but each other. Each room is based on one of the seven heavenly virtues and the game is almost a path to redemption. The reason Church is there is because he turned on the vampire and is being punished.

It is this web of conspiracy and back story that hooks the viewer and makes the film rise above what it should be. I am not going to go into it at all as that would spoil the film as you watch it for the first time.

ouchAs for the lore, as well as all the rubbish we discover we do discover that the minions are weaker than the vampire himself and that to be a full vampire needs a blood transfer but a bite creates a minion. A stake through the heart is an effective killing method – though it has to be through the heart and not just generally through the chest. Interestingly, though not conclusively as we get this from Vera, we are informed that there is a distinction between the head vampire – who is a vampire – and the minions – who are undead.

Brian Cushings a crossThe vampires are effected by the cross – Brian was ordained a minister years before, a reason that he was picked by the treacherous Church as he could Cushing a cross together and bless it. The vampires are tied into a night cycle, although we never see the effects of the sun given the location. Church, having been bitten but not yet turned, reacts with violent spasms to the approach of vampires. The head vampire has a reasoning for the game beyond pure entertainment, but it is a spoiler too far.

feeding timeThis could have been low budget rubbish but turns into a cat and mouse exercise in conspiracy and, despite flawed performances, an excellent insight into interpersonal relationships. It really deserves a high budget remake with a decent cast (the story carries the cast, imagine such a good story with a cast good enough to carry it), better fight choreography, more interesting location use – I can see the location point but a bit of budget could have made the limited locations interesting – and a steady camera.

As things stand I think 5 out of 10 is fair. It is limited by its problems but absolutely compelling.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Five Strangers Films Ltd said...

Remake of the feature Movie Vampire Conspiracy - into a higher budget film 'Blood Game'
Become a producer on the remaking of The Vampire Conspiracy - now called "Blood Game". I'm trying to raise $100,000 to fund the film and you can become a producer. Become involved. It makes a great gift!