Monday, March 24, 2008

The Lost Platoon – review

Directed by David A Prior

Release Date: 1991

Contains spoilers

This is one I have on VHS and it is probably a spoiler to the upcoming review to state that I have no intention of getting the DVD (if it even exists). That said, there is a neat kernel of an idea hidden in this but neither the budget nor, I’m afraid, the skill to pull it off. What we essentially get is a low budget mismatch of Platoon with the vampire genre and a hefty dose of at least one character from Near Dark.

David Hollander (William Knight) is a successful war correspondent who is looking at pictures of soldiers through the ages; some of the faces are ringed. His memories take us back to the Second World War, where as a young man (Mark Andrew Shelse) he was in the US forces in France, 1944. His unit is pinned down by German soldiers.

One by one they die and Hollander is injured. Kinetic camera, ala Evil Dead, shows movement as something or someone attacks the Germans. A figure in a civil war uniform, Jonathon Hancock (David Parry), leans above the young Hollander, “You don’t want to live forever, do you?” he asks.

Nicaragua in 1991 and a village is in chaos. The villagers are rounded up and put in a truck. They are driven to an area where the insurgent leader, Vladimir (Roger Bayless), and his mistress, Tara (Michi McGee), are in a jeep sipping wine. They toast the villagers' new found freedom and his soldiers slaughter them.

Hollander has been sent to Nicaragua to cover the US efforts there. An old friend Jack (Lewis Alfred Piper) is in command. Actually Hollander has an ulterior motive, not just for being there but for being a correspondent. He wants to find the soldiers from the Second World War. As it is, they are in camp. A rag-tag group allegedly separated from their unit. Logic, at this point falls apart. Why would a separated group be kept around? Why has no comment been made re their disparate uniforms, especially a US Cavalry uniform?

Okay, so the four guys, Hancock, Walker (Stephen Quadros), Hayden (Michael Wayne) and Keeler (Sean Heyman) are vampires. Travelling from battle to battle across time. Why? Well this is one bit of lore that worked (for as we will see the lore in this is severely screwed). The power they have requires discipline (and a chain of command) or the power will hold them. It is kind of a way of keeping their vampirism in check and not letting it control them.

As for the rest of the lore. It appears that Hollander was fed blood by Hancock in WW2 and again in this movie. Why hasn’t he turned? Because you choose to turn. The vampires have telekinetic powers and can go out in daylight. The cross does not work. They are hugely strong and fast.

How to kill them then? A wooden stake through the… well just about anywhere... causes them severe pain and makes them pulsate and smoke until eventually they set alight and explode. This has to be a severe disadvantage, especially in jungle warfare. Whilst the film doesn’t mention it, one assumes they cannot be carpenters either as one errant splinter… well you get the picture. Incidentally a vampire can stand a grenade going off next to him but not inside him…

As for the bad guys, well Vladimir is a bad vampire and also, despite looking nothing like, having an Eastern European name and a slight European-esque accent, Jonathon’s brother. He let the power take control. Tara is something else, described as a familiar she is neither human nor vampire and is immune to vampire powers. When she dies (by stabbing) she spins around and then explodes. What exactly she is meant to be is never revealed.

The acting is generally poor. Quadros’ performance as Walker is so Severin from Near Dark it is untrue, but fails to be a patch on the original. Parry is okay as Hancock but Bayless, as Vladimir, not only has to struggle with some of the worst dialogue but seems uncomfortable in the role, certainly not coming across as the big bad. McGee is suitably cold as Tara.

The soundtrack is odd, quite haunting it has an eighties hang-over to it that makes it also seem quite dated. The budget lets this down a lot though Prior does his best to get past that. A wall-crawl at one point is obviously not happening, the camera tight on Hancock to hide this. Whilst it was a neat work-around it was too obviously an illusion.

I found the concept that these good guy vampires would believe helping American interventionism in Nicaragua to be a good thing somewhat distasteful and it would have hung together better if they were simply mercenary. The film tried to create the horror of war, in certain scenes, but the budget and atmosphere let that down. That said, the vampiric side is almost secondary to the war movie side; the vampires rely on guns and bombs. Having said all that I liked the general idea of vampire soldiers drifting from one war to the next.

This could have been better with a stronger dialogue, cast and more budget. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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