Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Vamp or Not? Slaughterhouse Rock

This was a flick, directed by Dimitri Logothetis, from 1988 and it doesn’t mention vampire once within the film. However, whilst the main character is a sort of demon/ghost/sorcerer hybrid, there is enough in it to warrant looking at as a ‘Vamp or Not?’

The film begins with a corridor, which is partially flooded, and torches along its walls seem to light themselves as something moves along it. As the water becomes deeper a skeletal corpse floats up with a piece of wood lodged in its chest. Whilst this seems particularly vamp it was, perhaps, accidental as a piece of imagery.

The camera keeps cutting to the arm of someone chained up, as the form moves along the corridor. In panic a knife is pulled from the chest of another corpse and we see the prisoner hacking at the chains. Large monstrous hands grab the corpse and rip its head off.

Alex (Nicholas Celozzi) awakens from his dream and sees that his hand has been hacked off. He then awakens from that dream.

We then see him outside a library with his housemates, Jack (Steven Brian Smith) and Marty (Ty Miller), they have a newspaper and it contains a report that the members of a heavy metal band, fronted by Sammy Mitchell (Toni Basil), were all killed on a trip to Alcatraz. The housemates connect this with his dream and suggest he sees a doctor as his nightmares (and subsequent screams) are keeping them awake.

Alex also shares the house with his brother Richard (Tom Reilly) and we next see the house being visited by Richard’s girl Krista (Hope Marie Carlton) and her friend Jan (Tamara Hyler) – who has a crush on Alex. The film, for some time, is then dominated by Alex’s nightmares. They get worst, invading his mind as daydreams when he is out with Jan and causing him to scream in class.

This gets his teacher, Carolyn (Donna Denton), involved. She comes round to see him when he is in bed, and meets Jen. They smell fire and Alex’s bed is ablaze – in his dream he is in a burning prison cell. When he awakens the fire vanishes. Carolyn has a manuscript, which was found on Alcatraz, which tells of a fort Commandant (Al Fleming) who performed black rituals on the island. She feels that it is connected.

Alex isn’t interested – he is too scared - but when his next dream causes him to levitate then he, his housemates, the girls and the teacher all head off to Alcatraz to face his fears. Once there Alex is grabbed by Sammy, who has been sending him the dreams to communicate with him, having accidentally freed the Commandant’s spirit – begging the question how had the dreams been occurring for some time before the film commencement? Richard is grabbed by the Commandant who tears out his soul and possesses his body.

Now it is here that we start seeing some of the vampire like tendencies. When alive the Commandant messed with the occult and became something else – described in the film as demonic. He had a taste for human flesh. He was killed by fire, but his ashes were still powerful. In Richard’s body he has funky eyes and fangs.

He is a killer and, whilst he does break necks and punch through heads, he has a tendency to bite at the neck to kill, which was very vampire like not only content wise but visually within the film. Killing does not keep him alive, per se, but does give him power. He keeps the souls of all those whom he kills and they are the source of his power. This also means they can appear to the psychic Alex and moan at him in a very American Werewolf rip off way.

To kill him forever he must be burnt (in his new body), for some reason unexplained this is to be done in the old prison chapel. At the same time, in astral form, Alex has to open the door that holds in the stolen souls. His astral projection is caused by Sammy, who does a ritual that looks suspiciously like an excuse to have Toni Basil do some odd dance moves.

Bizarrely, when Alex is in the astral corridor, so to speak, Richard (possessed) is hitting walls and causing struts to fall on Alex – the damage in the astral affecting his physical body. However, in the corridor we see the true demonic form of the Commandant, simultaneously to seeing Richard in possessed form. How could the spirit of the Commandant be possessing a body and in the astral at the same time? Bad plotting is the only phrase to describe this.

Some vampiric references are mentioned in the dialogue. Referring to Alex and his dreams Jack suggests that they drive a stake through his heart and get it over with. He later, when landing on Alcatraz island, wonders whether they should have brought silver bullets and garlic. The possessed Richard is also rather horny and does attempt a rape of Krista and is lured to the chapel by a wanton act by Carolyn.

The film is poor. The direction is stodgy, there are plot holes a plenty. The acting leaves much to be desired and, if you combine that with under-developed characters, you are left with no sympathy for any of the potential victims and thus really couldn’t care what happens to them. The effects aren’t great, one dream sees Alex have his torso ripped open but there is no gore and it looks so false it is untrue.

There is plenty within this that has been ripped off from the vampire genre, it is badly referential of the genre (and quotes the Exorcist, as well as ripping off American Werewolf). It is on a vampire filmography I have and I’d say deserves its place on it. Don’t expect a great film, however.

The imdb page is here.

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