Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dominion – review

Director: Todd Sheets

Release Date: 1992

Contains spoilers

As this started, the first thing I thought was ‘wow, this is a sh*t video transfer.’ The fact that the “Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares” DVD set lists this as 2004 doesn’t help with the feeling, as this was obviously shot on an old school video recorder and one wonders why it wasn’t shot on digi-cam at least – then we discover it was really shot some 12 years before the listing. Doesn’t stop it looking like crap but it explains a lot.

The film begins with a young girl, Elizabeth, with her journal. Hopefully she was reading her journal, which told the tale of how her brother Cabal (Stefan Hilt) vanished some three weeks before, as she certainly wasn’t writing in it – not the way in which her pen floated above the paper and waved around in some bizarre arcane way.

Anyway, Cabal then appears at the window and… you know what we suddenly realise we are watching a poorly shot rip off of one of the seminal scenes in ’Salem’s Lot. We also note that neither child involved can act and that the lack of atmosphere is not helped by the sub-Carpenter synth soundtrack. Cabal asks to be let in – he needs an invitation (remember that, we’ll talk continuity soon enough) – and she produces a cross. He might have flung his arms up in horror, for all we know, as they don’t bother with a reaction shot.

Cue credits and, bizarrely, we actually get a more atmospheric soundtrack (for a while at least) – musical boxes (or synth equivalents) always add a level of creep. Anyway, the film restarts and we see the journal being put in a case with a cross and some stakes by a grandmotherly looking lady who, it turns out, is Elizabeth (Carol Barta).

The police have a problem. Detectives Roger Williams (Frank Dunlay) and Stan Lotus (Charles Monroe) have a spate of killings (13 to be precise) and all the victims have lacerated throats and the blood is gone. Hanging around is rookie Clarence (Auggi Alvarez) – a guy with great academy test results… whatever. Stan actually mentions vampires but is clear to state that he means someone who thinks he is.

When another body shows up, Elizabeth appears and clues them in. There is a sub-story featuring Beth (Julia Anne Clark) and her god-bothering step-mom (Dana Pace), which goes nowhere – except that Beth wants to see the band Enochian Key – which pigs mom off and happens to be a vampire front.

Cabal has a plan. He is going to resurrect the head vampire Enoch by hanging him on a cross at the concert, locking the doors, killing everyone and then resurrecting him in the sea of blood. Problem… there are about 12 people at the concert (when we get to it), no-one locks the doors and they all escape. It is a huge plot point not used and plagued with gaping continuity and this is a problem all the way through.

For instance, the cops go in an abandoned subway/sewer and are attacked. Somehow Williams has taken a stake with him (he doesn’t believe in vampires) and stakes one of them. Later a victim rises in front of Clarence and the cops suddenly believe in Elizabeth’s story but seemed to have ignored the evidence from their sewer trip.

When going to the concert they enter (they being Clarence, Williams, Elizabeth and retired cop Jack Sheppard (Emmett Brennan) who is there with the promise of some wrinkly romance with old friend Elizabeth) and are attacked. Elizabeth has to then go out of the building again and get her vampire hunting case (why not take the case or the contents with them in the first instance?), drops it in the ‘lobby’ and then suddenly has it with her on the stage! Incidentally Cabal needed inviting in to enter his erstwhile home but two vampire prostitutes are able to enter someone’s home sans invite.

The vampires fear the cross as it is a symbol of good and love and caring and what they can never retrieve in their lives and yet use a cross on stage. Crosses working because vampires are evil and the cross is a symbol of divinity blessed by a priest as a servant of God I can handle, simply working because the wielder has faith in that symbol I can handle and working because of a reaction to Euclidean Geometry I can handle. This didn’t work – at all.

The vampires feeding pattern is more akin to a zombie, ripping and tearing at flesh in good old Romero style. I can handle that and yet there was a credit for a person who either bought or made the fangs… what fangs? Actually, we see fangs later in a post-script that was entirely without plot connection. Some vampires rot when staked, others just vanish. Indeed staking works because of the damage caused to the heart and the fact that the stake stays there – a bullet passes through and so the vampire heals. Now I am no gun expert but even I know there is ammunition design to expand on impact and not pass through the body – by the film’s own rules this sort of ammo should work, especially as a chainsaw in the chest seems to work also.

The video transfer looks awful and is totally washed out (and glitchy in places). There is no point in showing blood on snow when the blood is a (very) few black specks. Indeed there is little point in having extended driving scenes when it is clear that the car is stationary, there is no external reference, the actor is moving the wheel haphazardly and it is clear the car is being rocked to simulate movement.

It is rare that I look at a bad movie and think I could do better. I clearly could not in most cases; I have not the temperament, money or artistic edge for visual media. In this case I could – I’d have at least ensured that the plot made sense and the gaping continuity that appeared in a 67 minute film was not quite so apparent.

Rubbish. 0 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this one sounds particularly bad. I don't know how you do it.

If this was really shot 12 years ago, sounds like it set on a shelf all that time and finally someone figured they might as well make something off of it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Mateo

Actually it was 16 years ago, 12 years earlier than the listed date in the DVD set. You could be right, however, about figuring they could make something out of it.