Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Last – review

cover

Director: Andy Hill

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

The Last is a bit of an oddity, go google and you’ll find little about it plus the imdb page has totally screwed up the cast listing (at the time of posting), I’ve used the actual film’s credits. However it was on Zone Horror and so I dutifully watched it – actually I missed the first half an hour when it last aired, oops, so caught it all this time around.

The film suffers from some below par performances and a lack of exposition and yet has a stylistic level that belies the fact that it was shot on an obviously low budget. It reinvents the vampire myth but doesn’t explain to us this new mythology in enough detail. The story suffers from what may be potential holes, or perhaps lack of proper explanation. It has pretensions to be more than it really is… and perhaps that is no bad thing.

the orbWe begin with Professor Wombat (Darren Bridget) retrieving an artefact known as the orb from a drawer. Why the Professor is called Wombat was beyond me, perhaps it was an in joke but the writer should note that words have power and – though we do not discover his name till later – it was a poor choice. Nevertheless Wombat opens the orb and syringes some blood like liquid from within. He sends it for testing and, on seeing the results, the lab technician phones a superior.

Sean with WombatA bike riding young man, Sean Barrister (Bill Beckwith), enters Wombat's offices with the Professor’s mail – he is one of the students. He has the lab results and the Professor quizzes him as to whether he has looked at the results. Sean hasn’t but states he could help, however the rule is only one person studies an artefact at a time – at least for this artefact.

David Skillman as the RedmanWombat goes to meet a homeless man, the Redman (David Skillman), who has a habit of talking to himself. The Redman asks whether *it* was pre-Byzantium, and the Professor admits it to be true. He asks the Redman to hide the orb as he is worried. The Redman tells him that *they* are already here.

Michael Platt as SamWe cut to a suit, who goes by the name of Sam Faulkner (Michael Platt in, for me, a rather unconvincing performance). Sam talks to one of his security guards and asks him to retrieve a further sample of the blood they have just tested – it has unique properties. The security guard and another man go to the University. Wombat puts his data onto pen drive, wipes his hard drive and legs it. The men kill him and ransack the office – for some reason leaving the pen drive, which is on his key ring. Meanwhile Sean has met a young lady in a club by the name of Christine (Caroline Cole).

Sean is visited by a man named Vladimir Miklos (Bruno Kanter) who tells him that Wombat is dead and that he would like Sean to continue with the research on some artefacts that Miklos had provided – specifically the orb. Is this true? Who knows? Certainly we see Wombat find the artefact in a dig, something about it worries him (beyond the lab sending heavies to get the sample) and the Redman warns of *them*. If Miklos is lying then why hadn’t he already retrieved the orb?

Caroline Cole as ChristineSean checks Wombat's offices with Miklos and finds the dead man's keys, with the pen drive still attached to the ring. Later he phones Miklos and suggests they check the Professor’s car. Sean turns up at the parking lot with Christine – he tells his new boss that she is his assistant – but we know that Sam has intercepted his call and the heavies turn up. Sean has found a note book. The heavies try to get it and shoot Miklos, consequently running away. Sean and Christine put the body in the boot of Miklos’ own car. That didn’t make much sense.

the immortal parasiteDriving along it appears that Christine has the notebook. She hears a noise and they open the boot. A very much alive Miklos climbs out. He admits he is what they would call a vampire (calling himself an immortal parasite) but he is not like the myths; he doesn’t sleep in a coffin, he can’t transform and he doesn’t seduce women with his mind. We have already seen that sunlight has no effect. He suggests that Wombat was helping him and the orb contains the blood of the eldest of them, without that blood he will die.

high on a biteWe hear more later, when Sam reads the notes. The orb contains the blood of King Nucala – who drank the blood of his enemies and made them his soulless slaves – the kaftari. Later we see that the bite of the vampire can be addictively narcotic, forcing people to help the vampire due to the dependence they feel. The stylised shot of a bite high is well done.

We hear more through the Redman – who has left clues to the orb’s whereabouts. He is clearly barking mad but he talks about the impact of an ancient civilisation – not human – on our world. He always seems to refer to the vampires in plural but we only ever see Miklos.

Things, however, are never as simple as they should be and somehow Sam has a trace on Sean’s activities.

cross in eyes during turningWe have covered some of the lore already. The rest is minimal. A human can be turned and when they are a cross appears in their eyes. It was a lovely shot but meaningless. Perhaps it referenced the crucifix myth. The vampires can be staked through the heart, they are incredibly fast, seeming to blink from one place to another and are very strong.

The acting is sub-par from a lot of the cast. Kanter’s performance put me in mind of Udo Kier in Blood for Dracula, though without Kier’s inner charisma. Beckwith came across as rather personable but had a definite inexperience to his performance. That said he seemed as though he could only improve as his career builds.

fangs a lotThe real problem came in story and pacing. Too many coincidental things happen that are, allegedly, manipulated but we wonder how. There is a noir quality that the film threatens to lose within the pacing. Such events as going into a furniture shop, after Sean realises they need to speak to The Redman and before being able to go and find him, served only to spoil the pace – and added nothing to either characterisation or plot.

a victimThere are some beautifully shot moments. The body of a victim, whose death showed us that the bite of a vampire need not be pleasurable, reflected in the table and the pooling blood was a very well constructed shot indeed. The ending is explosively violent, but the previous pace takes something from that. The soundtrack is excellent throughout.

The film tries and threatens to succeed, only to pull back from the brink. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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