Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Feast of Flesh – review


Directed by: Mike Watt

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

I found myself rather torn when it came to this movie. You see its story was basic and so splintered within its own direction that it was difficult to appreciate it. There was something off within the look – which I’ll mention again in a second – and yet there was a lore aspect that was excellent and then there was the gore…

The film starts with an alley and it is here that the look, and the sound, first felt suspect. Obviously recorded on digi-cam the look betrayed that and yet it was more than that which felt off. It was later I realised it was the lighting. Not that it is too dark – often a complaint with budget end films – but that it seemed non-descript, reliant on natural light almost. As for the sound, well when we see a girl, Terri (Stacey Bartlebaugh-Gmys), attacked by a mugger (Tim Gross) we hear a punch that was just false, it sounded post-production and dispelled any suspension of disbelief.

gore momentAt this point I was already feeling bad about the film and then… the mugger was attacked by a vampire, Pris (Alyssa Herron), who bites him and then rips his face off. I mean ripped right off and… it looked ace. They really did gore this up in places and kudos to them. Sometimes the blood seemed a little weak coloured, in other gore sections, but this was a great effect.

Anyway, basic story is that John (Steve Foland) enters a poker game with the sole aim of winning an invite to the Bathory House. This is an infamous brothel in town that you only get into by invitation. His main motivation is the fact that his friends, Aaron (Jeff Waltrowski) and his girlfriend Jess (Zoe Hunter), want to experience a brothel (and a threesome) before they marry. He also wants to take Seth (Aaron Bernard), who lost his girlfriend Terri a month before when she moved to New York.

at the brothelSeth refuses to go and so John, Aaron and Jess attend the place. However, when the Madame, Elizabet (Amy Lynn Best), shows them the whores he recognises Terri (who doesn’t seem to recognise him). John leaves his friends to it and goes to tell Seth. I should mention – at this point – that the combination of Elizabet and the Bathory House might be referential to Erzsébet Báthory but I didn’t get the impression that she was meant to actually be Báthory.

meet vampire hunters, get gunsAnyway, the couple become vampire food. John tells Seth about Terri’s new situation in a bar and is overheard. They are taken from said bar by a group of Irish vampire hunters led by Sheridan (Mike Watt). It seems there is a Treaty between the hunters and the vampires. The hunters leave them be but the vampires lure victims and new vampires from out of town. By turning (though she isn’t fully turned at that point) Terri, a local girl, they have broken the Treaty.

burning with faithIt is all a big mistake – Pris thought Terri was getting off the bus and not on it – but the Treaty falls apart and we get raid and counter raid. The story isn’t that exacting but the lore is interesting. The vampires can be warded by things that the person has faith in. Anything that they have faith in. Vampire hunter Tom (Bill Homan) burns Elizabet’s face with a dollar bill as he has faith in money. We have seen similar before, Doctor Who- The Curse of Fenric springs to mind, but this was really well explored.

Sheridan turnedSheridan had been turned by Elizabet and cured himself. Using the same method he cures Terri. This is via holy water injection and Sheridan blesses the water himself. Because he has faith it works, burning like acid but curing the vampire, however he has to keep eye contact so that the vampire is aware of his faith (this was less well explored). Incidentally the fact that he had been turned removes Elizabet’s need to be invited to where he is based.

starving vampireVampires who do not feed become rotten and weak and this is done as a punishment for deliberate breaking of the treaty. It is clear that sunlight hurts and staking seems to be effective generally, or perhaps any piercing of the heart though that wasn’t too clear. For specific reasons Elizabet seems immune to this.

Debbie Rochon as CarmillaWe see a flash back to her mistress, Carmilla (Debbie Rochon), who became sick of the constant fighting with hunters and committed vampiric suicide. She did this by stabbing something in a box… and frustratingly the film only hinted that this was her heart (through use of a heartbeat sound effect). Removal of a vampire’s heart to keep it safe is not a new idea – it was certainly in the first Vampire the Masquerade Computer Game as a concept – but it is a fairly obscure lore idea. It is apparent that Elizabet has done the same thing.

sucking on a wristThe story is disjointed in places and has holes and omissions. Why didn’t Terri recognise John? What do vampire hunters do with their time when they have a Treaty with the local vampires (perhaps hunt out of town? It is hinted but not explicitly answered). How long has Sheridan been at war with the vampires – thus how old is he? Why does Terri go back to the vampires when she can’t feed from a mortal?

Stacey Bartlebaugh-Gmys as TerriSome of the acting was weak – I was not convinced by Bartlebaugh-Gmys performance as Terri, she seemed a little vacuous and certainly I couldn’t see her being next in line for control of the vampires. I actually liked Best as Elizabet and was quite taken by Watt as Sheridan (despite the fact that I had my doubts when he first appeared). The rest were, in the main, passable but nothing to write home about.

Zora the vampireIf this had been tidied up story wise and if lighting had been more effectively used then the film could have been a good film as the lore was really interesting. As it was it fell short but the flashes of gore and the lore moments kept my interest in place. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Amateur Vampirologist said...

"Removal of a vampire’s heart to keep it safe is not a new idea – it was certainly in the first Vampire the Masquerade Computer Game as a concept – but it is a fairly obscure lore idea."

A similar idea was also used in Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood (1996). Not sure if the game prefigures the game, though.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi AV, the game (Redemption) was 2000 - though the lore in Bordello was slightly different.

Lilith could only be killed by remoing her heart and quartering it. Put the quarters next to each other and they reformed, put the heart back in the corpse she came back to life. In this (and in redemption) the vampire with the removed heart continues to function whjilst the heart is removed (actually it was something done, briefly, in From Dusk til Dawn)