Friday, November 14, 2008

Blood Wars – review

dvdDirector: Tom Shell

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

It’s about time that this was released, originally entitled ‘the Thirst’ it was in production at the same time as the 2007 released the Thirst. Unfortunately, despite some medium size names in the production, this feels cheap and doesn’t achieve all that it could.

What it also doesn’t do is live up to the genre’s listed on imdb… horror, well it has vampires… thriller, not really… action, I’ll give it that it has a little… but comedy , no, I don’t think so. It does have some unusual lore that I don’t think it did enough with but let us look at the story.

Claudius attacks JasonIt begins, after some false cgi looking sewers and woods, at a party at a frat and Laurie (Stephanie Lemelin) storms out having seen boyfriend, and new campus president, Jason (Nick Holmes) with another girl. They argue and he won’t apologise as he does what feels good. So does Claudius (Jason Connery, in the second film we’ve looked at recently – the other being Brotherhood of Blood), who bites Jason and then sends him on his first kill after Laurie.

Rico and WillCollege the next day and Will (A J Draven) and Rico (Owiso Odera) are waiting for Jayne (Allison Lange), whom Will has a crush on. Indeed when she arrives, with her room mate Ashley (Rini Bell), Will can hardly speak and is coming out with all sorts of garbage. Will, it should be noted, is a non-aggressive hippy, who is over-compensating in passiveness as his father was a wife-beater.

Ashley and JayneInto the fray comes Darren (Cameron Zeidler), a frat boy, jock and bully, who used to see Ashley and now wants Jayne. He dislikes Will but is clearly wary of Rico. What we later discover is that Darren is twisted but also has powers beyond mortals and we should, now, look at the back story.

There is a coven of vampires in the area. The coven is run by Julien (Tony Todd) but he is ancient and ready to pass the leadership on. The leadership of the coven is gained by killing a sentry – a vampire hunting warrior monk. No one has killed a sentry in two centuries but witch Amelia (America Olivia) can feel one – Darren.

trying to tempt WillShe doesn’t want Claudius to become leader, which is likely, so when Will kills Darren in self defence (he was going to rape Jayne and was throttling Will) she bites Will and then tries to tempt him into drinking blood and thus fully turning. In the meantime he gets all those half vampire traits… sleeping through the day, sensitive to sunlight, body becoming toned and ripped.

Mark Ryan as ReevesNow the reason Darren was a sentry was that his father, Reeves (Mark Ryan, who worked with Jason Connery before when he protrayed Nasir in Robin of Sherwood), was a sentry – as was his mother I gather, they might be monks but that doesn’t seem to be a gender based title or a celibate order for that matter – and the power was passed to Darren who turned away from their faith. They are long lived, Reeves is 200, and it appears that many are those bitten who do not succumb to the thirst.

Amelia reveals her natureWe now have a variety of forces pulling at Will. Amelia tries to tempt him to partake of blood and become the coven leader. Claudius wants the leadership for himself. Ashley is a Goth vampire wannabe and wants to be a vampire like Will. Rico and Jayne want to help him though they aren’t clear what has happened. Reeves wants to avenge his son’s murder.

Amelia with JulienWhich would be all well and good, except that the film just kind of bibbles along and we get no real sense of tension, nor do we get a feeling that there is any form of major struggle. Part of the problem is within the coven scenes. There just didn’t seem to be any power displayed. Tony Todd is normally one Hell of a screen presence but he seemed subdued – possibly due to the fact that his character was meant to be old and tired, but nevertheless…

Claudius cries blood tearsConnery and Olivo just seemed a little whiney in those scenes. Connery should have come across as a master manipulator but came across as a bit of a petulant brat. Olivo acted the temptress really well when interacting with Draven but when in the coven scenes she was too sheepish. I seriously didn’t buy the characters at that point and the coven room itself was limited in location, feeling like some room somewhere when it should have been filled with the decadent opulence of the vampires' haven in Underworld.

The other big problem was the cheapness… all the locations felt cheap and limited and there was little in the way of atmosphere to make up for it. I don’t know why but it affected this more than other films on a budget. As for the lore, well it was unusual but they didn't go into the interesting aspects at all and so the order of monks felt like a reject from a Buffy script but nothing more - a shame as the whole concept could have been explored in some depth.

biteThe bottom line is that there was just something off about the whole affair. In a way that something is indefatigable, we can point to performances, atmosphere and budget but it was something more, an inherent failing in the film that I just can’t put my finger on. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


J.R. said...

I read a review of this movie that was very critical due to the lack of a "blood war"; if only the reviewer had known the reason behind the name change (although "The Thirst" is rather generic for a vampire film, it is more suitable than the current title and box cover, which is certainly misleading).

I did admire the fact that this movie launches right into some great vampire action in the very opening scene . . . with so many films, you wait (and wait and wait) for something to happen, and when it does it is often a let-down. But not in this case. (However, there is one obvious continuity problem: Jason is initially bitten on the right side of the neck; but in subsequent shots, the fang marks and blood appear only on the left side.) Having the conservative student-body president turn into a vampire in the opening scene was an intriguing move, as was the fate of his counterpart, the goth girl/vampire wannabe.

The main character, on the other hand, came across as too whimpy . . . he was, of course, counterbalanced by the slayer's son, who was so overly aggressive that he become ridiculous (or, at the very least, just not believable; this same dualism afflicted Todd and Connery, the former being too flaccid, the latter too haughty).

So my main complaint here is not so much with the storyline, but with the acting . . . the main character, in particular, just did not have enough charisma to hold interest. As a result, there was never really any doubt that he would "turn to the dark side", and this collapsed the premise of the movie. Kudos for the action sequences and strong sense of pacing, though.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi JR, good to hear from you.

They say never judge a book by its cover but, even so, I can understand why the reviewer would have wondered at the lack of the blood war, given the automatic weapons being carried on the cover of this (as well as the name) - as you mention.

Can't disagree with your sentiments around the opening and I agree the acting let this down.

The aspect I couldn't put my finger on might actually be the dynamics you mention (and that I alluded to, iro the coven at least). This is an acting issue, but is also a scripting and direction issue. Or at least it might be that, there was just something about this that didn't gel for me.

J.R. said...

Hey Tali . . .
I agree that the director should have picked up on the performance problems, i.e. the over- and underacting of some of the key characters. With the presumably small budget, though, I expect he did not have the luxury of doing a slew of retakes.

Still, I think the majority of the performances, as well as the action sequences, work quite well . . . but it is hard to overcome the underwhelming performance given by the main character (from watching the BTS featurettes on YouTube, I can only assume he was hired more for his martial arts background than for any acting abilities, which were hard to spot).