Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Brotherhood of Blood – review

dvdDirectors: Michael Roesch & Peter Scheerer

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

This should have worked, it really should of. Despite inescapable trailers at the beginning of the DVD for Uwe Boll films my anticipation was not lessened. We had a vampire film with Sid Haig, Ken Foree and Jason Connery (actually he is in a couple and Blood Wars has been set for a release – US market – a week after this – UK market). More than that I was looking forward to seeing Victoria Pratt in action. (Later I discovered this Uwe Boll connection was unsurprising as writers/directors Michael Roesch & Peter Scheerer are heavily associated with Boll)

First of all let us get rid of a couple of synopsis errors. One synopsis suggested this was a “Claustrophobic thriller about a team of vampire hunters who infiltrate a nest of undead to rescue one of their own.” Actually, I think you’ll find they do not do this. The DVD box suggests “…she is not here to kill him. Instead she wishes to join forces with her immortal enemies…” Ok, its mentioned at one point but it is not why Carrie (Victoria Pratt) is in her predicament. The plot is non-linear but, whilst this works to a degree, it isn’t a patch on such noirish efforts as Rise: Blood Hunter. I’ll straighten the plot out as we look at this, and whilst avoiding the twist we’ll discover that this is otherwise impossible to spoil in any meaningful way.

Romanian folk artWe begin in a run down church in Romania, three weeks ago. What we discover – through the running time of the film – is that an architect, Chris (Darrin James), was over there doing some restoration work. In the church he found a fascinating mural and some bones – the skull had rather sharp pointy teeth. Was it me, or was the bad man (Vlad Kossel) portrayed in the mural altogether too Lord of the Nazgul?

Thomas and ForkThe film then cuts over to San Pedro, time frame now, and Thomas (William Snow, whom we’ve met before in the Lost World: Vampires) looks set to be tortured by vampires. He is, we discover, the brother of Chris and the vampires are searching for the missing, vampirised, sibling. Also in the room is Carrie.

Thomas starts babbling about a cure and it appears that Carrie – part of a group of vampire hunters – convinced Thomas that she was a doctor and that they were on the verge of a cure that they could apply to his brother. The leader of this little group is Fork (Wes Ramsey) and he knows Carrie’s tricks – when he was a vampire hunter they were lovers.

A stake through the headCarrie knows that he is working for Pashek (Sid Haig) and demands to speak to him. She throws, from her chained up grasp, a little wood symbol (think Blair Witch) that just happens – we discover later – to be the symbol of Vlad Kossel. Fork goes to speak to Pashek but he orders her execution. In the meantime she has managed to break her bonds and, having staked one vampire through the head and killed another, seals the room off.

Jason Connery as KeatonSubsequently the film follows her escape attempts and what brought her there. I guess the jumping time frames were placed in to keep things interesting. We meet a group of vampire hunters led by Keaton (Jason Connery). They are not your normal vampire hunter with a holy mission, they are very much mercenaries. This aspect was not explored enough.

Victoria Pratt as CarrieCarrie and Keaton return from a mission with rookie Derek (Jeremy James Kissner) to find the rest of their group slaughtered (they are one of three hunter cells wiped out in a night). Within the chaos Carrie is attacked by a vampire named Stanis (Ken Foree) – they manage to capture him. He is carrying an old (metal it appears) stake with the mark of Vlad Kossel on it. Indeed several of the vampires have recently.

torture of a vampireNow, Stanis was a little bit of a disappointment all told. Foree dressed like a pirate vampire and was altogether far too jolly – even when being tortured. The torture consisted of cutting a finger off and ripping his fangs out. There was some talk of 'using the hooks' but I guess this was either stylistically or cost wise a step too far as it was neatly side-stepped. When Stanis mentions Vlad Kossel, Keaton puts two and two together.

Kossel's executionIt appears that Kossel was the vampire bogeyman – an unstoppable force of evil that even the vampires feared, he could daywalk and had an unquenchable thirst for blood; actually think Drake in Blade Trinity as the concept is pretty much a rip off of this without the fancy morphing effects. The vampires and humans banded together to kill him – in a big bonfire. Indeed Pashek claims that St George (patron saint of vampire hunters) was really he and he slew Kossel (rather than a dragon).

sub-BladerunnerKossel’s bones were the ones found in Romania and an accidental cutting of a finger on the fangs led to the spirit of Kossel finding a new host. However the host must kill off all his familial blood to come into full power. Carrie shoots off to rescue Thomas, when Pashek’s men capture both of them – leading to the start of the film. During the capture she manages to do something (set off a light flare it seemed) that is causing Fork’s hand to rot and the rot will spread. Exactly what she did and the upshot of the damage is never really satisfactorily revealed and just leads to a sub-Bladerunner nail in the hand moment.

As you can see there is a lot of story flying around – most of it pointless. The issues the vampire hunters have with money and each other is pointless as a few frames later most are dead. The relationship between Carrie and Fork is pointless except as a rather sappy foil when he lets her escape. The effect that coming face to face with a slaughter and torture has on Derek’s young mind is avoided altogether.

effect of sunlightLore wise, they sleep in coffins, light flares stun them and sunlight will make them burn in a rush of poor cgi effects. A stake through the heart seems to be effective but then again so does shooting at them. We have the entire Kossel back story, of course, which was interesting if a little derivative in places.

Pashek and CarrieThe film feels cheap – that is the best way to describe it. You can see it in the lighting, I have seen worse but it was pedestrian at best and too dark at other times. The too few sets, the costumes – everything feels hurried. So it comes as no surprise to discover it was filmed in just twelve days. This means that Foree and Haig are underused and that Connery almost becomes pointless, except as a foil. Haig and Connery make the best of what they have to work with, Foree, unfortunately, seemed to think he was in a pirate vampire comedy and I doubt that was his fault. As much story as there was the actual dialogue was more than a little hinkey.

is it me, or is it cold?Pratt looks marvellous and puts in a fairly good performance however even this isn’t enough to escape the splintered and derivative plot, that seems to lead nowhere and then the ending… Without spoiling the twist I can tell you that the film just doesn’t end. It reaches a ‘to be continued…’ point that is unsatisfying to say the least. In fact the entire thing feels like a middle episode of a TV series… and the Telly Gods have conspired to make it impossible to see anything before or after this episode. This leaves you with a flat, unfulfilled feeling.

No amount of story is actually worthwhile, certainly in this sort of film, if the story fails to go anywhere. 3 out of 10 – for the flashes of goodness that should had led to this being a lot better than it is.

The imdb page is here.


J.R. said...

The one synopsis that you quote about this being a "claustrophobic thriller" reminds me that 90% of the scenes in this movie take place in rooms that are about the size of a walk-in closet . . .

The jumping back and forth in time seemed like an attempt to obscure the poorly developed story . . . what is the point of making a movie about vampires when none of them even bites anyone?

I will say that the vam-pirate character was a hoot . . . he obviously stood out like a sore thumb, but at least this made his scenes somewhat interesting (unlike the rest of this snooze-fest).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi JR - I mentioned the too few sets, but not how cramped they were, thanks for the reminder as they were very cramped.

I agree that the story was poorly developed - at least there was one, and it could have been good. This was the shame of the entire film; it could have been good and it failed, miserably.

cheers for the comment