Monday, December 08, 2008

Immortal Ecstasy – review

dvdDirected by: Desi Scarpone

Release date: 2004

Contains spoilers

You know what; I much prefer the title Immortal Ecstasy to the accurately functional alternative title Dark Town. Also, despite itself, despite being a digi-cam shot low budget flick, I quite like this. Of course, how I would have felt if, when I first saw it, I had realised it was meant to be a loose, modernised remake of the Wurdalak segment of Black Sabbath is another matter altogether… Let us leave that one at the door and pretend it was never suggested, trust me it’s for the best…

So, having forgotten that what we have is a tad reminiscent of the Night of the Living Dead, with perhaps a touch of Salem’s Lot. There is also a little bit of in your face social commentary but we’ll get to that.

strange interlopersThe film starts with Curtis Armstrong Snr (Joel King) approaching a warehouse he owns. He is sure there is someone in there but, as he searches, he uses derogatory anti-Hispanic language. This is the start of the social commentary I mentioned; white middle class capitalist is a racist. He sees a man with a girl in a mask. As he backs away we see a flash of fangs and blood.

The credits show us the Armstrong family and, from the home video and photos we get the sense that they are an average functional family – though a subliminal darkness does edge through some of the collage. Perhaps mom, Sandy (Alison Dian Miller), isn’t as happy as the films would lead us to believe. As well as mom there is, we find out later, estranged lesbian social worker daughter Jen (Janet Martin), son Curtis Jr (Curtis Nysmith) whose wife Ellen (Claire Mills) is expecting and youngest daughter, and gang-banger, Heather (Sarah Horvath). As the film starts we get an answer to our suspected darkness – dad has had an affair, he has ditched the mistress but she is ringing with threatening phone calls.

It is Dad’s birthday and the clan are gathering but, out in the streets other things are afoot. For a start off there are occasional black outs. Then gang members are out and about. A group of youths see some gang members and one, Rakeem (Delpano Wills), notices that his sister Tisha (Kobina Knight) is with them. He tries to take her home – we discover that he feels guilty as he was studying when his younger brother was killed, in a fire at the Armstrong’s warehouse. A drug deal goes wrong whilst they are there and one of Cinque’s (Noah Knight) crew is injured. He has to stash his stuff at his girlfriend’s home – who happens to be Heather.

vampire abortionSo there is a lot going on and people are strangely connected. However, nothing is as strange as what is going on at the Armstrong house. Curtis Snr gets home and is acting odd. He makes Curtis Jr and Sandy drink from a flask (that happens to contain his blood) before going to see Heather and biting her. Yes he is now a vampire. He drives off with Ellen – who is scared she is having a miscarriage – leaving behind a bag with the still blinking head of Mikos – the vampire from the warehouse. There then follows quite a gross scene as Curtis Snr rips the foetus from the mother and shows it to her before abandoning her in a field.

Heather turnedJen and her girlfriend Lisa (Meghan Stansfield) have reached the house but the occupants are acting strangely. Heather has eaten her cat, an entrée before devouring her boyfriend when he turns up, and Curtis Jr has realised that dad has poisoned him with something. Meanwhile Rakeem and friends have found Mikos’ decapitated body and, because it is near an Armstrong warehouse, Rakeem suddenly decides to get some revenge for his brother.

Delpano Wills as RakeemDue to over-enthusiastic neighbourhood watch guys, and a shotgun, Rakeem and friends end up performing an impromptu home invasion at the Armstrong’s just as Hell is breaking out. Remember I mentioned Night of the Living Dead, well it is like that but in reverse as the creatures are inside and the survivors are trying to get out. There isn’t much more storywise, it is fairly much gory survival horror here on in.

No TrespassingNot entirely true, to be fair. Remember that social commentary I mentioned. Well we had the bad white capitalist who is now a vampire and spreading his evil to all and sundry, though the poor and disadvantaged are more used as food – actually we can see this metaphor pushed even further when they use the still living body of one of Rakeem’s friends to make a no trespassing sign. However, it is possible to fight the vampirism and it is Jen, the lesbian social worker (progressive liberal), working with Rakeem, a black youth from the inner city, that can bring this social ill, caused by The Man, to an end.

feed blood to turnThe vampirism is passed on by an exchange of fluids. As I said, mostly it is neighbours from the suburban area that are turned, though Ellen turns Tisha as a replacement for her lost baby – biting her neck and then feeding her from the breast in a way that is reminiscent of Dracula feeding Mina.

neck woundThere is a lot of gore – these vampires like to eat flesh as well as suckle on blood, and whilst they must choose to turn someone and are capable of rational thought they are, perhaps, a little more zombie like than other vampires – Sandy describes it like being caught within a dream. They can be killed by sunlight and destruction of the heart. Actually we get to see, at one point, the results of not hacking a head off properly.

Joel King as Curtis SnrIt was a pointless attempt to despatch the vampire anyway, as decapitation is not a way to kill a vampire. Mikos’ head survives, we also get another character losing their head and then placing it under the arm and continuing to fight looking like some kind of headless ghost. Or at least he should. One of the problems is that not all the effects work too well and he grows about 6-12 inches – clearly because the clothes are pulled above the actor’s head.

baby's got blue eyesThe fangs and the eyes don’t always work. The colouration of the fangs can be off and they can be a little thick for the actors and therefore impede speech. The pale blue vampire eyes are clearly contacts. Neither the colour of the fangs or the contacts would be too much of an issue but we do get some lingering shots that make the issues too obvious. Incidentally, the code later in the film seems to be natural eye-colour, regain control, pale blue, ravening beast.

licking blood from the floorI was impressed with the lighting in that it never became too dark to see what was going on and there were some iconic vampire images. The view of Curtis Jr licking blood off the floor worked well and reminded me of the similar scene in Cronos. The acting wasn’t fantastic, but it did the job for what we were seeing and there was quite a bit of bare flesh on show from time to time.

Janet Martin as JenThe biggest problem was probably the fact that there was very little story, just survival horror – the earlier convoluted 'everyone knows each other' story was a little too convoluted but did allow for some character insight despite not leading to major plot points later on. However if you know that plot light survival horror is what you’re getting then that is fine from time to time.

This is far from a perfect film but for a newish, low budget affair it isn’t too shabby. I actually do quite like this one. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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