Sunday, January 04, 2009

First Impressions – Demons

opening creditsSo the first of this new (6 part I believe) series aired last night and the first episode, directed by Tom Harper, was called “They Bite” – a promising title as the premise was set around the last Van Helsing. Did it live up to the promise, to be honest I struggled catching a vampiric element but we’ll get to that…

demon monkey thingWe begin in a school and a secretary (Cloudia Swann) is unfortunate enough to walk in on a little demon monkey creature going through the office. It leaps and then we see, from outside, the windows blow out. The monkey thing scurries out of a window and into the coat of a weird looking gentleman with sharp teeth. Is he a vampire?

Is Redlip a vampire?Frankly, I don’t think so. He is called Redlip (Martin Hancock) and according to the show’s website he is a type 5 entity (I’ll get to types) who eats ‘fresh meat’ or, when not available, cockroaches. It is also mentioned that he has a stutter and in the show we see that he brings his waste up as a bolus rather than go to the toilet in a conventional way.

Philip Glennister as RupertThe incursion, if you like, is investigated by Rupert Galvin (Philip Glennister), a hunter of the supernatural who has the habit of using the word smite. He realises that they have details now of Luke (Christian Cooke), his godson. I have to ask at this point, what was going on with Glennister’s accent? An American twang that made him sound like he wanted to be in a noir movie but ended up in this – actually, according to Glennister in an online feature the character is an American ex-CIA agent, so there you go. He has to reintroduce himself into Luke’s life.

Christian Cooke as LukeHe vanished after Luke’s father (Thomas Arnold), a fellow hunter, was killed on the job. Jenny (Saskia Wickham), Luke’s mum, did not know what her husband did. Luke has his mum’s name rather than his father’s name and so is unaware that he is a Van Helsing. The supernatural want him for what he might become as it seems that, being a Van Helsing, he has inherited special powers such as super fast reflexes. Vampire wise, of course, Van Helsing was in Dracula. Rupert informs Luke that the use of the name by Bram Stoker was Victorian-era identity theft.

Zoe Tapper as Mina HarkerRupert takes Luke out and they go to watch a concert performance by Mina Harker (Zoe Tapper), a blind singer and the name, of course, is significant. She gives Luke a pendant which contains a key code to enter the Stacks – Van Helsing’s library. Later we hear that Jonathon Harker was Van Helsing’s assistant. What isn’t mentioned is that Mina was his wife and thus rather old and yet young looking. Here is one of vampiric connections, not only a name taken from Dracula but, according to the website:

“Using dialysis to clean her blood and fight off the vampire curse that lies within her, Mina has been fighting her own war against the Half-Lives who have so blighted her own existence. When Galvin and later, Luke and Ruby, join her in the fight against the Half-Lives, Mina realises that for the first time in more than 80 years she has friends. Now blind, and reliant on her 'second sight', she has no thoughts for finding love or happiness again – she has a job to do and that's all she cares about.”

This might come out in the series but wasn’t explicit in the first episode. Indeed when Luke mentions vampires and werewolves, Rupert clearly states that they do not name the freaks – as he calls, what the show also terms, half-lives – just categorise them, the higher the number the more powerful, and smite them. A get out if ever I heard it.

Mackenzie Crook as Gladiolus ThripAlso drawn into this world is Luke’s friend Ruby (Holliday Grainger), someone to add peril to Luke’s life it seems and I would have been more impressed had it become apparent that she was working with the half-lives but we don't get anything so neatly twisted - she is simply a damsel in distress. The man behind the attacks on Luke is one Gladiolus Thrip (Mackenzie Crook). A strange looking creature whose main power seems to be moving quickly. However, according to the website:

“The Half-Life's very own Teddy Boy, Gladiolus Thrip is a Type 12 entity, one of the most dangerous in the underworld - an enigma with a natty dress sense and a beak-like piece of carved ivory where his nose once was.

“Thrip is a Vampire, the most dangerous and deadly of all the Half-Lives. With a Cockney twang and a colourful vocabulary, Thrip is undoubtedly the brains of the outfit. Stronger than many of the weapons in Galvin's artillery it takes a lot more than your average attempt to vanquish this monster.”

Redlip is smitedNot useful to only have this on a website – I mean, had this been a one episode show I’d be doing a ‘Vamp or Not?’ right now and, by what I saw on screen, it wouldn’t pass. The bit about vanquishing that is quoted above is bobbins as well, he was vanquished easily with the first weapon Mina chose for Luke – a sort of blunderbuss that fired plastic bullets that bounce of humans but crack open and kill half-lives. No stakes in this, oh no, we have superdooper weapons – like microwave guns (incidentally why Ruby called the projectile weapon a ray gun was beyond me, and she never saw the microwave gun in action). There is a vampire in a bar (uncredited) according to imdb, but to be honest I missed that one completely.

Holliday Grainger as RubyBut all that said, was it any good? I am in a position, at the moment, where I am not too impressed, I will continue to watch but I don’t have too much hope. I liked the monkey thing (which is now dead) and thought Mackenzie Crook was very good. However, this seemed a little sub- Buffy meets Torchwood (Galvin is Cpt. Jack as well as being the anti-Giles from Buffy, The Stacks are the hub etc and so on), with a dash of Neverwhere and there was also a colouring of Hex thrown in. Now the Hex aspect, certainly, was not a good thing. I picked that up mainly in Holliday Grainger’s performance – which didn’t impress me at all. However research reveals that the writer of this episode, Peter Tabern, wrote episodes of Hex as did Lucy Watkins, another writer of this show. Two of the producers were involved in Hex. I hated Hex as it was, I thought (iro season 1, I gave up before season 2), badly written, poorly acted piffle. Hopefully this will rise above that as the series runs... I have doubts.

The imdb page is here.


czechOUT said...

I think I might give it a miss. After all, it is ITV!


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi czechOUT. If you change your mind it is on ITV 2 tonight and can be watched online as well!

I will continue to watch, as is my self-impossed duty, and revie fully on season end.

clark said...

did the creature in the hat not remind you somewhat of the old film "London after Midnight"? it did me, but hey ho, that could just be me looking for something worthwhile in the series by way of nods to classic horror films of yesteryear

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Clark - now you mention it there is a degree there of the London after Midnight vampire, as played by the great Lon Chaney - but that could be coincidental, yet... let's give them the benefit of the doubt.