Thursday, January 08, 2009

Netherbeast Incorporated – review

dvdDirected by: Dean Matthews Ronalds

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

Netherbeast Incorporated was a film that I was really looking forward to. That is normally a sure sign of disaster, there is no way the film is likely to live up to my expectations. I mean vampires in corporate America… the baseline premise is genius and as one would expect… Actually, it goes against my expectations, against the norm, and ended up as one of the most enjoyable new vampire movies I have watched for some time.

The opening scene was entirely familiar as it was a remake of the short Netherbeast of Berm-Tech industries, Inc.. However that did not take away from the fact that it was absolutely fantastic. We open with Otto (Steve Burns) walking through the office of Berm-Tech. Otto is actually our guide through the movie and the film is punctuated with his voice-overs and explanations.

Mike stakedHe goes in to see Turner (Darrell Hammond) but what he sees is co-worker Mike (John Dobradenka) staked in a chair. Turner tells Otto that he needs help, a proposal needs rewriting for one of their clients, Mike’s work was just not up to par. So you killed him, asks Otto. No, Turner killed him because he was a vampire. The banter now is superb.

Darrell Hammond as TurnerTurner explains that when you have been in management as long as he has you get to see the signs. What signs? Sleeping in coffins and drinking blood. When asked if he saw these things Turner admits that the blood was spilt on his shirt and… well Otto will have to take his word for it given that the whole shirt is now dripping with gore. He points out that the only way Mike could die was by a stake through the heart, when asked if he tried any other method Turner looks aghast – after all he isn’t stupid.

they're all screwed nowTurner also explains that Mike recoiled when he was shown a crucifix… Otto suggests that it might be because he was Jewish. Turner leaves Otto with “two bullet points” rewrite the proposal and incinerate Mike within the hour. Otto goes out to his co-workers, who are all drinking blood and eating flesh and explains that they are screwed.

Judd Nelson as Steven the consultantThe 108 year old Otto knows that all the employees are vampires, and that includes Turner. Turner is going through a process known as the retardation and I’ll explain that shortly. However the upshot is that Turner believes he is a human amongst vampires – as there are probably more out in the main office. He has also invited a first-lifer (as humans are referred to) in the form of a productivity consultant named Steven (Judd Nelson) and then hires Pearl (Amy Davidson), another first-lifer, to replace Mike.

Whilst the employees try to deal with a couple of humans in their midst, hide the signs of their nature and work out what to do about Turner they also find that certain of their number seem to be vanishing…

powerpoint of vampire loreThe lore is very different in this. Firstly they are not vampires or, at least, not in the traditional sense. We get much of the lore explained to us by Otto, often with the help of handy power-point presentations. They refer to themselves as netherbeasts or netherfolks and they do not fly, sleep in coffins or have fangs. They do have reflections.

the employees are all madThey are a result of an in-species mutation that produces a gland on the side of the heart. The gland produces an enzyme that prolongs their lives and heals (though it heals to survive, no re-growing limbs). The gland causes them to need to eat flesh and drink blood, both of a human variety, and leaves them sterile. They also know that the gland is stimulated by something called the netherstone and the radiation it produces. No netherstone, no secretion, no life.

effect of garlicThey all live in Berm-tech, as a way of surviving. It is a telephone company that was created between the actions of President Garfield (Robert Wagner), himself a netherbeast, and Alexander Grahame Bell (Bill Lippincott). They leave the building, on rotation, on what they call probayance night. Some myths are true. The stake through the heart will destroy the gland thus killing them. Certain types of garlic cause extreme allergic reaction and sunlight will kill them, over time, by weakening the bones.

powerpoint re the retardationsThe retardation is the netherbeast equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease, although it can strike at any time. Occasionally it will reverse itself and that is what they are hoping for with Turner. At a push they can perform the Rinse (flushing the brain with nether-enzyme) which could cure them but will kill 9 times out of 10.

equality posterThe film itself is a joy… perhaps more so if, like me, you work in an office. It was perfect. The management speak, the inappropriate ‘right on’ work posters, the endless, mindless meetings that are little more than talking shops. Then there was the oddity of the staff, trying to survive in such a surrounding, which made a nice, gentle current of comedy through the whole thing.

incinerating problemsNot that all was perfect. The idea of the netherstone seemed bolted on, for instance, more a plot enabler than a solid piece of lore. The President Garfield and Bell aspects seemed a little that way also, though not being from the States perhaps a deeper significance was lost upon me. Small quibbles, however, in the grand scheme of things.

The characters were all round about perfectly cast, although Jason Mewes (as Waxy Dan), whom we previously saw in Bitten, was undoubtedly under-used. His character was a little bit of a buddy role and very much an office-bound Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob). But I must admit to sniggering away at his “Eye of the jackal” lines… meaningless but perfectly delivered.

if you've worked in an office, you'll get itAll in all I thoroughly enjoyed this. Get it watched – especially if you have ever worked in an office.

8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


czechOUT said...

Just a heads-up to alert you to the DVD release on 26 Jan of State of Decay, the 2nd of the 1980 Dr Who E-Space trilogy and a vampire story. In fact its a re-working of an earlier script that the Dr Who production team had to shelf because of the 1977 Beeb Dracula production with louis Jourdan (see Made in Scotland: A Christmas Dracula). The DVD extras include Leaves of Blood, a history of vampires in fiction including contributions from genre writers and vampire specialists.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers CzechOUT, I love State of Decay and have been eagerly awaiting a DVD release - the extra sounds good also

Dimis R said...

It really had an amazingly original sci-fi interpretation of the "vampires" and the setting was really satisfying.

But the end was a bit anticlimactic and the "romance" (it wasn't, I know) felt so random. Like every single vampire story needs to have some. I say no.

I enjoyed it nonetheless. I will continue watching the rest of your recommendations.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Dimis - thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed. It does seem romance (or love interest) has to be put into all films - not just V ones but glad you enjoyed overall