Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Against the Dark – review

dvdDirected by: Richard Crudo

First Released: 2009

Contains spoilers

Okay, first thing first, as you can see I have gone down a review path for this film. There has been much talk about it not really being a vampire film and I wondered myself at whether I should do a ‘Vamp or Not?’ however, as much as this might have aspects of the zombie genre and the infected sub-genre, this would come out at vampire.

The film does not mention Richard Matheson, but it owes a huge debt to I am Legend as we will see and both the Romero zombies and the infected sub-genre stem from that novel. However, to say that this is derivative of Matheson, Romero, 28 Days Later and 30 Days of Night is an understatement and it is a pity it can’t hold a candle to even the poorer of that heritage, there is even a touch of Rabid in this and, worryingly, even that manages to be a slightly better movie.

infectedThe film begins with a voiceover chronicling the infection. It tells of people turned into blood thirsty and flesh hungry creatures and a voracious disease that spreads like wildfire – though the film is a little sketchy on how it spreads. A bite will do it and there is some intimation that blood will spread it, presumably it is not airborne. Interestingly the voice over specifically says that the infected attack and feed on the innocent – not the uninfected but the innocent. It is also made clear that the infected come out at night and the uninfected only tend to move around by day – why is never explained but there is no evidence of sunlight being deadly to the infected.

Steven Seagal is Tao, Alin Olteanu is his voiceThe voiceover then tells us that some survivors became vigilantes, hunters that tracked down the infected and killed them by sword. Why by sword? Absolutely beyond me, as one would have thought the danger of being splattered by blood would be that much greater but, then again, we will see that blood isn’t necessarily the source of infection – at keast not to the level it was in 28 Days Later. One such hunter is Tao played by Steven Seagal… ish. First thing to mention is that Seagal’s presence is more like an extended cameo. The second thing is to say that Seagal is Tao in (somewhat podgy) body only, the voice of Tao is Alin Olteanu. Why is Seagal dubbed? Who knows?

unnamed attendantTao’s merry band includes Tagart (Tanoai Reed), who makes a good fist of the action but has the really stupid habit of entering areas to clear them of infected… alone. There are also two female hunters and they are so plot integral that they are billed as Attendant #1 (Tania Dobre) and Attendant #2 (Mihaela Constantine). So, if they are not the main focus of our tale, who is?

Dorothy and MorganThat would be the most hapless group of survivors ever found in a survival horror movie. There is a hospital and Dorothy (Jenna Harrison) and Morgan (Danny Midwinter) have been holed up there for three weeks. Food is running low so they decide to move on. At that time, breaking into the hospital come Amelia (Emma Catherwood), Dylan (Danny Percival), stoner Ricky (Stephan Hagan) and child Charlotte (Skye Bennett). They are looking for medical supplies as Charlotte is ill (not infected, I hasten to add) – though clearly Ricky would be more looking for medicinal highs.

Amilia and CharlieThe backup generators are about to fail in the hospital and that would be a disaster because… well it seems that three weeks ago Morgan and Dorothy parked a four by four near a security door accessed via the basement. If the generator goes down that door will lock and they will be trapped – except, of course, for any other blooming door and the windows. Honestly, wait for dawn, go out the way the others came in and walk round the block for your vehicle. Be that is it may, such a thought does not cross our hapless heroes’ minds and so they brave the hospital…

the message of doomYou see, the bit where Dorothy and Morgan have been is nice and safe, it would appear, after all they have been there three weeks. Through a flimsy barricade and ‘abandon hope’ painted in blood and we are in the realm of the infected. Our heroes are so hapless that not a one of them has a weapon and they keep managing to get split up – luckily Tao and his merry hunters are around to keep finding them and then let them wander off again. Just as well as, by the end of the film, the place is teeming with infected and one wonders just how they managed to get all their food – a steady stream of numpty survivors, without weapons or a clue one would guess.

Tanoai Reed as TagartThis is the problem with the film, it lacks a coherent story. There is one main location and the script has to find new and incompetent ways to put the heroes in peril constantly. It would seem, also, that the infected are not the mindless psychos that the initial voiceover would lead us to believe. We get this when we see one file her teeth in a mirror and then tap a human for blood into a mug, but it makes us question, again, why they are all hanging around in the hospital and not out actively hunting survivor groups.

we have evolvedAt this point we get a dichotomy, for instance Dorothy is chased by one who growls and acts like something out of 28 Days Later or the Dawn of the Dead remake. She gets into a room and bars the door and so he starts talking to her, trying to persuade her to give up as they will get her sooner or later. He even says that the infected think, talk and plan. He says they have evolved.

Andreea Ungureanu as SophieDylan, at one point, is captured by an uninfected human (Claudio Bleont), holed up with his infected daughter, Sophie (Andreea Ungureanu). He uses her to determine which blood is safe – intimating that he is now a cannibal who doesn’t want to be infected. He states that Sophie is the next evolution, able to rationalise. I mentioned Matheson and we get a blurred image of infection that might suggest his dead vampires are akin to the first, psychotic infection in this, and the living vampires are represented by the rational, evolved vampires.

overtones of 30 Days of NightAs for infection through blood, the man clearly fears this by ingestion and Dylan, at one point, has to wash his hands as he got infected blood on them. However, they are wading through swathes of the stuff and it doesn’t seem to be an issue generally. We do hear that the infected are attracted to the smell of blood – hence the survivor's concern when Ricky has cut himself, obviously forgetting that they are in the middle of a blooming bloodbath. The visual of blood on the mouths of the infected gives rise to thoughts of 30 Days of Night.

rusty screw denturesTeeth wise most of the infected seem to have sharp pointed teeth – so do they all file them? We see one who has clearly made itself a set of rusty screw dentures. We see that one has developed talon like nails. There are plenty of survivors, by the way, as we get cuts to a military outpost that has lost contact with the hunters but intends to sterilise the area, come the dawn, by bombing the buildings with the still functional air force. In a definitive nod to Matheson comment is made that the uninfected are now the monsters – an aspect of the book that the 2007 I am Legend completely missed, though the large number of survivors does tend to negate this point. We also question why this military outpost is never shown defending itself against hungry infected?

The script is absolutely rubbish, jumping around concepts like a gourmet flea at a dog show, never settling on one. I complained about the religious aspect of the 2007 I am Legend, this does turn that on its head and have the religious Amelia losing her faith but it isn’t really explored. First time director Crudo tries his best, as do the cast, but they are fighting a losing battle against an onslaught of incoherent plot points and bad dialogue “we’re not here to decide who’s right and wrong, but who lives and dies.” Please.

Character development is virtually nil and thus the fact that Jenna Harrison, for one, makes us actually care a little about her character, is actually no mean feat. This struggles to rise up as a film but is sucked down into a quagmire of its own making. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

13 comments:

everlost said...

sounds like a classic...maybe Seagal charges two rates, one for his appearance another for his voice?

If the zombievamps are only after the innocent, i am guessing that rules out at least 50% of a city population, i take it that part wasnt expanded on later in the film?

If only it had been a chuck norris film...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No, it wasn't expanded on... probably more an example of not thinking through dialogue...

Now there is a concept for a sequel, an elite group of vampire killers hunt infecetd, staring Segal as Tao (voice optional), Chuck Norris, the Hoff and Shatner...

everlost said...

*shudder* The hoffmeister would have to be head zombie in that...just imagine the satisfaction of seeing him burn / explode or...

we need a new term after that demons debacle for "turn to goo". gooify? globulate? melt just doesnt seem to do it justice!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Nah... I was thinking all 4 should be the hunters - though I suppose Hoff could be infected during...

Globing... hmm... also, what do you call it when a clown shoots you with green ooze - other than wrong?

Simon Dyda said...

Seagal and vampires...sounds unmissable. I'm an addict of Seagal's predictably awful and awfully predictable films. Seagal is often dubbed in his films, or rather on certain scenes in his films, but it's not like it makes his acting any worse.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

But Simon... it is sooo obvious... he's been dubbed cajun. But I have to stress... his role is more like an extended cameo

Uranium Willy said...

I am hardly a Steven Segal fan but this one looks cool!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Bill - it does try hard to raise itself, unfortunately failing to do so. But if you know what you are getting...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

T_ttlg said "he's been dubbed cajun"

Or should I say cajun or Créole it sounded like - I am no expert

Simon Dyda said...

But Simon... it is sooo obvious... he's been dubbed cajun. But I have to stress... his role is more like an extended cameo

Yep, sounds like a typical straight-to-DVD Seagal movie. they're all like that!

Gabriel said...

I saw this film Thursday night and what a crock of shit it was - I don't think Seagal really cares anymore.

Even though the movie just really consisted of people walking down hallways, the martial arts was abysmal - I think I saw Seagal do one aikido technique and the rest were quick sword edits - most of the fighting was handled by Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson's Cousin and stunt double Tanoai Reed - they even look quite similar in the face.

Any Yes Seagal was dubbed - again - this time it was cajun (he was texan in Under The Sun I think) - it even said in the credits Tao's voice = such and such - this movie was entirely forgettable - Seagal was producer but only spent 4 days on set apparently - he's so fat now (what happened to the Buddhist path of middle ground avoiding each extreme?) and the bulging leather coats don't do him any justice - black just hides/obscures fat to a certain degree.

At least we can be happy he didn't play a C.I.A agent for once!

0 out 10.

p.s: Seagal is doing a reality series called Seagal Lawman cause he is a deputy in his town or something - that's a horror movie for you - sheesh!

olbas006 said...

Do you watch From the Dark (2014)? It is about vampires too

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Olbas, not yet, but I am aware of it... I'm awaiting a decent priced DVD import (I can get the blu-ray but I'm not multiregioned that way and can't screenshot blu-ray)