Thursday, May 14, 2009

Club Vampire – review

dvdDirected by: Andy Ruben

Release date: 1998

Contains spoilers

This movie has received some bad press and, I think, it is probably a little unfair. It is not the greatest movie in the world, true, but director Andy Ruben tried to make something a little different and a little bit arty. In that, he failed as his vision was greater than his skill, but it is slightly better than credit is given for – if more than a little pretentious.

Ruben actually co-wrote the excellent little film Dance of the Damned and there are similarities in that both were set around a strip club and the lead actress in each was Starr Andreeff – who was also in Vampire Journals. This is in no way, however, a re-working of that earlier movie as this comes from a whole different direction.

John Savage as ZeroWe start off with vampire Zero (John Savage) on the beach, watching Corri (Starr Andreeff) as the sun sets. It is as close as he can really come to the light. He tells us that he is not supposed to use the V word (later, when asked what they are, he says different). She is also a creature of the night, though she is human, working through the night at a club.

Corri in the alleyThe club is filled with the strains of some really sleazy jazz and the dancers are indulged in performance art as much as they are stripping. An extra payment means that Corri goes off with Laura (Diana Frank, who is in both Dead of Night and Pale Blood) for a little girl on girl, during which some blood from Laura’s mouth spills into Corri’s. Then Laura gets a knife out and stabs at the top of the thigh region in order to feed on the dancer. Laura likes to kill when she feeds but Zero stops her. Corri awakens in her own blood, in an alley.

Zero braves the sunShe stumbles towards home where her son Max (Ross Malinger) is waiting for her. He doesn’t appreciate his mother, or the state she appears to be in. When he runs off, she collapses – her stomach in spasm. Meanwhile Zero is in a house braving the light spilling in. Each day he tries to push his tolerance that little bit more. Corri gets to work but is unwell. A man helps her to the bathroom but when he tries it on she punches him out and tells him to run. Laura wants to go for her but Zero stops her.

Alko and LauraThey go back to a house, in which the local coven of vampires all live, and they all seem odd to one degree or another. Zero seems divorced from reality but then so does Kiddo (Michael J Anderson). The leader seems to be Alko (Mariam Parris), though she looks physically the younger. She is also younger, chronologically, than Zero – who is 1000 years old. However, as he refuses to feed on humans he is weaker than he should be. Laura admits her error – turning Corri was a mistake and vampires cannot turn another without agreement from all in the area. Zero is told to kill her.

bringing her guts up - literallyHe finds Corri the next day. She has tried blood from meat – even though she is a vegetarian – and has been tempted to attack Max. She ends up eating his hamster and then expunging bits of hamster. She continues to wretch and bring some intestine up, she pulls at it and pulls out internal organs. Once she is done Zero appears and says that she is no longer made in His image. He tries to train her as the others will come.

performance art fangsI liked the idea that the vampire expunges his/her internal organs on turning – it was an extreme version of Anne Rice’s vampires voiding their systems on death/undeath. These vampires do not fear holy items nor does garlic affect them. They are fast and strong. Corri complains that she has no fangs – whilst we do see a fanged vampire later it is a performer at the club.

too much sunlightThey can be killed by immolation and by exposure to sunlight. Tolerance can be developed over the centuries but even Zero ends up badly burned with too much exposure. A younger vampire will burst into flames. There is an insinuation that the effects are almost psychosomatic, hence developing a tolerance, as Zero pushes Corri’s hand into the light and then tries to tell her, once withdrawn, that it doesn’t actually hurt. This is not explored further.

the body looks for the headAnother way to kill a vampire is through beheading but in this it might not be as sure as one might think. Zero is beheaded at one point but we see, as night falls and blood from a passing burglar is dripped on his lips, tendrils of tubes reach from the torso and head to pull the head back onto the body. The effects work okay, though they are nowhere near up to, say, The Thing.

unfortunate Buffy faceOther than that the vampires do pull up a Buffy vamp face at times, which was fairly unnecessary and strange given the lack of fangs - why would a face morph if fangs can't even grow? However, the unusal bits of lore – reconnecting heads and puking internal organs, are what makes this a little different and more interesting. The performances are okay but seem to get lost as Ruben tries to make a David Lynch film but without the underlying skills.

Michael J Anderson as KiddoIt wasn’t just the presence of Michael J Anderson that brought the Lynch simile to mind, it was the sleazy jazz and the performance art. Unfortunately, as I suggest, it loses itself and that brings the score right down. 2.5 out of 10 for something that could have been a whole lot more.

The imdb page is here.

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