Friday, September 04, 2009

Live Evil – review


Director: Jay Woelfel

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

Live Evil feels like a film on the lower end of the budget scale and if asked to find it a stable mate I’d have to plump for something along the lines, initially, like Brotherhood of Blood but with a road movie soul. Not for any particular reason – despite Ken Foree being in both films – as this might be flawed but is superior to the other movie, and yet such a connection feels right. I have to say, by the way, I love the movie poster.

Åsa Wallander as SydneyThe film starts in a desert diner and three good old boys (their acting nominal at best) see a rather foxy looking lady, we later discover to be Sydney (Åsa Wallander); she motions one to come over. Suave he isn’t but he doesn’t need to be as she offers to go down on him. He seems to be enjoying himself when he (and his fellows) notice the blood – she was sucking something from down there. She bites his neck. She slaughters the room and the effects are nicely done and rather visceral – including a couple of popping out eyes. When she asks the last good old boy if he still wants to f*ck her and he says, shakily, yes we know we are in for an irreverent ride.

Mark Hengst as BenedictSydney has finished the slaughter when she starts to puke blood, copiously. A man, Benedict (Mark Hengst), comes in and helps her to a car. We then get a voiceover by Ken Foree – who plays human blood dealer Max in the film – telling us that environmental, drug and lifestyle excesses has left most human blood unfit for vampire consumption. The vampires have split into tribes (and indeed one of the under-explored strengths of the film is the different types of vampires) and are at war over resources. We see a man chased by someone, later revealed to be the Priest (Tim Thomerson, who was in genre favourite Near Dark), wielding a sword. Eventually the Priest cuts the man's head off at jaw level (a nice touch was the fangs appearing in the severed jawline) and then takes his heart – he leaves a card with the words ‘ago malum’.

the effects of polluted bloodSo, we are dealing with vampires who can go out in sunlight – sort of, as will be revealed – but, in the car, Sydney doesn’t look too hot. The blood she has drunk has made her very ill and Benedict points out that she should have known better. Suddenly the Priest’s car is chasing them down and we get some nice chase action until Benedict forces the Priest to crash and he makes good his escape. He reaches a safe house where Baxter (Gregory Lee Kenyon) is. The fourth vampire in our main cadre, Yeal (Eva Derrek), is on a hot date – which turns out to be a bust as the man has polluted blood. To help Sydney, Benedict feeds her from his own arm. Baxter has taken to drinking his own blood – recycling it.

The priest is in the desert and we get to one of the problems I had with the movie. A bunch of survivalist vampires approach him. He throws his lantern at one (burning him) and then fights the others and then two run into a warehouse (and are then killed by explosion) What warehouse? We are in the desert, where did that appear from? Now he might have been near to structures at that point but we had no establishing shot to tell us this and thus it jars – badly. It is the same with the safe house when the vampires, in the next shot, decide to road trip to LA (why Baxter wears a wig is beyond me). Inside it looks like a house, outside it’s a desert shack – it doesn’t gel right with the viewer. Incidentally, we discover that even after burning, a vampire's heart still needs to be pierced/removed to finish it.

Kimberly Sanders as RoxyThe Priest gets to a bar (having tried the locks of a vehicle outside). He and the other Patron, Roxy (Kimberly Sanders), don’t exactly hit it off. She goes to the bathroom to discover the bartender being attacked by one of the desert vampires (who has survived) and the vampire taking the eye of the bartender to replace the one lost (presumably to the Priest).The Priest saves her, wants her car keys, knocks her out with a punch and is about to steal her vehicle when she appears and so he makes her his chauffer at gun point. Honestly, through the film (and despite the Priest getting some great lines) I don’t think that the Roxy/Priest relationship worked too well. The dynamics weren’t explored deeply enough and the relationship seemed to fluctuate unnaturally.

the vampire babyI’d be tempted to stop there but there are three specific scenes I do want to look at, two for lore and one for the problems (and the positives) in the film. We’ll start with the latter. On route to LA the vampires stop for a bite at a house that, Benedict senses, contains babies. Now, for the positive – the atmosphere and tension that Woelfel draws is tangible in this scene and one wishes the whole film contained said tension. The vampires put the babies back and when the Priest and Roxy arrive the parents have been attacked and we have… the negative... vampire babies. Yes they have been turned and the effects are quite awful. I’d suggest cutting the scene out of the film for, whilst the way the babies have been done might have been meant to be funny or avoiding being too sensationalist, they simply do not work. However one is killed but the other kept by the Priest and it is used in the film's finale, so no chance of cutting it out of the film.

hand feedingThe next scene to mention immediately follows the baby scenes, when the vampires are pulled over by the police. The vampires attack but discover that the two officers (played by Lee Perkins and Hawk Younkins) are vampires also – but a different breed who have their feeding mouth (as it were) in their hands. I liked the different types of vampire idea and it is something (along with the war amongst the clans) that could have stood further exploration but – unfortunately – it was not explored as deeply as I would have liked.

effects of sunlight on certain breedsFinally I want to mention a vampire party (held at Max’s home) that the vampires crash only to discover that it is primarily wannabes with false fangs. The scene did not work terribly well all told, though a moment where Baxter is pointing out he was an actor (whilst Nosferatu is on) to impress a girl (Tiffany Shepis) and new footage containing him comes on, was rather a nice touch – clearly it was not from Nosferatu, any fan could tell you that, but it was nice none the less. However the scene with a vampire barman (actually a barmaid with false beard) contained a comedy element that fell so flat on its face it was untrue. It is her, however, that I mention the scene for – as she is a form of vampire that does die in sunlight – in a rather nice melting scene. It seemed to me that she was the vampire that had cut off her male vampire's tackle and left him in a closet to starve - another way vampires can die in this.

Eva Derrek as YealSo that is the film; a clash of independent goodness falling over its own failures. Surely some of these are born of the difficult genesis the film had – 42 days shooting over 11 months, for instance. It had some worthwhile effects marred by absolutely atrocious moments such as the vampire baby. It had some great one liners (especially those written for the Priest) marred by comedy moments that did not work at all. There were some great stunt scenes and then poor location choices and an extreme bite cure – the priest is bitten on the hand, chops his own hand off, pours holy water on the stump, inserts a cross like a hook (the cross, we subsequently discover, does burn our primary vampires) and cauterises it all in a fire!

Tim Thomerson as the PriestThere are tangible moments of tension, as I mentioned, but in other parts of the film the pacing is all wrong. The film looked like it was going for Grindhouse chic in look, there was some transfer issue with pixilation but I think this was due to me viewing the review disc and I hope a final release will have sorted that out. Not all the cast worked well but Tim Thomerson was having a whale of a time, clearly, and Ken Foree may have only been in a cameo role but he was not wasted as he was in Brotherhood of Blood. Unfortunately the vampires' pasts were not explored in any detail and we could have done with knowing much more about Benedict in particular.

The film did some interesting things with lore, but did not expand on that enough and as for the ending. Whilst the twist in respect of the Priest and his background – which was drip fed to us through the film – worked well but the coda twist wasn’t so worthwhile. A mixed bag but the film raises itself to just above average. Some tightening up could see it scoring higher. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

1 comment:

Taliesin_ttlg said...

producer Mark Terry informs me that he agrees on my comments re the vampire's backstory and 12 minutes were shot on this that have been cut from the film.

Those 12 mins will appear as deleted scenes on the dvd