Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vampitheatre – review

dvdDirected by: Christopher Forbes

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

This is a strange film. Written, starring and directed by Christopher Forbes – who also wrote, and produced the main music – this is part music video, part mockumentary and part film. Not that those parts don’t work together but we note the Forbes (who plays keyboards and is lead male vocalist) and female lead singer of band Theatre Peace Dana Cheshire, in her role as Ariahna, have worked together on other filmic projects.

the DarkterThe film begins with two young ladies, Brandi (Kimberly Campbell) and Megan (Megan Baker) breaking into a warehouse used as a practice space by Theatre Peace in order that they can steal equipment. I have to say that they were two of the most unlikely thieves but, be that as it may, they get in and Megan finds the laptops, whilst Brandy stands guard. Megan thinks she is alone but one of the mannequins in the room is The Darkter – the makeup persona of Dr Redman (Christopher Forbes). She tries to talk her way out and he asks if he can kiss her neck. She is attacked.

bloodied victimBrandy looks in and sees but her escape route is cut off by Ariahna. She is approached by Redman who asks her if she is still a virgin. The girl pauses a moment before admitting that she isn’t – not for a long time. Redman looks at Ariahna and apologises but she is his. A bloodied face and we move into the opening credits. At this point, unfortunately, the film felt like a dime a dozen straight to DVD indie vampire films but then it did something clever.

Shelby Blackstone as Agent BlackFirst of all we have the movie aspect, mainly surrounding one Agent Black (Shelby Blackstone), who is set up to investigate the string of murders that seem to follow Theatre Peace by her boss Agent Childress (Ed Janostak). The bodies at the warehouse are not the first. Bodies have been found drained of blood and others ripped apart – though the assumption is that the crime scene was contaminated as there was saliva thought to be from wild dogs. As she investigates she visits the band’s MySpace and watches some music videos by the band and this segues neatly into the film’s other persona.

But this is also a mockumentary as well as a movie. It follows the band, they are interviewed, videos and live footage are shown. It all gives the film a depth that perhaps it might have lacked otherwise. The official site suggests that there is a healthy dose of Spinal Tap – I would point out that it is mainly without the comedy. The whole band and much of their entourage are vampires.

dancer Nichole is also a vampireThey are Dr Redman keyboard and vocals, Ariahna vocals, Isaiah (Dave Mercer) guitars, Lazarus (Joel Hodges) bass, Lilith (Pamela Harris) flute and percussion and Jezebel (Janice Olive) on bass. We also have security provided by the vampire Rafael (Tripp Courtney) and dancing provided by Nichole (Nichole Dye). The record label boss, Earl Duke (Louis Williamson), and manager Richard Ravenwood (Richard Kelly) are mortals and unaware of the band’s true nature. They openly state they are vampires as part of the act and the music (described by a critic in film as “experimental, arthouse, gothic bullsh*t”) veers between rock Goth and darkwave.

Linnea Quigley as the Queen of the DeadThe film itself has gaps, unexplained aspects of story and lore. Story wise, for example there is a sub-story regarding the Queen of the Dead (Linnea Quigley). It seems there is a whole vampire underground – they stay in a motel where they pay the owner in blood – and the Queen rules all. For some reason Redman requested she killed 200 of their kind and now owes her a payment of one who is young, fresh and willing. That turns out to be Jenny (Amanda Cliatt) but we don’t know why he had the 200 killed. Another gap would be why Isaiah is having nightmares about a victim (a filmic aspect, clearly, as we see his nightmares).

ouchI will say, before going on to the lore, that the mockumentary style made these gaps acceptable, after all we can only see what the cameras capture – and the merging with film style allowed us ingress into moments like Isaiah’s dream. At one point we get a black comedy moment when we watch Ariahna trying to pick up in a bar. She isn’t very good at ‘mating rituals’ and uses the line “do you have a large vein on the side of your cock.” Hey, at least it worked for her. Actually it seems that dancer Nichole likes to feed from the same vein.

wolfen aspectLore wise not too much is explained. Certainly we know that vampires are everywhere, they are immortal, they have traditional front fangs as well as a whole maw of fangs and we perhaps get an idea of why there was dog DNA when we see Redman drinking from a basin of blood and he flashed between vampire and wolf. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a slight attempt here to retie the vampire and werewolf traditions, albeit very subtly. The effect was rather well done (and was within quite an arty sequence of songs, ‘Who are you to Question Fate’ parts 1-3) as it flashed by in high speed.

poorly constructed effectNot quite as well done was the claw we see toward the end, unfortunately. Ariahna displays a knack of using eye mojo and mesmerises local law enforcement to provide security at a gig they play. Jezebel seems to be teetotal, when it comes to blood, feeling the need but conflicted as she was a missionary before being turned. I saw no evidence that holy items affected these vampires and certainly sunlight was not an issue.

This worked and it worked because of the style and genre mixing. Sequences of stop motion and MTV style videos were worked into the film and, because of its nature, they fit perfectly in. Some of the effects were a little off and some of the support acting was more than a little hinkey but the main characters fit in with exactly what they were meant to be. Clearly I have to mention the music and I rather enjoyed it (if being a little unsure in respect of the lyrics, occasionally) especially the more darkwave end, which was reminiscent of Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Additional music is provided by Dance Macabre. Nicely put together, using something a little unusual to make its mark. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

4 comments:

mushbone said...

Vampitheatre has the aspect of a film created by a local theater group, except that most local community theaters feature at least one member with some small measure of talent. The acting is unreservedly and horrifyingly wooden, the music is someone's mistaken notion of gothic, performed and sung badly and the makeup and effects is amateurish enough to embarrass seasoned Halloween partygoers.

There isn't a single reason to watch this film. It's too awful to be unintentionally funny. Seriously, this should rank high among the most absurd wastes of celluloid in film history.

Ignore the blogger's attempt to make this film seem palatable in even the smallest way. It's an insult to the genre.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Each to their own mushbone... I rather enjoy the mixing of style and I rather enjoyed the music...

Some of the acting is wooden, but some of the acting also fits a band - not actors - doing a documentary.

I won't ask others to ignore your opinion, mushbone, as opinion is just that...

Joel Hodges said...

I know that it's been a long time since this was posted... and I'm sorry I'm late to the party. But as a cast member of this film... I will say we had a good time making it... but most of us won't even talk about it! As far as it being a local community theater group... that's basically what it was. That mixed with a few local musicians to comprise a band. The only two regular players in the band were the guitarist and the drummer (that would be me!). Chris wrote all the music with no input from the real musicians at all. None of us thought this would ever be anything other than a locally released film. I apologize to the rest of humanity for having to be subjected to it. Thanks for any of the compliments you gave us. Cause, as far as the band goes... we worked our asses off on this movie.

Thanks,
M. Joel Hodges (aka Lazarus)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Thanks for the comment Joel, welcome to the site, and don't apologise - some people (including me) anjoyed it :)