Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pearblossom – review


Director: Ron Carlson

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

A film of many titles, I happen to like Pearblossom, this is also listed as Murder World and – for its German DVD release, the only commercial release I am aware of at time of review – Sunset Vampires. The film is one, I can guarantee, that is going to divide people. It has a surreal nature that is going to annoy many, many viewers. I rather enjoyed it. It was like Lynch gone Grindhouse.

We start with a woman, later revealed to be Rhea (Anya Lahiri), speaking to another (out of shot) in a diner. She explains that they are all God’s creatures and mentions the biblical flood wiping out evil and God starting again. She explains how God then created angels in Her own image to punish the evil doer.

Cut to New Years Eve 1969 (actually, technically, New Years Day 1970 as we later see that midnight has been passed) and Rhea and Brooke (Sophie Monk) are hurtling down Pearblossom Highway. Brooke’s mind keeps flipping back to the party they just left and it seems she has said nothing to her lover in two hours. At first the memories are of her and Rhea together.

Brooke and RheaHowever, the party took on a darker edge. Brooke remembers them being approached by an actor called Warren James (Justin Shilton), of him then going off with an impressionable young girl named Carrie Lane (Scout Taylor-Compton). Brooke confesses that she came across the two; Carrie was half naked and terrified, he was being sexually sadistic and clearly going to rape the girl. Brooke stabbed him, then stabbed him repeatedly.

the blossom is the beginning of the strangnessA blossom is on the windshield, Rhea retrieves it and it seems to pulse. She wonders if it might be a sign. Brooke runs over a possum – this really seems to freak Rhea. She makes Brooke pull over and runs into the desert. The difference between the two is obvious. Rhea is totally freaked by events, and believes that there is something deeper at play as she often ‘feels things’. Brooke starts to rationalise things, the possum was an accident and it was Warren’s time, he brought it on himself.

God in the desertA strange dust cloud appears, it throws Brooke and seems to wrap around her and kill her. The dust cloud becomes a woman, who seems to glow. She indicates that she is God (Angela Lindvall) and Rhea has been chosen for a higher purpose, she will hunt evil for God and feed upon said evil. Rhea begs for Brooke’s life, but God refuses as Brooke is not pure. Eventually God relents and agrees to bring Brooke back, but she will be like Rhea and, ultimately, she will be Rhea’s true test.

It is New Years Eve 2009. Forty years have passed and the ground in the desert seems to glow, hands emerge ripping through the cocoon like surface. Rhea and Brooke are reborn. At first they lie upon the floor, a truck and caravan driven by a man named Bill (Mark Hodos) goes by and he sees them. They come around and our vision of them seems to glitch, almost like electrical interference. Elsewhere the sheriff of the area, Tillman (Charles Napier), is watching the show “Chicks chasing Chickens”. He is a full on red neck cop, misogynistic when it comes to Officer Cook (Jennifer Tung) and it seems that the diminutive Officer Felix Shoe (Danny Woodburn) does most of the work.

the first feedOut in the desert Bill pulled over and a hitcher (Chris Payne Gilbert) thinks he has stopped for him. They are speaking when the girls come over. Bill is a little freaked and Brooke takes some chips from the cab of his truck, the chips are no longer edible for her and she spits the food out, but he smells good. Rhea tries to get her to move away but she attacks Bill tasting his blood. The hitcher runs. Brooke tells Rhea she has to try it, refering to Bill's blood.

eating the hitcherRhea says no, they should only feed on evil-doers but Brooke is already after the hitcher whom she hunts, kills and then brings his corpse back. They take the truck and Rhea reveals that they must hide from the sun as daylight will kill them – it is God’s way of ensuring they work at night. Why they don’t use the caravan is beyond me but they get into the Murder World gas station just as the sun is coming up and take over it, much to the shock of employee Dan (Patrick Renna, no stranger to the genre as he played a vampire in the X files).

Felix finds the victimsAs the day goes on it is revealed that Brooke actually killed Warren in a fit of jealousy, rather than to save Carrie, stabbing the man 87 times. More people appear at Murder World and Brooke turns on Rhea, killing her (though, can one chosen by God remain dead?) Out in the desert Felix finds the bodies of Brooke’s victims (during which we see an unfortunate, errant boom mic) and at Murder World we hear of someone or something murdering drifters and, occasionally, locals – though that seems to be a red herring.

an air of psychosisThis is odd but, if you are like me, you will be drawn in by its oddness. The two primary leads performances are strange – their delivery of lines is stagy to say the least, but it fits in with the whole atmosphere. I actually thought Sophie Monk’s air of psychosis excellently done. Patrick Renna and Danny Woodburn both offer solid performances.

burnt by the sunWhen it comes to the vampirism we know that sunlight burns them. Garlic salt is thrown at Brooke, but as she catches the container we do not know if it would have worked. They need blood to survive, Rhea actually takes blood from Brooke to last the day as Brooke fed twice and she did not, and Rhea is given full knowledge of what they are and what they can do. Killing wise, staking seems to work – the film has one of the best stakings for a while, worth staying with the film for that one – but strangulation also seems effective.

Rhea's bright eyesOther than that, and the fact that Rhea’s eyes seem to glow and she has some telekinetic abilities, we hear little about the vampires. Clearly the idea that they are God’s chosen angels is unusual but we can fairly much say that this is the case in this movie. So, then, why make Brooke a vampire when she was clearly psychotic? Simply as a test for Rhea? That is likely but not completely answered in movie I felt. However, if it is the case, in doing so God let several people die. Then again God also moonlights as a waitress.

An oddity and, as I said, many will hate it. I enjoyed it. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

thanks for this Andy, now I know it's out so I will start looking for it.

Would you say it reminded you of Near Dark/The Forsaken at all?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Other than being on a desert highway, nothing like Near Dark/Forsaken - indeed most of the action takes place in Murder World and there is very little road trip aspect.

The film is on Amazon Germany.

Uranium Willy said...

I'll give it a shot based on the vidcaps alone. Has some quality there I usually little a bit anyway.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Do Bill, it is odd but strangely satisfying

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I recieved a mail with a comment from Antony. It is a very involved review of the film, which I would be doing a misservice if I didn't reproduce here for him. I don't know if I agree with the racial aspects but I respect his arguement:

'The Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu epic, says, "From the corruption of women proceeds the confusion of races; from the confusion of races the loss of memory; from the loss of memory, all understanding; and from this, all evil." Male vampires do nothing for me I’m afraid. Female vampires, by contrast, and lesbian vampires in particular, prompt inexhaustible and – dare I say it? – undying admiration.

Women control sex, and female beauty is liable to sexualize just about anything. Violence and bloodletting that disgust when prepetrated by males can appear curiously benign, even desirable, under the direction of a beautiful woman.

So why is it that Pearlblossom, which parades truly beautiful women – and in Sophie Monk one of the most desirable I’ve seen in years – amount to another lost opportunity?

I didn’t dislike Pearlblossom. I wasn’t put out by the inherent silliness of its pseudo-philosophizing. Many pictures are daft. Yes the dialogue lacked imagination. Yes, the acting was stilted at times (though I've seen a lot worse). This was low-budget fare. What did I expect?

Better use of its lead demon for one thing. I'm pleased she didn't get the role but Monk was the obvious candidate for God. She alone of the three pre-eminent female roles in the film had the killer walk of the professional model – the uber-confident stride that tells you she KNOWS the earth is hers (a feeling no self-respecting God would ever be without after all).

Angela Lindvall's deity approaches the camera just as elegantly, if less haughtily, early on, but Monk’s walk is more convincing. She has a better face and a better figure. The kissing was disappointing in this film. Michaelangelo had God give life to Adam with a touch. Here 'She' instills life with a kiss. Fine if that's what you're about, but irredeemable bad girls like Brooke don't kiss like nuns.


Taliesin_ttlg said...


Pearlblossom disappoints more generally because it promises what it doesn't deliver, neglecting the lesbian sex and wanton cruelty we hope to see in favour of politically correct grand-standing. Pearlblossom lazily reaffirms Hollywood’s continuing demonization of white males, especially southern white males, but tells us nothing new about it. Not that they sustain too much damage. This demon is pretty luckless on the whole.

From two ugly 'white guys' she kills for hors d’oeuvres to the main course of an inoffensive [white] male counter jockey she merely takes a bite out of, to a dessert which falls into her lap on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere in the shape of a squabbling young [yup, white] couple, you get the feeling Brooke is likelier to die from starvation than direct sunlight. So far opportunity has been an excuse for Rhea to demand restraint. Our (okay, okay 'my') heroine is alone by this point, however, unfettered by her former lover's insufferable moralizing.

She prepares by stuffing the boyfriend into the back seat of the car for later before turning to his terrified companion. Rhea appears out of the darkness at this point, revivified by a godly kiss and anxious to despatch a Brooke she now believes dangerously unstable. This she does in a trice, impaling Brooke on a fence post. Talk about Giod is Dead....

Another example of a film pretending to be what it isn't can be had from the treatment of law enforcement, though many won't notice. We seem unwilling to understand that everything on a cinema screen, like everything that appears in a painting, is there for a reason. Its presence isn't accidental. It serves a purpose. Here a script demanding such a one-dimensional exhibition of red-neckery not even Hollywood veteran Charles Napier (Sherrif Tillman) can redeem the character trots out stereotype after risible stereotype.

The woman the makers give Tillman to boss around just happens to be yet another member of an ethnic minority for example. The cues are this obvious, this crude, so when Officer Cook [Jennifer Tung] condemns his 'sexism', as when the legal implications of 'sexual harrassment' are raised by the department's Affirmative Action dwarf [Danny Woodburn] just because Tillman facetiously asks Cook to 'bake some cookies', we are left in no doubt who to dislike. Whites are bad, but white males are the worst of the lot. Wasn't Brooke only driven to kill in the first place by degenerate white film star 'Warren James'? [a fine WASPy - well, anglo-norman anyway - designation and no mistake.]

The kill list makes my point for me. Rhea Cohen is Asian with a Jewish name. By the end she’s killed Brooke, the white chick, and taken under her wing the pretty Asian teenager Brooke orphaned. Neither parent was killed for food. They were killed because they wouldn't leave and be on their way. The Asian father has his throat cut but Brooke doesn’t drink of him. The mother has her neck snapped. This doesn't make sense if Brooke is debauched AND as ravenously hungry as we are led to believe. Perhaps she doesn’t like the taste of Asians. I wonder if director Ron Carlson thinks undead whites are as racist as the living kind he dislikes.

We observe Rhea in the diner towards the end of the film. She is imparting wisdom to her newly rescued companion. This Asian girl is now her protege, clearly, and we imagine future partner in a divinely alloted task of ridding the world of white people (sorry, I mean 'evildoers'). Had the producers added a banner – ‘No wymmin or ethnic minorities were harmed in the making of this picture’ I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised. That’s Hollywood's agenda for you I'm afraid. Complying with it is what gets you funding for a lesbian vampire flick with no lesbian vampirism in it.

I want my sex and violence back. I want Brooke as well. Let's hope they remake Pearlblossom - properly.'

Joe Jones said...

Thanks for the review.
I have recently become enchanted by the vampire genre and would have never found this movie if it were not for your blog.
Not only this movie, but many many more as well.
You rock dude.

I would give Pearlblossom a 7 out of 10. Loved it!

I would like to have seen more of the vampire mythology explored regarding strengths and weaknesses.
Rhea's last punch impaling Brooke was meant to peak and transform the storyline, but it was poorly crafted with very little build up. It felt like drinking a flat coca cola.
I also wanted a better character arc for both leads, especially Rhea. Too much emphasis was placed on a mystery, Rhea.
Sophie Monk did the psycho act well. Her pause lent dramatic effect, very well timed.
I totally agree with your sentiment.

The "grindhouse feel" (as you put it) lends to the heavy reliance on eye candy as filler, which made the underdeveloped storyline more acceptable, but yet I still wanted more.
I want more damnit.
Gimme some freaking blood.

Much appreciated!!
This is one of the top vampire genre blogs on the net IMHO.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

My thanks for the nice comment re the blog.

Re Pearblossom I can understand your sentiment. The film isn't perfect, but I still like it.

Hope you find many more through the blog