Monday, January 25, 2010

Blood Creek – review

dvdDirector: Joel Schumacher

First released: 2009

Contains spoilers

Blood Creek is a Joel Schumacher film, his first vampire film since the Lost Boys. Now I will say at the beginning that this is a typical Schumacher film, it looks good – even the bits that don’t look that good are shot in a way that you overlook it, we’ll discuss that when we get to zombie horses (I kid you not) – and it is eminently watchable if your brain has been switched off.

However, I did consider running this as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ You see the lore is very odd, there is mention of zombies on the net and I actually started by typing ‘Vamp or Not?’ as the title to this article. Yet I knew I was going to go Vamp on this, ultimately, and I had reported on this way back when, at the time when the film was still to be called Town Creek, and the press release definitively mentions vampires.

Michael Fassbender as WirthSo, odd lore to come. However the film itself starts with a voice over that mentions Hitler being obsessed with the occult and him sending agents out in the 1930s to find rune stones that he believed were the path to immortality. We see a farm in 1936, run by an immigrant German family. The father, Otto Wollner (Rainer Winkelvoss), receives a letter from Berlin. He sits with his wife (Joy McBrin), son Karl (László Mátray) and young daughter Liese (played young by Andreea Perminov and older by Emma Booth). A Berlin historical society want to send a scholar, Richard Wirth (Michael Fassbender), to stay with them – they have sent 150 dollars expenses.

the rune stoneWirth’s gear arrives – mostly crates of books. He arrives not long after, complete with long leather coat! He is clearly, just in the tone of his conversations, a Nazi. Berlin is aware that the Wollners found a rune stone when they built the farm, a relic of the first Vikings to land on the Americas. When asked where it is Otto confesses he used the stone as a foundation stone but it is clearly visible within the root cellar. When Wirth goes down there he finds Liese. She is burying a pet bird that has died. He takes it before the rune stone, chants and it comes alive for a short while (its eye turns a milky white opaque). He is exhausted and bleeding from his nose but has elicited her help – it will only hurt a little, each time.

Cut to the modern day and Evan Marshall (Henry Cavill) is a paramedic at the scene of a crystal meth kitchen trying to save the life of a suspect – who dies (but that is unimportant to the rest of the film). We very quickly have establishment that his brother Victor (Dominic Purcell, Blade Trinity) was an Iraq veteran. Their father (Gerard McSorley) thinks Evan useless. Victor vanished on a camping trip with Evan, just when he got home from Iraq – the father blames Evan and Victor’s marital family still hope he will reappear.

Victor returnsEvan is trying to move on, he has put up a memorial stone in the cemetery but he still has nightmares about Victor vanishing. He is woken from his nightmare by a hairy looking Victor, returned. He is told to say nothing, get the guns and come with Victor to get revenge. Whilst he prepares, Victor shaves and washes. They drive to the river and then canoe upstream. Evan notices a woman putting up missing posters for her husband.

trek for revengeThey trek through to a farm, surrounded by fences with oddly daubed paint (they are runic symbols). They see a man drive off – Victor says he won’t be back until evening. They enter the farm. Victor warns Evan of a dog, but he is attacked and bitten – Victor kills it by knife. As Victor heads for the house (Evan left to cover the porch), Evan feels the need to inject himself with rabies vaccine – why? Evan is a paramedic – he will know that the vaccine can be administered up to a month after being bitten and the scene has no later impact in the film. I think it was a nod to those films/books that connect vampirism with rabies but it felt silly and unnecessary.

Karl bolts from the house and Victor shoots his shoulder. Evan shoots him in the belly (he is not dead at that point. They take control of the house – though Liese fights back a little and Victor repeatedly asks ‘where is he?’ Cutting to the chase there is a container where Victor had been held for two years and fed to Wirth by the Wollners – who are stuck in time. In there now is the man who has recently gone missing. When Otto returns Wirth is accidentally freed from the place they keep him and all Hell breaks loose. On to the unusual lore.

the zombie KarlFirst the zombies. Wirth is able to use his occult powers to raise any dead creature as a zombie. He can raise dogs, he can raise a horse he butchers with his long nails and he can raise humans. The horse gets in the house and bullets just rip chunks out of it. Fire eventually scares it out. The CGI isn’t great but the scene is filmed in such a way that you are more concerned with the action than the CGI. The human zombies (such as Karl) can also get in the house. This was odd as Wirth himself is held out by rune symbols and yet his creatures can enter as can the power of his spells – when Karl kills Otto in the house, Wirth raises him also. The zombies can be stopped via massive brain trauma and, whilst under Wirth’s direct control they act as he directs, they can also ask for help.

drawing strength from the rune stoneWirth himself is unusual. At first we see him with bandages around his face but then we get a reveal to his yellowed skin carved with runic symbols. He gains strength through the rune stone but he needs human blood to live. There are rules around the blood. His own blood is poisonous to him, as is the blood of his family (and there is a set of armour made out of the bones of his ancestor, the wearer of which is safe from him). He cannot drink the blood of the dead.

opening the third eyeLiese trapped him with runic symbols and, subsequently, the Wollners have fed him, but just enough to keep him alive – why they didn’t just starve him to death is not explained. It is his magic that keeps them alive, frozen in time. To be honest, strip away the occult/Nazi aspects and this then becomes more or less the Fear Itself episode The Sacrifice. He wishes to open his third eye, which he can do on the night of a lunar eclipse (that night, conveniently) with a lot of blood. Opening the eye involves hammering a hole in his own skull – he believes this will make him invincible. Should he die then the zombies would cease and those frozen in time would catch their years all at once.

riping the skin from his faceHe later pulls the skin from his skull – which seems to turn to dust in the wind. He can be poisoned as mentioned above and can be killed by stopping the blood reaching his brain – decapitation then. Clearly he is an unusual sort of vampire, but tying vampires and the occult together is nothing new. Indeed Stoker hinted in Dracula that the Count was one of the students of the Scholomance – the Devil’s academy and thus a student of arcane knowledge.

Savouring bloodThe film itself is slick, Schumacher knows how to keep a pace going. The action sequences are also well shot and keep the pace bobbing along. If you think too much you’ll get nothing out of this – for instance, if the zombies can pass the runes, why hadn’t he killed a horse and have it kick the fences down to allow his escape decades ago? Evan going off with Victor like that seemed improbable and the source of their (minor plot impact) feud that is mentioned at one point was silly in itself. They are not the only plot holes/inconsistencies and I should mention that the film is also primed for sequels, but that is the normal case these days, is it not. If, however, you can take your brain out and just go along for the ride then this is worth your time – it is a slickly directed, action horror with (and this is the selling point for me) an unusual vampire.

I enjoyed this as I watched it. 6 out of 10. The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

it looks nuts! and i am a squirrel... thanks for the strong post!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no probs...