Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bloodwine – review


Director: Patrick Keith

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

Bloodwine is a micro-budget film that has a basic premise at its heart of a brandy that, for some reason, causes vampirism. This, in itself, isn’t original. A Taste of Blood used the exact same device over forty years before… However, it is the nature of the vampire genre that we borrow and (hopefully) evolve concepts, building on the past.

Thus, the premise of this has been done before but not in the exact same way and, to be fair, this might have had no budget and be a first time effort, not only for the director but also the two primary leads, but it managed to hold my attention with something that a lot of films (of both micro and major budget) often miss out – character.

Unfortunately, the start of the film does let it down – not in look but in premise as we realise that this is actually the epilogue to the film and the rest of the production is what preceded it. Whilst this might be okay it does mean we can kind of guess what fate has in store for the character Andrea (Melissa Johnson) and also know that no lasting harm will come to her as we see her enter a cellar in modern day Romania.

stake seems ineffectualAndrea is a Goth and snoops around the wine cellar before opening the sarcophagus of the vampire Carmilla (Vanessa Leiani). Carmilla does not lie around to be staked and attacks Andrea, who is on the back foot until she turns her head and wards the vampire with a cross earring. She stakes the vampire, to no avail. As they fight a jar is smashed with a heart in it. Andrea realises what it is, and stakes Carmilla’s removed heart – killing the vampire in a rather effective special effect (given the budget). She then burns the cellar; the castle burning was not as good an effect, it has to be said.

Lora Meins as BrandySome time before. Brandy (Lora Meins) has just transferred to the college in her previous home town, as her father has just moved the family back to the area. As she goes to her dorm, laden with box, she meets Mercedes (Heather Whitsell) and Nicole (Christina DeYoung). They warn her of her roommate in the bitchiest of terms. As she enters her dorm she immediately recognises her roommate as her good friend Andrea. It seems the gruesome twosome next door have been bullying Andrea due to her Goth sensibilities.

The two go for a meal. Andrea used to live with her uncle – who is currently researching in Prague – and the two of them had many a misadventure whilst Brandy stayed at his house with Andrea. Eventually, having noticed a scar on Andrea’s wrist (that is not mentioned again), Brandy asks about Brian. He is dead. Eventually Andrea tells her friend how Brian had asked her to marry him but his parents had freaked and forbid them to see each other. Brian killed himself.

Melissa Johnson as AndreaThe film builds the friendship of these two rather well but it would only work dependant on the actresses. Despite this being their first film they manage to inject the characters with believable life. Their performances, to be fair, are not perfect. Occasionally the dialogue becomes flat but these are occasional blips in otherwise rather well constructed performances – kudos for that.

guzzling BrandyWhilst Brandy is away for the Thanksgiving weekend, Andrea decides to buy her a present for her upcoming 21st birthday. She is in a wine merchants and a woman (who has been lurking and whom we recognise as Carmilla) ensures that the store attendant recommends a certain brandy. Clearly, therefore, it is meant for Andrea. When Brandy gets back from her break, andrea is out and she spots said bottle, reads the card, opens it and glugs some. She smashes the bottle as she drops it, due to the pain now ripping her apart.

sunlight burning fingerThe brandy she has drunk changes her into a vampire and there are definitive and immediate changes. Her body temperature drops, her eyes gain dark circles as her skin becomes pallid and vivid blue veins cover her body. When sunlight touches her finger it begins to smoke and burn.

fading in the mirrorWhen she looks in the mirror she sees that her reflection is fading. The college nurse (Zalika Thomas) later checks her temperature and tries to detect a heartbeat. She was on the verge of saying that Brandy should be dead when the girl sprouts fang and feeds upon her. The problem is that whilst we see what is happening we are never told why.

Carmilla seems to haunt AndreaCarmilla seems to haunt Andrea and offers her more brandy when she discovers that the first bottle was broken. on the other hand, Carmilla doesn't even seem to register Brandy’s plight (though she does appear in a dream that Brandy has). Andrea rings her uncle (Richard Gray, offering a poor performance compared to the two leads) who clearly has a bottle of the brandy before him in Prague. He has research on vampires that he has left in his US home, as well as a book on the noble families of Romania. Did he set his niece up or is Carmilla using her to get to him? We never discover.

Brandy haunts the nightThat element is frustrating but we should allow for the fact that the thrust of the film is the relationship of the two girls and the plight they stumble into. That aspect is generally really well done. An interesting, indie micro-budget film, the pacing of which perhaps falters occasionally but generally the production makes a positive impact. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anthony Hogg said...

"This, in itself, isn’t original. A Taste of Blood used the exact same device over forty years before… "

Not just that flick, either. How about that bottle of wine in The Lost Boys (1987) and a similar device in its sequel.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

true indeed, but as I found an example somewhat older I stuck with that ;)

Joanna said...

I remember that name from somewhere else, from Star Trek. "Klingon Bloodwine is an alcoholic beverage renowned for its flavour and potency. It has been mentioned that Bloodwine is twice as strong as Earth whisky."

Taliesin_ttlg said...

'tis true, Joanna, that Trek do have a bloodwine