Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Understudy: Graveyard Shift 2 – review


Directed by: Jerry Ciccoritti

First Released: 1988

Contains spoilers

The film Graveyard Shift (AKA Central Park Drifter) was a film that I personally enjoy, having fond memories of the film, but ultimately was its own worst enemy – especially round its pacing.

It did, however, spawn this sequel (ostensibly) and this is rather difficult to get a hold of – having never made it to DVD. I said ostensibly as the film stars Silvio Oliverio again as the vampire, but his character name, look and personality all have changed – also the lead female character from the first film does not appear at all. The rather beautiful cinematography from the first film has faltered but the story is unusual and more original. That said its exposition is lacking and it perhaps takes itself too seriously.

Camilla and MattThe film begins with a pool ball and a spill of blood that is wiped away. We are on the set of ‘Blood Lover’, a vampire movie – a film within this film about a vampire pool player called Apache Falco who is played by Ramon (Carl Alacchi). This was out in the same year as the Monsters episode Pool Sharks about a vampire pool player. Also on set is up and coming starlet Camilla (Wendy Gazelle), who plays heroine Patti Venus. Ramon sees himself as the star (though most think it a vehicle for Camilla) but his next job is being frustrated by delays in the production.

Mark Soper as MattThese seem to be centred around technical glitches that make some of the crew wonder as to whether they are filming on an Indian Burial Ground. Camilla’s boyfriend is the editor Matthew (Mark Soper) and the director is Martina (Lesley Kelly). The love interest for Patti, Duke, is played by Larry (Tim Kelleher) and Camilla is avoiding his seedier suggestions.

the mirror bucklesCamilla tries on some fangs and the mirror she looks into buckles and glass explodes, cutting her hand. With her hand bandaged she wanders through the building with a script when she comes across Baisez (Silvio Oliverio). Assuming him to be a crew member she accepts his offer of help with rehearsing her lines. She doesn’t notice that he knows the lines without a script. He kisses her and bites her lip and she sees that her cut on her hand is bleeding. She awakens on the pool table, found by makeup lady Ash (Ilse von Glatz), the cut on her hand is gone.

As Camilla and Matt leave for the night we hear that Martina is watching Vampyr. Camilla observes that a vampire makes a perfect movie star. At home Matt proposes to her and she accepts, they drink champagne and make love. As Matt sleeps she rings Ramon with a concept of how he can get off the shoot, she’ll explain at the studio.

Baisez is rebornIn the studio she meets Baisez, he asks who and she says Ramon. It is here we realise that Baisez is a spirit as he explains that Ramon’s soul must be emptied from his body for him to possess it. Ramon arrives and Camilla stabs him. Baisez is moving towards him when she says no, she wants it and stabs herself. Baisez ends up possessing the girl, feeding on Ramon and disposing of his body. The next day Camilla is herself again and throws up blood.

seduction through bloodBaisez takes over her at night, becoming himself. He seduces Ashley – explaining that when Camilla takes her first blood he’ll possess her completely. Ashley introduces him to Martina as her new vampire and she is so impressed with his rehearsal he gets the job (everyone assumes Ramon has run off). He has to vampirically seduce Martina to ensure that filming of the principles is done against body doubles – as he is both of course – Camilla filming during the day and Baisez at night. Matt, however, becomes suspicious.

a bloody kissSo the vampirism is unusual. We have a vampire’s ghost trying to gain corporeality through possession. However Camilla’s actions did not gel. She had asked Baisez to make her a star and he had offered to do so. Why she suddenly wanted to be possessed by him is not explored sufficiently. Perhaps she wanted to be a vampire? Well, he could have possessed Ramon and passed that on in a traditional manner. Ashley falls in love with him (and wishes she was possessed as they would be merged together) but Camilla accepted a marriage proposal from Matt that very night.

Silvio Oliverio as BaisezThe other confusing thing is – is this a sequel? The vampire in the first film was called Stephen Tsepes. Perhaps that was an assumed name (though so unusual it was unlikely) or perhaps he makes a false name up in this (though there was no logical reason to do so). However his hair in this is altogether eighties and long, this would assume that spirits can grow their hair and find a stylist! Also this vampire seems evil, motivated by selfish needs, whilst Stephen was more symbiotic with his victims – attacking only women who truly wanted to die and making them vampire brides.

angry faceThere was an underlying theme here, caught in the entire film within a film premise, of the vampire and the film being the same thing. Is the vampire destroyed by light as a film might perish? Certainly the concept is there but I felt it wasn’t explored competently enough. The cinematography didn’t work as well as the predecessor film. Oliverio injects a presence into the film and the base story is perhaps stronger than the first film for being more unusual.

The pacing, however, like the first film was slow and ultimately, whilst I found the film interesting and enjoyed its flirtation with more unusual themes it was generally a little weak. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.



Zahir Blue said...

Actually, I remember this film with fondness--perhaps because the ending touched me.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Much in the way the first film is remembered by me with fondness, one guesses.

Zahir Blue said...

I remember *both* with fondness.