Friday, May 07, 2010

Blood on the Highway – review

Directed by: Barak Epstein & Blair Rowan

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

This was one of the films that I saw at the 2009 Bram Stoker film festival. At the time of writing the review it is awaiting the US DVD release but has seen a release in Germany under the title Legion Der Vampire.

Now this is lowbrow humour, of that there is no doubt. We have poop jokes, fart gags, more sexual references than you can shake a stick at and you know what… its all good, this is good ol’ redneck aimed (at) humour. It could have just been so puerile that it was pathetic but it skated that fine line and in doing so took a large sociological sideswipe at consumerism with some other sly social comments sneaking in – no mean feat in what might have been simply toilet humour.

welcome to Con$umart
The film begins with a new store, the con$umart, opening in a small town – we later discover to be called fate. It opened for the first time at night and saw the crowds come flooding in. They searched the aisles, looking for bargains until they came across a Buy One, Get One Free offer on coffins. The lights went out and blood hit the automatic doors.

on the road
Carrie (Robin Gierhart) and her boyfriend Sam (Nate Rubin) are in a car and she is honking the horn as they wait for Sam’s ‘friend’ Bone (Deva George). The dynamics of these characters are what makes the film work. Sam is a dweeb, sickly but rich – clearly that is why the slightly bitchy Carrie is with him. Bone is from a poor background and refers to Sam as ‘Cum dumpster’. Sam believes it to be in a friendly way. Carrie bitches about the fact that Bone isn’t ready, but they are twenty minutes early, Sam has bought them all tickets to the ‘Fire Festival’. Bone throws a farewell dog turd at his alcoholic father as they leave. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

entering faith
Things go wrong when Sam gets motion sickness and throws up across the front window of the car, causing Carrie to turn off the highway. She forgives him for the price of a new car interior, a new outfit and an MP 3 player but they are now stuck on a service road with no map (it having been destroyed by vomit). They see a hillbilly by the side of the road and ask directions. Old Zeke (Richard L Olsen) tells them that the quickest way to the highway is via faith, but not to go there as it has bad blood. They go there…

mop kill
Carrie is running out of gas and they stop at a gas station. The Clerk is pale, with blood at his mouth. Sam has a bad feeling but they go in anyway, Bone heads for the beer and Carrie starts slipping fruit into her purse. Things go wrong when the clerk takes a chunk out of Sam’s arm – and then mumbles apologies, as his fangs are stuck, before pulling free and taking a chunk out of his neck. Bone stakes him with a mop – “Clean up in aisle three” he intones. A second clerk attacks and Bone chooses a small American flag to stake him with – “welcome to America”, he intones, to which the bemused clerk replies that he was born in America. The flag was made in Korea.

Byron and Bone
They race back to the car, Sam bleeding profusely. Carrie wants to know what *they* are and, with a large dose of sarcasm, Bone replies “They had fangs. That one didn’t give a f*ck when I tore his arm off but they both died pretty f*cking quickly when I put a stake through their heart. So, obviously... they're Lutherans.” The vampires are watching the roads out of town and soon the gang meet up with a delusional survivalist named Byron (Tony Medlin).

Sam taped up
They end up at a survivors’ house with Byron (who has seceded from the United States), his last surviving wife (and general nymphomaniac) Lynette (Laura Stone) and the date rapist with an inverted penis Roy (Chris Gardner). Sam ends up being taped in an empty pool, destined to turn into a vampire and the vampires themselves can smell fresh blood to feed upon.

the clueless vampire killers
Lore wise things are fairly standard, we have mentioned the stake through the heart and that a bite turns. Carrie and Bone plan to run as the sun comes up, which Byron thinks is a bad idea but he doesn’t believe they are vampires – rather they are government funded fang bots. Actually sunlight does kill. Vampires need an invitation to go in a house but when Sam has turned and witnesses a near encounter between Carrie and Bone he invites the whole town in.

God hates mortals
We see that garlic (powder in this case) can have a pretty devastating effect on the vampires. The vampires hold a town meeting at one point and we hear they can fly – though we don’t witness it. It is through the town meeting that the vampires become organised, through the guidance of southern lawyer Louis Debois (Tom Towles), into a mob. It is during this we see the fantastic placard (and wonderful social commentary) that reads “God Hates Mortals”.

trolley surfing
Ah, you say, but what of the sideswipe on consumerism. When Carrie and Bone get out of the house and make a run for it they eventually get to the con$umart. Carrie thinks them safe at first, given the invitation rule, but the place is crawling with vampires. This does lead to some groovy fighting action for Bone – including some trolley surfing.

Nicholas Brendon as Chase Sinclair
However, at that point the regional vice-president of Con$mart Industries arrives, one Chase Sinclair (Nicholas Brendon, yes he of Buffy). Con$umart is a vampire corporation, going into small towns and bleeding them dry until everyone works for or shops at their store. They have 90 such stores across America. Brendon is clearly having a fab old time in this and his cameo is worthwhile.

not a romantic vampire image
Indeed, the cast of mostly unknowns, do brilliantly well. Carrie and Bone, particularly, come across as sympathetic – despite the fact that they are singularly the most unsympathetic characters. The whole film has a tongue wedged firmly in its cheek and similes with Airplane! are not actually misplaced, in parts at least.

The humour is very often guttural, yet works and the film deserves a solid 6 out of 10. The imdb page is here.

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