Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Bloodletting: Vampire Scrolls – review

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Release date: 2004

Contains spoilers

By ‘eck, this should not have worked… never in a million years. However, despite itself, I found myself enjoying this. Ok, its low, low budget combined with a barely constructed storyline but…

The credits moved me first of all. Piano floats above very well photographed images of books and candles. We hit an issue amongst all this, as we see extracts from the so called vampire scrolls, as we see text mentioning the bloodletting, as we see the symbol of vampire society… well we start to believe that there might be a deeper storyline occurring within this movie. It is further into the film proper when we realise that… well its all smoke and mirrors. The bloodletting is mentioned as is moving in shadows but generally all that was an ethereal phantasm of a story, as elusive as the infamous Scotch mist.

horror in the alley
We then move into the film proper and… well there is an instant deflation when the beautifully shot credits open into a cheaply shot street scene with a sub-soap dialogue between two college girls. One suggests an alley way short cut and you know that is going to end badly. They pass by a homeless guy who moves suddenly grabbing and feeding on one before she can raise a scream. Her friend turns and we see his blood stained face.

Crystal (Jody Marie) and her friends are arranging a night out. She is on the phone to Amanda (Molly Fix) and tells her to bring her new beau, Johnathan (Jeremy Dunn). Also in the house are Rachael (Amanda Lea) and Meg (Caroline Blackwell). Over at a pool we see Theo (Mark Westerdale), the camera slow-motions as he flicks his hair, he ain’t no stud and, when he speaks in a British accent we realise, he’s not really an actor either… sorry, just the way it is. He is at the pool with Mark (Orlando McGuire) – Rachel’s boyfriend – and Derek (Shaun Paul Piccinino) – Crystal’s boyfriend.

rumpy pumpy
So, they all go out, meet Johnathan, have a good time and then stagger home dunk. On the way they see a vagrant (Henry Inglesias) who warns them that he sees *them* in the shadows and they are all doomed. The main gang go to one house and Amanda takes Johnathan home and they have some rumpy pumpy. We then see the vagrant attacked by an assailant who remains unseen. In the morning Amanda is on her own, Johnathan has left a note explaining that he had to get up early… Are you already suspicious of him, the new guy who isn’t there in the morning?

worried Amanda? You will be...
Rachael takes out the trash and finds the dead vagrant. Now, ok, she has found a dead body but there is no need for the almost catatonia she falls into or for the gang to all come-a-running. They phone Amanda and she phones Johnathan – who can’t come round as he has an interview – but he’ll be there in the evening. Suspicious still? Good… They all watch TV, bar Rachael who sleeps. When Mark looks in on her she has gone and blood is on the sheets. Now we get to the good bit.

ceiling cling
The gang split up, Mark and Theo wait in the house whilst the three remaining girls and Derek go to the underground parking to get the car and go to the cops (as they are taking a long time getting there). In the parking lot they discover that Amanda’s car is dead and they are attacked by a fast moving thing. Eventually they discover it is Amanda and it was here that I began to engage more with the film.

They had Amanda kill virtually the entire gang of in the lot, as well as a stranger, but that is not what impressed me. What impressed me was the look… the way the fangs were done, the way the blood was done, Hell even the ceiling cling, they were all really well done. It came as little surprise then that director Shaun Paul Piccinino has gone successfully into visual effects as a career – they were impressive.

Johnathan's secret is out
It’s not a huge shock to eventually discover that Johnathan is a vampire. Theo rumbles it when he notices a lack of reflection in the TV screen and dies for his troubles. Amanda realises when he mixes his story up. The problem is I see no motivation. He kills the vagrant because he warned the kids, but they didn’t listen so there was no point to that one. He wants to turn Amanda so they can be together forever (fair enough) but then turns Rachael as it is a gift, and she goes on the rampage… His motivation for that didn’t add up.

Lore wise we see a stake through the heart is rather effective as Amanda accidentally stakes Rachael in the underground parking lot. The vampires can move fast, vanish and reappear and they avoid sunlight. They cast no reflection and can wall crawl/ceiling hang. All the stuff about moving in shadows/darkness, vampire societies and the bloodletting was, as I mentioned, irrelevant story babble.

fangs a-plenty
The acting was not particularly brilliant across the board but nothing as bad as Theo, who was cringe-worthy. It is a shame that story, photography and acting didn’t match up with the visual effects used as this might have ended up a little cult classic. As it is I found it watchable, enjoyable even, but truthfully not brilliant as a piece of cinema. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


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