Monday, November 08, 2010

Valemont – review

Director: Stefan Scaini

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

Valemont, it almost passed under the radar. 35 episodes – according to imdb – but don’t get excited. This was MTV world and they were 2.5 minutes long and most were online (US only).

The series has been re-cut into 5 episodes and released onto DVD in the UK and I must say that the re-cut didn’t jar like some short episodic vehicles, which are subsequently placed onto the DVD market.

crispy fried Eric
The series begins with Eric Gracen (Eric Balfour), on video, on his mobile phone saying if you are watching the video then you’ve found his phone. Sophie (Kristen Hager), his sister, hasn’t seen him for 6 years – ever since he walked out following a car crash that killed their parents. The phone is with his effects, shown to her for identification when she is shown his body. His body has been burnt beyond recognition and his front teeth have been knocked out. Sophie steals the phone from the evidence bag and vanishes off.

Poppy and Sophie
The phone gives her (and subsequently us, when we see texts or videos) the clue that he had been attending Valemont College, the most prestigious university in the US. She buys the identity of Sophie Fields – a girl due to attend Valemont who pulled out because of pregnancy… we’ll just skip the suspension of disbelief in respect of this as it is a jagged pill to swallow. She ends up sharing a room with Poppy (Nikki Blonsky).

Dillon Casey as Sebastian
There are four houses on campus – their version of the Greek System – and she is interested in the Panthera House as one of Eric’s videos showed his breaking in there. She wonders if the resident stud, Sebastian (Dillon Casey), is her way in and then breaks in anyway. She is caught, Sebastian tries to help her but can’t and then wakes with a foam mouse headpiece on, in her underwear, with Cat Food written on her belly.

Dead man's phone
Due to the nocturnal shenanigans, she hasn’t completed a paper and Poppy gives her the number of a shady character called the Archangel – who we later hear is actually called Gabriel (Tyler Hynes). Sophie buys a paper off him but he asks why she is phoning from a dead man’s phone. Clearly he knew Eric but he vanishes off. Sophie is also experiencing hallucinations, including the word Desmodus written in blood on a mirror. Seemingly there was a Desmodus House but it burnt down to the ground.

The Panthera house is hosting a Halloween party but fresh men aren’t invited and you can only get in with a pendant that is also an electronic key. To get the key she accepts an offer from Sebastian to go to dinner, gets Chinese Take Out, takes him back to her room, kisses him mercilessly and, when he starts to strip, pockets his pendant. Poppy comes in before anything too untoward happens.

staking photo
They gatecrash the party and don pig masks that everyone appears to be wearing. Sophie heads to the basement and finds a picture of a staked vampire in the filing cabinets that Eric was rifling through in his video. Poppy, who has been on watch, tells Sophie that something is not right. There are piglets in cages and a commotion in a room as people watch something.

Blood drinking
They push forward and see a boy drinking blood from a tureen. Poppy screams and Gabriel pulls Sophie out. He tells her that she has ended up in a school for vampires and he and Eric were trying to expose it. Poppy will be taken to the infirmary where she will be made to forget – or vanish. This is where we begin to get our lore but also where we have a problem. This is a surprise to Sophie but she had the phone. It is used to give us clues but surely she’d have watched every video on it – which would have revealed much to her, including the word vampire before she even got there (if you feel dazzled, it’s the headlights of the truck driving through that plot hole).

echoes of Yorga
Lore wise vampires are born not turned and Valemont is a place where they can turn safely and learn to control their urges. Most students who are vampires do not know it until they turn. The humans are there to provide a test of willpower and hunting on campus is prohibited. They are also there to provide spouses as vampires are not allowed to interbreed. If they drink animal blood they are just like you and I but long lived.

vampire spotting 101
If they switch to human blood (which has a greater effect on them and is addicted) they grow fangs and burn out quicker (thus are shorter lived than humans). They also become sensitive to sunlight and garlic – garlic can be injected, when their vampire side has not emerged, to force the change. They have lower body temperatures than humans. Stake through the heart is the order of the day – the sap is what kills them so specific wood is used – followed by smashing the teeth out and burning – sound familiar?

A bat is to blame, it carried a virus and bit five animals. It bit a human, who became a vampire of the Desmodus line, and then four other animals. They then bit humans and they became the other four lines – one wonders how the crocodile or panther line victims lasted long enough to be infected. One also wonders then at the breeding rather than turning aspect – after all that’s a hell of a lineage they’ve left behind each original. Desmodus – being directly infected – are the most powerful.

I couldn’t help, as I watched this, but think of the (first of the) Melissa De La Cruz books. Okay the background is different but it has an exclusive school, vampires born not made coming into their inheritance, human servants attending the school as well as humans oblivious to the vampires there as a test, a war brewing between good vampires and bad vampires, a fatal attraction between female lead (who doesn’t know that she too is a vampire) and the alpha male vampire. It is just so damn similar.

creepy but unexplored
The acting was good enough and the effects were alright but there were plot points that just missed the mark and others that left gaping holes that the resident truck was using as a shortcut. The story was way too familiar but, all in all, the show passed the time. Some of the imagery used was nice but other bits… there was a pair of creepy twin girls that looked like they had walked out of a Japanese series and by the end of the show I was none the wiser as to why they were there. 4.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Sounds seriously flawed but potentially interesting. Worth a look maybe (especially since I'm putting together a web series about vampires of my own heh). Spotted what I thought might be the gi-normous plot hole from your early description. At first I thought the series might be of the sister's reaction as she went through and watched all the videos on the phone.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The biggest plot hole around the phone was that she should have seen much of what was going on in advance - the series had the video clips appearing after reveals in plot.

It was flawed but it was interesting in parts