Sunday, March 27, 2011

Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires – review

Director: Dustin Rikert

Release date: 2008 (by copyright notice on film)

Contains spoilers

This is one that appeared on the radar only very recently. At time of review it is a couple of months from its US DVD release – my DVD is the earlier Thai release – but I failed to find a homepage, what may be the iMDB page is bereft of any detail and the director’s iMDB page doesn’t list the film. The copyright notice on the actual film states 2008 and that is the release date I have used.

The title is almost a misnomer, whilst the film does have werewolves and does have vampires, they are never in direct conflict. There is a technicality that allows the title to be kind of okay – I’ll get to that in a little while.

The film starts with a couple, Sandra (Candis Brown) and Billy (Adrian Burks) by a campfire. They are heavy petting but she breaks off asking if he brought protection. Whilst he is in the tent, looking for a condom, a wind seems to catch the campfire as something moves around the place with speed. Sandra is taken. Billy returns and finds blood on the floor. He gets a firearm from his trunk and then finds Sandra’s dead body. A semi-transformed werewolf appears, he shoots him, the werewolf gets up and so he shoots him again before getting to the car. The werewolf appears in the road and so Billy runs him down, gets out of the car and shoots – blowing the gas tank and obliterating the werewolf – a fully transformed, not realistic, cgi Wolfman appears – cue credits.

John and Maria
The credits have newspaper clippings that mention missing people and talk of vampires. Then we cut to John Croix (Sam McConkey) and his wife Maria (Shari Wiedmann) as they drive cross-country. It is night, they are on a short cut that has left them lost, en route to an anniversary camping trip, and the fuel gauge is running perilously low. They see a building ahead and decide to go in – John taking his gun as it looks creepy.

vampire woman
Inside it is a bar – a kind of low rent version of the Titty Twister in From Dusk till Dawn – they ask the barkeeper, Shamus (Rich Williams), about gas but there is no station for fifty miles. He suggests they wait until day and he’ll contact a tow. They have chance enough to talk, John gives Maria a cross it appears, but it had no story impact, and she tells him she is pregnant, when the bar patrons and staff (bar the human Shamus) transform. The vampire makeup didn’t work too well for me.

a choice I never had
John gets a couple of shots off as Maria is grabbed and then another vampire, Sotreum (Paulino Hemmer) I’m guessing, comes in. After a ‘what are you’ moment, Sotreum suggests that he will give a choice he never had – which, of course, is very Interview with the Vampire. John becomes indignant, suggesting that he will never take the undead option, and Sotreum wonders at his presumption. He only meant the offer for Maria - John is walking food. John manages to escape the building, leaving his wife behind.

head in the sun
There is a vampire on the car roof moment as he tears away. This sequence was green-screened and looked rather false. He crashes the car, pinning the vampire and then he separates the head from its body – after the vampire begs for mercy. The vampire does not die, the head laughing at yet another presumption – however the sun is rising and the sunlight causes the head to be consumed in flames.

the cloaked man
John wanders out into the desert. He sees a cloaked figure but cannot catch him. Eventually he falls down a scree-covered slope and passes out below. When he comes around he hears the rattle of a snake. He reaches with his fingertips and grabs his shovel and kills the snake. Night finds him with a campfire, cooking snake… that is until he is attacked by a werewolf. He is rescued by the hooded man (a crossbow bolt to the head does for the werewolf, presumably it is silver) but he has been bitten.

4 weeks, or 28 days, later 
He awakens chained and the man, Van Ness (Mike Lawler), gives him an antidote – he might survive he might not. Four weeks later he awakens – bearded, healed and human with a trace of lycan that gives him all of the werewolf powers but none of their disadvantages – he is the ‘death hunter’ that prophecy spoke of, the one who can end the curses. The touch of lycanthropy that John carries is the reason why the title isn’t entirely inaccurate as he has some werewolf in him and goes after the vampire who took his wife. So here comes the lore.

a victim speaks
Kill the lead vampire or the lead werewolf and all the other ones revert to human and the age they would have been – thus ancient ones will die but a wife, who was turned six months ago, would only age 6 months. Werewolves and vampires are damned souls as are their victims – thus holy water blessed with faith will harm them, a knife or bullet dipped in holy water becomes a deadly weapon. As for the victims, we see a young boy suddenly sit up, white eyed and tell John that he is damned (presumably asking for his help).

vampire brides sleeping
To kill werewolves, silver is the key. Each werewolf is turned to differing degrees and thus you have the partially transformed and the giant man-wolves. To kill a vampire Van Ness mentions stakes through the heart and decapitation – but the sun has to finish the job. So, not decapitation then, rather losing the head makes them easier to handle and sunlight is the killer. The weirdest lore we get is the idea that none of the anti-vampire aspects works in the vampire’s own lair.

green-screen back drop
This was rather disjointed. After John’s training period he meets a group of kids and has them tag along rather than heading for the hills. The dialogue for the kids was incredibly false and one wondered at their presence in the film – padding and eye candy one assumes. There is quite a bit of location green-screening that looked simply awful.

crushed vampire
The acting wasn’t anything special, though Sam McConkey was personable enough – up to the point that he became shaven headed action hero and I didn’t buy his character as much. This had some good ideas lurking around, as well as some very referential moments that belayed the credit disclaimer that “any similarity to… …other firms (sic) is purely coincidental.”

This was a case of good intentions failing to make a great movie and it is a shame as there was clearly some effort put in. 4 out of 10 is for that effort, however flawed.

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