Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sleepless Nights – review

Director: William Hopkins

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

This film, written and directed by William Hopkins who also wrote the unusual Children of the Night, has been sat in my collection for some time and it is over five years since I last watched it.

As it was I put it on and, despite the clearly low budget and the fairly rubbishy effects that appear occasionally through the film, I suddenly remembered what a good little film it was. The reason, as is so often the case, was due to story. This has a good, well-constructed and interesting story that keeps you engaged. The dialogue works and is delivered, for the most part, with a natural air.

Allison attacks
It starts in a house and Christian Grey (Matthew Thomas) is sharpening stakes. A man, Sloan (Bart Shatto), comes in and stands over him. He praises the work Christian has done and suggests that he realises it doesn’t come naturally to him. He then goes out, with a crossbow. Christian is packing his stakes up when his wife Allison (Courtney Balaker) comes in. She suggests running away but they (the vampires) have taken the town and Christian has to fight – especially the leader Malgaard (Duke York). He pulls his hand away from her neck and notices blood. Malgaard has been to her – he has drunk from her and she from him. She attacks her husband…

wake in coffin
Christian awakes in his coffin. It was a dream, a nightmare that has recurred over the ten years since that night. Since then he has chased after Malgaard in order that he might free his wife from his power. Later we hear that turning occurs if a vampire drains a victim so much it kills them. In sharing his blood with Allison, Malgaard has forged a link that has subsumed her will completely. He could have killed Christian but turning him and his wife was punishment for the audacity of standing up to him.

Stritch and Malgaard
A car pulls up outside, what appears to be, a disused building. A man, Dr Hogarth (Bart Quentzel), leaves the car and is led into the building. Inside it is pitch black, he lights a lighter and is surrounded by vampires. Another human, Stritch (Adrian Alvarado), comes to him and tells him to go with two vampire women to prepare for the ceremony. Stritch then goes to Malgaard to tell him Hogarth is there. Malgaard talks to Stritch and we get the background information that Malgaard was a Templar and that Hogarth, who is the leader of the Worldwide Church of the Future (think Scientology and you’ll get the idea), is being turned in return for passing Malgaard an amulet that allows a vampire to walk in daylight.

drinking blood
Hogarth is at his ceremony and Malgaard mentions that the amulet still hasn’t come. Hogarth states that it is en route and suggests that Malgaard will have to trust him. Malgaard knows, however, that if Hogarth is turned he would keep the amulet and so decapitates him (one of the unfortunate effects, I’m afraid). The next thing we see is Hogarth wrapped in a sheet and hung upside down to let the remainder of his blood pour into a bowl. The vampires fill goblets from the bowl and start to drink when the warehouse door opens and the NCA burst in.

NCA Agent
The NCA are the Necromorph Control Agency and their raid is coincidental to Malgaard’s presence. They sweep through the room, killing vampires with ruthless efficiency. Malgaard and Stritch escape out back and into a car but are chased by one of the agents, Jeff (Richard Ryan). Whilst the NCA clean up the aftermath of the assault they find Hogarth’s head. Once the recluse is identified it leads to an undercover operation, into the church, by Agent Carla Meyer (Kelley Busby) – you just know that’ll go wrong.

Kait and Jeff
Jeff is in a relationship with another Agent, Kaitlin (Jacqueline Anderson), who has been studying the patterns left by a necromorph known as N5. He is unusual as he doesn’t kill his victims and thus they have a composite picture of him. Kaitlin has theories that perhaps he chooses to not kill and is tracking Malgaard down – yes its Christian. These theories are dismissed by the Agency boss – Sloan. Kaitlin is ill and she later discovers that she has an inoperable brain tumour and has only months to live…

aperitif, Malgaard style
Okay – enough story, as this is a joy to watch unfold (so I suggest you do). Lore, that we haven’t covered already, includes the fact that the vampires have eye mojo. That they need to feed daily but the more blood they take the more of their humanity they lose – thus Christian only taking what he needs. At one point we see Malgaard drawing blood from a baby that is hung in a mini-fridge. It was a chilling and effective scene. Crosses don’t work – though Malgaard remembers those that turned him and his fellow knights cowered from crosses due to their own ignorance.

The acting – given the fact that many of the main players have only one imdb credit – is very natural in respect of delivery and rather good. The film itself could have used a massive injection of budget to work on issues such as lighting, film stock and effects. However, if it had been given a cash injection then the likelihood is that the story would have been brutalised and so, overall, I am glad that Hopkins’ script was realised as is.

I like this little film. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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