Saturday, May 14, 2011

Planet of the Vampire Women – review

Director: Darin Wood

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Planet of the Vampire Women is an example of filmmaking on the cheap… let’s get that out of the way, straight away. It had little budget and the filmmakers tried to make a sci-fi… and by knowing they had limited budget they actually gave a cheap-end sci-fi of yore feel to the film (with some gratuitous booby shots, thrown in for fun).

We are talking bad matting, cardboard sets, polystyrene monsters… It has a silly premise and a group of actors who are clearly having great fun.

The end result… fun for the viewer. If you like your films slick and expensive then look away now. However, if you dig the classier end of B movies then keep on reading…

space station
We begin on a space station, and a casino therein. The graphics for outer space can be out done by the average video game but they set a B ambience that’s hard to beat. Once in the casino the cardboard set dressings are noticeable but the filmmakers distract the viewers by having gratuitous breastage. There is a range of ne’er-do-wells prowling the casino. Hostess Pepper Vance (Ashley Marino) introduces pleasure-clone Astrid Corvair (Stephanie Hyden) – whose holographic system allow her to change costume with a well-timed flick of the hip.

Astrid on stage
But all is not well; drugged out former racing star Candy “Karma” Miranda (Danielle Williams) and disgraced Doctor Calaveras (Stephen Vargo) work together to steal the keys to the classic battleship owned by Lonestart Burdett (John Douglas Ayres) whilst the money from the casino is picked up by security – including space cop Val Falco (Jawara Duncan). A short lived criminal tries to drug Falco but fails and then space pirate Captain Trix Richards (Paquita Estrada) makes her entrance – there to steal the money. There is a shootout – with some nice gore splatter – and Richards and her crew – including Pepper and Astrid – get away with the casino’s takings.

Richards returns... with fangs
They make their escape, on Burdett’s stolen ship, to an uninhabited planet, and we are introduced to the whole crew – some we have already mentioned but it also includes the cyborg Automatic Jones (Keith Letl), the disgraced marine Ginger Maldonado (Liesel Hanson) and revolutionary debutante Vette Vanvanderzander (Emily Vernon). However Falco is chasing after them and so they hide in a storm cloud. The cloud seems to develop a face, smashing through the bridge window and killing the Captain. They are forced to land and, as the crew try to fix the ship, Richards comes back to life and attacks Pepper, biting her neck and drinking her blood.

Jawara Duncan as Falco
Yes, Richards is now a vampire… Or as Falco repeatedly says later, “I’m not saying that what we saw were vampires. (Sonorous Tone) All I’m saying is that they were some kind of undead creatures that were sucking the blood out of the living.” I mention this because the dialogue was cheesy but excellent, fitting the tone of the film perfectly and delivered with natural aplomb by the cast. So, given that this is sci-fi, what is the explanation for Richards – and other members of the crew – becoming vampires?

Centuries before a peaceful civilisation flourished on the planet – now all that is left are ruins, space bugs and mutant creatures that look like polystyrene versions of Barnie the dinosaur. The civilisation fell when it was visited by a parasitic race that took over the bodies of the dead and killed so that more of their kind could take control of physical bodies. The civilisation created a planet busting bomb to prevent the parasites escaping the planet – though it never went off. Now the parasites are taking over the dead pirates and the bomb is still primed somewhere.

death ray eyes
The vampires, and the indigenous creatures, are all immune to energy weapons – indeed the vampires absorb the power of energy weapons and use it to shoot death rays out of their eyes. To kill them physical weapons – bullets, knives or even a good old neck-snap are needed. The vampires kind of dissolve in a cgi meltdown whilst the indigenous creatures splat blue gunk out on death – the space bugs also seem to be under the vampires’ control.

Stephanie Hyden as Astrid
Great fun… As I mentioned the cast all seem natural and also seem to be having a ball. Special mention to Stephanie Hyden who has some great lines – when showing an inordinate amount of knowledge of alien archaeology, for a pleasure-clone, states “There’s a lot of down time between all the f*cking and sucking… I read a lot.” – and carries an air of joyful innocence belied by the sexy swish of a hip as she changes outfit.

space vampire
The cheap effects (some better than others) and the wobbly sets are all part of the charm. The filmmakers knew what they had to work with and ensured that their tongue was firmly stuck in their cheek whilst they created this. Gratuitous flesh – but done in a seaside postcard sort of way – lots of splatter, red (human) and blue (bug), as well as some fairly spot-on pacing all add to the experience. The fact that space vampire storylines are too rare by far helps also.

dying vampire
Is it a great movie – of course not. Is it great fun – absolutely. This shows that with the right knowhow you can make an entertaining film that is greater than the sum of its parts. With elements borrowed from Flash Gordon (you’ll know when you watch it), a dash of original polystyrene Star Trek and a hint of Ed Wood the filmmakers have created something that could end up being a cult B Movie hit. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

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