Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Thompsons – review

Directors: The Butcher Brothers

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Directors Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, also known as the Butcher Brothers, are back with a sequel to the rather good 2006 film The Hamiltons. Now, I was all concerned about reviewing the Hamiltons because their vampire nature was a twist at the end of the film. No such worries in this film as we already know (so the fact it takes main character Frances (Cory Knauf) a while to tell us is a little silly).

What was good about this was the fact that the original players of the Hamilton clan were back – mostly. As well as Francis we have David (Samuel Child), eldest brother and patriarch (as their parents are dead) and the incestuous twins Darlene (Mackenzie Firgens) and Wendell (Joseph McKelheer). Finally we have a change of actor for youngest brother Lenny (Ryan Hartwig) but that isn’t a huge issue as Lenny was barely in the original film.

in a crate
What is different about this film – other than a noticeably higher budget and relocation to England – is that where the first film was a twisted coming of age film that concentrated on a slice of life and had an indiscernible beginning and end to some degree, this has a story. It begins with Francis trapped in a crate and then he tells the story – in a non-linear way – of how he got in the crate. It begins, in Francis’ telling, with a journey North East from London.

wear another's face
He is looking for others of his kind and has been told to ask for the Mandersons in a town called Ludlow. His car breaks down – and we get a moment of shapes moving inhumanly fast in the trees and then a couple of backpackers being hunted down by men in boiler suits wearing stolen, bloody faces. It is a strange old moment that sets a scene – slightly – but isn’t referred back to in a meaningful way.

Cory Knauf as Francis
He reaches Ludlow and goes in the pub. He asks the woman (Selina Giles) behind the bar about the Mandlesons but she doesn’t know who they are. The daughter and waitress, Riley (Elizabeth Henstridge), appears to take a shine to him but then a cop comes in (who refers to the woman as Mother and her husband (Daniel O'Meara) as Father, but I suspect that was a honorific). He has a wanted sheet with blurry pictures of the Thompsons (a name the Hamiltons had been going by) and Francis ends up breaking his neck. Grabbing a shotgun, he takes the pub hostage and tries to call Darlene and Wendell (who are in France and indulging their vices). The sons Cole (Sean Browne) and Ian (Tom Holloway) arrive, make Francis think he has the upper hand and then flash fang, red eye and stick the stock of the shotgun hard into his face.

injured Lenny
The reason they are looking for their own kind is due to a robbery at a gas station in the Mojave Desert that went wrong. The family were actually just bystanders but Lenny was shot and the twins and Francis lost control and killed everyone. The event was caught on cctv and the press are calling it the vampire killings (without realising vampires are involved). They have fled the US and are looking for someone with knowledge of how to heal Lenny. How they got out of the country, as fugitives with an injured child, and made it to France and the UK is anyone’s guess – and left as that.

a maw of fangs
The family at the bar are vampires, as we know, and release Francis once he comes around. Is it all going to go horribly wrong – probably (and, of course, we haven’t even said how Francis ends up in a crate) but that is as far as I am going to go in the story. The lore, however, is somewhat different. We never really saw anything too vampiric in the first film. In this the vampirism is out and proud. The Hamiltons have standard fangs. The Stuarts have double fangs, except for Father Stuart who has a whole maw of fangs.

Riley and Francis
The Stuarts have taught themselves to eat food so as to give a pretence of humanity (human food makes the Hamiltons sick) and seem to be able to move at breakneck speeds – something the Hamiltons cannot do. Riley is a daughter of the clan but has not turned. As she is a young adult she has passed the oldest age a vampire goes to before turning and will not do so now. As such this leads us to believe that the family are pureblood vampires (born not turned) but not a separate species.

the twins
The story is okay but there are logical holes (such as the passage over the Atlantic) and whilst the story focuses on Francis (and his coming to terms with what he is at a more mature level than the coming of age dealt with) the lack of focus on the other family members (necessary for the story) was annoying as the first film showed us that they all had great stories to tell. If you haven’t seen the first film then all the other family members will seem terribly two dimensional.

Mackenzie Firgens as Darlene
I did enjoy this. A lot of the issues hit me after the fact not during the film. I think this is above average. I liked the early non-linear structure that added a level of interest to a fairly thin story but I think much more could have been done with it. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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