Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vamp or Not? Zombie Honeymoon

This was a 2004 David Gebroe directed piece that was recommended for ‘Vamp or Not?’ by my friend Nick. It has Larry Fessenden as one of the executive producers, which boded well as Fessenden has been involved, in one way or another, with some great genre pieces including Habit, I Sell the Dead and Stake Land.

It begins with a wedding; Denise (Tracy Coogan) and Danny (Graham Sibley) have just got married and we first see them running to their car, leaving the guests still in the church. They are an unconventional couple, highlighted by her red wedding dress and the surf board on the roof rack. The honeymoon – set to actually be a month – is being spent in Uncle Brian’s New Jersey house, she gives him a little head on the drive and carried him across the threshold. They are looking to move to Portugal eventually.

vomiting blood
They hit the beach, Danny surfing and Denise sun bathing and then, as he rests up by her, she sketches (we discover that she is an illustrator by trade). Then their idyllic time comes to a crashing halt as she spots a man coming out of the ocean. It is clear there is something very wrong with him as he falls atop of Danny and vomits a blackened quantity of blood over his face and into his mouth before falling dead.

a happier moment
Danny is rushed to hospital but his heart has stopped. They try to resuscitate him but he does not respond. His heart has not been beating for ten minutes and they declare him dead when he opens his eyes and sits up and states that he feels fine. So, so far we have had a zombie, the zombie has reached the end of its life span by vomiting blood onto another (spreads via blood), the victim has died and then resuscitates (later the term living dead is used with regards Danny) but rather than be the mindless undead he is fully compos mentis.

Tracey Coogan as Denise
That night they make love, though he is rougher than normal and bites her. The next day Denise is upset, perhaps his close call put things into perspective but she is concerned that they will become complacent and not follow their dreams. To answer this they call up their employers and quit and let their apartment go… they intend to move to Portugal and call up best friends Nikki (Phil Catalano) and Buddy (David M. Wallace) to come over and say farewell. Local cop, officer Carp (Neal Jones), comes by. They have not yet identified the attacker but they wonder if Danny saw where his roommate in the hospital, an older gentleman called Jack Birch (Phil Catalano), went as he seemed to have vanished.

caught and contrite
Denise has gone out to buy ingredients for a candlelit dinner but when she gets back she discovers Danny in the shower with… a local (unhealthy) jogger (Steve Szymanski), who he is eating. She runs out of the house but he, blood-soaked as he is, pleads with her and, eventually, she come back. She smokes (having quit 7 months before) and it is her reactions that make the film. Tracy Coogan makes the character believable and she is in equal parts in love, terrified, angry, guilty, defensive and an array of other emotions that give the film a depth it just wouldn’t have had otherwise.

spewing excess
So lore stuff to determine whether he is a vampire or a zombie. Well, the newlyweds go for a meal with Nikki and Buddy. Danny, plays with his food (he was a vegetarian) until taking some of Buddy’s steak (and eating the meat rare). When Buddy points out a woman that looks like an ex, he can’t remember the woman Buddy refers to though Danny was seeing her for two years. This post death dementia gets worse and worse, though he doesn’t become as mindless as your average zombie until the end and we’ll look at that in more depth soon. He does vomit up victims, but that seems more due to excess than the vomiting at the end of the life cycle.

a nod to Zombie Flesheaters?
He attacks several people through the film, eating them, but none of them turn. Thus a bite doesn’t do it, it is only the vomiting of blood at the end of the life-cycle that causes infection. When Nikki reads his palm (she is a fortune teller by trade) he seems, at first, to have a deep, long life line. Then she realises something (it seems as though she is going to say that he is still dead) but her words cut off as she has a vision of him rotted and decayed. The look, I think, was a nod to the film Zombie Flesheaters (we see a T-Shirt from the film during this film). He does look worse and worse, but not as bad as her vision.

a nod to Living Dead Girl
At the end we see him kill by sticking two fingers into a neck, this was reminiscent of the Living Dead Girl, I think purposefully so, though the wounds also look like a typical vampire bite would. In this scene he clearly only drinks the blood, rather than eats the flesh, though the rest of the film has flesh eating aplenty. He does seem to loose sentience but then we see him shed a tear, this perhaps more shows a man ill and 'locked in' than anything else and is rather poignant. At the end he grabs Denise (who has had a couple of near misses already) and is clearly going to vomit blood on her as he is at the end of his life cycle. He remembers her and overcomes instinct to turn his head away and spares her, showing a degree of sentience even at the end. After he dies he seems less decayed than when the living dead, I don't know whether this was a fault in film-making or deliberate, to be honest.

Danny towards the end
Overall, despite the sentience, the living-dead-girl-esque blood drinking scene and the fact that it is through blood that these creatures are created I don’t think this is vamp. It is not your typical zombie either. It is certainly one that deserves the label zompire and it has much in it that is of genre interest. It is also rather good, despite the fact that I thought it would be a low budget shocker before I watched it. Not Vamp.

The imdb page is here.

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