Saturday, November 16, 2013

Crimson Throne – review

Director: Bryan Ferriter

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

Also known as Crimson Winter, this film has had a UK DVD release as Crimson Throne (note it has been rated as 18 and not 15 as per the sample cover) and, with vampires and medieval warriors, I really wanted to love it. I really did. It was a pity it was just so… well nothing really.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t effort put in, that there weren’t good ideas (if under-explored in important places) and that cast and crew didn’t make an effort – for an indie flick there was clearly effort – but I think that one of the problems with the star, writer and director being the same person can make a film suffer through lack of a natural check and balance.

Bryan Ferriter as Elric
Essentially the film follows Elric (Bryan Ferriter)- a vampire Prince who believes in the prophecy given to his people by the Oracle (Patrick Gorman). This prophecy sees a time of unity between vampire and human. The prophecy suggests the interactions of three figures, a lion (Elric) who will lead, a wolf who will challenge and a falcon who will carry out the dream. Elric’s father, King Aldric (David Lee Smith), is unsure and has fought humans for centuries. Elric’s brother Auberon (Nathan Mills) hates humans.

David Lee Smith as Aldric
Now Elric’s mother believed in the prophecy but she died and it is as good a place as anywhere to bring the first vague aspect of lore. The vampires have their own land, Sub Mundus, walk in daylight and refer to humans as another race. So they are a separate species then? Well the film ranges in date from (dated) 1095 to modern day so they are “immortal” and eternally young but do have families. Yet we discover later that humans can be turned (the vampires changed their genetic code aeons ago a hunter says in a meaningless moment of techno-babble). Is it a retro-virus, supernatural, another species that can reproduce through genetic alteration, a sub-species of humanity, the undead? We just don’t know. But we can ask, what did she die of? The question remains unanswered and could be anywhere between them being a species who can contract disease and die (not suggested at all), or there was an accident (surely it  would have been mentioned) or she was killed by humans (thus bringing the survivors' attitudes into question). Unfortunately she apparently just randomly died.

Elric escaping prison
The film follows Elric in flashback as he fights in the crusades (we see very little in the way of sweeping vistas in the various flashbacks, just glimpses of a handful of knights/vampires, clearly a budget thing), fighting with the French against the English (and killing a vampire fighting for the English, not that the event really impacts the film after being specifically pointed out), falling in love with a human, Isabelle (Paulie Rojas), impregnating her, refusing to turn her, being imprisoned by his father and brother (as she is killed for the crime of being different), the bloody revolt (again involving half a dozen people) to free him and them fleeing to the new world – him swearing revenge. In the American Mountains he is building an army; vampire hunters (a family trade) are there and he allows them to live and hunt as they hone his recruits.

Dylan and Roxanne
Into this come young lovers Dylan (Nick Milodragovich) and Roxanne (Kailey Michael Portsmouth) who are researching the mysterious deaths of deer in the mountains, with fellow students Kurt (Benjamin Dawley-Anderson) and Pam (Julia Porter). Their guide is Dylan’s best friend Will (Dave Noel) who is pissed off as his friend is getting married and thus becomes even more down when he hears that Roxanne is pregnant. At this point I would actually hope that you are thinking that this film is sounding good…

Not so, unfortunately, you see nothing really happens. The background flashbacks take up most of the film; they are languid and fail to build a depth of story particularly. They also suffer from the fact that there wasn’t really the budget to achieve visually what such a vast story needed. The stuff with the humans is almost crowbarred in and is not nearly tense enough. You have a survival aspect but they are essentially wiped out in a few scenes – not unrealistic to the scenario but un-cinematic. Then, for the climax, we find the falcon and the film ends. No conclusion, no ending to the substantive story. We are about 1/3 to ½ through what I would say the substantive story should amount to – sacrificed to backstory that gives a background to Elric but not the other vampires really.

Patrick Gorman as the Oracle
We don’t really know what Auberon’s problem was. We do not see his hinted at Wormtongue influence over the father. We don’t know how vampire hunters started emerging or why. We don’t know why Auberon made sure his story got to the hunters (except it means that one of the students can read about the story background). We don’t get a unification or otherwise, we don’t even get the necessary battle between the vampire factions. We don't find out why it appears to have taken more than a hundred years to build his army. We hear of something called the link (which is the Oracle’s mystic mojo, a connection of empathy between him and Elric) but it’s never really explained.

Ryan Pfieffer as Guiscard
I have intimated that cast and crew made an effort and they did. The cinematography looked professional, the costumes worked well, the odd bit of gore (very sparsely used as it was) worked well enough and the acting seemed ok. I say ok as most of the actors had very little to work with. We get a trusted lieutenant, Guiscard (Ryan Pfeiffer), who seems to be a force of chaos at the end but he isn’t given the scenes or dialogue to make us understand why – and the film (and Elric) never really resolves his actions. I didn’t think Bryan Ferriter particularly projected great leader – though his performance was perfectly okay, the character came across as a bit of a drip – despite trials and tribulations.

sloppy drinker
Then we get the Deus Ex Machina, a connection between the humans we meet and the vampires, which was never once hinted at until revealed in a flashback that was laughable in its convenience. It was actually unnecessary, just really convenient. I don’t know whether the writers (it was a team effort given that there was more than just Bryan Ferriter involved) convinced themselves that it was clever, but it was ill-conceived I’m afraid.

a flash of fang
This should have been good. Of course the budget restraints would have always held it back from being what it wanted to be – had it wanted to be more than 1/3rd of a story. 4 out of 10 recognises that efforts were there and this was not just some cinematic tat flicked off but they really need to think about what they are doing and where they are going.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

Please see my interview with Bryan Ferriter at It is a trilogy and the last 2 films will explain all your questions once they are made and released. The movie was made to have you question and wonder and that's the creative mind set of the trilogy.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Thanks Melissa, that's interesting and I will check the interview

Unknown said...

Sorry, we are having tech issues with the site. We redesigned it and not all the interviews are showing up. Once we have the issue fixed all interviews will be available. I will leave a comment on here once it is up and running properly

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Thanks Melissa