Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just the Vampire Hunter – review

Director: Dustin Leighton

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

I stumbled across this film as it had been uploaded to YouTube (it has now been removed due to a copyright claim, though I actually thought the upload was by the filmmakers). It was a good quality upload of the film – within the bounds and limitations of the actual film itself.

Set in 1973 the film is in the “found footage” style (though we never know how the footage was lost) and it suggests at the head of the film that it was filmed on the first 8 MM camera able to record sound. This means, of course, we are in a world of grindhouse pops and whistles and this has its own limitations as we will explore later.

Dustin Leighton as Just
The film starts with Just (Dustin Leighton) bring filmed by Sam (Hunter Gomez) a woman is tied against the wall behind him. Sam questions him about vampires. Just explains some basic facts about vampires. They’re real but they cannot be killed by crosses or garlic. They are a genetic mutation, when the genetics kick in they lose the ability to eat food bar blood, they become sensitive to sunlight and grow fangs. A stake will kill them temporarily (I suspect this means the stake paralyses but it was never explored) and the only way to actually kill them is beheading. Just approaches the woman with an axe in hand.

nothing lives without a head
Now, exploring this genetic mutation aspect. To me a genetic mutation within a human leaves them still human – after all, blue eyes are a genetic mutation. Later it is said that these mutations make them not human. If this is the case then they have become a separate species (though there is an indication that they can breed with non-vampiric humans). We also discover that vampires are immortal – bar that pesky beheading clause – and the more often they drink blood the stronger they are. One bad vampire, Larson (Cale Epps), drinks daily – another vampire, Carla (Megan Harvey), feeds once a month. Interestingly it appears she is not allergic to sunlight though little is done about that.

Sarah in peril
It seems, at first, that Just was in love with a woman named Sarah (Haley White), who was friends with Sam. She was raped and killed by a pair of vampires (whilst a terrified Sam filmed the event from the closet he hid in) and this set Just on his path. As things go on the story becomes much more convoluted and things are revealed to be very different. We discover that there are two primary gatherings (vampire groups) and one is good, the other evil. Hunters were a tool to keep the balance and, it appears, are also genetically different to humans. There does also seem to be a supernatural element with an über-hunter being born once a generation.

vampire girls feeding
When it came to the story, things were okay but then we’d get aspects that made little sense such as Just and Sam going to a vampire haven and Sam playing a drinking game with a couple of vampire girls, Brittany (Kat Garcia) and Hilary (Kayla Cooper) and nearly ending up as chow. Why did Just put him in that situation? Why did Sam let himself become drunk like that? Why didn’t Sam sober and bolt when he saw another pair of vampire girls feeding? If they had been infiltrating groups through the film it might have made more sense.

Sam and Larson
The general story came together by the end but the narrative could have done with being more fluid and Sam’s reactions more realistic when it came to his doubts about Just. The fight scenes seemed a little choreographed and not as realistic as one would have liked. After it is suggested that both hunter and vampires have a higher than human normal strength the fights seemed a little tame. However the stoic presence of Just, through the movie, does work in the film’s favour.

bite marks
The film was budget limited, obviously, and this is shown in the fact that we don’t actually see anything. Kills either cut to a blood spattered inter-cut or happen off camera in the dark. The dark scenes are accurate to the technology but really quite frustrating as you can see nothing during them. They avoided false lighting to be fair but viewers become frustrated staring at a black screen. It would have been interesting to see what these guys could have done, sfx wise, had they more budget.

But you know what? Criticisms aside I have seen a lot worse. 4 out of 10. The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

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