Sunday, November 09, 2014

Blood Ransom – review

Director: Francis dela Torre

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

The vampire tale Blood Ransom was both written and directed by Francis dela Torre and has – it has to be said – style in spades. Unfortunately I think direction and story probably left a little to be desired.

As we will see the vampire lore was pretty unique but this is background, there seemed to be more of the actual story and more narrative that was left somewhat hanging.

Anne Curtis as Crystal
The film begins with intertitles that tell us some of the background to the main character and the vampire lore. Crystal (Anne Curtis, Ang Panday) is a woman who sought to escape pain through the night and met vampires – specifically, we will discover, one named Roman (Samuel Caleb Hunt) – these vampires are unusual and the intertitles begin our education.

the magic blade
Wooden stakes do not kill them nor does sunlight. They are not affected by crosses. When they are created they have seven days to kill and the kill makes them immortal (the more powerful the victim, the more powerful they will be). They are given a unique, magic blade (who creates them is not revealed) and must use that to make the kill. If they are to die it must be via that blade – we’ll come back to this.

Bill and Roman
The film then shows us Crystal, who works in a(n upmarket) strip joint. A customer gets handy and he is killed by Roman’s hired killer Bill (Jamie Harris). This is intercut with scenes around a cop named Daniel (Darion Basco) we get voice-overs from him that adds a film noir-ish element to the project. As the plot develops we discover that Daniel’s best friend Jeremiah (Alexander Dreymon) has been hired as a driver for Crystal.

Crystal and Jeremiah
They have a mutual friend, Oliver (Dion Basco), who has come up with a plan to kidnap Crystal in order to extort money from Roman. As he has fallen in love with her, Jeremiah is opposed to this course of action. What he doesn’t know is that Roman has decided that he will be Crystal’s first kill and what Roman doesn’t know is that Crystal has fallen for Jeremiah. When she is kidnapped, Jeremiah rescues her and they go on the run, Bill kills the kidnappers and Daniel tries to work out what is happening whilst keeping all from his boss, Hobbs (Clifton Powell).

a dream of Crystal
Further lore that comes out in the film is that the vampires can only be killed via their blade being embedded in their throats. They physically cannot do this to themselves and must find someone willing to kill them. Turning involves feeding the new vampire the existing vampire’s blood and the turn can be reversed if they kill the sire and put a drop of their blood in holy water to drink before making their first kill. If that sounds convoluted, it is. Also, because they can only be killed by their own blade it makes us wonder what the price would be of not killing in seven days (Crystal breaches the seven days and yet does not seem to be worse for it). Perhaps Jeremiah's dream where Crystal seemed decayed, revenant like even, was a clue, if so it was too subtle.

Jamie Harris as Bill
There is an undertow about religion – hence the holy water – with questions about belief and mysterious (vampire?) Mr. Manningham (Kevin Meaney) seemingly Catholic in his mentality. However the film does not develop these themes in any satisfying way. There is also a story of fate and maybe prophecy that is dangled before us but, I felt, under-explored. I mentioned Mr. Manningham being a mystery and Bill seems to take orders from him and Roman, but we do not know why. Indeed Bill seemed to change his mind about who he worked for and who he would kill on a frame by frame basis. This was a shame as he was an intriguing character who reminded me of Ron Perlman’s character in Cronos, though I felt Jamie Harris’ performance was a bit too stagy. Anne Curtis and Alexander Dreymon generated a good chemistry, however.

weapon drawn
The cop sections seemed a tad pointless and, if it wasn’t for the fact that Daniel is essential in some scenes (especially the climax), I’d consider cutting them altogether. Strangely we learnt more of Daniel's character than any other character. The Noir seemed to go nowhere and the film would have been better concentrating a little more on Roman as there was scope for him to be an intriguing character but instead he was only a cipher. Such cuts/changes might have helped the pacing as the film seemed ponderous in places.

iconic photography
The film struggles knowing what it wants to be; is it a noir, a thriller, a horror, a road trip, a romance, a philosophical debate? The mix of elements does not combine well and thus jars us. That said the photography is lovely and there are some iconic looking scenes. This is not a bad film, but it is a ponderous film that needed a better direction of travel and a clear vision to make it a great film. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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