Friday, January 09, 2015

Joe Vampire – review

Directors: Sean Donohue & Mike Niche

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

You should not only not judge a book (or DVD) by its cover, you should also not judge it by the company it keeps. The trailers at the beginning of the Joe Vampire DVD had, I admit, got me worried. All from the Sleazebox label they all looked truly dreadful.

Of course I knew that Joe Vampire was a budget effort and came in at only 68 minutes but if the quality of the film could be judged by these trailers I was actually in for a rocky ride. I was pleasantly surprised.

the battle
The prologue section takes place on September 9th 1863, in South Carolina, the Confederate and Union forces are engaged in battle (using, I assume, footage of a battle recreation society in action rather than something staged specifically for the feature). Joe (Mike Christopher, who, incidentally, was the Hari Krishna zombie in Dawn of the Dead (1978)) is a Confederate soldier who makes it out of the battle, injured, bloodied but alive. He stumbles towards a campfire and is attacked by Kristof (Slake Counts), a vampire. Joe’s eyes turn red as he turns.

Joe's bed/coffin
There is a banging at a door, as the film shifts to a contemporary timeframe, and Joe opens up a coffin disguised as a bed. It’s his landlord (Joel D. Wynkoop, Addicted to Murder 2: Tainted Blood) and Joe is late with the rent… again. Joe has trouble keeping track of time and, when the landlord comments on his mirrored shades, Joe’s stock response is that he is in a Cory Hart tribute band.

Joe out on the town
He goes out and sees a bar with a help wanted sign but when he enquires the position has already been filled. As he has a drink a young woman, Melissa (Erin Cline), comes in. She gets a Tequila and then goes over to the dartboard. Joe approaches her and uses the Cory Hart line again when she laughs good naturedly about his shades. However she is not for being picked up and flashes a wedding ring, though he claims it isn’t a pickup - whilst simultaneously professing feeling a connection with her. She leaves and is followed by a young drunk, as an older woman approaches Joe and gets brushed off.

killing the bad man
Joe leaves the bar and intervenes as the young man tries to rape Melissa, pulling him away from her and biting the guy’s neck. In my notes, made as I watched the film, I actually recorded that it was a good blood effect and, in fact, the blood effects through the film worked really very well. Joe gets pepper sprayed across the shades before Melissa realises he is there to rescue her but she becomes very concerned when she sees his red eyes and the body of the rapist. He promises to explain, but not there...

Joe and Melissa
They go to a bench – a place he likes to go and think. He explains he is a vampire and she states it is unbelievable and then clarifies – she really doesn’t believe him. A flash of fang and some superhuman movement changes that. This is where the film should break down; the conversation spins to her immediately asking to be turned and being with him forever! He counters with the suggestion that she sees one last sunrise and her family, and if she still wants to (to which he professes doubt) then he’d do it. It should have fallen on its face but Christopher and Cline seem so natural it somehow works.

Mike Duffau as Drake
The rest of the film sees Joe being drawn into the machinations of his “brother”, Drake (Mike Duffau), who is doing business with someone called Denton (Anthony Wayne) - a human who is kidnapping children as a blood supply for the vampires (we hear a little about a vampire network). Joe apparently uses synthetic blood from the hospital, which, it is claimed, makes him weak. As for further lore – they avoid sunshine but cannot transform or fly. Joe has red eyes, apparently Drake wears brown contacts. A stake to the heart kills, as does massive blood loss/trauma apparently.

Vampiric eye candy
There are story issues. Denton's reparation is something in a box, which glows – we don’t know what that thing is. The rapist seems to be turned and sets about attacking random folks but then is working for Drake – how that happened we don’t know. We do know that all the machinations are about turning Joe onto the path Drake and Kristof believe he should be on but that is not deeply explored. We get a couple of attack set pieces with a pair of vampire women (Cassey Figueroa & Brendaly Rivera), one in a hot tub and the other in a pole dancing joint, that seem to be nothing but vampiric eye candy - not adding to the story but the scenes are nice to look at.

Melissa vamps
The unanswered bits of story and brevity of the film make this feel like a long set up for a further story. The short-cuts in storyline and narrative should be an issue. However I go back to Christopher and Cline making it so watchable – the short running time also prevents the film outstaying its welcome. I actually was rather taken by Joe and his troubles, 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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