Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Vampires – review

Director: Richard Johnstone

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Originally called Bloodless (I’ll come back to the original title later) this British film has received a UK release under the incredibly original name Vampires and with a cover that obviously apes the style adopted by Dracula Untold i.e. a foreground figure with bats breaking from the clothing.

It’s a shame really because, whilst far from perfect, the film doesn’t deserve to fall into the obscurity that such a marketing move is likely to lead to. Of course, the new title gives the game away good and proper and we are talking vampires – of course we wouldn’t be looking at it here otherwise.

most of the couples
The film starts with a minibus driving through the British countryside. I was struck initially with the dullness of the colours, a dour palette that I trust was deliberate and gave the atmosphere a heaviness. I was later struck with the fact that the photography opened into actual viewable night shots, so congratulations for that. The minibus is carrying 5 couples to a castle, they are Dave (Lucas Hansen) and Sam (Anna Scott) – the nice couple, Scott (Kristian James) and Rachael (Angela Zahra) – he non-descript and she addicted to a prescription pill, Steve (Louis Murrall) and Tracy (Victoria Hopkins) – the wide boy and the tart with a heart, Julie (Jody Baldwin) and Ben (Stewart Blackburn) – she arrogant, he hen-pecked, and finally Amanda (Melissa Advani) and Martin (Edd Muruako, Dead Cert) she practical and he protective.

creepy child
Now if you think I have just thrown stereotypes at the characters then you’d be right because that is what they were. We get some level of background to a couple of them but not too much and that was a shame because, as this was almost 10 Little Indians with couples then the added characterisations would have helped. If we take Rachael as a character (and one that the plot settles on as a key component) we do not know what she is addicted to. She has pills that she is forbidden from taking, but why… are they antidepressants, for instance, and does this make her more susceptible to the forces in the castle? That would add some credence to her reaction of not telling anyone when she meets a creepy little girl, Jessica (Holly Newton), in the castle – even though she ends up with a cut hand for her troubles.

Co-ordinator and Secretary
The couples are there to take part in a drugs trial for a hypertension medication. They have to stay there for a month, no outside contact (to prevent stress), no alcohol or drugs and they have been chosen as they are all healthy. This is all relayed by the Co-ordinator (Patrick Wilde) and the Secretary (Judith Alexander). The only other people in the castle is the driver (Steve Grainger), the castle steward (Bill Fellows) and a pair of medical technicians (Michelle Lindsay & Joseph Teague). Of course there is also the creepy kid I mentioned earlier and the Co-ordinator and Secretary never turn up during the day…. Guess why!!!

Julie and Ben in trouble
The film builds a little tension with its basic premise and also puts some level of interpersonal dissonance into the mix… Julie and Ben, for instance, are booted off the trial for having a mobile phone in their room, but it’s not theirs. However each couple gets £20,000 for the trial and the monies of any who don’t complete it are split between the others. Getting rid of them was a good idea, however, as the Julie character really grated.

in the sun
Eventually we get the vampires revealing themselves but the lore is sparse. They burn in sunlight and a bite or scratch can infect a victim. It would appear that the infected must remain alive to turn (though this was not explicit in the film, however those actually killed did not seem to get up and about). There are moments of vampire vision, offering a POV that prevents us from seeing who the vampire might be – not that it isn’t pretty darn obvious and later we see that they can take some phycial damage (the girl, stabbed in the neck, doesn’t even really flinch). At one point an infected, but not yet turned, Rachael opens up the cut on her hand with a pair of scissors. Very little blood is seen – I wondered if this was deliberate, if this is why the original title was bloodless… but the film said nothing more about it so neither will I.

child vampire
So, the photography used a dull palette but that aided clear night shots. The acting was generally competent but nothing really special. I was annoyed by the Julie character, though that may have been good acting, but the Rachael character seemed too distant, especially as we did not know why. In fact the 10 Little Indian aspect made for ok viewing but more exploration of all the characters would have improved the film no end – though some of the actors may have struggled with that. When the vampires are fully revealed (and character motivations around this sequence were at their most muddy) the action came thick and fast and we went from "picking off a couple at a time" to "they all must die before dawn".

I didn’t dislike this but I certainly believe it could have been improved in certain ways. Score wise I was hovering above and below 5, vacillating across that middle line as I wrote this review, but then thought 5 out of 10 was probably the right score.

The imdb page is here.

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