Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Morganville (season 1) – review

Release date: 2014

Director: Blake Calhoun

Contains spoilers

The Morganville Vampires is a long running series of books by Rachel Caine. I have read the first two and actually rather enjoyed them – I have about ten more in the series sat in my “to read” pile and that does not reflect on the books at all (after all I bought the books with every intention of reading them, and I will eventually) more a reflection on just how much I have to read (and review copies of books always jump the queue).

This series was a web serial based on the books and, from what I can remember, it follows a very truncated path of the first book. It was funded via Kickstarter and was made up of 6 ten minute episodes. The DVD has this cut into a single 60 minute feature and it was this that I used for review.

Michael attacked
After an opening where we see, in pov, a vampire enter a house by threatening with a gun – thus getting an invitation – and attacking Michael (Ben Easter) we meet Claire Danvers (Lindsay Seidel, the English dub of Blood C). Claire has moved to the town of Morganville for college and, if she seems a little young, she’s two years ahead. She’s in the laundry room of her dorms and much of her washing has been taken. A note reveals that it has been taken by resident bitch and bully Monica (Afomia Hailemeskel), a local and the mayor’s daughter. Claire runs into Monica and her flunkies and is pushed down the stairs by them. Refusing to bow down to bullies she pushes back and is informed that she has made a very big mistake. Her room has been trashed and so she goes off campus to look at a house advertising for a roommate.

yellow eyed and fanged
She arrives and is greeted by Eve (Haileigh Todd), who is careful not to invite Claire in when letting her inside. She shares the house (known, we later find out, as the glass house) with Shane (Jordan Farris) and Michael, who isn’t up yet. When they discover that Claire has had a run-in with Monica they look outside and discover that she is watching the house with a man, Brandon (Gregory J. Connors). Shane and Eve tell her that he is a vampire, Claire is, of course, sceptical – that is until she opens the door and he runs at her, yellow eyed, fanged, but repelled as he has no invitation.

Lindsay Seidel as Claire
When the sun is down Michael makes an appearance. Monica throws a Molotov at the house but some form of energy emanates from a window and puts the fire out. Eventually talks are agreed to at Common Grounds, the town coffee shop run by Oliver (Robert Picardo) and a neutral territory. Claire quickly learns that Morganville is run by vampires. The college is off limits but in the town, unless you have a contract of protection (so you are owned by a vampire), you are free range and open for feeding. The guys in the glass house are just that and Michael… well, if you haven’t read the books I won’t spoil it. Suffice it to say that the bullies are working for a vampire who wants a book Claire happens to have and the town’s vampire founder and boss, Amelie (Amber Benson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Supernatural) has a specific reason for wanting Claire there.

Amelie in a portal
We discover that silver burns vampires and can bind them. They can go out in the daytime with coats and hats (or high factor suncream). Amelie can open portals to get around and has some form of medical ailment that is slowly affecting all vampires. They need invitations to enter a home and do not have heartbeats. The Glass House is a founder house and so has a life and intelligence of its own – it is the house that put the fire on the porch out of its own volition.

Ben Easter as Michael
The series isn’t perfect and the biggest issue is length. Having to condense the story into 60 minutes means that a lot is curtailed. I think we would have wanted to see more disbelief in Claire, certainly, and more shenanigans leading to revelations. It was all a bit rushed – of course I fully understand why and one would hope the series as stands would be more of a taster to try and get backing for a broader story telling medium – like a proper TV series. Some of the writing also came across as a tad redundant as things seemed to be repeated but you could tell that this was a product of the episodic format, where you might well repeat exposition episode to episode.

Robert Picardo as Oliver
It is a tad teen – but hey its college based – and yet there was an underlying layer of fun to it that probably spawned from the source material being fun. It was also great fun to see Robert Picardo sporting long grey hair and he relished the role, chewing up the scenery with great aplomb. Amber Benson suited the role of the vampire founder and Gregory J. Connors looked the part, most certainly. The main glass house actors and the college antagonists perhaps struggled a little, though Jordan Farris certainly came across as very natural, but again it was the difficulty of trying to work within such a tight running time and that didn’t give them room to shape and develop their characters properly.

Amber Benson as Amelie
I see the potential in this, though I would hope that if anything was done with it that it would be in a more appropriate format. This gives us a taste – and having enjoyed the first couple of books I suspect that series fans will dig this as a first crack – a test run if you like. 6 out of 10 taking the limitations in to account.

The imdb page is here. You can get the series episodically here or buy the dvd from the homepage here.

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