Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Impressions: Nightshade

Normally first impression articles are reserved for films watched in the cinema but I felt to review Heiner Hänsel’s series would be unfair as, by the end of episode 3, it was clear that this was a work in progress and that the series requires many more chapters to tell its story.

As such I thought giving my first thoughts regarding it was fairer. The series is not listed (that I could find) on IMDb but appears to have been in development since 2013 and became available online in 2015 at vimeo.

Jenniver Roelle as Philomena
The series follows Philomena (Jenniver Roelle) who was turned into a vampire on her 25th birthday – February 17th 1370. She has relocated to Frankfurt to escape the Hunter – a vampire who hunts vampires. In this the vampirism is a virus. A victim of a vampire will turn if they survive the attack, but whilst the virus version of vampirism is all well and good there were some problems with it in this. For instance Philomena states that she is forced to feed to stay young but that the Hunter somehow can last much longer than other vampires without feeding. This made little sense as, whilst I can accept different vampires would react differently to the virus, one would have thought the viral nature would have made notable differences more unlikely. Simply addressing why in the lore would have quietened that thought.

the hunter
We see Philomena attack a girl – but she is just something to keep her going, this vampire prefers to feed on aroused men. The next night she picks up an older man, has him cook her dinner and then has her toothsome way. She does use a dagger but this is to kill him and thus prevent turning. However the Hunter is waiting for her – allowing her to have her fun before tackling her. She manages to injure him and escape. We don’t see how she was tracked down by him and he certainly doesn’t know where she is staying.

blood at mouth
The next episode is odd. After spending a brief amount of time with Philomena and establishing that she is currently in love (we assume with a mortal), the episode goes over to a newspaper office. The culture journalist, Arnaud (Gabriel Marian Skowerski), having been given a chicken story is pulled off the story most fowl and asked to interview the mother of a murdered girl. She’s an artist and has met Arnaud before and she tells him that whilst the police are saying nothing she heard one say it was the work of the “vampire” – the victim seems to be the girl from episode one and the body has only been discovered two months later.

shooting electricity
The episode’s shift from Philomena to Arnaud is quiet stark but works due to the episodic nature. In a film I would expect to go back to the subject again periodically. The third episode does split focus with Arnaud and an intern trying to track down “the vampire” and Philomena tackling the Hunter again (plus moments of the Hunter’s family). We get a sense that Philomena does want to die, or at least feel the thrill of coming close, when she baits a security guard into shooting her but here we get an issue with the virus concept once more. The vampires can walk in sunlight (it makes them queasy) and heal wounds quickly. They have to eat like you or I but need the blood for virtual immortality and youth. All well and good and I can accept the eye colour changes and fangs tied with the virus. However shooting electricity out of their hands seemed a step too far for a virus.

on the attack
However, as a whole, this was quite good fun. Hänsel has deliberately spent time building characters – perhaps too much if this were a single film vehicle – and there are questions (what are the police doing, how did the Hunter find her but not her lair) that the longer series may well answer. The criticisms around the lore, specifically around the virus, could also mostly be answered in series as this develops (though I still think the electricity was a bit much).

There is a homepage in German and the Vimeo episodes have English subtitles.

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