Saturday, March 26, 2016

Honourable Mentions: Mansion of Blood

Where to start? From what I can gather Mansion of Blood has had a turbulent genesis. News reports about the production date from 2011 and yet Mike Donahue’s film (that does contain some genre staples) didn’t see distribution until 2015. There are reports of Gary Busey (Frost: Portrait of a Vampire) being fired from set and then denials of such by the producers.

The likelihood is that the film didn’t receive distribution for so long because it is a mess of ideas thrown together without cohesion and the fact that the vampire element is so small within the film allows me to sidestep the sticky issue of a score and concentrate on mentioning the vampire element.

Samuel and Trixie
So what is the film about. Essentially there is a mansion in town called the Mayhew Mansion. In the opening we see owner (and later, it is confirmed insurance confidence scammer) Morgan Mayhew (Tom Tangen) killed by person unseen (though as he addresses the person as Maribelle (Carla Laemmle, Dracula (1931)) we know it is his wife). Cut to 2013 (though later dialogue suggests it is before then) and new owner of the mansion, Mason Murphy (Ray Quiroga), is throwing a party in the restored house planned by planner and catering team Samuel (Robert Picardo, Morganville Season 1) and Trixie (Lorraine Ziff).

the guys
Everyone seems to have been invited to this party but the film concentrates on two groups of three, young men and young women. This is fine but as it progresses the film divides it attention between these and many other characters, too many in fact. The film doesn’t give itself room to breathe, guests we barely know are killed, more are introduced and then killed and a slew of monsters are thrown in for fun. What could have been a taught murder mystery nosedives into a soup of under-explored ideas and bad cgi (honestly, the cgi bleed outs are some of the worst cgi blood effects I’ve seen).

the blood moon
So one of the three girls is a witch and she does a spell to summon the spirit of her ex (presumably wanting to tap into the vibes of the mansion) to discover whether he bought a missing winning lottery ticket. Also that night we have a lunar eclipse leading to a blood moon. The eclipse doesn’t end and the monsters appear as the mansion becomes trapped in time (due to the spell, it is implied). Be it trampled by the worst spectral horses effect I could imagine or eaten by zombies no one can leave the area (though people can enter the area) and several of the guests display homicidal or monstrous sides.

Take Aaron (Brett Davis) a barman who is late getting to work at the party – and I didn’t overly pick up on it when it is implied he slept the day away at the beginning of the film. He picks up a girl and they sneak off for sex. Despite the film containing a few sex scenes and topless parts – especially from the escorts hired to entertain from the hot tub – this scene is chaste in that we see no rumpy pumpy and the woman, at the end, still has her bra and trousers on. He has to go back for work, she says she’s hungry and asks him to say. To be fair I thought for a second she would be revealed as a vampire but, no, it is he who bites her.

spitting dust
Later we see him attack a cop and escort who have been upstairs together and who have stumbled over some bodies and then we see him a final time when a mummy (Tom Atha) comes to life and attacks construction contractor Gunner (Bradley Dodds, True Blood & Vampires Suck). Gunner becomes trapped between the two and, in one attack, Aaron misses and bites the mummy – spitting out a mouthful of dust. Gunner manages to destroy both monsters – Aaron is staked.

bat like demons
There are other monsters – a werewolf, demons that looked like they might have been something to do with bat formed vampires but are not classed as such – as well as ghosts, homicidal retirees and murderous little people. It’s a mess, though quite hypnotic as a mess, and an abject lesson in why films need to focus on character, narrative and plot – even just a little.

The imdb page is here.

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