Friday, April 14, 2017

Club Dead – review

Director: Paul Rocha

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

A film can fail for many reasons. Not really being sure if it is a drama or a comedy can make it fail (as well as not understanding the level of comedic moments acceptable within a drama). Not understanding its own internal logic can also make it fail. Welcome to Club Dead.

That, I am sure you’ll agree, is not the most positive opening but, unfortunately, the film doesn’t deserve a more positive opening (though there is at least one saving grace within).

In the Alley
Let us take the opening. After a shaky city establishing shot, a man, Zack (Roby Sobieski), jumps through a window into an alley. As he stumbles along the alley there is a blur. He grabs the cross he is wearing. Madam (Caroline Gombe) appears and admonishes him for leaving, it is rude. Now, he sees she has fangs, she runs her finger in his blood and licks it and he is holding a cross up to try and ward her… yet he asks, “what the Hell are you?” This is the film failing to understand its own internal logic. The fangs and the blood would be a pop culture giveaway (and presumably he’s been attacked or seen attacks in the club he has just escaped, or he wouldn’t have jumped through a window). But ultimately we know he knows because he’s holding up a cross.

dream vampire
We get a voice over (from character Gus (Brad Potts, Brides of Sodom)) that tells us that there is a select order whose job is containment and wherever you find a vampire cell you’ll find a Sentinel. We see Vida (Kim Hamilton) wake up as a voice whispers her name. She goes to the window and, outside, she sees a vampire. She scurries back to her bed and one appears and attacks her. She wakes screaming and tells her baseball bat toting roommate April (Taisha Monique Clark) that she’s had a nightmare again.

Dream Vampire 2
Vida is dressed up as a rock chick to try and help her friend Scott (Brandon Middleton) get in Club Dead. The bouncer, Doze (Alfred Rubin Thompson), is not taking his shit and points out that Madam decides who gets in. Back at work – April, Scott and Vida all work together in a diner – Scott complains about not getting in and Vida complains that he copped a feel. Turns out that all of them have tried to get in for over a year – most of them at weekends but Scott almost nightly and as a viewer I start to wonder why… why would you repeatedly go to the same place you can’t get in?

I know how you feel
After another failed attempt to get in, when obnoxious co-worker Tony (Matt Masella), is chosen, the guys from the diner go and buy some liquor store booze and face a rant from Gus about Club Dead being a place of evil and depravity, he should know… he’s a Sentinel. His rant seems silly. Why would he announce himself as a sentinel? Why would he warn them off when 1) they’ve never got in (presumably it isn’t the first time they’ve then gone to buy booze) and 2) his job isn’t rescuing people it is containment… But that’s just it, the film doesn’t explain what containment means so we are left to assume it is preventing a public event or mass slaughter.

Tony hasn’t returned to work (we see him bitten in a toilet cubicle) and a new girl, Judy (Hope Alexandria Harris), starts work. Long story short, Vida invites her to live with her and April and they all go to Club Dead. Before they get there Gus has a rant about not taking Judy there and, lo, Madam chooses her. To get her in she allows the rest in and inside it’s an average looking club (though it does have a free bar). Later Madam says it isn’t a club, it’s a restaurant and, separately, the free bar is because it isn’t a business but a party. Once they are in the exits vanish and we wonder why is Judy so important? Apparently because she’s a virgin (and a virgin is needed to mate with Madam’s son (Michael Q. Davis)) – apparently Madam has been waiting a long time for a virgin to come to the club. Judy is also called the Chosen One at one point and a mystical match with the son would have made more sense.

Doug Bilitch as the Count
The inside was laughable. We don’t really care about the characters as there was no character building (ok, there was a little but it was sporadic and sometimes too little too late). However there was one moment that took the proverbial biscuit. Will (Monti Washington) is lured to a basement where he is to be fed to Count Vyrolakas (Doug Bilitch), Unfortunately Bilitch plays it like a comedy role (I assume purposefully), with no sense of the pitch of the rest of the film and when I say comedy I mean absurdist comedy. It forces the film off the tracks at around the 46 minute mark but the film really had been struggling to stay on the tracks as it was.

losing her reflection
There is a nice moment with a mirror as Madam fixes an accessory for Judy, Judy notices the lack of reflection, turns and Madam is on the far side of the room nowhere near the mirror – it turns a freaky event into a double take and I rather liked it. Gus comes barrelling to the rescue so as to prevent the wedding/consummation. There is no mention in dialogue as to why Vida was having the dreams. The lore is that a short drink turns the victim and a long drink kills, and then has a couple of seconds long bite kill someone (hardly enough time to draw the blood out of the body). They cast no reflection, are able to take on the appearance of another person, apparently they can make doors disappear, both a stake to the heart and sunlight kill vampires and crosses burn them.

Caroline Gombe as Madam
This was poor. It needed to work out its own internal logic and then establish it for the audience. It needed to build characters properly; one, a patron named Eli (Justin Ray), clearly liked Vida and that’s all we knew. There was no build of the relationship and so we didn’t care when Vida had to choose whether to kill him or let him turn. Similarly with Scott – we get a twist in his story but there really hasn’t been enough build around the character to make the twist meaningful. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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