Saturday, April 22, 2017

Vampires: Lucas Rising – review

Director: Jason Davitt

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

To give a potted history, there was a TV series called Vampires: Brighter in Darkness that was cut into a film and when I reviewed it I noted that it was a victim of its own lack of budget, amongst other things.

This is the sequel feature and it possibly had more budget but it also got more ambitious in scope and that in itself made for further issues with the budget as well as the film losing focus on the primary aspect that worked in the first film – the chemistry of the two leads. It also suffered from patchy acting, yet again.

Twilight moment
So new vampire Toby (Dan Briggs) has been taken by vampire-goddess Lilith (Abigail Law-Briggs) leaving his vampire lover Lucas (Rhys Howells) to lament the fact that a vampire only ever falls in love once – or so it is with him. After the credits we see the two together speaking of love. There is an almost Twilight impression given – possibly because of the sparkly effects used. This is, I would think, deliberate as the IMDb trivia suggests “The film Vampires: Lucas Rising was created as part of the Vampire saga by Jason Davitt to give a total representation of both Gay and Straight Characters so lacking in the Twilight series.” The illusion shatters and Lucas is in Hell, facing off a demon, as he has gone there to find Toby.

sucking energy
Mike (Jordan Hale) and John (Adam Butcher) are having some in car fun, out in the woods, when one seems to hear something. Their tryst is interrupted when vampire Mikal (Turan Duncan) opens the door and drags John off. Mikal is a “heretic” – and also an incubus, who seems to suck in the energy of those he kills – being hunted by two of Lilith’s vampires, Demetri (David Randall) and Tara (Annika Desai), with two demonic “dogs”. Mikal gets to a ruined castle and puts a protection spell up. He spills John’s blood on the ground (then turns him as he will not allow a mortal to die) and casts an invocation, which pulls Lucas out of Hell. Tara breaks through the spell and attacks but is killed by Toby’s sister Charlotte (Rebecca Eastwood), a witch.

back from Hell
So Lucas has been brought back, there seems to be a vampire resistance fighting Lilith with the help of Charlotte’s coven. These are also protecting Toby and Charlotte’s parents, Anthea (Leah Stanley) and Ron (John Ryding), who are mortal but now aware of all the supernatural gubbins going on. Toby, it turns out, is being held by Lilith on earth (in a monastery) and shielded. He is being regularly bled as Lilith intends to use his multiple bloodline blood to create hybrids and destroy the Earth. As such other gods are brought into the story too. It is rather ambitious in scope.

However the scope loses track of the primary positive from the first film – and that was the chemistry between the two leads, who are kept apart for the most part. In fact Mikal almost takes over the lead role helped by a strong performance by Turan Duncan. The plot didn’t necessarily hold together too well. Toby is rescued by former lover (and now vampire) Paul (Tim Benge) – ok, I get that but he locates Toby (who is magically shielded remember) with help from Antonio (Leo Eaglewood) – but we don’t know what Antonio's motivations are or the how or the why. It is less a plot point and more a contrivance. Similarly Lilith has a school (whose pupils she will turn into hybrids) but as the hybrids seem bestial snarling things one wonders why she needed the brightest and best?

Julie Pickering as Hecate
The acting is as patchy as the first film. With the exceptions of the leads (whose chemistry I have mentioned) and Mikal the performance range from somewhat pantomime, Lilith really does come across like this, to the truly awful. Increasing the plot importance of the character of a particularly poor performer (in the first film) doesn’t do the film any good at all when the performance is just as poor. Some performances, however, work despite themselves. Julie Pickering as the Goddess Hecate is so down-to-earth that it becomes amusing and actually works. The line, ”and if you see my sister Lilith, tell her she’s p*ssed me right off.” becomes unexpectedly funny.

two rebel vampires
Despite the stated desire of giving a total representation of straight and gay characters, this is definitely a gay interest film – Charlotte laments that all the male vampires seem gay (at which point Mikal reveals himself to be bisexual) and, apart from mum and dad, the only relationships (and romantic interests) we really see are gay. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, given that the balance between straight and queer films is totally skewed towards the straight and needs redressing. This focus of the film certainly isn’t why the film becomes weak, as concentrating on the relationship between the primary characters would have improved the entire thing. I should also say that I think I understand the purpose behind including the mum and dad characters (adding an ordinary human perspective) but they didn’t necessarily do this and they certainly didn’t add any depth of characterisation to Toby and Charlotte, and as such their presence was probably not needed.

cgi fist through chest
In the final analysis the film becomes weak because the filmmakers' ambition was bigger than the budget and more expansive than their actors’ skills, for the most part. That said, some of the creature effects worked really rather well, when physical, and whilst the CGI wasn’t the greatest it was better than in many other films. Plot points were needed to expand on some aspects and deus ex machina were too heavily relied on (be it Paul’s intervention in the hostage situation or the actual ending resolution). There is to a be a third film and I hope that lessons are learnt and they concentrate on their strengths and reduce the weaknesses. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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