Saturday, November 02, 2019

Red Spring – review

Director: Jeff Sinasac

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Although the undead apocalypse can be traced back to Richard Matheson’s wonderful I am Legend (1954), it was one of the vehicles partly inspired by it, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which took it and carved a genre associated now with zombies.

That said, it is always nice when a filmmaker looks to take the apocalypse back to the vampire genre and that is exactly what we have here. These are definitely vampires, much more together than the more feral beasts of vehicles like Stake Land, with skills and planning abilities (and that overwhelming desire for blood, of course). The film was pulled together on a tiny budget.

Jeff Sinasac as Ray
It starts with a building, bloody handprints on the windows, the air filled with the sound of flies buzzing, bloody footprints and bodies. In the room is Ray (Jeff Sinasac), who has come to this government shelter in Toronto looking for his wife and child. Overwhelmed by the sight (and the smell), his companion Carlos (Jonathan Robbins) comes in looking for him. They have to leave, it’ll be night soon. In the van are three other survivors; Bailey (Lindsey Middleton) who is driving, Eric (Adam Cronheim) who escaped a vampire run human farm and de facto leader Private Mitchell (Reece Presley).

in the city
They start driving out of the city but come across a road block – set up by the vampires. There follows a frantic search for an exit as the vampires start to emerge despite the day (it seems that it is direct sunlight that is the problem for these vampires and being in the shade of buildings allows them to function). Eventually Bailey has to take a route under a bridge, vampires throwing themselves at the vehicle – but they eventually manage to escape.

in the van
They are driving north, Mitchell has reasoned that there will be less vampires north; with less people able to feed them it will be less attractive to the vampires. They spot a bike behind them and Ray ends up leaning out of the van, held onto by Carlos, smashing their rear lights. The bike catches them, however, and the rider is human – not so those in the car chasing her. They manage to manoeuvre the rider, Vicky (Elysia White), jumping from bike to van – though the vampire driven car is now after them. There is a major plot point introduced here. The vampires track scent and Mitchell can’t understand why she is on a bike – the van masks their scent with windows and doors shut (though all this goes on with the backdoor still open) – and riding a bike would leave a scent trail (she suggests, later, that the bike was chosen to get through the road blocks more easily).

Andre Guantanamo as the leader
There is cat and mouse with the car for a while – offering us the first look at the main vampire (Andre Guantanamo, the Friday Night Death Slot) who hunts the survivors through the film. Eventually Vicky takes a tire out, causing the car to crash. She suggests a safe haven. Mitchell is sceptical and when he sees the farm house he feels justified but, after some food, she shows them the bomb shelter her paranoid father had installed in the back.

Lindsey Middleton as Bailey
They do not stay there the first night, Ray piecing two and two together and realising that their scents would be washed away by rain. However, hiding with their van exposed in an open field proves a mistake as the vampire leader takes out a tire with a rifle shot (there had been mention of never seeing the vampires use guns but Ray suggests that such attacks would waste blood – we see them use weapons, vehicles and hear about them taking over broadcasting and soldier vampires using tanks). They escape the vampire assault, just, as the rain starts but not before losing one of their number and another being shot in the leg… of course if the one got by the vampires turned, rather than died…

Reece Presley as Mitchell
The vampires are strong and very tough, easily able to shrug off injury. A good headshot or a stake/bullet in the heart is the order of the day. They maintain language – though we do not see them speak, only make grunting/hissing noises, we do see a message written out by one of them. They were organised enough to start human farming but Vicky reckons that they will start to starve simply due to the 9-month gestation of a new human and the length of time before the baby will reach a breeding maturity.

We are not sure, at the end, on the turning rules – certainly many a human is left dead and rotting, we have at least one turned in film but do not see how and we see another bitten without suggestion that turning is inevitable. Just a little more on the scent aspect – it is suggested that the vampires’ sense of smell is tuned into their prey, so human scent stands out to them. Whilst they can drink animal blood, it is suggested that it might not be ideal and thus they cannot scent track a dog (as an example). The makeup is a bit poor (essentially hollow eyes, greyed skin and blood round the mouth) but effective enough when seen in passing.

Elysia White as Vicky
The story is quite light – essentially this is survival horror – but what the film does do well is create characters we care about surviving – especially Ray and Vicky. This is through dialogue but is dependent heavily on the actors too. We also have survivors who make mistakes; some major, some just silly, and who are not automatically experts in everything. When one of their number is shot the army private doesn’t suddenly become a field medic and the treatment, such as it is, relies on Ray because he picked up the odd bit of second hand knowledge from his wife (pre-apocalypse) who was a nurse.

the vampire leader
This tries really hard but some of the budget issues stand out – better vampire makeup would be good, as an example, and whilst the night-time scenes are legible a higher budget would have allowed better techniques to make the scenes more watchable. The vampire lore is strange as they are intelligent, clearly, but often act ferally and more understanding of that would have been an improvement. Not bad, however. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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