Thursday, July 29, 2021

Vampire Strippers – review


Director: Royce Davis

Release date: 2021*

Contains spoilers

*date according to Amazon, the film credits weren’t forthcoming and at the time of writing there was no IMDb page

Oh my word but some films are just bad. I must admit that just the utilitarian poster for this one had my spidey senses tingling (also the lack of an IMDb page) when it showed up on Amazon Prime Video as a purchase (or rent) to view. I was sceptical but, nevertheless, it went on my watchlist and then, one day, it turned into a free to view with Prime and I immediately gave it a whirl and, very quickly, was glad I hadn’t parted with money.

Julion escapes from something

Now, I don’t actually want to speak ill of films (and I will praise one moment shortly), but this commits some cardinal sins. It begins in the 16th Century and the Romanian Vampire King Julion (Aaron L. Toland II) is conducting the blood moon ritual (for which he will need the blood of two women of the right type. He has 4 women bound and the ritual will extend his life cycle and allow him to daywalk (which is odd as he daywalks into a shop later just fine). He is interrupted (we don’t see by what), escapes to the US and sleeps for 400 years.

drinking blood

So we go to a strip club – though can I say there is very little stripping occurring in the film, despite the title. One moment of naked breasts, far into the film, seems more a production error as mostly the strippers keep their clothes on. Nevertheless, we see some girls with patrons, a pole dancer and then the pole dancer approaches a guy on his own, offers him a dance and then bites him. Cardinal mistake #1 – the music was loud in the mix and distorted, overwhelming the dialogue to the point of putting subtitles on (which I maintained through the film as the dialogue was intermittently inaudible). We then see three of the strippers drinking blood (or red liquid) from glasses and talking about disposing of the body – which a pair of cops find the next day, the cops' scene is almost blink and miss it.

flimsy coffin

The film goes back three months. Three burglars are robbing a place that is meant to have valuables in a coffin. They ransack draws to no avail but then find a coffin (read cheap Halloween prop made of flimsy material) with loads of money in it. This wakes Julion, who is in his equally cheap Halloween coffin… If he has been sleeping for 400 years, how’d he get in a modern house replete with stash of modern cash?! Anyway he grabs (and kills we assume) two and then gets Thomas (Eli El Shabazz), a large chap, and makes him his servant.

captured

He goes to a store (during the day) and overhears the owner, Havana (Foresteen Hood), talking about her credit woes. He suggests he is a tailor, looking for a partner and can get her credit extended – he does this. He takes her to dinner, gives her 2000-year-old wine (apparently), which is clearly drugged as she falls asleep and awakens wearing a corset, leggings and chained to a flimsy looking rack. He then kidnaps several more women. The last is an ex-model who has a facial scar he promises to fix. We see him bite her and she does heal but then she’s put with the others. One, however, gets loose, frees the rest and they escape with his book of rituals. They become strippers (as you do) and, apparently, he had turned them all.

plug socket

I say as you do – but as the punters all seem to throw wads of $100 dollar bills around it is likely a good career move. So other cardinal movie sins? Well, when talking to the model, despite being in the foreground, they appear slightly out of focus – but this is not a soft-focus moment… oh no… the plug socket in the background is in sharp focus. There is a scene of the strippers (not actually) stripping, which goes on and on for 8 minutes (including a fire eater at the end). It then cuts to one of the cops, with a cop we’ve not seen before, for long enough to say 'let’s go to a strip club' (with new cop suggesting wife and kids will be ok for a couple of hours) and then we get their cavorting with lap dancing vampires for another 7 or 8 minutes, until new cop is bitten. These two stripper scenes form a dialogue free montage that amounts to 17 minutes (including the moment with the cops speaking) out of an 80-minute run-time. It is mindless filler and the second part looks like it was filmed in a living room not a club!

armpit staking

At one point the women go to see a preacher (Damon Gary) for help but he won’t hold no truck with vampires and ushers them out. We see the last women and the preacher start laughing as they go off screen, presumably thinking themselves out of shot. When he does help them he gets them to fill bottles with holy water that works on Julion but somehow doesn’t burn them as they put their hands in the font! When Julion is killed (oh, come on, there’s hardly a story to spoil) he does the infamous hold the stake up when killed routine that spoils many a cheap end film... but most have the actor hold it to the chest at least, as though clutching the implement of their death – his is held in his armpit! (In the screenshot you can just see his hand holding it in the lower screen).

cool bite marks

Now I said about one good thing, a moment I would praise... Julion and Thomas go and pick up a couple of prostitutes and, when we see them dumped after feeding on them, the makeup for the bites looked pretty cool. That, and that alone, has got this turkey 1 out of 10 – beyond that the acting is amateur and it felt like some of the dialogue was badly adlibbed, it was poorly filmed (there are some night shots – including a chase where the ratio changes completely I guess due to the camera used – and then the world’s worse day as night shot as they go to the chapel at night, the effects were special but not in a good way (bar those bite marks) and the story flimsier than the cheap Halloween coffins.

At the time of writing there is no IMDB page.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Honourable Mention: Dead Packet


This short film by Simon Yin is getting an honourable mention as the story, which follows Richard Ng playing a fictionalised version of himself, is not about a vampire. Rather it is about a demon which will kill/drive to madness its victims and will hunt down an actor who has ‘died’ on set – hence the actor getting a red packet after playing a death scene to ward the demon away.

So why the mention? Well Ng is in the opening shot of the film, the photography deliberately lined as this is the film he is shooting. He is furtive but when he enters a building he sees a figure (in traditional funeral garb) knelt, weeping. When he approaches, the figure turns and it is a kyonsi who attacks (and ends up ripping out his guts and feasting on his innards).


That is it… our kyonsi is someone acting as a vampire, quite literally, though he does appear later in a memory sequence. The short is just over 11-minutes in length and is worth a look, though blink and you’ll miss the vampire.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Blood Red Sky – review


Director: Peter Thorwarth

Release Date: 2021

Contains spoilers

Netflix’s latest vampire flick, and between the very toothsome and plane-based trailer and the fact that the opening scenes show the aforementioned plane land at a Scottish military airbase this one is super hard to spoil – vampire, on plane, with son, hijackers… that is almost the plot laid out in full.

Be that as it may, as an action adventure this could have been a bit of an action sub-genre classic. Alas, whilst entertaining it is overly long (it needs at least 30 minutes cutting from the run time), with poor pacing choices including the backstory exposition, which leads to more questions than answers, and missing exposition that might have been more pertinent.

Graham McTavish as Drummond

So, as I say, the film starts with a plane being talked down from autopilot from a control tower as Colonel Alan Drummond (Graham McTavish, Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Monsters and Mutants, Preacher & Castlevania) takes command. The plane lands and in the cockpit is Farid (Kais Setti), the assumed hijacker (the undercurrent of the Western default of Islamophobia is strong in this) who has sniper rifles trained on him. Out of a doorless cargo hatch a young boy, Elias (Carl Anton Koch), exits. The soldiers get him and bring him to base – a translator tries to talk to him but he is silent.

in the hotel

The film moves into flashback. In a hotel room a woman, Nadja (Peri Baumeister), looks in the mirror and then puts a wig on covering her bald head… In an airport Elias checks in for his mother and himself. His case is heavy and Farid helps him lift it, when asked where his mother is he says she is on her way… In the hotel room, Nadja is speaking to a doctor in the US who is showing her the treatment area – she is travelling to New York for experimental radiation therapy. She ends the call when Elias calls to say he has checked in. She goes to him, night having fallen. In the airport we see she has medication – prescription she explains – and we see her (in the toilet) drink something from a bottle – blood – and then inject herself – the drug supresses her vampirism.

Dominic Purcell as Berg

On the plane we quickly discover there are bad guys around. Led by Berg (Dominic Purcell, Blood Creek & Blade Trinity), who is woefully underused, we don’t know what they want. We hear Drummond say that the plane has one of Germany’s terrorist watch list on board – but that's likely one of the innocent dupes (on a list due to racial profiling). The baddies quickly kill the undercover sky marshals and it is revealed that they include in their number the co-pilot (Kai Ivo Baulitz), who kills the pilot, and a new steward, Eightball (Alexander Scheer, Getting my Brother Laid). This is where we really have to suspend disbelief… 

framing Farid

Essentially, and unbelievably, they managed to get the co-pilot, steward and baddy passengers on the same flight – the flight on which they managed to trick three Muslims onto with a fake conference in America to frame them as terrorists – at least one person from ground crew is also in on it, someone who had left a message only viewable in infrared so they knew which panel to get in in order to hack something and they had all the equipment in the hold to blow both the cargo door and the plane, and have parachutes to meet a mid-ocean rendezvous. All for reasons unknown (we get mentions of an ongoing stock market crisis and 9/11 causing a stock crash that could be profited from). Think too hard and it’s really rubbish.

Eightball in vamp mode

Elias is panicky for his mum. Earlier he explained time zones to Farid and it is clear they have selected the flight so they take off and land in New York at night – the plane has changed direction. He realises there is a cargo hatch and runs off to find it, Nadja chases after her son and Eightball shoots her, three time. She falls and Elias is dragged back to his seat. Obviously she gets back up – vanishing into the cargo hold – and then, realising that they are going to destroy the plane, kills a hijacker and then we get hijackers versus vampire. Eightball realises what she is, manages to get her blood and inject himself (though a bite is enough to turn someone) and suddenly we get an outbreak because turning is really quick and, having tasted blood, they quickly become almost feral and blood crazed.

Nadja attacks

I mentioned pacing issues and within the film we get a series of flashbacks with the flashback of how she, as a new mother, lost her husband and was turned. Other than explain why she has a mortal son (and in fact it doesn’t as the speed at which turning occurs and the moving to feral makes us ask more questions of this than the answer it provides), these backstory flashbacks add nothing to the film and serve only to kill the pace. As we are suspending disbelief in a major way just at the hijacking, I doubt any viewer would have had a problem with accepting that she is both a vampire and a mother and is travelling to get a cure. It’s all the backstory we need. I would seriously just cut the inner flashbacks out altogether whilst giving the film a judicious prune.

great imagery

There is some great vampire imagery on display, though that is ignoring how a burnt vampire, engulfed in flames, managed to maintain hair, as Simon Bacon pointed out to me as we discussed the film. The vampires are killed by fire, by sunlight and by stabbing the heart. Unusually, turning can be prevented, if say a hand is bitten, by chopping the hand/limb off before infection spreads. They become rather animalistic, feral as I said earlier. I’ll mention here the acting as Peri Baumeister gives her all – almost channelling Shelley Duvall in the Shining at the head of the film and then revelling in her monsterdom as the vampire was let loose. Alexander Scheer’s psycho-hijacker was all sorts of over-the-top, which worked well, but left him without much room to expand the behaviours when turned. Other performances were solid but, in the main, actors were underused…

Peri Baumeister as Nadja

Of course, this is an action film so we’d expect that character development would be minimal or short hand. However, when you wreck your action’s pace repeatedly the viewer notices the under-use of actors and also notices the joins, the lull allowing the brain to critically analyse what should be a roller-coaster. There are under-current issues explored, the discussion on Islamophobia is obvious and, with Elias as the bridge connecting Nadja and Farid, the connection between the vampire as Other and the Othering of Muslims is clear in the text. Other issues, such as the inherent selfishness of Capitalism – resting squarely on the shoulders of an unpleasant businessman, are there but not nuanced. Again, this isn’t surprising in a film that is meant to be purely action at its core. In the end the pacing had me pushing the score down, but on the other hand the film was watchable. I think the issue is we could have had an action classic had the director and editor been much more disciplined. I was going to push the score down to 5 but ultimately felt that was overly harsh. I’m giving this 6 out of 10 but with serious reservations about the pace and length.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Evil On Queen Street: Bloodlust – review


Director: Matt Spease

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

This low to no budget offering is actually the third film in a sequence but, from what I can tell, it is the first with a vampire theme. There is one moment of back exposition that might lose a viewer coming in to this one unsighted on the other films (as I was) but mostly it stands alone – which is a positive of course. As I started watching this, I had a silent inward moan as I thought it was going to be a chore but, despite myself, found it a watchable experience.

It starts at night and a car pulling up to a house. The driver, Sophie (Caitlyn Bailey), gets out and knocks on the house door, subsequently letting herself in. She calls out – she is a private nurse – but no-one answers. Eventually, spooked, she decides to just go. Behind her a man appears – Vlad Ţepeş (Ryan Heumier), noting the name Dracula is not used – he tells her he has great plans for her and she seems mesmerised.

Vlad and Sophie

I need to just go into this mesmerism. Vlad has that power but, we discover later, his immediate control of women is through a pheromone he exudes. He bites Sophie and then says she is his drudge – she repeats that – and then he is the master. She breaks out of control at that point and so he does mesmerise her, bites her again and makes her his familiar. He wants her to look through medical records to find a suitable bride from each of the 8 blood types (yes he’s greedy) and to drain ‘undesirables’ for him.

cops

So we see a homeless man in the night and, using food as a lure, Sophie bashes him over the head with a hammer. The next day cops Damien Cruz (Kevin T. Oliver) and Freeman (Buddy Campbell) are at the scene. A moment about Cruz – with his rocker look he didn’t seem cop like (though he is the lead detective). His long, mullet hair seemed less business up front/party behind and more shindig at the front/full on hootenanny at the back. A woman appears, Tracy (Miracle Davis), and has words with Cruz – this is the moment where the dialogue contained previous film plot points that will lose an uninitiated viewer.

Nic and Tracy

Tracy goes to see Nic (Hanleigh Baker), who is day drinking. We discover they were lovers – when Nic was male. Nic was killed and did a deal with the devil to return and get revenge but the cost was she was brought back as female and is now a forsaken immortal – doomed to live and walk the earth forever. Nic does suggest resuming their relationship but Tracy declines as she is heterosexual. Nic becomes Cruz’ suspect at first but becomes an invaluable ally in the finale.

vampire attack

So the format becomes fairly repetitive for a while with Vlad taking his brides – two are married, that seems more of an issue for the vampire than it should have been (the only husband in the country is killed in short order). He also notices one is only 14; he does go to observe her and decides to take her but assumes the role of father/daughter (and slave) as opposed to making her a bride. One gives him some sass so he makes her a zombie instead. At first I thought that repetition would be damaging to the film but it wasn’t, the film moving quickly into things going wrong and injecting the good guys into the situation.

pencil staking

The acting is B grade but could definitely have been worse. There was an attempt at some practical effects that were ok. After an accidental staking by pencil there is a couple of other pencil moments. We get a crap bat sequence and crosses burn. Some moments don’t stack logically. For instance, after working out, through a description, who Sophie is, Cruz tracks her to Vlad’s – but she wasn’t a resident there until enslaved and her subsequently making it her known address makes no sense. Ryan Heumier was taller than his female co-stars in shot but didn’t appear to be the 6 and a half foot he was described as. That was a minor thing and mentioned as it amused me when watching, however.

As I said at the head I was surprisingly entertained by the film. It is low budget but, perhaps because my expectations were set low, I did enjoy the viewing. Not the greatest film, without a doubt, but worth 4 out of 10 for me.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Brooklyn Love Stories – review



Director: Sonejuhi Sinha (segment)

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

Not my normal genre of film, admittedly, but vampires do get everywhere. This time they get into an anthology of love stories set in and around Bushwick, Brooklyn (the original title of the film was Bushwick Beats).

The segment we are interested in is entitled Love Trumps Hate and it did quite a bit of world building in its short running length.

vampire genocide

The segment starts at a butcher’s shop, the camera moves through the store (the butcher (Ed Furs) is sleeping) and a radio news programme is on. The news mentions a group of vampires arrested and killed crossing the New York State Line, the arrest carried out by the Silver Bullet Coalition, classed by some as a hate group. A spokesperson for the Vampire Rights Reform Association talks about the 12 million “peaceful” vampire population of two years ago falling to 2 million and the word genocide is mentioned. It is suggested that synth-blood is being used as bait to trap vampires. This is the neat world building, the short did it well though the content is not new – most obviously some of the True Blood storylines come to mind.

hiding fangs

In the back of the store Sadie (Britt Baron) is drinking animal blood from a tray. She leaves and turns the radio up as she passes, waking the butcher (though he doesn’t see her). On the street we see a newspaper with a headline about the genocide. We see her on the rooftops from where she spots a woman, Harlow (Britne Oldford), and the woman seems to see her too. At one point we see Sadie using marker to blacked the tips of her fangs – pointless (if you pardon the pun) given the up-close “fang checks” we see later.

Britne Oldford as Harlow

Sadie tries to get into a club but sees a vampire caught by bouncers, brought to his knees and cuffed. She walks away but ends up sneaking in through the rear door. At a bar we see a member of the Silver Bullet Coalition – dressed in black, arm-band declaring his loyalty and a gun in his waistband, the analogy with a fascistic organisation is obvious. In the club Sadie meets Harlow and they are attracted and kiss, but Sadie cuts the other woman’s lip (on a fang presumably). She apologises, she should have said… but will love trump hate?

propaganda

This was nicely filmed and did its world building well (even if it did broadcast its political messaging unsubtly). It took full advantage of the vampire’s positioning as the ‘Other’ but, as representative of non-heteronormative love in the anthology, the use of a vampire (with the vampire's place as an analogy for queerness) was equally understandable as wall as a tad obvious. What I was less convinced of was the narrative of the actual love story, which was rushed. Perhaps it was because the effort had been made with the world building and the characterisation was, therefore, quite two-dimensional. Not a fault of the actresses who did what they could with little. Perhaps it was just very simple. I was less than moved by it, I’m afraid, though it may just not be my genre. However, for the very effective world building 4 out of 10 – the story itself (and the characterisation) too simple and under-explored.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

Monday, July 19, 2021

Short film: Vampire Foxes… from SPACE!


Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF. This was a 22-minute long short directed by Kyle Murphy and, whilst fun, it was ultimately style over substance.

Starting off at a comic book store, a patron (Riley Taylor) finds the comic book of Vampire Foxes… from SPACE! in the reduced section and starts to read it. The film proper is then the comic-book.

We start with Harry (James McLain), the scene starting in colour and then quickly turning to black and white. Harry is filling a container with various things, including a film and a picture of the Earth’s position in the galaxy – it is a time capsule of sorts. Ben (Justin Stewart) gets there and asks if it is *it*… a confirmation and they head outside (the scene starting in black and white then quickly changing to colour). The container is a nose cone for a rocket, launched by a big red button… Harry warns Ben, telling him not to press it… can you guess what accidentally happens?

foxes

The rocket drifts., for decades, out of the solar system and crash lands on a planet full of fox women. They realise the earth may be an answer to their dwindling food stocks and so the Queen (Dorene M. Lorenz) sends three foxes (Briana Marie Thibodeaux, Bekah Halat & Alexa Schnoblen) to earth, their attire based on the go-go film from the 60s that Harry had put in the nose cone. Their trip is much faster than that of Harry’s rocket and they land in Alaska, where a couple of guys happened to be – Luke (Carl Weber) and Dave (Stephen Waalkes). Dave accidentally shoots Luke in the leg – leaving a sample of human blood to taste…

fangs and blood

As I said at the beginning, style over substance as the story was really very simple. There is a lot of sfx workaround, a necessity of budget but it gives this an antiquated feel that works for it. There is blood, silliness and a post-credit sequence that reminded me of Goke: Bodysnatcher from Hell. The imdb page is here.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Violet’s Prey – review


Director: Kelly Thompson*

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

*the film credits Kelly Thompson as director – Amazon credits cinematographer Seth Sosslau.

Lockdown themed films were a sure thing, and this film backdrops the Covid-19 pandemic but then fails to do anything except have it as a mentioned backdrop. It is, without a doubt, a micro-budget film and it gives me no pleasure to write negative reviews of such films but… The film is poor, there are good ideas but the filmmakers had neither the budget nor the skill/experience to pull them off. Rather what we end up with is a pretty confused mess that implies it is within the Buffyverse without outright saying it.

Dick on the bridge

We start with Dick (Brandon Beckham Aylor) on a bridge. It is daytime and folks wander around but Dick takes his belt off and uses it to tourniquet his arm before shooting up. The syringe contains a red liquid (blood?) and he reacts almost immediately, tilting his head back ecstatically and then standing, licking his lips and looking predatory… The film goes back a month and we see him with Ruby (Kelly Helen Thompson) walking, dancing in a carpark and carving their initials into a table…

talking to captives

We then see Ruby on the phone, Dick is missing she says. She has heard about the outbreak, how you are meant to stay in and wear a mask if you go out but she has to find him – perhaps Violet (Wood Judy) and Clide (Bishop J. Stark) know where he is? She goes to their house (the film shifts to black and white) sees a large bearded man (a mask), runs from him but is grabbed. We then see a man threatening a group of captives. He has a cross drawn on his face and demands they sing…

Ruby in hospital

This is a prime example of the film going wrong; the film shows us him threatening captives (including Dick), but we neither see the prisoners nor the torture and murder he inflicts. Further, the film cuts between that scene and images of Ruby captured (by the man torturing the prisoners, it transpires) and locked in a room, all the while counting through the days the virus is around – indicating that the events with the torture take a while. Eventually Ruby wakes in hospital. He let her go off screen…

the vampire and Violet

So, what’s going on. Well it turns out that Violet, some time before, was in financial dire straits when there was a kerfuffle in her yard. A man and (unknown to her) Ruby ran into the yard and started fighting, each grabbing long sticks. Ruby was victorious and Violet went out to find the man dying and helped him indoors. He was, however, a vampire and had to kill her – until she pled mercy as Dick needed her. So, instead he gave her some of his (black and viscous) blood – a drop is not enough to turn but will heal, he says, and in a perfume would allow a person to raise an army (presumably bestowing charisma). Violet decides to make money out of it.

blood at mouth

Trouble is, Dick got addicted to vampire blood and turned and then turned friends (which made a nice source of more blood for Violet) and she discovered that if a human overused it (presumably in the aerosol version) they grew old. Ruby was a slayer but did not see that Dick was a vampire, which strikes as odd. Now the day-walking is out with the Buffyverse (as a general thing) but Ruby is named as a slayer and mention is made of *her* and has Ruby seen *her* – it feels like it's referring to Buffy herself. The virus is something the vampires concocted to kill slayers but it is out of control – of course this could have then been a different/fictional pandemic but there is a covid banner on a TV news show.

Kelly Helen Thompson as Ruby

Violet, conveniently for budget and locations, has somehow lost her billions but Ruby works with a cop (also Brandon Beckham Aylor) to bring her down anyway. So, I mentioned issues… as well as the really poor kidnap, torture, murder scene that failed to have victims in film, the film jumped around without offering narrative clues as to why or where, and there were scenes where there were characters talking but no dialogue sound. This was, I believe, deliberate but the music that was meant to be the focus was incidental (rather than dominating the scene) and it looked like we should have heard the dialogue.

brandishing a cross

There was nothing to write home about the performances in film and the fight choreography wasn’t the best. Worst of all the film’s climax was anticlimactic. Despite being just under an hour in length the film dragged with the pacing well out. That said there were some good ideas – I did like the idea of the vampire blood being used in a perfume, the idea of the effect and the irony of the side-effect. It wasn't enough to save the film though. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK