Thursday, June 15, 2006

Decadent Evil - review

Decadent Evil

Director: Charles Band

Release Date: 2005

Contains Spoilers

This movie is a release by Full Moon Features, the same company that did the “Subspecies” series (1991 – 98) and the spin off “Vampire Journals” (1997). This is relevant as, after a brief shot of the homunculus (a proto-human lizard creature) Marvin, portrayed by a puppet, we are then told the back story of the vampires. This involves copious scenes from “Vampire Journals”, spanning the length of the previous film and lasting approximately 10 minutes of this film’s approximate 64 minutes.

This is problematic for two reasons (other than length). Firstly because, at the end of the scene, we are told that one of the vampire Ash’s protégées – Ash being the head vampire in the earlier film – left Eastern Europe and headed to the new world. The camera focuses heavily on the character Cassandra (Ilinca Goia) at this point, indicating that this is an extension of her story, and yet the lead vampire in this film is called Morella and is played by Debra Mayer. Thus we have a different character played by a different actress.

The other problem is that these are two very different films. “Vampire Journals” was acted in such a way that seemed melodramatic, to the point of pantomime sometimes, and yet had a gravitas and sumptuousness in its design that screamed gothic romance. One might say it had pretensions above its station and yet it seemed to work for all that, I guess the best description would be a poor man’s “Interview with a Vampire” (1994) – although that is meant as no slight to “Vampire Journals”. This movie is pure shlock, with titillation, exploitation, farcical acting and a puppet. Thus the first ten minutes are false advertising, of a kind, and one wonders whether the film was meant to be an off-shoot of the predecessor films or if the film (still very short) was way too short and ten minutes were added as padding?

After the introduction we find ourselves in a strip joint and Bruce (Roger Toussaint) is trying to persuade his girlfriend, Tami (April Gilbert), to go in with him. They take a seat, though she is clearly uncomfortable and wants to leave, and the camera decides to linger on the stripper for a while and then a blonde lapdancer, we later discover to be Sugar (Jill Michelle), and the God-awful DJ called Dex (Daniel Lennox). Bruce and Tami are approached by a brunette lapdancer called Spyce (Raelyn Hennessee) and she offers Tami a free dance. Afterwards she invites them elsewhere for more fun.

The three enter a mansion, despite the fact that Tami is still uncomfortable. They go to the bedroom and, whilst Spyce is absent for a moment, Bruce begs and wheedles to get the threesome he craves. Spyce comes in and there is a little nuzzling until Morella enters. Bruce is now ecstatic and, for his trouble, has his throat slit, Morella leaping onto the wound. Tami runs, but doesn’t get very far before Morella finds her and bites her, let it be said that there is nothing erotic about the vampire bites in this movie, the brutality of them is one of the strong points of the film. She adds the victims to a ledger and tells Marvin, in a nearby cage, that there are only three to go.

Morella asks Spyce where Sugar is and is informed that she is working late at the club. Working late means sleeping with Dex, whom she does not attack because she loves him. Afterwards she reminds him that he cannot go to her home, but leaves her bag (guess what his excuse for going to the mansion is going to be). Back at the mansion Morella can smell mortal on Sugar and forbids her a mortal lover. It seems she was betrayed by a mortal who cheated on her, Morella’s main motivation seems to be that ‘all men are scum’ rather than the more standard ‘mortals’ age and die’ angle, but she found a fitting punishment for her cheating lover. Having read the DVD box it is clear that Marvin had been her lover and we later discover that if someone ingests the blood of a homunculus (which she obtained from a witch) they will be transformed into one.

Dex is awoken by a knock at the door, it seems he sleeps at the club (well there aren’t many sets in the film). A strange dwarf, Ivan (Phil Fondacaro), comes into the room. He quickly reveals that he is a vampire hunter (something that Dex buys altogether too quickly as the film progresses, though the film is so short there is little time to build in any doubt) and is searching for Sugar and Spyce in order to get to Morella. We get a few of the rules of the game. There are different bloodlines of vampire, for Morella’s type the first spurt of arterial blood (the primal blood) contains the victim’s soul, which they devour, should a vampire devour 10,000 souls then he or she would become invincible and rule all the other vampires. We also discover that mirrors do cast a vampire’s reflection. Later we find that a cross, dipped into the remains of a victim, can locate a vampire by spinning like a compass and that garlic, which they dislike, can mask a mortal’s scent (though surely in a house were garlic is banned, as they dislike it, the smell would be like a beacon – never mind, the film didn’t answer this so neither will we). We also later discover that Ivan is Marvin’s son, and he believes Morella killed his father.

Obviously Ivan and Dex end up going to Morella’s mansion, Ivan to kill Morella and Dex to save Sugar. I really don’t want to say much more about the plot, after all there isn’t that much to go around given the length of the movie. There are some funny lines, for example Ivan tells Morella that she used to bounce him on her knee when he was a baby – this made me laugh, the thought of a vampire mistress as a babysitter. There is also the scene where a whore is chained to Morella’s bed and states that she is going to phone the cops... whilst chained… hmmm… use logic dear girl!

The acting in the movie is sub-rate though the movie itself, despite lack of locations, clearly had some budget thrown at it comparative to many of the straight to DVD films that I might review. I wanted to like this, I really did, it was always going to be bad but I hoped for more. I wanted a cult comedy and then, when the “Vampire Journals” intro began, my expectations were raised dangerously high in other ways. That said, to be fair, I have seen a lot worse and, had it not been for the intro, I might have found myself enjoying the rest of the film a lot more as a “have a few beers with the lads and laugh” type film.

There is a ‘making of’ featurette on the DVD, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. However, it seems to me that the producers had a good idea, vampires using a strip joint as a way to get victims, and then ran out of steam. Someone then must have had the brainwave of having a puppet character – always good to get cult B movie status, but actually not necessarily a good idea. That said there is some puppet on puppet action at the end which, whilst sick and depraved in every way imaginable, is mildly amusing in a puerile, pre-pubescent schoolboy humoured way. 2 out of 10.

A trailer can be found on this page about ¾ down the page and the imdb page is here.

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