Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blood Angels - review

Director: Ron Oliver

Release date: 2004

Contains spoiler

According to Vampyres Online Blood Angels aka Thralls was originally going to be entitled Jugs – I kid you not – as in short for Jugular, it does make you wonder if some people think, then again maybe it is only in UK colloquial use that the word can mean a lady’s bosom.

Which, of course, is almost an apt title given that the film focuses on five “vampire brides”, the thralls of the alternate title. They are Leslie (Leah Cairns), Roxie (Fiona Scott), Lean (Sonya Salomaa), Brigitte (Moneca Delain) and Buzz (Lisa Marie Caruk). Thralls are, in the girl’s own words, the white trash of vampires. They have the strength and speed, as well as the blood lust (though they only take enough to survive and do not kill their victims), but they cannot turn another nor can they shape-shift or fly. Thralls are slaves, in this case to head vampire Mr Jones (Lorenzo Lamas) and, through flash back, we see how Leslie was turned, having been taken off the street by Jones and their life in his mansion. They are kept in lingerie, chained to a central seat in a very white attic and fed road kill by Rennie (Richard Ian Cox) who is the Renfield character and more than a bit of comic relief.

The Thralls
We also see, in flash back, how Lean gets the book the Necronomicon (the book is also the subject of a rather cheesy voiceover at the head of the movie), through which they discover that there is a ritual to make them full vampires and how they escape their servitude. During their time as slaves there is a sixth bride, Tanya (Crystal Lowe) who is killed by Jones as they escape.

The thralls set up shop in a nightclub where they intend, on the winter solstice, to perform the ritual by using the psychic energy of the clubbers. Thrown into the mix are Leslie’s little sister Ashley (Siri Baruc) who has come to stay with her sister following the death of their abusive father and who does not know that her sister is a vampire and also Jim (Shawn Roberts), a simple country lad who has come to the city to stay with his cousin, the homie wannabe Doughboy (Kevan Ohtsji). Doughboy is another comedy character thrown into the film. Jim, of course, falls for Ashley.

A further complication is the arrival of Jones at the club.

I really don’t want to go too far into the plot as, to be honest, the twists in it are partially key to enjoying the film. I say partially because the film, very much, is played for laughs – especially towards the latter half of its running time - and you will enjoy this if you watch it in this vein.

There are problems with the film. The main one is with some of the effects. Jones as a bat looks fairly effective outdoors but, brought indoors and focused upon, the cgi bat looks particularly fake. Other effects, such as blood sucking tentacles that emerge from one of the thrall’s nipples also look poor.Out for a bite The cgi is fairly good, in the grand scheme of things, but not good enough to get you to suspend belief and buy into the effect. Some of the fights are much too quickly cut, undoubtedly to hide the lack of martial arts abilities in some of the actresses. It must be said that this film does owe much to Buffy in that, once turned, a vampire seems to develop an uncanny ability to perform martial art moves effectively.

Most of the film, bar a couple of car parks and a bus station, either take place in Jones’ mansion or in the club and this lack of location is telling.
The plot does have some problems, why on earth would the thralls hide from Jones in such a high profile way? How is it that Ashley conveniently has a Latin 101 textbook with her, allowing her to conveniently translate the Necronomicon? Yet because the film doesn’t take itself seriously these questions seem of a lower concern than they would in a film that took itself seriously.

The acting isn’t too bad for this type of B-Movie but by far the best performance is delivered by Lamas, who camps his character up and yet manages to maintain a sinister presence. His wise-cracking quips are a highlight in the film and, as the film definitely sets itself up for a sequel, it would be great to see Jones return. Think Chris Sarandon in “Fright Night” (1985), for a comparison character, though perhaps a little quicker with the cracks. “What about the vampire asshole?” says Jim at one point and, right on cue, Jones appears. “That’s Mr Vampire asshole!” He retorts.

Mr Jones has a biteSome of the vampire effects look nice. There is a “From Dusk til Dawn” (1996) face shift at one point, we see the vampire’s eyes turn cat-like, they have long, protruding tongues (unfortunately not a great impact effect in this case due to the cgi used to create the extended tongue).

There are also some nice concepts. To escape the thralls draw straws and then gnaw Roxie’s leg off at the ankle, to get her from her shackles. Later in the film we discover that the thralls’ ability to heal is perhaps not as great as a full vampire when we find that she now has a prosthetic foot.

I also liked the idea of looking at the life of the brides and, more so, empowering them. All in all I have to state that this is not the best movie in the world, but it has some decent ideas and a great level of comedy that carries it through – though I’m not too sure about the full rap video about vampires during the credits. All in all I’m giving this 5.5 out of 10, a low budget film that manages to raise itself, albeit slightly, above mediocrity through a great sense of humour.

The trailer is available here.

The imdb page is here.

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