Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cold Hearts - review

Director: Robert A. Masciantonio

Release date: 1999

Contains Spoilers

Cold Hearts is a Lost Boys (1987) clone in many ways; much of the action takes place on a boardwalk, exactly the same fairground music is used and, at one point, the vampire gang in the movie is actually referred to, derivatively, as the lost boys. There is even a scene which mirrors very much the entry to the underground lair of the Lost Boys but they actually enter a mini-golf area! Unfortunately the film has little of the elements that made the Lost Boys such a good movie and comes across more like a teen soap opera.

That’s not to say that it is a bad movie, in itself, and it does have a twist, which very much distinguishes it from the Lost Boys. Unfortunately the twist has to be one of the most badly kept secrets in a film (So, of course I’m going to reveal it later).

The film begins with Viki (Marisa Ryan) on the boardwalk where she meets her friends Alicia (Amy Jo Johnson) and Darius (Jon Heurtas). We quickly come to learn that Viki and Alicia are vampires; it is never confirmed nor denied as to whether Darius is a vampire or a human.

They discuss whether *he* will come this year and, as it is the start of the tourist season, they believe *he* will. The he in question is Charles (Christopher Weil) and he turns up at that moment. He manhandles Viki and punches her to the ground but is stopped by a mysterious assailant whom we do not see. The reason we don’t see the assailant is because Viki does not see him and this, I guess, was meant to bring a sense of mystery to the film. In this it fails as, when Viki meets a guy on the beach who introduces himself as Seth (Robert Floyd), we immediately know he is the mystery man who saved her.

Seth is a frat boy on vacation and yet we know that there is something different about him, this is the twist I mentioned earlier. The different-ness first becomes apparent when Seth sniffs the air and announces that he can smell that it will rain, which it does. Later, when confronted by Charles, he is accused of being like a rabid dog, an accusation that he doesn’t find offensive. He fights with a vampire and quickly subdues him, revealing a strength that a human shouldn’t have, and, later still, confesses that he is protective over his territory. He tells a story of how he and his girlfriend were visiting the Appalachians and they were attacked by a grey shape that ripped his girlfriend apart and injured him. You should have a good idea of what Seth is by now but, in case you need more clues, the DVD box’s blurb says his “terrifying secret will be revealed in the light of the full moon.”

Yes, he’s a werewolf and how the filmmakers believed no-one would work that out until the end was beyond me.

Viki is quite a motherly character, looking after Alicia who is an anorexic vampire as she is unable to cope with what she is. Viki also has a tendency to tell anyone who’ll listen about how everyone leaves her. Her father walked out on her and her mother, and her mother later died in a car crash. Viki became obsessed with vampires, which led to her and her friend Jake being turned. There is a nice line, as she describes that time. She says that the one who turned her, whilst he did tell her about the vampire’s ability to control minds and soar through the clouds, didn’t mention how it felt to experience a pulse fading beneath the lips. Jake lost control of his vampiric temper and killed his best friend; he couldn’t live with the guilt and so committed suicide by exposing himself to the sun.

Charles is clearly a bad vampire. He uses his mind control to get Alicia to choose victims and then go hunting with him and his vampire cronies. When the mind control fades she finds herself covered in blood and unable to handle what has happened.

Viki then goes to Alicia’s house to find that Alicia has sat out in the sun all day, in a mirror of what happened to Jake. Though Alicia is badly burnt, she is still alive when Viki gets there and tells her friend that she wants it all to end. She then begins to crumble and turns to dust. It is another person who has left Viki and causes her to refuse to allow anyone to get close; hence she believes she has a cold heart. Unfortunately the vampires’ reaction to the sun is one of the problems with the film as Viki seems to be able to go out in it for quite a while and only get a bad tan on her cheeks and yet the dialogue mentions that a mere ten minutes exposure will give a bad sunburn and it is shown to be deadly if the exposure is prolonged.

Towards the end of the film Charles’ human watchdog, John Luke (Christian Campbell), reveals that Viki and Charles had been an item and then he dumped her for another girl. Viki went to confront him and ended up killing the girl and then refused to take her place. Charles therefore wishes to destroy Viki and, as she gets closer to Seth, wants her last memory to be of him dying. Of course this leads to a confrontation where Seth wolfs out, although ultimately it is Viki who kills Charles.

The acting is okay but the film tries very hard to be character driven and the acting is not strong enough to pull this off successfully. There is a great sense of tension between Charles and Seth but there is very little chemistry between Seth and Viki and that makes the romance seem flat. I found myself unconvinced that Charles was as bad as the film made out, though I liked Seth's naive charm.

Unfortunately there are also superfluous scenes in the movie. There is a scene with Viki talking to someone called Uncle Joe (Fred Norris) that was meant to put Viki on the path of embracing a relationship with Seth but was so oblique it didn’t work. There is also a comedy scene tagged onto the credits that falls very flat indeed.

The effects are okay in some scenes but in others let the movie down. The vampires’ fangs look good but the wolf transformation seemed a little less American Werewolf in London (1981) and a little more Big Wolf on Campus (1999-2002). Alicia’s death looked good but the use of digital effects during Charles’ death was poor.

This isn’t a bad film (in the grand scheme of things) but, unfortunately, it tries hard yet still misses the mark. To me the filmmakers couldn’t decide whether they wanted a horror flick or a character driven drama and this is one of the things that makes the film fall. There isn’t enough vampiric action to be the first and the acting cannot carry the second properly. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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