Saturday, March 31, 2007

Blade of the Vampire – review


Directed by: Miles Feldman

Release date: 1996

Contains spoilers

Blade of the Vampire is a low budget independent that, when I came to write this, I struggled with. On the surface there isn’t much to it, the story is very simple and the acting medium to amateurish and yet it does do some interesting things with the mythology – and that is what I want to concentrate on in this review.

The story is so simple that I don’t want to get to hooked into it. Vampire Vandalis (Michael Taggert), also known as Van, drifts into LA and he is followed by former cop Grant (Rod Koch). Van is approached by ex-lover and fellow vampire Selia (Sophia Tsimel) to warn him that he is being hunted, a fact that he is aware of and he seems less than impressed with Selia’s interference.

Van is hunting a group of runaways and one of them, Alexis (Julie Tolle), becomes a special project for Grant – this of course complicates his hunt. And that, as short as it is, is the main core of the story. More interesting is what is done with the mythology.

Alexis holds the bladeThe vampires seem immune to most things, certainly sunlight and bullets, and the only thing that seems to be able to kill them is the blade of the vampire. Now, when I read the film synopsis before watching it I have to admit that I was thinking big sword, not little dagger – but as they say, size isn’t important, its what you can do with it.

How Grant got the Blade is unexplored. There is a throwaway that Grant has some kind of psychic ability. He has been tracking Van for seven years and, although Van seems to hibernate occasionally, Grant has premonitions that lead him to the vampire – perhaps that is how he found the blade? More interesting is the effect of the blade and why it has that effect.

Selia is dyingIn an altercation he manages to cut Selia’s hand. The next time we see her, the cut is still there and the flesh is purpling around it. Later the infection (for want of a better word) has spread further across her flesh. We also discover that the dagger is of Roman origin and that the vampire lineage goes back to the alchemists of Rome, experimenting in the catacombs. These vampires are man-made – though through the occult and not modern science. Actually modern science is mentioned as the ill and dying Selia asks Van if he knows of any science that can save her.

As interesting as this is, there are a couple of problems. Brilliant premise, but not explored fully enough to make it satisfying, is the first problem. The second is the fact that the blade looks like a toy dagger – which makes suspension of belief difficult.

snacking on teensAlso interesting was the effect of the vampire bite. Rather than kill the victim the bite makes the victim addicted to the vampire; an addiction so strong that they actually love the vampire with all their heart. This is not a generic addiction either it is to the specific vampire that bit them. A bitten Alexis, when it is suggested that going back to Van will kill her, states that she loves him and he needs to live. This was a nice touch. Where this fails is in the scene where Grant has been knocked to the floor and Selia and Van escape (just before Grant cuts her hand) wouldn’t you think they’d have just bitten him and made him addicted to one of them?

blooded fangsThat said, Van does bite him at the end of the film and I don’t think it too much of a spoiler to say that Van does die – I’ll just not reveal who does the deed. Another nice touch was that the addiction is so strong that Grant and Alexis stay by the body for two days, unable to leave, until the need begins to wear away – but there is a confession that deep down they still love him.

There is a hint that Van is weaker than he was, but this is not really explored. There is also a statement by Selia that she has had Van’s child, Dorian, though that is something Van cannot believe and it is not explored any further – perhaps that was a throwaway to enable a sequel. There is also a hint of a vampiric teleport by Selia but again it is used once and then forgotten.

Rod Koch as GrantThe story is flimsy, which is a shame given the brilliant underlying ideas. Taggert is so overtly dramatic that it becomes annoying, although Koch really looks the part of the haggard hunter. Better direction and acting would have really empowered some of the scenes that touch on the addiction, but it seems that for many involved it was their first project. The film stock quality is rather good for an independent and there are a couple of nice shots. I was less impressed with blurry attack sequences – too obviously hiding the joins that budget caused. The soundtrack worked rather well.

Selia held by the neckThis film would have scored higher if the interesting elements had been explored more fully. They make the film interesting from a genre fan's point of view but ultimately frustrating. The scarcity of details allows the poorer elements to come to the fore and really effect the score – 2.5 out of 10 is about all I can muster but that comes with the caveat that if you love your vampire movies there are some interesting ideas in here that makes it worth a watch. Finally it has to be said that Feldman, who wrote this as well as directed it, should really think about remaking this and look to draw the stronger elements out – there is a nub of a classic in here.

The imdb page is here.

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