Saturday, March 24, 2007

Soul’s Midnight – review

Directed by: Harry Basil

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

This was on Zone Horror last night and I thought, ooh a vampire flick I haven’t heard of… hmm, perhaps that should have given me a clue, so should the fact that I can’t find a corresponding DVD release at this time.

The film begins with credits, and a sub-Carmina Burana score, the music laying on melodrama with a shovel (and yet strangely the film doesn’t maintain said levels of melodrama within the feature – in fact it fails to maintain any melodrama). We open with a scene from 1975. A man, Max Milford (Ryan C Hurst), is dragging his pregnant wife Sara (Natalie Loftin) to his car. A priest, Father Dominic (Joe Nipote), is in the car. Max tells him to bless it, referring to an ornate box.

Suddenly robed figures are approaching. Father Dominic abandons his wards and Max leaves the car, telling Sara to get it started – the robed figures want her baby. He shoots one of the figures, to no effect, but a bullet has breached the petrol tank of a nearby vehicle and so he shoots a burning torch the approaching figure is carrying and manages to set the figure on fire. Sara gets away and Max is captured. They have plans for him.

Cut thirty years forward and Charles Milford (Robert Floyd) and his pregnant wife Alicia (Elizabeth Ann Bennett) are driving into town. Charles was the unborn baby and his recently deceased mother had told him that his father was dead. He, more recently, received a letter from his father’s business partner Ramos (Miguel Pérez) saying his father had just died and left him his business and house.

They are booked into a hotel and it is here that, if things hadn’t seemed too bad, we started to see the cracks. At reception a man named Ken (Thomas Cunningham) pushes in front of them to complain about no ice to the blind receptionist Lily (Amy Simonelli Briede). It is a really bad performance, and all he had to do was angry man. A little later he is killed following a pointless terrible injury by ice machine (his hand is ripped apart – if it was me I’d have just had him grabbed, which occurred post mangling).

Basic story – Ramos hasn’t written to Charles, he’s illiterate. Charles has been lured there by vampires. The town celebrates the feast of St. George but the dragon George killed was the leader of the vampire cult. To resurrect said leader as a dark messiah they must use the un-baptised blood of a descendant of the Saint (which Max and family are) on the ashes of the dragon. Father Dominic is still there, unaged but not a vampire. He betrayed Max as he thought he could save the town but is now repentant of his sin.

The two main vampires are Iris (Lucila Solá) and Simon (Armand Assante), who is the cult leader. They kept Max alive, and a slave to the cult, until they could use him to lure his son back. Armand Assante is probably the best thing in the film, overacting with gusto. The film itself throws in influences left, right and centre with no real concern as to whether it works or not.

The hotel has shades of The Shinning, and Alicia is having visions that tie in with that. There is a brief flavour of Rosemary’s Baby and there are some moments that feel Evil Dead… but before I explain that let’s look at the vampire lore.

The vampires are of a cult of the dragon, but in reality it is meant to be a real dragon (rather than a Dracul). The dragon, when resurrected, looks more demon than standard dragon. Other than that they seem to conform with generally standard vampires.

Simon puts his blood in Alicia’s tea and this causes her to have terrible visions, including having sex with Simon and then him removing her baby on a diner party table. To enslave a mortal they bite them – why feeding Alicia his blood didn’t enslave her is not explored, but we do discover that killing the main vampire will break the enslavement. Incidentally, early on Simon sneaks into her room and moves his hand over her pregnant bump – the baby seems to squirm through the skin – that didn’t make a lot sense especially as the baby seemed horned.

The vampires cast no reflection and burn up in the sun. Holy items will effect them but only if backed with faith. There is much play on the box from the beginning, a vampire hunters’ kit, and the fact that it is blessed but, in actuality, it is fairly standard. It has stakes, mallet, cross and holy water. Unusually it also has cyanide, but that is for the hunter in case things go wrong.

The holy water is effective and seems to cause a vampire to thrash its legs, the flesh to smoke and for the skin to slough from the chest in a most unconvincing effect. (A general aside thought here; if a cross only works with faith, in movies such as this, why doesn't holy water need the backing of faith?)

The effect on the dead victims seems odd. We are told that Max was found drained of blood and his flesh like that of a corpse dead several weeks – so, of course, the cops and coroner called it a heart attack and refused to listen to Ramos, who believed it suspicious, as he is known as the town drunk.

Other victims raise and here we get into part of the Evil Dead overtones. The caretaker of Max’s house, Mrs. Budge (Jane Hall), is turned and attacks (during the day, so is eventually killed with sunlight). The attack and looked seemed more akin to the Evil Dead with fangs. She went at Charles and Ramos with garden shears and chased Charles round the house in Benny Hill fashion. Later on Ramos goes at the vampires with a chainsaw, very Ash like.

More so we are told that a young girl committed suicide in the hotel. When the hanging ghost of the suicide hangs Charles, to the point of unconsciousness and capture by the vampires, we see that she is the blind receptionist and, again, the makeup effects made me think Evil Dead.

Much of the vampire lore is told to us by a couple of altar boys who are obviously going through film lore but state they know these things because they are altar boys! I should mention that the sword of Saint George is also an effective vampire killing tool.

The characters are unconvincing. Charles is one tough hombre, able to go vampire hunting after being hung by a meat hook in the back and then sewed up by an illiterate meat-packer. He also has a near sex experience with Iris but there is little to suggest it was vampire control and more the fact that he was horny and only just remembers his wife and stops the action in time – though Iris comments his will is strong, I wasn’t convinced there was mojo going on. Iris is a dancer in the hotel, whose show lasted about ten seconds. The other characters seemed irrelevant almost.

Soundtrack wise, other than the opening piece I didn’t really notice it.

So, muddled confused story (including the dragon attacking his own children for no properly explored reason, but the suspicion that as he was raised with just a dribble of the baby's blood he needs to feed on the blood of the descendent), with massively derivative elements. No suspense. Poor effects and worst acting – with the exception of Assante who whilst overacting terribly does so in a fun manner and tries to pull the film from the mire. One, really, to avoid and 2 out of 10 is for Assante's efforts more than the rest of the film.

You can catch a trailer here and the imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

I saw this movie and actually liked it because Armand Assante is great, the music is good, the girl is hot, and I thought the vampire old lady was funny as hell!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

To be fair, Armand Assante was the only good thing in the movie - his performance ensured it got a score.

As I said in the review I didn't really notice the music (other than the opening music) so it never struck a chord with me.

Hey, but we all find things different and I appreciate your comment.