Sunday, July 08, 2007

Subspecies 2: Bloodstone - review


Director: Ted Nicolaou

Release Date: 1993

Contains spoilers*

*This review will contain spoilers for this movie. However, as it follows immediately on from the first film it will also contain major spoilers for the ending of that movie.

At the end of the first subspecies movie we had the situation that good vampire Stefan had staked and beheaded his evil brother Radu (Anders Hove). Radu had bitten Michelle, and shared his blood with her, so she asked Stefan to bite her as she did not want to be like him. As they entered their coffins we saw Radu’s eyes move.

redesigned bloodstoneThis movie starts at the point, after a brief voice over by Michelle. It should be noted that the role of Michelle was taken over, in this movie, by Denice Duff, which also meant that Michelle’s hair had grown radically during the first day of undead sleep! Other changes introduced were the design of the actual bloodstone and the way in which Radu was portrayed by Hove… but we’ll get to that shortly.

resurrecting RaduThe minions from the first film reappear, though they only feature in this movie during the opening scenes. In some respects this is a shame as they were better done this time around. They have increased in number from three to four. Two stand on Radu’s body and pull the stake from out of his heart, whilst two push his head closer to his body. Sinews emerge, merging to the torso as the spinal column extends and the head, in a ‘The Thing’ like moment, reattaches.

drinking from a dying vampireRadu enters the room where Stefan and Michelle slumber. He opens Stefan’s coffin first and stakes his brother, relishing the spurt of blood that springs from the dying vampire’s body before rapid decay sets in. A quick mention of the bloodstone occurs, but stupidly no retrieval as Radu is off to destroy the ‘pretty one’ He raises a stake above Michelle’s reposed form just as the sun comes up and forces him to retreat to his crypt.

Michelle with the BloodstoneNight falls and Radu and Michelle both awaken at the same time. As he winds his merry way back to where the coffins are, Michelle has found Stefan. She removes the stake, to no avail, perhaps Radu was able to survive due to his unusual heritage where Stefan is truly dead. She then takes the bloodstone and legs it, passing the corpses of her friends and hiding in the castle. Radu reaches the coffin room and realises that Michelle has gone. He goes to Stefan’s coffin and sees that the bloodstone has gone. In a fit of anger he smashes his brother’s bones.

Melanie Shatner as RebeccaMichelle makes it out of the castle, back to the monastery. Changes clothes, grabs some belongings and manages to get a train to Bucharest. As she wanders the streets she sees Radu’s shadow (we’ll get to that soon) and runs to a hotel. She makes an international call to her sister Rebecca (Melanie Shatner) and begs assistant. Becky says she’ll fly out to Romania. Then Michelle books a room for the night. Radu watches her through a window but the dawn is close and so he retreats to a crypt.

son with his momInside he meets with a decayed creature who turns out to be his mother (Pamela Gordon), or Mummy as he addresses her. She questions his presence, he is forbidden to be there but he gives her a gift of the knife he used to kill his father, which still has remnants of Vladislav’s blood on it. Now a note about the knife. In the last review I assumed Radu must have pierced the heart when he stabbed his father, but in this we discover it is an enchanted blade thus capable of destroying a vampire. Mummy asks for the bloodstone and Radu admits it has been stolen.

Biting his hand to retrieve blood, she auguries and sends him back to his castle until the next full moon – telling him to burn the bodies that he left there. He protests as the sun rise is so close but remaining in the crypt is forbidden – strange as later in the film he does stay there.

Denice Duff as MichelleMeanwhile Michelle is asleep on her bed as the sun comes up and sunlight hits her through a crack in the curtains. She awakens and drags herself into the bathroom, collapsing into the bath. Later maids enter her room and find her. The police come and, believing her to be dead, have her body bagged and also take her possessions – including the bloodstone. She is being driven (to the morgue) when the sun sets and she awakens, freaking out and causing the van to crash. She runs off, eventually finding refuge in the props storage area of a theatre.

Michael Denish as Professor PopescuThe film then follows a few threads. We have Rebecca arriving in Bucharest and, whilst trying to find her sister, becoming embroiled in Radu’s plots. Rebecca gains a strange group of allies in the form of diplomatic liaison Mel (Kevin Spiritas), Professor Popescu (Michael Denish) and personable but underused Lt. Marin (Ion Haiduc)

Then we have Michelle’s struggle with her new vampiric nature, which in many respects is the main focus and thrust of the film. Now I found the original actress Laura Tate had a very personable presence, which Duff does not have. However Duff does do scared and tormented very well; better, one suspects, than Tate would have done it. She also physically looks the part of the vamp. Michelle's first feedWith Michelle one picks up a little snippet of lore centred on her rather messy first kill. She has already prevented herself from biting the man once but eventually her blood craving gets to much, she bites and then wretches. He is getting away and she viciously leaps upon him, drinks and then pukes much of the blood. It seems the fledgling vampire cannot hold her blood well, though whether it is a physical reaction or a psychological one – as she detests her new state – I do not know.

The final thread is the cat and mouse game that Radu plays with Michelle. Hove is, again, brilliant as Radu but perhaps plays the role a little more comic book and that really suits the character. We discover that he is very twisted indeed. He states at one point that he craves love. He then qualifies it by saying that he loved his brother and regrets killing him – he wanted to torment him more. He also states that fear and suffering are the true pleasures of love.

We get a new power in this. I commented in the last review that there was a very impressionist use of shadows when it came to Radu. In this the shadows are used more fully as we discover that Radu can become a shadow and travel great distances, with speed, in that form. I liked that bit a lot though it did beg the question as to why Radu had to make his minions when he was caged at the head of the first film, surely he could have simply shadowed out.

a messy eaterThe feel of the film is slightly different, even in the way it is shot. This felt more together and carried an air that was reminiscent of the Hammer films. Where this feeling came from I can’t quite put my finger on – potentially in the film stock quality or the lighting – but it was definitely there.

I was less impressed with Melanie Shatner’s performance. I found the Rebecca character rather annoying. The film gained, in many respects, with being a true sequel to the first movie. This was a lot to do with the fact that the rules and story was already established and so the filmmakers could concentrate more on the task at hand. That said watching it without having seen the first instalment could prove frustrating.

The soundtrack was evocative as it was in the earlier film.

Again this was a low budget movie but I was fully engrossed and enjoyed it more than the original. Great vampire cinema. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


The T said...

Again, I fully agree. I didn't like the mother-thing though... That part was unnecessary in my view. The few plot holes are irrelevant enough and the film is very enjoyable. Probably the cost is 1/100 of what some major "vampire movies" have and it has 10 times the atmosphere and magic.

Now it's time for the third!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Fair comment about the mother but, on the other hand, at least they werenm't scared of experimenting and trying different things.

As you say, filmed on a shoestring and yet wildly atmospheric

Unknown said...

I wish they had brought Stefan back!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair enough Tobias, it potentially would have taken the series in a very different direction