Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm - review


Director: Ted Nicolaou

Release Date: 1998

Contains spoilers*

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

The start of this is slightly different to how the other sequels have begun. Yes we get a voice over that explains the ending of the last film. However we have a Flash Gordon moment. You know in the Flash Gordon serials how there would be an ending of one episode and then things become slightly different in the beginning of the next…

At the end of the last film Mel and Rebecca had managed to rescue Michelle (Denice Duff) from Radu (Anders Hove). Michelle had shot him to Hell with silver bullets, but still he came, lusting for the bloodstone that the heroes had stolen as much as for his fledgling. Anders Hove as RaduThe sun was rising, causing Michelle to fit until put in a body bag, and Rebecca threw the bloodstone, which Radu went for and became caught in the rays of the sun, bursting into flames and falling over the battlements to be impaled on a tree. So far so good. However we then saw some of his blood drip down, burning, and falling by the bloodstone. The blood then became minions. It is safe to assume that if he is returning in this, which he is, the minions would have something to do with it.

As the saying goes, to assume makes an ass of u and me. In this volume Radu’s burnt body falls from the tree and into a stream, where he looks like Mr Crispy. He is right next to the bloodstone. There is not a minion in sight through this movie – no bad thing really as their roles have been minor, to say the least, through all the films in the series after the first. Following this section we get a new opening sequence with a heavier soundtrack theme, which perhaps didn’t work as well – though the standard soundtrack was restored towards the end of the credit sequence.

Ioana Abur as AnaHowever this film does suffer within the plotting. A woman, Ana (Ioana Abur), is driving along the road and sees a car wreck. For some reason, unknown throughout the film, the car with Mel, Rebecca and the random survivor they rescued crashed. The crash has killed them all and thrown Michelle’s body bag clear. Ana phones the police. Now I didn’t like this, the crash was an all too convenient way of getting rid of the excess characters.

Mihai Dinvale as Dr Ion NiculescuWaiting for the police Ana gets bored and opens the body bag, the sunlight causing Michelle to awaken and fit, pulling the bag around her. Ana, who is a doctor, bundles her into her car to take to a nearby clinic run by her old professor and lover Dr Ion Niculescu (Mihai Dinvale). Ion recognises Michelle for what she is and, when night falls, offers to help cure her as she has, in his words, an ancient malady. As the film progresses we discover that he should know what he is on about as he too is a vampire who has developed a vaccine that lessens bloodlust (allegedly, he still seems to crave it) and allows the vampire to walk in the sun. This is, of course, unknown to Ana. In reality he wants to use Michelle to draw Radu to them so that he can steal the bloodstone.

Serena and RaduMeanwhile Radu has arrived in Bucharest and visited his old protégé Ash (Jonathon Morris). It is fairly clear that he wants to take back all the holdings that Ash has managed and used as his own for a century and also get Michelle back. Ash’s fledgling Serena (Floriela Grappini) discovers that Radu has the bloodstone. We have to ask at this point why Ash had the fledgling Serena with him.

Floriela Grappini as SerenaIn Vampire Journals we discover that Zachery was turned by a vampire called Serena and that he killed his Master thus Serena is dead, and yet the same actress played Serena in both films. Had she come back from the dead (always a possibility with tricky vampires, I suppose) or was it sloppy scripting of the chronology? Truthfully, we will see later it was probably the latter. Confusingly Mihai Dinvale who played Ion also played doomed vampire Dimitri in the earlier film.

Radu and AnaWe get then several threads. There is the attempt by Ion to get the bloodstone, which is intermingled with Ana’s desire to save Michelle. Ash and Serena also want the bloodstone, using Ana because a mortal must kill Radu (in a leap of storytelling that made no logical sense other than as a clumsy plot enabler). We also get the on running saga of Michelle and Radu.

Denice Duff as MichelleMichelle’s treatment is painful and she psychically cries out to Radu during it. She also saves his life at one point. At other times she is as distant from him as normal, becoming openly hostile at other times, and there seemed to be a lack of consistency between the two extremes, unfortunately. That said Duff seems much more confident in the role than any of the previous films. Hove, is fantastic as always.

Jonathon Morris as AshJonathon Morris seems a little sidelined as Ash, especially having been the central villain in Vampire Journals. It is a shame, as he was excellent in the earlier spin off film. Note that this film, whilst produced after Vampire Journals comes before it chronologically, given the events in the earlier film. It seems strange therefore that Ash has the vampire slaying sword that Zachery possessed in the earlier film and that Ash said he lost 700 years ago. Indeed even if this film came after Vampire Journals chronologically Ash couldn’t have had the sword by the final turn of events, in fact he couldn't have been there. It all comes down to sloppy scripting, I’m afraid.

Ion Haiduc as MarinAnother problem with the film was a Lt Marin (Ion Haiduc) side plot. Marin was killed by Radu in the third film and has risen as a vampire. He gets to the Bucharest police station and no one is there, he is also unaware of his own fate. Hungry he tries a sandwich but cannot hold it down, he then tries to drink water with the same result. Following this he drinks a passing rat.

The next day his boss (Gelu Nitu) opens a cupboard and discovers him in there. Marin says he is ill but the boss thinks he’s drunk and boots him out of the station. Marin runs through the sunlight, in pain and yet strangely not bursting to flames like Radu did, until he reaches an open crypt in the cemetery, gains shelter and is subsequently locked in. Radu hears his cries for help that night and questions him on the whereabouts of Michelle, until vanishing off when her psychic distress call reaches him. That is the last we see of Marin.

It is utterly unsatisfying as a story and pointless as it added nothing to the plot and it is a shame to see such a good character sidelined – they should have left him dead.

Michelle drinks from a blood packThere are story issues here, Nicolaou tried to make things more plot interesting and failed. Things are too convenient, irrelevant characters being killed off glibly at the start of the film, Michelle being taken to a doctor who, coincidentally, also happens to be a vampire with a partial cure for vampirism. Good characters such as Marin and Ash are sidelined. That said it is nice to see Radu again and it is also nice to have a conclusion to Radu and Michelle’s story.

Strangely the issues seem a little less than they should be due to series investment but they are still there, especially if you know the previous films well. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


The T said...

This really was a big letdown after the three great first Subspecies movies. The story is weak, there are inexplicable, plot-convenient events like the car crash that kills two of the main characters in the series. Atmosphere starts to disappear. Radu's makeup is terrible. And Marin...his whole presence in the movie is so unnecesary..But it would seem he's the most powerful vampire of them all, since he can walk in daylight lol.

It's still watchable. But a disappointment anyway.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The T, you should see what they did with it in I, Vampire.

The T said...

Oh no! I just read your review of that atrocity... Not even I am going to see that!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It does fall into the "I watch them so you don't have to" category. lol