Thursday, January 03, 2008

Desert of Blood – review


Directed by: Don Henry

Release date: 2006

Contains spoilers

Low budget horror can rise above your expectations sometimes, and straight to DVD films can sometimes be worth a watch – even with a cast of unknowns. That is not to say that this is perfect – far from it, but it is better than I expected and relies on character more than gore in what is a fairly familiar plot.

We begin out in Tecate, Mexico in an abandoned town. The camera pans around the town a little and then settles on… boobs. If I have an overriding impression of this film it is boobs. Not that it is too gratuitous when it comes to naked breasts – there are two gratuitous boob shoots. That said there is an overwhelming need from the director to have cleavage in shot – no bad thing, he knows his target audience well it seems and a little titillation goes a long way.

the crossAnyway the boobs belong to Amy (Annika Svedman), who is sunbathing on a van hood, whilst her boyfriend is metal detecting. He eventually detects a big find, or so he thinks, and starts digging. When Amy comes along, wanting to leave, he is in a large trench that looks suspiciously grave like. He continues digging until he finds a large ornate cross. He moves it and there is a casket beneath. He hears movement and a hand breaks through and grabs him.

Tori White as SamanthaThe next day, at a nursery, Father Hernandez (Flint Esquetta) is getting flowers for his church from all round nice guy Cris (Naím Thomas) when he gets a psychic vision of the village. We then cut to LA and three girls, Maricela (Brenda Romero), Samantha (Tori White) and Heather (Natalie J Horton), are at a pool and Samantha tells them about her theorem of sensual overdosing. Now, here we see a prime example of cleavage in action. As for the dialogue, it is trite but makes the characters seem pleasant enough.

Justin Quinn as LuisBack at the abandoned village, at night, and bad boy Carlos (Mike Dusi) has driven Bobby (Andrew Welsh) out there as Bobby has renegade on (presumably drug) money. Carlos kneecaps him. As Carlos drives away, Bobby crawls and finds boots. Carlos sees a hitchhiker and drives past, then he sees the same guy and then, finally, he is there with Bobby who comes crashing down on the windshield. Luis (Justin Quinn), our vampire, is in the truck and Carlos has a new job – looking after the undead.

A woman, Serita (Yvonne Rawn), is putting the orphan kids she looks after to bed when Luis appears. Thirty five years before he and she were in love – until he became a vampire at which point her father and the local priest buried him alive. She never married. He wants revenge, but both her father and the priest are long dead. He states that he doesn’t want to kill her but he does want to hurt her.

Brenda Romero as MaricelaMaricela gets a call telling her that her Aunt Serita has had a stroke. She, and her two friends, go to Mexico to see her. Obviously the visitation of her long lost love has caused the stroke. To be honest for a stroke victim, paralysed and without the capacity to speak Serita doesn’t look too ill and I am surprised, given what has meant to have occurred, that she was not in a hospital – but there you go.

Cris with Father HernandezAs things transpire Luis puts his vendetta on hold when he falls for Maricela. Unfortunately he is a fish out of water (35 years having passed), is not in control of his own baser feelings and has a tendency of letting his victims get up and spook around as blood thirsty vampires. To make matters worse, Father Hernandez was a student of the old priest and was the one who persuaded them not to kill Luis as he was his friend – because we all know being buried alive is more merciful. He tells his story to Cris, who is an old friend of Maricela. Things move to an inevitable conclusion.

Cleaning up undead messLore wise we know that a bite turns. We know that sunlight is deadly and that beheading – it appears – works as that is the suggestion when Luis cleans up one of his messes with a cleaver. We also get the indication that fire destroys these vampires. Luis seems to have the ability to ghost in and out of rooms.

the cross burnsCrosses not only hold the undead in place but burn them – as we discover when Luis grabs a cross and holds it. They all seem to have funky eyes, but each one has different coloured and styled eyes. Luis, for instance has yellow eyes in vamp out mode, but they are circular. Amy’s eyes are also yellow but with cat like pupils.

Amy vamps outI mentioned the girls’ dialogue earlier and most of the characters come across fine. There are no outstanding performances but none that really stink. I should, however, mention Quinn as the main character. Baring in mind this is his only film, he certainly looks the part and does a fair enough job. He just doesn’t have the experience to cover the depths of quite a complex character and, thus, we are sometimes left with a question mark over motivation. As I say, however, it wasn’t a bad performance all in all.

Luis leaves vampires in his wakeThe dialogue is not necessarily anything special but did have its moments. I especially like the line (and delivery thereof) at the climax of the film, “Jinkies… shouldn’t we find Shaggy and Scooby.” Don’t ask me why, it just worked. The FX are limited but do work, it is obvious that Henry was aware of the limitations he faced and worked around them well.

random victimI can safely say that I have seen a lot worse than this, it perhaps needed a little more atmosphere but for what it is, it does work. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


swish said...

Thanks for the review. I haven't heard of this movie. I have a weakness for b-movies with vampires. This seems up my alley. I saw the one picture with the one female vampire. Is there any more?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Swish, thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately all the screen shots I have are on the article. She does appear quite a bit towards the end of the movie - in a very delectable (and cleavage full) black dress.

swish said...

Hey again.

I was unclear on the question to you. (Sorry). I meant to ask if there was any more female vampires.

Taliesin_ttlg said...


Sorry, my misinterpretation. No, she's the only one.

Jason said...

I saw this movie & found it to be enjoyable enough but wanted more! So much was left unsaid...I wanted more explanations!!! For a video to rent though not too bad...I think it would have been cool though if Sarita came "back"...she was pretty...& I wish I could have seen more of her...I really enjoyed that Mike guy - great & the guy at the very beginning...the "digger"...they should have all had bigger parts...the best of the bunch!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jason, thanks for the comment, I agree he actress that played Marita was very pretty.

The director of this, Don Henry, saw the review and contacted me via MySpace. He felt the review to be fair as there was much more he wanted to do but budget restrained him.

He is working on another vampire movie, Nightingale, and has promised me further details as they are forthcoming.

You can read a little more about Nightingale here.

JR said...

Just saw this movie last night (when the name Don Henry came up, I was thinking - I hope that's not the guy who tries to convince people he's a real vampire . . . different spelling, maybe)

What I didn't like: Maricela's friends, who contributed absolutely nothing to the plot. I thought for sure these vapid bimbos were being set up as fodder for a particularly brutal vampire attack at some later point but, alas, it was not to be . . . in which case, any good story editor would have cut these characters out after the first draft.

What I did like: the scene in which Luis frets about not being able to get drunk because he cannot imbibe but instead bites an intoxicated sleazeball, complete with salt and, after licking the slice of lime, saying "Thank God for blood-alcohol level" . . . brilliant!

The actor who played the main character of Luis Diego spoke with a bit of a lisp, which made him somewhat less than menacing (perhaps it worked out in the end, because there was no discernible difference in speech while he had the rather sizable fangs in). On the other hand, after seeing the trailer, I was expecting him to be a ruthless SOB, but I was pleasantly surprised to find his portrayal much more sympathetic . . . yes, even likable!

Taliesin_ttlg said...


there was a point to her friends, I think, as laid out in the review: Now, here we see a prime example of cleavage in action..

If you do a search on the blog for Nightingale, you'll see the outline for the plan for Henry's next project. Don actually contacted me with the outline when he wrote and thanked me for the review... which was nice. The problem with the film, as he saw it, was lack of budget to do what he wanted.

I think with the Luis character the biggest overall problem was lack of experience on the actors part. With hindesight I can't remember a lisp and would have to go back and rewatch to check that - I thus take your word as you have just watched the film, but as you say it will have prevented an obvious fang related speech impediment

JR said...

Hey Taliesin,

If, as you say in the review, "a little titillation goes a long way", then the frequent shots of Amy (either in that cocktail dress with essentially no front, or sunbathing nude in the very opening scene) and the episode featuring the naked prostitute should have sufficed . . . even for the horniest of (let's face it, straight male) viewers! The vacuous scenes of Maricela with her friends, on the other hand, had no connection whatever with either Maricela's aunt or Luis Diego's plight, and seriously bogged down the pacing.

JR said...

just one more thing . . . (homage to Peter Falk)

What I'm suggesting above is not a budget-related complaint . . . in other words, I'm not criticizing the lack of special effects or better actors. In fact, if someone had the presence of mind to cut out the superfluous stuff, not only would it have ended up a better film, but they might have been able to spend a bit more on other things (like the final editing!). Just a thought . . .

Taliesin_ttlg said...

JR, absolutely fair comment - I'm not defending the inclusion, just suggesting why.

They (the characters, not the cleavages!!! - lol) were superfluous but that might just have shown a lack of experience on Henry's part. I actually have, given this effort, quite high hopes for Nightingale.

btw... tributes to Peter Falk always welcome - in fact they should be compulsary!