Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Revamped – review

Director: Jeff Rector

Release Date: 2008

Contains spoilers

This is very much a Jeff Rector project in that he not only directed the film and co-wrote it but he also stars as main character Richard. I was a little torn as I watched this as the prologue of the film worked so well, as an off-beat comedy, and yet it seemed to falter as it went along. Let us start, however, with said prologue.

We start with a cityscape view of LA and a voice over from Richard, he is going to tell us his story but I’ll just take a moment to wonder why he would say “if only they knew what was out there”? You’ll understand why I ask that soon enough. Richard is a business man and he is celebrating his first wedding anniversary alone, as his wife Janet (Alison McCurdy) is out. He opens a credit card bill and sees a charge to a hotel. He phones the hotel and discovers that his wife has been using it, allegedly with him.

Distraught he tries to kill himself, the gun is empty and the noose pulls the light fitting down. Then he sees an infomercial for Kiss of Death Inc. – offering to turn folks into vampires. He calls them, intending to cut his wife out of his will, become undead and get his revenge. We see his fantasy of what he’ll do to his wife and her lover. The next night he kisses his wife goodbye, as she goes to meet her illicit love, and then settles down to read up on vampires whilst he waits for his appointment with the company’s representative. Here we get a marvellous black and white fantasy in full Lugosi mode, which ends up with him being staked.

When the rep, Lillith (Tane McClure), arrives he is a little nervous and as she appears from mist he holds up a cross, causing her to retreat. Having been told off for being rude he invites her in, is told that his wife’s activities are well known and gets it on with her. She then bites him, leaving him for dead – to become undead.

He is in his coffin, at the amusingly inappropriately named Coffin Stuffers Funeral Home, when Janet discovers that she has been disinherited. Having no money she finds that her surfer boyfriend Jonathon (Kato Kaelin) leaves and she has to tell funeral director Mr Vincent (Carel Struycken – yes, Lurch) that she cannot afford the burial. Mr Vincent arranges a cremation – cue flames and a scream.

Up to now things have been quite good, well above average at least, and I have chuckled along with the film. The film then cuts forward five years and we see the funeral home, where Richard’s ashes remain uncollected, and the home (to stay in business) are selling bodies to Satanists. Unfortunately the body they have is not good enough and Mr Vincent and his cohort are murdered, their blood pouring onto Richard’s ashes which were spilt during the attack. The Satanists leave and Richard reforms.

He gets his revenge on Jonathon and then discovers that the actions of Kiss of Death Inc. caused a vampire epidemic to occur. The Government set up a team of exterminators – S.T.A.K.E. – and all the vampires have been wiped out. Richard can’t believe it, he wanted to find Lillith and his misadventures really begin when he is sent to a club that might lead to finding survivors and nearly becomes the unwitting victim in a snuff film. The aftermath of escape sees cops Reeger (Martin Kove) and Peters (Paul Michael Robinson) on his tail, though they are out of their jurisdiction.

That jurisdiction actually rests with Jake Hardcastle (Sam Jones, yes Flash Gordon), a rough tough hombre with a stake shotgun, whose family were killed and turned during the vampire uprising – leaving him no choice but to kill them. Hardcastle’s team (and pep talk) had the marines from Aliens scene written all over the script and yet the character seemed under-used.

Richard meets up with Mary (Alana Curry), who is a half-breed who lives in a half-breed hideout. It seems that infected blood got into the system and many people became mutated (as the film puts it). The half-breeds can’t stand sunlight, live longer but are not immortal. They tend to drink synthetic blood and have developed a blood patch (think nicotine patch with a 30 year withdrawal period). Richard also discovers that there is a group of vicious vampires out there called the BLEEDERS.

The film’s downturn really came in, for me, when the S.T.A.K.E. team attacked the half-breeds hide out and then the BLEEDERS also attacked. The scene itself had problems as an action scene, the gunfire used sounded good but the direction of the scene lacked something. The reason they are both attacking? The humans want to wipe out vampires, and half breeds will do, and the vampires want Mary as she is a virgin.

It seems that BLEEDER leader Vladimus (Billy Drago) wants to perform a ritual, which can only occur once every thousand years, that will blot out the sun and needs a virgin sacrifice. Virgins are hard to come by in LA, obviously, but somehow all know that Mary is one – except her father, who happens to be Reeger and he thinks she’s dead. It also transpires that Lillith (who is with the surviving vampires) believes Richard to be the prophesised vampire with a soul, who will turn the events one way or another.

The story failed to hang together here on in and one is left with questions like, if there was a vampire uprising (as mentioned in dialogue) and blood dealers hang around on street corners, how come no-one knows what is out there (as mentioned at the head of the film)?

There are several cameos in the movie, I have mentioned Sam Jones (whose role was slightly larger than a cameo but not by much), Carel Struycken and Billy Drago (his role was much more cameo than anything else). I haven’t mentioned Anne Lockhart who had a small role or that Fred Williamson makes an appearance as police Captain Michaels, though, in honesty, it was almost a pointless role and a waste of Williamson’s talent.

More fulfilling was the cameo by Jason Carter as Nigel, the snuff film director. Carter had little to do, but what he did was absolutely marvellous and it was at a point where the film still held together well. Rector was great, at the head of the film, as bumbling business man Richard but, once reborn, I didn’t really buy into the character. This was not down to Rector’s performance, however, but down to his script. Christa Campbell makes an appearance as Lillith’s sister Lexi, and looks mighty fine, whilst Deron McBee fulfils his role as vampire hardman Khan in much the way one would expect such a character to act.

You see the film tries to do too much and looses sight of the off-beat comedy after a while. It still pulls the odd gag, such as when Reeger produces a sixteenth century cross filled with holy water and, when asked where you get something like that, glibly states E-Bay. The vampire with a soul, magic ritual with virgin sacrifice and Government death camp elements all piled in on top and the film lost direction because it got too ambitious.

The effects were, in the main, good and you got a lot of vampiric imagery that worked. However a transformation at the end was just too rubber masked and again, like the story itself, blew the over-all feel of the film.

This, unfortunately, missed the mark but it still has merits, it was just too ambitious for its own good. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

The prologue scene was first released as a short called Fatal Kiss. But was adapted from a story originally published in one of Marvel's magazines in the 70s, Vampire Tales or Dracula Lives.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for that Ben

Anonymous said...

Curious...The eBay joke turns up in "Transformers" as well.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

ahh, E-Bay, new eternal font of comedy

Jeff Rector Writer, Director, Producer said...

Hey Taliesin! Thanks for your review of my film. I'm glad you enjoyed it, but I wish you had been a little kinder. :) But, you know what they say, "There's no such thing as bad publicity". I'm grateful for anyone that takes the time to watch any of my films. Please check out my Internet Radio Talk Show, "Out There" with Jeff Rector at www.latalkradio.com/jeff.php


Jeff Rector

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Jeff, thanks for taking time to comment. I actually just looked at one of your older films (as an actor) - Nightfall - and all said this was kind!!!!

Seriously though, I appreciated the ambition of this but perhaps it went just a little too far. Just my perception as a viewer but, in the grand scheme of vamp movies, there is a lot in here to be proud of and I do hope you revisit the genre again.

As you say, there is no such thing as bad publicity and must vampire film fans want to see all that the genre has to offer. Hopefully this review has generated some interest.