Friday, October 17, 2008

Abe’s Tomb – review

Directors: Carl R Merritt, Amanda Fire & Nikky Irene

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

Micro budget films often have very little going for them in terms of SFX and actors. However, throw in some natural directing talent and a good storyline and it can rise above its constraints. Unfortunately, Abe’s Tomb doesn’t quite do that, but it tries. It throws in a story (which is a plus) that has some depth and interest to it but, to me, didn’t explore the interesting story aspects enough, facets of the story made little sense and there just wasn’t the apparent experience to draw out those story elements. Perhaps, as well, those story elements needed more of a home than that which the micro budget could provide.

The film begins and we see, or rather hear, an immediate problem in respect of the DVD. The sound is very poor. We get a distinct background noise from the get go – over the copyright warnings even – and then, as the film progresses, the actual soundtrack randomly fails from speaker to speaker, it is never so bad that you can’t hear the film but it is awfully distracting and sloppy DVD production. If the manufacturer can’t be bothered with the material it begs the question then why should we? This is not, however, the filmmakers’ fault. The voice over intro, on the other hand, most definitely is the filmmakers’ fault.

The film has a voice over about the struggle of good and evil, across the universe since the beginning of time, and how our little part of the struggle boils down to one town, Moore’s Lake, and one man, Captain Roscoe Long (Carl R Merritt), as he fights against the vampire plague. The problem with the voice over is two fold. Firstly, the faux-Lugosi accent sounded cheap and distracted from the words. Secondly, the words themselves were overly pretentious. Be that as it may, we cut to reporter Charles Peterson (Ray Basham) trying to find Roscoe in an alley.

Roscoe is there and, rather than go to Peterson’s hide out, he insists that Peterson gets him past the vampires to his own home. There is no electricity in that part of town but he needs ammunition. He asks Peterson how he survived (no answer, hmm suspicious) and talks of the National Guard coming. There is going to be no rescue by the National Guard. The President has pulled the military back to the last two human held cities, Washington and Baltimore. Roscoe has Peterson record how it started, in their very town, four months before.

We begin with Lisa (Marisa Karoutsos) she is walking to Moore’s Lake. Her mother has cancer and she has run away from home. Why? Well at Moore’s Lake is the ghoul named Abe. He is known to grant wishes, though they always go wrong, as Lisa’s mother well knows. You see he was a civil war soldier whose wife was raped following which he was beaten and buried alive (in a cave). The townsfolk of Moore’s Lake did not help him and so he cursed them. His presence, and the unhelpfulness of his wishes, are the curse.

Lisa, however, is walking into a war zone. A vampire named Vampra (Amanda Fire) has come to town and she has ordered her disciples to attack everyone. The State’s Governor has had Moore’s Lake surrounded by the National Guard, essentially quarantining the town and Roscoe has called in vampire hunting mercenaries led by Sabre (Lisa Adore) – who happens to be his daughter.

Peterson happens to be the closest thing Abe has to a friend – he hasn’t been killed for intruding on the ghoul – and is sent to gather intel. Abe temporarily turns a vampire back to human and she offers us the main lore. The humans already knew about stakes through the heart and that the blood was infectious (vampirism is a virus that quickly kills the body and keeps it going post mortem). They discover that head shots kill, that there are two vampires who are virtually indestructible and must be blown to smithereens, that silver is a poison, that sunlight isn’t too much of a problem for the vampires and that Vampra shouldn’t be killed as, then, an even more powerful vampire would come to take her place.

There is a definitive moment of vampire mojo between Vampra and Lisa, where a bit of a Lugosi type hand movement gets the girl deliberately baring neck. That was actually a nicely convincing scene and mojo isn’t easy to portray convincingly, without falling to cheese. We discover that Vampra would have probably conquered the world years before, had she got on with it and not fallen into the ‘super villain taunting the hero/victim’ trap. We get one bit of very unusual lore later – alcohol kills off the vampire virus. Don’t want to turn, stay drunk.

What we get then for most of the movie is the battle for Moore’s Lake and, let me just say that it is a miracle the humans lasted as long as they did, never mind win – for at this point they do win. Take Officer Layla Long (Manda Webster), who kills a vampire, needs a shower and so strips to bra and knickers and gets under a waterfall. For the love of gravy, you are in a wood filled with vampires, why would you…. Not surprisingly three get her.

The acting is pretty much amateur on all parts and the dialogue makes little sense at times. Having developed what is quite an unusual base story they manage to throw holes at it and aspects that make little sense. Why say to make sure that Lisa’s mum (Anna Karoutsos) picks her up… you are in a town surrounded by National Guard who are not letting anything in or out. Indeed, why is Lisa there? To be truthful her only plot purpose is to accidentally restart the plague, via Abe, a month after the humans win. The focus upon her, which occurs early on and then continues through the film, indicates a wider role in the main movie/plot that just doesn’t materialise. The fact that the actual rise of the vampire armies and the fall of humanity occur a month after the main events shown, and that the war, as it were, is really not shown makes you wonder at the point of the majority of the film.

The action is poor with the fights unconvincing and the editing of said scenes jerky at times but, you know what, they had a go. This isn’t brilliant, it isn’t going to set the world alight and it needed (beyond anything else) the story tidying up… big time… but they had a go and you can tell there was some heart in it.

That, in the end, counts for something. They tried something and tried on an ambitious level. Kudos for that at least. 2 out of 10 for the effort and for making something a little different and a little more interesting than a lot of the straight to DVD stuff out there.

The imdb page is here.

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