Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Southern Gothic – review

Directed by: Mark Young

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

I recently saw a review of this and I wish, for a moment, to concentrate on other reviews. The front of the DVD quotes and says “reminiscent of Near Dark”, which is quite a claim. The review I first read was in the magazine DVD World and it shot the film down in flames. Being a vampire film I bought it anyway but…

Well, whilst this isn’t perfect, certainly it isn't as good as Near Dark, the film I watched bore no resemblance to the one reviewed in the magazine. Hell, the review even got the age rating wrong as well as key story points. The only thing it was correct about was that there were moments in a lap dancing bar and the girls remained clothed (though that was in a variety of uniforms)… well, it says a lot if you are going to mark a film down due to lack of nudity, and it didn’t deserve it, but let us begin at the beginning.

A man and a woman (Dani Englander, I think) are in a motel. She doesn’t normally do that sort of thing, she says. He starts talking about crime and violence, he waxes philosophical and it is not a pleasant worldview… then he stabs her. We note she wears a cross. He is putting his wedding ring back on when her eyes flick open and they are all funky. She develops fangs and attacks him… so we establish that holy things have no effect on these vampires. We later see her book a motel room for Mr and Mrs Smith in a town called Redemption.

Redemption has a girly bar and the doorman is one Hazel Fortune (Yul Vazquez). There is a sign that states ‘no weapons’ with the threat of a lifetime ban. Fortune stops regular patron Walt (Dean Whitworth) entering until he empties the weapons from his pockets. We get a couple of knives, a gun and… a hand grenade… Why? You never know, suggests the enigmatic reasoning. Of course the grenade will come into it but not in the way you’d think.

The club has a new girl starting, Starla (Nicole DuPort). Fortune tries to make conversation but she seems to have an attitude. In the club a man chastises himself for being there, as he believes himself to be a wretched sinner; he is the reverend Enoch Pitt (William Forsythe). He pays Starla for a private dance but she attempts to leave the cubical when he tries to touch and he grabs her. Fortune comes in and punches the preacher, who pulls a switchblade. In return Fortune takes the grenade out of his pocket and pulls the pin, he really doesn’t care. The preacher leaves, swearing retribution, and Fortune takes the grenade back to Walt – to his shock the old timer lights a cigarette with it – it is a novelty lighter.

The vampire and her male companion, Daniel (Jonathon Sachar), are in the club. The female vampire talks to a dancer, Aurora (Nina Repeta) – later found in a freezer – whilst Daniel goes for the preacher when he is back in his church. The preacher is bitten but then manages to shoot Daniel several times. He vanishes into the night. Back at the motel he tells the female to go back for the reverend and reminds her to destroy the heart or remove the head. She attacks the reverend but he manages to stab her with his switchblade, slit her throat and then subject her to a frenzied attack of stabs. He is putting her in a shallow grave when pain racks his frame - he is turning. Meanwhile, Fortune is getting drunk in his trailer and looks to blow his own brains out with a shotgun. He can’t do it. He has a picture of a young girl, later we hear she was his daughter and she died when he crashed a car.

Presumably it is the next night when the preacher enters a diner. He is drinking water but it doesn’t slake his thirst. He attacks the diner cook, Melvin (Brett Gentile), much to the horror of the Deputy who is eating. He shoots the preacher and is calling it in when the preacher stands again and attacks him. Soon the preacher is turning his flock into the disciples of God’s Destruction – as he believes that what has happened to him is God’s will.

Starla has asked about Fortune and has some more sympathy for him. Her car breaks down and she eventually accepts a lift off him – despite the fact that he is drunk. At her home her babysitter has up’d and left, leaving her daughter Hope (Emily Catherine Young) alone. Starla works two jobs and Fortune offers to look after Hope the next day. Having received his word that he won’t drink, she agrees.

There is a marvellous moment when Fortune is telling Hope the story of Little Red Riding Hood and, as he speaks, we see her mother go to the club owner’s room, as he is attacked by the reverend, and becoming vampire chow herself. The on screen action reflecting in the story. The reverend has decided she will be his bride in the second coming (which he believes he is the herald of) and clearly Fortune, looking after Hope, will be dragged into this.

Lore wise I loved what the film did with religion and, rather than religious icons hurting the vampires, we have one lost within his own Hellfire and Brimstone preaching – believing vampirism is the will of God. I mentioned destroying the heart and removing the head but it became clear, as well, that sunlight would also kill the undead.

The film isn’t so much a horror as it is a mood piece, with the photography actually rather atmospheric. Acting wise I was impressed, certainly by the principles. Vazques was excellent as Fortune, dead pan and hardly the action hero – there is a marvellously black humoured moment where he is fudging loading his shotgun as a vampire approaches. Forsythe chews up the scenery in the most marvellous of ways and DuPort is completely natural as Starla.

I said it wasn’t perfect. The relationship between Fortune, Starla and Hope could have stood a deeper scrutiny and the coming together of Fortune and Daniel was just too damn convenient and really needed much deeper exploration, within film, before it grought them together in a vampire hunting partnership.

However, this was a great piece of Southern atmospheric cinema. A languidness fills the film, in a good way, that is punctuated by moments of violence. I enjoyed this one. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Bah, Enoch Pitt! [I'm an insane Forsythe fan] but haven't seen this movie anywhere. Now I must go rent it. :)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hope you enjoy it, let us know

Hayden said...

Cool movie. I can't find it anywhere, do you know when it will be released?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hayden, I'm assuming you are stateside - in whioch case I don't know.

It is already out in the UK - hence the review as I bought it. If your player is multiregioned (or indeed in a region 2 area other than the UK) and you can view PAL format you could imprt from Amazon UK presumably