Monday, June 22, 2009

Vampire in Vegas – review

dvdDirected by: Jim Wynorski

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

Jim Wynorski is a prolific director with, looking at his imdb page, an eclectic directorial career which careens between low budget horror and softcore porn. We know him through Not of this Earth, Transylvania Twist and Vampirella – all of which have received low ratings when I’ve reviewed them. Tony Todd is an actor whom I have much time for and yet the times he has appeared on this blog... well one has to question why he got involved with such films as Bloodwars and Absence of light. We were not necessarily onto a winner with this flick, therefore…

early experimentsThe film begins with a hooded figure, candle light and much wandering around collecting bits of flesh in a cup. However there is a voice over and it is marvellous. It is splendid because the shadowy figure is Sylvian (Tony Todd, though in this scene we do not see his face and thus physically it might be James Richards Sr – Todd’s stand in) and the actor’s voiceover works. It’s the advantage of having a good actor, Todd’s voice is fabulous and his delivery excellent. The fact that the scene looks more than a little cheap is forgotten under his velvet tone. He gives us a bit of vampire society background as he makes a concoction to feed to a captured vampire – note that the captured vampire has rows of fangs, all the vampires later are of the two side fang variety – as he experiments, trying to create something that will allow himself to walk in the day. He fails – but that was then and this is now…

staked and exposedOut in the desert, near Las Vegas, a couple are camping. They hear screams – it is just before dawn. They investigate and see three women tied to stakes and a limo parked nearby. In front of the women is Dr VanHelm (Delia Shepherd) – a biochemist working for Sylvian – she has administered her latest concoctions and is waiting for the sun. In fact the sun less rises, than is high in the sky already and emerges from behind cloud – an issue in the film one feels. One of the vampires burns to dust, one melts to goo and one explodes. As the campers phone the police VanHelm is told that she is failing – she has three days to get a result.

Nikki goes from psycho stalker, to vampire... not much differenceJason (Edward Spivak) and Rachel (Sonya Joy Sims) are about to get married. He is going on a camping trip with his buddies Dino (Frankie Cullen) and Eddie (Jonathon Conrad) – except his buddies are secretly going to take him to Vegas – and so, of course, they’ll soon discover that vampires are real! Dino’s gal Nikki (Brandin Rackley) doesn’t trust her bloke and so has put a GPS tracker on him so that she and Rachel can find out where they have really gone – that is called stalking in my book! The boys will get attacked in a vampire strip club (as you do or, at least, as many a horny young film character does) and Rachel and Nikki will get got as they stalk them into said club.

Stanton & O'HaraNow we throw into the mix two cops, Stanton (Ted Monte) and O’Hara (GiGi Erneta), who start investigating what seems to be a nothing case (alleged combustion of bodies in the desert) until they discover that the ash is human with bone fragments two hundred years old and the goo is human also – DNA matching a missing persons case. They are quickly converted into believers in vampires and go to see an acquaintance of Stanton’s – a mechanic who happens to confirm that vampires are real – it is a leap of faith (some mechanic or other who happens to be vampire slayer) tied to a plot hole (Stanton says that the vampires have killed 7 already and, given the film hasn't shown them 7 deaths, we wonder who, how and where!)

Tony Todd as SylvianWhy does Sylvian want to daywalk? He does so because he wants to run for Governor – and later President but by then he believes that vampires will rule the world (that's his modern reason anyway). His campaign is being run by Renfield (Bill Sunflower) and, mentioning Renfield, lets look at the lore (and the inconsistencies therein). A bite from one of these vampires will turn you – that is established – and the only way to prevent it happening is to kill the vampire who bit you. Yet Renfield (and a bent cop) are kept in line by being bitten – they call it their fix – but one wonders how they then do not subsequently turn.

vampires, now with wingsVampires can develop CGI wings and then woosh off faster than the eye can see, so no flying effects needed. Staking (as well as sunlight) seems to be a good method of killing these vampires – Jason gets one with a pencil. Drinking vampire blood, as a human, will also give you vampire powers. Presumably you are then turned or maybe not, as we get one person who has not been given the daywalk serum, in daylight with vampire powers but not burning. This might be another inconsistency or, more generously, he might not be fully turned. We don’t know.

goo flashes with light near garlicGarlic affects them and also causes vampire goo to shimmer. As big a problem (as the lore/story inconsistencies) is the cheapness level of this film. The vampire expert shows the cops some stakes that he says are of such quality that they will not break on you but look exactly like bits of tat cut from cheap lumber (which is what they are). Sylvian needs to get some O –ve blood for VanHelm (because being a bio-chemist for a company with Government contracts precludes her getting it for some reason) and it comes in a baggie in the hospital.

not very secureTalking of Van Helm – her lab is a warehouse that you can knock on the outer door of, no security or anything like that. She has electrified fences in her lab to conveniently get fried on (like that would happen – remember this is not the mad scientists lair but a big company’s laboratory). When she has Jason strapped to a table because he has O –ve blood, he is less strapped and more gaffa taped – but the tape barely reaches over him – seriously sit up and he’d be free. At that point it was clear they just weren’t trying.

Plot inconsistencies, cheapness and some poor performances plague a film that is redeemed only by the presence of Tony Todd. His moments keep you mildly interested as his quality shines through, but all in all I’d have been no poorer as a human if I had never seen this film and no less entertained. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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