Friday, February 19, 2010

Beyond the Rave – review


Director: Matthias Hoene

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

Hammer is back! It was a clarion call. It was a moment of nostalgia fuelled hope. It was always going to carry a big risk of disappointment.

The first film was going to be a vampire film… Okay it was going to be contemporary, not the period setting Hammer had been most famous for but that’s okay, we have to move with the times. Then it was released in serial format on MySpace and whilst there was a cameo by Sadie 'Lucy in Dracula' Frost (that was pretty much a waste of her talents) the promised Ingrid Pitt cameo had vanished and…

an angry vampire... she has seen this editI was, quite frankly, rather disappointed with the whole thing. I decided not to review it until it became available on DVD and they re-edited the damn thing… and I waited… and I waited… and finally we have a DVD – a limited DVD (mine is numbered 0012). And… it isn’t re-cut. It is still in its poxy little chapters and the chapter number flashes up with logo as it goes along. If you remember my 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails review you’ll already know that keeping it episodic like that bugs me. This isn’t as intrusive as Blood Trails but it is still a pain. Worse because the thing needed a good re-edit, even worse because the expunged scenes are not added in but extras… Now the one with Ingrid Pitt does have a plot important aspect to it (she gives Ed (Jamie Dornan) a Green Man medallion that saves his life and, without the scene, we wonder what the Hell he pulls from his pocket that stopped a crossbow bolt) but… let us get to plot.

Sebastian Knapp as MelechWe start with Ed on army manoeuvres in a forest. He sees something in the dark and it is the vampire Melech (Sebastian Knapp) taking a bite out of Ed’s girlfriend Jen (Nora-Jane Noone). It is a nightmare and he is in a military hospital He has been injured in Iraq as he planted a flag (the significance of the flag, whilst it features in the film as stands, is lost unless you see the extra scenes in the DVD extras). A detective wants to ask him questions. It cuts back to a month before.

Ed and Jen have relationship issuesEd has 16 hours compassionate leave before he ships to Iraq and is picked up by his friend Necro (Matthew Forrest). Now, the character is called Necro and drives a hearse but any significance (or even why he has a hearse) is sacrificed to the Gods of let us not develop characters. Of course the absolute lack of proper character development is probably down to writing 5 minute episodes but it is annoying. Ed and Necro want to go to a rave – though they do not know where it is going to be. Jen is not returning Ed’s calls and it turns out he stood her up the week before for an army night out. Jen and Necro went to a rave, where she met and got off with Melech. Necro met a girl – for girl read vampire, though he doesn’t know it at this point – called Lilith (Lois Winstone, yes, Ray’s daughter).

the Crockers are mockney stereotypesNow they pass, early on, a US army truck driven by Melech – that has a girl tied in the back as a snack and I did go back to the scene and confirm that it was Melech. Why? Because at the climax of the film… a vampire burns up in the first light of the sun. So why is our vampire driving a truck during the day? Who the Hell knows. Perhaps because it is overcast – though we question why he would risk immolation? We also meet the Crockers. First of all we meet Rich (Tamer Hassan) and Terry (Lee Whitlock) and later Danny (Lee Long) and they are the most stereotyped Mockney type drug dealing gangsters you’d have the misfortune to watch but they do underline one aspect of the film – the blooming awful dialogue that bears no resemblance to how people actually speak.

Eat the DJAnyway Necro and Ed are in the hearse with Big Jim (Jody Halse) and Tina (Katie Borland)… Hold on, where did they appear from. Suddenly they were there, no explanation, as if by magic… but actually it was sloppy filmmaking. The Crockers have had a run in with a couple of vampires – who eventually carve a code on Terry’s stomach. Necro has the same code, in Lilith’s lipstick, on his – it is a mirror image of the radio frequency the rave will be advertised on, broadcast from a pirate radio station. Jen, meanwhile, is already at the rave site, invited by Melech.

ravers are gassedThe crux of this is that the vampires have decided to go away – why, we don’t know. They are sailing to an island that is “off the grid” near Africa and they need some snackage for the journey – so they are going to harvest all the humans at the rave. Well all of them bar Jen – ‘cause Melech wants her (she reminds him of someone from the past it seems) – and Necro – because Lilith wants him. To do this they are first going to gas the humans…

vampires need gasmasksNow I want to hold off here and question why the Hell the vampires needed to wear gasmasks? After all they have no need to breath and… but wait they can get stoned on weed – indeed the best line in the film is uttered by the vampire Uncle Leopold (Trevor Byfield) when he mentions that he has been “smoking this shit for 768 years” – so I guess the undead do breath in this film. Anyhoo they are going to gas them, knock them all unconscious, mechanically drain their blood into a big container and then neatly put the bodies in body bags. Will Ed and Jen make up and how will they escape?

death of a cheeky monkeyIf I sound disparaging it is because I am. Perhaps naively I had high hopes for a new Hammer film. I hoped they would pull out all the stops and shout at the world, "We're Back!" Bad dialogue, plot gaps and, candidly, weak acting was not what I wanted. Okay, I wasn’t expecting Academy Award level stuff but... I did expect, for example, vampires who got covered in blood (and I mean their clothes, face and hair absolutely plastered in the stuff) to not suddenly be clean in the next scene we see them in. As an aside, I must mention the scene where a guy is approached, whilst in the toilet, by two hot vampire babes and then taken off to be fed on – as soon as he said that he was a ‘cheeky monkey’… well lets just say being fed on by two vamps was a fate better than he deserved.

staked vampireThere are positives. Sebastian Knapp really looks the part as Melech and steals scenes just by being there. The actor has a really strong presence and I hope he does some fine things in the future. The film is rather bloody, which is good, and there are some nice vampire moments. This brings us to lore… The vampires can be photographed. They are resilient and very strong. Beheading or a stake through the heart will kill them as will sunlight (unless driving a truck). An extra scene on the DVD indicates that failure to feed causes feverish sickness and then death.

Ed's visionThere is some indication of psychic powers – Leopold tells Ed “I can smell death on you, soldier”. They may be selling drugs laced with vampire blood – one of these pills leads Ed to have a vision of an Iraqi girl riddled with bullets asking him to “play with me”. A foreshadowing of events to come or just a bad trip brought on by his anxiety about his posting. The film doesn’t say or do anything useful with the moment. Perhaps it was simply a political comment regarding civilian casualties in Iraq or the theatre of war generally, if so it was poorly handled and out of place.

Lois Winstone as LilithThis is no longer just a freebie on MySpace, where excesses might be forgiven; this is now a commercial exercise where folks are asked to shell out hard earned money. As such this needs the surgery of a blooming good re-edit with scenes put back in, the flow of the film improved and… even then it might still be on the critical list. 3.5 out of 10 – and it breaks my heart to have to give Hammer’s comeback film a low score. The imdb page is here.


Bill Dan Courtney said...

I will definitely see this since it is Hammer related no matter how bad it turns out to be. lets see what else comes out of them in the future.

Bill Courtney

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hiyah Bill

If your proxy can penetrate into MySpace, the film can still be seen episodically there - I think.

Christine said...

I understand that times change, it is not 1950´s anymore, but good lawd this sounds horrible!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Christine, as I mentioned to Bill it is still available on MySpace as a free watch, so you can discover for yourself - if you want to put yourself through it! ;)