Friday, November 12, 2010

Vamp or Not? Mutant Vampire Zombies from the ‘Hood!

With a name like that it would have to be a ‘Vamp or Not?’ This was a 2008 film by Thunder Levin and the premise owes a lot to a wide plethora of, mainly, zombie films of yore. Night of the Comet springs very readily to mind.

Indeed one of the first things we see is the Earth and a massive solar flare racing towards us. However, on the Earth people are going about their daily business. For some that might be going to the beach or shopping but, at night, some folks have more nefarious activities.

David (C. Thomas Howell, Kindred: the Embraced and Blood Wars) and his partner Jack (Jeremiah Birkett) are cops looking to make a bust of two gangs. It seems that Dragon (Robert Wu) has kidnapped Latiffa (Rachel Montez Collins) and will only return her to her man, G-Dog (Tyshawn Bryant), for a lot of drugs. The warehouse the trade is in, David has discovered, is lead lined as it is used to store medical radiography equipment (though that wouldn’t count for the windows… if we’re being picky… though maybe its lead glass).

the sky is a funny colour
The exchange is going south (G-Dog is trying to pass off sugar as drugs) when the bust occurs. Jack is shot and then the solar flare hits. The sky lights up in all sorts of colours and all the combatants pass out. When they awaken it is morning and David, plus the injured Jack, are quickly captured by G-Dog. One of his crew, Darnell (Vital), is missing and so G-Dog and Larson (KeiKabou Holland) go looking for him. Outside the sky is a weird colour and no one is about, but Darnell is screaming.

Darnell's dead man
They find him with his throat torn open and he quickly dies. A large zombie like man approaches and they shoot him but he won’t stay down. He eventually does when a shot rings out and he is shot in the head. The shooter is an old man (Maxie J Santillan Jr) who was in his cellar when the flare hit. He tells them that they eat blood and then shows the men a scene of the city from a rooftop – we get an amusingly gratuitous scene of two zombies tugging on a woman, her arm torn off and then her dress and her running topless and armless away!

Back to the warehouse and David is getting Jack to a hospital but the car won’t start. Two zombies attack; one getting Jack and the other fighting David (and saying that he is hungry) until G-Dog comes to the rescue. Larson has an amusing take on them, “Thems vampires, bloodsuckers, Nosferatu, Dracula baby.” After convincing Dragon that this is really happening they all go to Old Man’s home to see the TV. A scientist, Dr Reginald Monte (Gregory Alan Williams) and his daughter, Lisa (Johanna Watts) are broadcasting to survivors. However it is a long walk to Santa Monica.

return of Jack
Monte suggests that those who passed out are safe and that most of those mutated are animalistic with base drives (food and sex; we actually see an attempted rape of a survivor soon enough). However some have more of a retained intellect. Suddenly jack enters the house, risen from the dead, and saying that he is hungry. He is re-killed and Darnell soon follows – biting one of the Dragon crew in the process, who they kill before he can rise. Incidentally, the flare has made gasoline non-flammable – hence cars not working but the TV’s still being on.

C. Thomas Howall as David
So far we have what are, essentially, zombies. Some can speak and they have a drive to have sex as well as eat flesh (though it is the blood they are going for) but essentially they are zombies. We later get a discourse between the characters, one of whom mentions Romero and lists out the dead series, another saying he has seen Shaun of the Dead and another hoping that they are not Resident Evil running creatures. Just then a load run at them and we get a big firefight sequence.

after the fire fight
Following the firefight they are shot at and captured by what they take to be survivors but who, we quickly realise, are actually affected (a description that seems more apt than infected). Eventually they manage to get free and we see more rape and flesh eating by these affected. When they get to Monte’s house, Lisa explains more – as she is a doctor and has dissected one. The flare should have killed everyone (bar those somehow shielded) somehow they mutated to survive and the mutation continues. They will become über-monsters. On a deep, psychological level they know this and hence the reason why they drink un-affected blood – it slows the mutation.

Johanna Watts as Lisa

This is all well and good, kind of explaining why the cabin the Montes’ own (and suggest the survivors go to) is free from infestation – the higher altitude meant the flare was stronger and killed anyone there before mutation occurred. However it doesn’t really explain the coming back from the dead (this is touched on in a scene but ultimately is left unanswered) nor does it explain why those who are unaffected but then are bitten turn but hey… it’s only a movie!

KeiKabou Holland as Larson
I actually rather enjoyed it in a low budget, B Movie sort of way. The film had some genuinely funny moments and special mention to KeiKabou Holland who was marvellous with the dialogue he got. Is it Vamp though? Frankly, I don’t believe so, though there is a genre interest there. However the only vampire aspect is the drinking of blood and that is an act we do not actually see. We see the aftermath of neck bites and we see the mutants chewing on limbs and guts in an atypical zombie way. Okay, some of them are more human normal than others but their blood drinking is to stave off their change not because of it. To me it is standard mutant/zombie all the way. Not one for the filmographies, I am afraid. The imdb page is here.

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