Thursday, September 29, 2011

High Stakes – review

Director: Peter Ferris

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

This was a British flick that was on the radar quite some time ago. It then fell off the radar (its homepage is dead now) and remained forgotten until I stumbled across it on YouTube. I have dutifully scrimped together screenshots from the web, watched its (not too high res) flv and can kind of see why it fell off the radar…. Sort of…

You see, whilst it isn’t the best film in the world it is better than many with DVD releases and it had a very interesting idea at its core. Perhaps it doesn’t pull it all off quite as well as it might of, but it had some fair effects and actually some characterisation.

Lydia bullied
It begins with a priest, Reverend Clegg (Jason Excell), handing out leaflets for a local blood drive. Meanwhile a car approaches the Welsh seaside town (in which the film is set) and a girl, Lydia (Charlie Bird), walks home from the shops. Let us follow Lydia first. She caries her shopping but when she walks down an alley a gang of kids confront her – clearly she is often the target of these bullies. On this occasion Reverend Clegg, returning to his church, intervenes. He knows Lydia as she has dance classes at the church.

She gets to her street as night fall and hears a noise. A young boy is crying. She finds him sat between two cars and he seems very distressed. He has blood on his hands. She immediately takes him home (invites him in) and leaves him with her father as she goes to get a first aid kit. The boy pulls out a knife. When she returns to the living room he is feeding on her father. She runs and eventually gets to the church. She seems to be haunted or followed, hearing a terible voice when Clegg is out of the room, and she is hysterical.

missed the heart
The car contained Guy (Jeff Higgins) and Eric (Daz Kaye) a couple of card players going to a local gambling den. Guy takes £10,000 in the first game and the owner suggests that a player coming called Cellano (Andreas Coshia) might provide a suitable match. Cellano arrives with an entourage and the den is cleared except for Guy and Eric. Guy is winning and, when Cellano accuses him of cheating, decides to leave. Unfortunately Cellano and his entourage are vampires and attack. Guy gets away as the injured Eric manages to pin Cellano by his cane – just missing his heart. The vampires chase Guy who takes shelter in Clegg’s church.

vampire kids under seige
The vampires have a fear of holy items and it is intimated that touching hallowed ground will kill them. They establish (by throwing one of their number onto it) that the churchyard is not hallowed but cannot enter the church. Clegg, however, when outside is attacked by Cellano’s Lieutenant, Spooner (Caroline Lees). He is recovered and dragged in by the kids in the church. Why there so late? This is the clever bit… they are vampires too.

Jeff Higgins as Guy
The church is a fake, a hiding place for them. Clegg has been their eyes, their grocer (the blood drives) and has restored their souls by turning them on to God. For this reason they can stand holy items when normal vampires can’t. So Guy and Lydia are stuck with vampires – whose names might have been indistinct but did display developed characters. Clegg turns and is consumed by the bloodlust – a rabid state new vampires go through.

looking for Lydia
Another interesting lore change was that vampires fail as they become ancient because nothing should live that long. One of the vampires inside uses walking sticks (and Cellano limps and has a cane) the child vampire has lost his mind, hence sneaking out of the church and killing people. So, of course, he can get in the church as he lives there and Lydia is still on his radar. Cellano is just waiting for an invitation.

The acting wasn’t brilliant, some worked ok but other performances seemed a tad am-dram. The story had holes (the idea of private, local blood drives is ropey – until the UK Blood Service is privatised, at any rate) and leaps of faith – finding God makes a vampire immune to religious artefacts. All in all I didn’t mind the film but it could have been sharpened up. The characters were developed but could have been explored more. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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