Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Shadow Tracker: Vampire Hunter – review

Director: Joe Bagnardi

Release date: 1999

Contains spoilers

I have to first confess that as I first started watching this I was struck at how the film looked like the worst end of 80s and (more so) 90s straight to video horror, the sort of material filmed straight to tape – which seemed retro until I also realised that this was from the 90s and thus was not emulating but was actually one of those films.

The amateurish nature of the film is reflected in the fact that it comes in at around the two hour mark and drags its way there – the judicial use of professional editing needs to be applied and at least 30 minutes expunged. But is it all bad?

Vietnamese Vampires
It starts in Vietnam in 1967 – or so we are informed, because the landscape  that our two GIs run through just doesn’t look at all like Vietnam – the GIs being Shadow Tracker (played young by Chris Mcpherson) and Jonathan Stokes (Bruce G. Hallenbeck, Vampyre). They’ve escaped a prison camp and Tracker goes to scout ahead. Stokes sees a Vietnamese woman ahead, not seeing the one approaching from behind. They sprout fangs and attack Stokes, who tells Tracker to escape when he comes back and finds them feeding from the prone Stokes.

terrible fangs
Cut forward to 1987 and an older Shadow Tracker (Ron Rausch) questions a guy as to *his* whereabouts and then stakes him. Elsewhere, in a cemetery, a vampire with the world's fakest fangs attacks a woman, Samantha (Voni Powell). She kills him with a (rather thin) stake, unties her hair and shakes it out before making a Dictaphone recording suggesting that the cemetery was another false lead and suggesting that she needs to find the person known as Shadow Tracker.

Lisa and Rick
After the credits – which feature a Shadow Tracker song and a woman dancing – we meet the couple Lisa (Amy Naple, the Temptress), who also happened to be the dancer in the titles, and Rick (Tom Ecobelli). They’ve been to the museum but it seems more her scene than his. They start playing around and are separated and she bumps into a guy – Jonathan Stokes – with an English accent and gets talking to him about immortality. Rick acts like a jealous dick when he finds her.

Stokes and Lisa
So, Stokes is a vampire – his English accent, he later tells us, is an affectation he developed after repeatedly watching UK vampire films. He decides he is in love with Lisa and sets about seducing, biting and marrying her (or at least planning to). Samantha eventually finds Shadow Tracker and teams up with him. We see her extracting blood, by syringe, from animals and injecting herself with it. It staves off the hunger as Stokes, the film eventually tells us, is her father. As he talks about Samantha becoming a full vampire one assumes she is a dhampir.

child with a wonky fang
There is a sub-plot about a couple of feckless cops – who eventually are turned and go after Shadow Tracker. This could have been happily expunged from the running time with no detriment to the film. There is also a coven of child vampires created – we never get an answer as to why but some of the kids are also wearing poor fangs (some no fangs and others decent looking fangs). As for the vampires well they can walk in the daylight, crosses only impact if you believe though holy water and garlic are apotropaic – all this is gleaned from an author (John McCarty, also Vampyre) who tells Rick the truth but also happens to be a vampire so goes off to kill the poor guy. We get a moment of Stokes eating some brains, mainly for a route into laying a poor quip on us.

Ron Rausch as Shadow Tracker
The film looks blooming awful, to be honest, and the acting isn’t really much better. As we’ve mentioned many of the fangs look poor but the staking, at least, seemed effective. The worst crime was the extraordinarily lengthy running time, which just dragged and dragged. This is one I can’t recommend, I’m afraid, but the sheer grit and determination to produce a film despite the odds makes me feel generous and I think 3 out of 10 seems about right.

The imdb page is here.

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