Monday, October 09, 2017

Monsters Among Men – review

Director: Ryan Blazic

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Coming out of nowhere, straight onto Amazon Prime, I must admit that I wasn’t expecting too much from Blazic’s vampire film. However, I found myself drawn in with some personable performances, some solid cinematography for an indie film and, more importantly, an interesting story to boot.

And, to be fair, that is what can really make or break a film, especially a budget one – story. In this case our initial story comes in sparse scenes over the opening credits – along with a banging soundtrack piece. We see blood being drawn into a mug, it being spit out. More blood being put in a bag and hooked up as a blood bag that is squeezed. There is a dying girl and she is placed next to a prostrate man who asks why it always happens to him.

Reed and Allison
The man is Reed (Jonathan David) and we go back to a nice day in the park. He had arranged to meet girlfriend Allison (Mykaela Hopps) but has sent her to get coffee (even though he dislikes it) whilst he looks for something – he’s dropped the ring he has bought her due to a hole in his suit’s inner pocket. He finds the ring but feels like something is watching him. He asks her to fix the suit – he has an important meeting Friday, a day he promised to take off work for her. He eventually apologises and is about to ask her when…

Jonathan David as Reed
The memory breaks. He comes around in the woods, tied up with two bodies (a man and a woman) either side of him as Clive (Luke Bonczyk) digs a grave. Luckily for Reed, Clive is wearing headphones, even more luckily someone has put a razor blade under a patch of tape on his palm. He cuts himself free, trips over the man (Matthew Wesener), who is still alive and begs for help. Reed pulls away and is hidden by the time Clive hears the man and kills him. He then realises that Reed is gone and chases into the woods to find him.

Allison in chains
Reed stops and checks his pocket. There is an empty syringe and the ring box, he takes some water from a stream but Clive is barrelling through the woods. He eventually reaches a cabin and starts knocking on the door, asking for help, with no response. He is about to smash the glass on the door when it is opened by gun-toting Morgan (Dean Vanderkolk). He lets Reed in, listens to his story about being kidnapped (and his suspicion that Allison is still out there) and gets him some water. Meanwhile we see Allison awaken chained to a wall.

Morgan's vamp face
Morgan keeps the curtains shut and tells Reed that he contracted a disease when serving in Vietnam that has made his eyes very sensitive to light. He offers to call the police. He leaves the room and Reed looks for some aspirin – he finds jars of blood in the fridge and then picks up a call on Morgan’s mobile; it is Clive telling Morgan to keep him there. After a stand-off, Reed shoots Morgan between the eyes (with the man's own gun) but Morgan is soon back on his feet and it is only ripping the curtain open that allows Reed to escape – the light searing Morgan’s eyes.

Jim O'Rear as dane
So, what is essentially happening is that humans are being kidnapped, as main vampire Dane (Jim O'Rear, Vampyre Tales, The Dead Matter) is searching for a rare blood type that doesn’t need to go through the filter of the stomach and can be transfused directly, increasing the vampire’s strength. Allison happens to have that blood type… which turns out to be rhesus negative, which isn’t as rare as intimated, but we’ll give it a pass.

fangs on show
What is interesting is that (and here we do have to spoil a bit) Reed’s blood is poisonous to vampires. Reed happens to be an insulin dependent diabetic and Allison had his insulin. He is rapidly moving to euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis. Now, on the occasions they are mentioned in the genre, diabetics are often singled out as a sweet treat for the vampire. In this case I would posit that it is the ketones in the blood that are the poison but nevertheless I loved the idea.

feral vamp
Other than the sunlight/eyes issue and rapid healing the lore we get suggests that only destroying the heart will kill a vampire. That the vampirism is caused by a parasite and is only passed on through blood transfer. Some of the vampires seem to turn feral (the two we see were turned by exposing them to the parasite after death but it is intimated that this can happen when the parasite is transferred to a living host). Light generally will scare off a feral vampire.

Angela Degarmo as Sadie
I liked the story concepts and felt this did a lot right, despite being a budget piece. The acting was alright but both Jonathan David as Reed and Angela Degarmo as Sadie, another kidnap victim Reed works with, both came across as very personable, which helped carry the film forward. The gore levels were minimal and the effects for vamp face felt a little theatrical. However, I rather enjoyed this offering. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

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