Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bloodsucker’s Planet – review

Director: Mark Beal

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

Mark Beal is the director behind beat-arthouse/grindhouse-noir flick Enchiridion, which was rereleased as Bloodsucker’s Handbook. Mark contacted me to ask whether I wanted to take a peek at his new film, Bloodsucker’s Planet, and I jumped at the chance.

The film is brave, there is no doubt about that, to make a space opera on such a low budget needs guts and whilst you can see the joins, well that has been incorporated as part of the joy of the movie rather than detracting. It is related to the previous film – though I won’t spoil how. However I will say that one of the first things that struck me, from seeing a spaceship in the film’s opening, and the crew's outfits, was that the film seemed to be offering a definite nod to Mario Bava and his film Planet of the Vampires.

zero-g card tricks
Before we see said ship, we get an emergency broadcast where Cooke (Cory W. Ahre) asks anyone who intercepts the signal to send it on to the Linus Corporation as there is something wrong on the planet Mara and suggests that “there is something in the mud”. Opening credits follow, with a really great credit soundtrack selection and then we are on the spaceship. Doc (Joel Jeremy Herrera) sketches whilst Danvers (Logan Hooks) does zero-g card tricks for Paulina (Adrienne Dobson). Flying the spaceship are Captain McDermott (Allen Menefee) and Clarissa (Leni Mex), she picks up the distress beacon (though they don't see the video message at that point).

Mara bat attack
They investigate, landing on the planet and McDermott, Doc and Paulina take a surface vehicle, with Danvers in a jetpack, leaving Clarissa to watch the rocket. Mara was a mud farming colony but the industry seems to have stopped. Danvers takes a trip into the atmosphere trying to lock into an energy signature when the vehicle is contacted by Mr Bartlett (Joe Grisaffi). The distress signal was an old one that he wasn’t aware of, the factory has been mothballed and he is the caretaker of the facility. He invites the crew in. Danvers descends and ends up having an alien creature attached to his helmet. It felt like an alien rendition of a bat – a good thing as it is later described as an indigenous Mara bat.

Jessica Bell as Adrianna
They are met by a person, stood outside a graveyard, not wearing protective gear. She is Adrianna (Jessica Bell), a robot. The crew go into decontamination and a Mara bat appears, having been stuck in Danver’s gear. It flies around the chamber until it is sucked out of the chamber. A hot meal is forthcoming but Danvers becomes ill – it is apparent he has picked up a parasite from the Mara bat – not to worry, the parasite has a short lifespan and is not deadly, though he will be in for a rough time. The crew are forced to stay (with the Captain promising Clarissa a doggy bag when they get back to the ship, when he radios in) – but there is another parasite close by, more deadly than those carried by the bats.

Catalina Querida as Mother Vampire
And I’ll leave the blow by blow there. Being a Beal film there are some psychedelic moments with a stop-motion alien ‘roach (Israel Koite) that would seem to be part of Danvers’ hallucinations until we discover it is the last of an indigenous species. There is also the vampire and this is an alien vampire – a species that was, at one-time, winged and reminiscent in part of a medusa, though with coils of hair not snakes, with an overtone of the primary Bride in Dracula (1992). Credited as Mother Vampire (Catalina Querida) she is able to turn those she bites into vampires like her.

let me in
The house interior itself looks pretty much like a house dressed up a bit – for instance with portholes added to the windows and a space scene beyond – rather than a space-age simulacrum, and my reason for picking up on that was to highlight the budget restraint and the fact that it didn’t actually detract from the viewing experience, there was plenty within the film to keep the viewer engaged. It is also mentioned as a segue to the scene of a vampirised Danvers, floating at the window, which carried a homage vibe of ’Salem’s Lot. The crew’s reaction to a crew-mate outside with no helmet might seem strange but was in keeping with the psychedelic, hallucinatory atmosphere.

Clarissa and McDermott
Indeed, the film carries that psychedelic overtone from Handbook and continues with it – though the sci-fi setting changes the tone of it slightly, having to work harder one feels to achieve the same. But it does achieve it, and thus the viewer feels smug when we pick up mention of a Master and the crew does not, rather than wondering why. The idea of toad licking is still part of the film, by the way. The film is short (around the 60-minute mark) and so doesn’t outstay its welcome. If you were a fan of Bloodsucker’s Handbook then you’ll love this too – though a space opera rather than a film noir – and fans of off-beat, low budget sci-fi will definitely have fun. Referential and engaging, 7 out of 10.

At the time of writing there is no IMDb page. The film's homepage is here.

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