Monday, May 18, 2020

Subferatu – review

Director: Patrick Penta

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

This one was difficult, I went in wanting to really like it and I didn’t hate it but there was something just off in it (or me) around the comedy performances – whilst there are some worthwhile performances, I questioned the comedy chops as I watched it. That’s unfortunate, especially as I discovered after watching the film that some of the cast are noted on the Seattle comedy circuit. That said, there is a difference between stand-up and acting someone else’s material.

The film starts with a U-Boat, and its skeleton crew, as the Captain – Commander Braunschweiger (Martyn G. Krouse) spots a ship in danger. It seems somewhat incongruous, as it is a three master. One of the crew, Lt. Bierficker (Nate Pringle), wants to torpedo it as it’ll be fun and says so in an “‘Allo ‘Allo!” styled German accent. The sinister Herr Gluhwein (Robert Piddie) wants those on board captured. A piece of dialogue dates this for us, with the crew saying Heil Dönitz – with Hitler being dead. This puts us somewhere in May 1945. Presciently there is a comment around the shift in power, suggesting that you can’t go back in time.

title scenes
So what is the ship in trouble? The presence, during the credits, of scenes from the Demeter, taken from Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, suggests that ship, though we will see that our vampire (Chelsea Tolle) is rather different – a different gender for a start and the vampire was brought on board before they set sail. More likely they are talking about the pleasure cruise ship whose crew we will meet soon. It is worth noting that Braunschweiger mentioned that the three master was not there one minute and there the next.

Mike Dooly as Captain McCloud 
Before we get to that, however, we meet Captain McCloud (Mike Dooly) sat on a beach and smoking his special cigarettes. He puts the book Subferatu down and is approached by a butler (Jeremy Moller) with a new pineapple cocktail and a message that his ex-wife’s attorney has called. McCloud offers a poetic image of them coming at night, red lips and white teeth – attorney’s or ex-wives? Both, but mostly the latter – it is interesting that we get a flashback scene of him with Ellen, who we can assume is his now ex-wife, and she is played by Chelsea Tolle as well – conflating ex-wife and vampire. The rest of the story is his relaying of the tale.

The crew are picked up by U-666 from the sea, though McCloud is miraculously dry. The crew are Ribbonclerk (Chris Bender), Atticus (John Gardner), Roosevelt (Thomas Nichols) and Scarlet (Claire Webber). They are somewhat taken aback by the antiquated rescue vessel and it becomes clear that they are from a contemporary (to us) time period. How has the U-Boat become unstuck in time? The film doesn’t say but they were rescued within the Bermuda Triangle. Braunschweiger has a plan of sailing into New York harbour and surrendering.

Robert Piddie as Herr Gluhwein
This would not seem to be Herr Gluhwein’s plan (though he espouses it). He is the Renfield to the vampire and wishes to unleash her onto an unsuspecting America. The U-boat has such a small crew because of deaths on the trip – and it is noted that the surviving crew seem pale – and he had the Americans rescued to provide her with further snackage. There is the crew pretending to be what the German’s think they are and – of course – the vampire attacks.

Ribbonclark turns
We see her eyes, her in silhouette and as a silhouetted bat and it is as a bat that she attacks the first crew member, not a spoiler too far to say that it is Ribbonclerk. After this he looks sickly and then, when shot by Braunschweiger, he vamps out. The question is, who amongst the Germans can they trust and how will they prevent the vampire from making landfall. I have mentioned the primary lore and, in addition to her blood drinking and transformation we find out that there is a vampire killing kit on board – consisting of a stake, a cross and a note that says “Best of luck”. The unique lore was McCloud’s CBD oil acting like holy water and subduing the vampire.

eyes of the vampire
So, the primary U-boat sets are rather well done and add a feeling of claustrophobia – which was slightly wasted given the comedic nature of the film, as the comedy undermined that compressed anxiety. McCloud is actually claustrophobic, though that isn’t played on too much as he is busy being the main comedy focus. His performance was good and very Police Squad/Naked Gun – but the zaniness wasn’t as apparent in the surrounding script and I suspect he needed a consistent foil. Michael Reed (Chupacabra Territory) also deserves special mention as Americanophile Lt. Valentiner, but the acting was not consistently good across the cast and, even in those who acted well the comedy chops weren’t always on point – for me at least. All in all this was entertaining enough for a watch, did well for a budget piece, but ultimately was missing something. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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