A serial killer is terrorising Los Angeles, leaving his victims dry of blood the press nicknamed him Vlad. After capture, he is taken to a medical facility for testing.
(Vampire was originally released in 2002 as Demon Under Glass. It was re-released in 2010 under the name vampire).
Here we go! No idea who’s stupid idea this was, which means it was probably mine, but anyway, here’s RRS’s first ‘Cheap Thrill’… ( Insert “Ooh, er, missus!” assorted 1970’s non-pc comedy references here.) To be honest Ive had a soft spot for cheap, and occasionally just badly made movies for a goodly while. Eco horrors are a particular fave of mine which lead to two consecutive years of Edinburgh Fringe shows in the mid 2000’s, Nature’s Revenge! The glee of sharing with an unsuspecting audience the peculiar thrills of seeing ‘Mr Miyagi’ face off against a 50 foot King Cobra and William Shatner engulfed in multitudes of tarantulas in the quite frankly awesome, Kingdom of The Spiders, well…
But, as a well known television host may say, “But we don’t want to give you that!”
So, for RRS’s inaugural ‘Cheap Thrills’ I present to you the bargain bin delights of, Vampire! Well, no I don’t actually. What I’m really presenting up for your bright, sparkly, one pound coin (yes, it’s available at all good Pound-land’s, and probably some of the less good examples too.) is ‘Demon Under Glass’. That was the original title back in 2002 when this was first released. Clearly someone thought there was money to be made ( although at an quid a time, Lord knows how!) from retitling the movie in the post Twilight/ True Blood world we live in.
So, looking at the cover we see quotes screaming at us, the poor consumer. “A BRILLIANT PLOT” from no less than Fangoria. But the trick with quotes is that even the worst reviews often have a few words that lifted out of context could be sold as a film being incredibly scary! (See what I did there? Next time film is dusted down and slapped with a new title of say, ‘Fanged Avenger’, the cover will probably feature the legend, “INCREDIBLY SCARY!” Real Reel Scares. Don’t say i didnt warn you!
So, what do we have here? A non-specific government agency has been tracking a serial killer, they’ve named Vlad, who targets prostitutes and drains them of their blood. They shoot and capture the vamp, keeping him in a top secret facility, where they test him to establish how vampires do what they do. What follows leaves the audience questioning who are the real monsters here, as the vampire and the head of the facility play a cat and mouse game to the death. Well, that was the aim. However, budget, or more specifically, lack of it, and a combination of poor (often completely absent) cinematography, a number of actors and extras who really should have an ASBO to keep them at least 100 feet away from a film set at all times, and some diabolically bad aesthetic choices (Please don’t fade up and down EVERY scene. It takes forever and is BORING!) scupper the film from ever really flying.
Fangoria actually seem to have hit it on the head here. There is a brilliant plot. The government capturing and experimenting on a vampire, for potential health benefits and the inevitable weaponisation potential and the psychological power-play between the hunter and the hunted has massive potential. But this isn’t it. The dialogue is often ludicrous, and some scenes are clearly only in to pad the movie out. But the truth is every scene looks flat because of lack of lighting, poorly directed actors, and woeful production values. When a septuagenarian character actor is groped by a prostitute he’s trying to procure for the vampire, and she gropes him to check he ‘has the stuff’, we know that a brilliant plot cannot save us from this directors vision. Whatever the hell it was!
When Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene with his $7000 debut, El Mariachi, he gave the public a film that looked far more expensive. What he did there, but director John Cunningham doesn’t do here, is work with what you’ve got. While I admire the ambition to make it and be damned, the risk with that mentality is that you may well be damned.
So, faced with the choice of Vampire, or a bag of chips?
Chips. And wait for the big budget remake. This film needs one.
With large red text on the box proclaiming ‘A Brilliant Plot’ (Fangoria) as well as a review quote from the New York Times, this seems to not be any other standard Cheap Thrills movie.
On the back it states Winner of the Outstanding Vampire Feature award at the International Film Festival. Oh…..
A police stake out entrapping men soliciting prostitutes to try and catch a weird supposed vampire killer nicknamed Vlad. A man comes in, kills 2 guards and rips the polystyrene door from its hinges. He runs but is captured by the swat team (all of whom have crosses of white duct tape on their flak jackets). Housing the captured Vampire within a government facility for tests, it raises some interesting moral questions. Is it human? what are we allowed to do in the name of science? and the most interesting (for me), if you caught a mythical creature that exists in folklore and popular culture, which of the ‘facts’ about their strengths and weaknesses are true or false?
Like many a cheap film, the acting isn’t the greatest, over acting is abound from people used to acting on stage (especially the vampire) as the over projection just appears ridiculous when seen on screen. The film being 12 years old is dated by the technology, as cameras have advanced in recent years its hard to remember the quality of the old Digital Kit at the turn of the century.
The film looks and feels like a feature length episode of the Outer Limits from the 1990s. The quality of the footage isn’t helped by the poor sound (from the open mics picking up voices, footsteps, anything remotely noisy) and a lack of foley work. The score is purely synthesised, which for the most part isn’t too bad… until the extended synthesiser violin solo during a montage that comes in like a ice pick to the eardrums.
Ultimatley Vampire does what a lot of low budget films that begin with a interesting moral question or position do, get stupid. Everything that is set up and seems to be going an interesting direction for the first hour is thrown out the window for a big dramatic and (action filled) ending. Something that was blatantly stretching the budget (those sound effects cost money!)
Its a shame, after a shaky and uncomfortably bad start, the film started getting kind of ok (disregarding the acting), then shot itself in the foot.
The Rules –
Films must cost £1 or less brand new.
Films must be listed as Horror on IMDB.
How many times have you walked passed the dump bins in the supermarket or looked at the movies in Poundland and wondered, “Yeah, but at that price how good could it REALLY be?”
We intend to watch and review to see how many of these cheap thrills are any good.