The Blood Stream mines the Internet for horror gold so you don’t have to, delivering streamable horror titles never before featured on Dread Central. Occasionally I’ll dredge up something good, maybe even great. To find those gems, I’ll have to sift through a lot of breathtakingly bad cinema. Enjoy!
Half-Caste is a relatively novel lycanthropy yarn. It hits the ground running with an excellent shock moment at the beginning, leading into a great first act. Alas, somewhere toward the midway point the wheels fly off and the whole thing implodes under the weight of nonsensical plot points and baffling chronologies.
I fully admit it’s possible that even the appearance of a strong beginning was just the result of exceeding the abyssal expectations set by the movie’s poster, which makes the monster look like an ad for a hooker at a furry convention:
Half-Caste is — at least according to the movie — a term used in South Africa to refer to the orphaned offspring of Dutch settlers and native South Africans. Through a combination of feral neglect, drugs and religious fervor, some such individuals were supposedly cursed with the power to transform into bloodthirsty half-man, half-leopard hybrids.
The movie starts with a framing scene in which a cop interrogates a blood spattered L.A. filmmaker named Bobby Cortez. Most of Bobby’s tale of woe is shown from the point of view of the cameras he and his crew set up to record evidence of the Half-Caste. It’s not exactly found footage though. Bobby’s webcam flashbacks are intercut with plenty of third-person shots. While that makes one wonder why so much mockumentary footage was used in the first place, it at least eliminates the need for the magically fortuitous shots pure found footage movies rely on to capture climactic action.
Since the movie is set in South Africa, it really helps that it was actually filmed there (or near enough). Unlike Beneath Loch Ness, which was filmed in an above ground swimming pool painted to look like Scotland, Half-Caste was shot almost entirely on location. In addition to the gorgeous natural backdrop of rural Africa, that means safari scenes and real life megafauna encounters were easy to come by. There’s even one part where they film a (hopefully trained) lion mauling a guy to death in a truck. Apparently another bonus of filming in Africa is there is zero regard for the safety of local stuntmen.
What really sets Half-Caste apart – at least before it falls apart – is a delightful sense of humor and solid comic timing. Half-Caste features both an American film crew and a secondary local crew. All six of these people are genuinely endearing and they routinely engage in fun, charming banter. Their unrehearsed wisecracks and natural laughter give the impression they were really having fun, as young folks on vacation are wont to do. Occasionally, however, the merriment gets out of hand, like when screwball antics are enhanced with silly sound effects. A lack of awareness of the irony in juxtaposing naïve playfulness and the horrors that follow is a nagging problem even in the better parts of this movie.
The first real sign of trouble is the Half-Caste monster itself, which looks like it escaped from Zoobilee Zoo. The under-designed beastie is shown far too often, far too early, and in light that’s far too revealing.
Then there’s the plot, which springs minor leaks here and there until the dam finally bursts all at once. One minute everything is fine, then something unseen starts chasing Bobby through the bush. He escapes, only to stumble on a central character who has transformed into a Half-Caste and is calmly devouring a dead body. Bobby blacks out and wakes up covered in blood, holding a human heart. He decides not to mention this to anyone, even the person he now knows is a cannibalistic monster. Everything just goes back to normal for another half hour or so. That has to be an attempt to spackle over missing footage, right? Like maybe the lion ate a few cans of film?
The final nail in Half-Caste‘s coffin is, fittingly, the climax, which plays out like an extended run-off from “Benny Hill”. When the monster attacks, the remaining characters begin a drawn out cycle of fleeing into a bedroom, freaking out, running back outside, freaking out some more, and repeating. Instead of grabbing someone’s tush every time the action stops like Benny, however, the Half-Caste (which hops around like the monkey-style fighter in Bloodsport) rips out somebody’s throat. I demand to see this scene set to Yakety Sax.
Driving all this useless repetition is a superfluous element of the Half-Caste mythos. The creature influences your psyche before it physically attacks you, making you turn on those around you. Sadly that requires amiable but mediocre actors to channel Jack Nicholson and lose their minds for no damn reason. All they had to do was calmly walk to their truck and drive away. Instead they pick fights with each other and scream about “getting my gat” or how things are done “in the hood”, before charging outside in a huff, one by one, into the waiting jaws of a pissed off were-leopard.
I don’t recommend watching this movie, but if you want to do your good deed for the year and you’re good with Final Cut, maybe chop this thing down to a streamlined 45 minutes or so and post it on YouTube for me. If not, just watch TrollHunter again. It’s still funny and damn those trolls look good.
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