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Bloodsuckers (2005)

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Starring Joe Lando, Michael Ironside, Dominic Zamprogna, A.J. Cook, Natassia Malthe

Directed by Matthew Hastings


As the closing credits of Bloodsuckers aired, there were five thoughts that immediately went through my mind.

#1) Was this movie designed to be the pilot for a potential TV series? Other than the amount of gore in the movie, it sure feels that way. Between the design of the opening title logo, the constant inclusion of concepts that introduced other aspects of this particular story universe yet ultimately proved incidental to the actual plot, and the open ended manner in which the film concluded gave off the vibe that this was designed to be less a self-contained movie and more a feature length pilot for a Bloodsuckers TV series.

#2) When did Jake Gyllenhaal grow some facial hair and begin starring in movies under the pseudonym “Dominic Zamprogna”? Some would argue that Jake Gyllenhaal and “Dominic Zamprogna” are two entirely different people; IMDB even has a listing for a “Dominic Zamprogna” complete with a birthday and other movie credits, but there’s no way you’re going to convince me that they are actually two entirely separate people.

#3) Someone really needs to make another Vampirella movie and it so needs to star Natassia Malthe. Between her superior butt kicking skills and exotic sex appeal, Malthe’s vampiric vampire-hunting heroine role in Bloodsuckers comes closer to the spirit of Vampirella than poor Talisa Soto could muster in that dreadful movie version of the comic vampiress.

#4) If you’re going to cast Michael Ironside as the villain in your movie then please, for God’s sake, give him more to do than just stand there sneering and cackling. Granted, few can sneer and cackle quite like Michael Ironside, especially when made up to resemble a grittier version of Count Orlock, but still, this is Michael freakin’ Ironside and having him as your villain is not an opportunity one should let go to waste. Have filmmakers learned nothing from Highlander 2: The Quickening?

#5) Unless Jake Gyllenhaal had himself cloned and named that clone “Dominic Zamprogna” then maybe…

Anyway.

Set in the grungy future of 2210, Bloodsuckers recasts vampires as man’s greatest threat in outer space. Vampiric races infest the galaxies to the point that the majority of them have become regarded by humans as being nothing more than alien vermin in need of extermination. “V-San” (the abbreviated term for “vampire sanitation”) units roam the universe in search of “fangheads” that need wiping out.

They really should have called this movie Fangheads instead of the more generic Bloodsuckers.

Forget everything we’re used to regarding vampires because sunlight doesn’t bother them, crosses and garlic don’t repel them, sleeping in coffins isn’t required, and not all are into bloodsucking – other vampiric types include organ eaters and essence stealers.

Among the different breeds of vampires found throughout the universe are the Nosferati, the Voorhees (think Nosferatu dressed like a Mad Max biker), and the “Leatherfaces” (known as such for their fondness for wearing victims’ skin as a mask). That two of the vampiric races we’re introduced to have names derived from iconic horror movie slashers should tell you everything one needs to know about the campy B-movie tone of the film. There are even talking, vampiric, parasitic worm-like creatures that infest human hosts and turn them into vampiric incubators for more of their ilk. So, yeah, there’s even a little Night of the Creeps action tossed in too.

The one trait virtually all of these vampiric breeds share is that they can only be killed by destroying their hearts, which means that firearms and sharp pointy things are the weapons of choice for the typical V-San employee.

One V-San unit is led by former “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” hunk Joe Lando as veteran vampire hunter Captain Nicholas Churchill. His crew consists of a butch Asian female with overly aggressive tendencies, a cowboy-type that is played in a surprisingly low key manner, and a friendly vamp named Quintana, played by the vampiciously delicious Natassia Malthe, last seen wearing pretty much the same Mortal Kombat-style wardrobe playing Typhoid Mary in that unwatchable Elektra spin-off movie. The other two are not particularly fond of having a vampire onboard given the nature of their occupation. Perhaps that would change if they knew she’s a form of psychic vampire with the power of tantric sex, which is sort of like the Vulcan Mind Meld only a billion times better.

The newest member of the crew is young Damian Underwood, played by Dominic Zamprogna (or Jake Gyllenhaal – I’m still not convinced), who has been forced into V-San duty following a tragic event that led to him getting court martialed among other career/life ruining turns. Despite the dark cloud hanging over Damian’s head, Churchill firmly believes he has all the makings of a great V-San unit captain, even viewing him as his own successor, and it’s a good thing he felt that way since he gets killed very early on in the movie leaving the rookie reluctantly in charge of the unit that blames him for the captain’s untimely demise.

That’s basically what Bloodsuckers is all about – Damian getting the fractured V-San unit he now finds himself in command of to get along with one another and work together, which is something they’re going to have to do fast since a misguided group devoted to anti-human imperialism (i.e. opposed to the human race spreading so fast and so far throughout the galaxy) has joined forces with a group of Nosferati led by a revenge minded Michael Ironside.

The overall plot kind of takes a backseat to developing the characters – something that’s really rare for Sci-Fi Channel films – and introducing us to various elements of this particular universe. This is also one of the reasons why I found myself wondering if this was designed to serve as the launch for a weekly series since it’s clearly more interested in setting things up than delving into a full-fledged plot. But writer/director Matthew Hastings (Decoys) keeps the proceedings lively enough that you’re able to look past most of the story deficiencies. However, there are two major drawbacks that do hurt the film’s overall entertainment value.

The first is the lack of budget, which is almost certainly why most of the sets tended to look, shall we say, economical. This also clearly effected the action scenes that, aside from a spirited fight early on a forest planet with some Voorhees, often had the feeling of being very stagy, and not just because most occurred in tight quarters. Bloodsuckers was clearly an ambitious production that ends up feeling a tad anemic due to a few more dollars that certainly would have benefited the overall look and feel of the film’s scope.

The second problem – and I admit this one might just be me – were the vampires themselves. I don’t know, they just weren’t all that menacing or compelling. Aside from Quintana and the vampiric parasites, all the “fangheads” introduced more or less came across as generic space opera villains, albeit with fangs. My complaint about Michael Ironsides’ villain being reduced to merely cackling and sneering applies to most of the vampires in the movie. Vampires tend to be presented as horrific or seductive or cunning or a combination of which. Other than having fangs and an urge to dine on humans, the bloodsuckers in Bloodsuckers weren’t terribly vampiric. Maybe that’s just me or maybe that was what Hastings was going for when he decided to treat them as more of a universal nuisance than traditional vampire archetypes.

Despite these two unfortunate drawbacks, Bloodsuckers easily ranks one of the Sci-Fi Channels most entertaining original productions yet. I know such a statement is hardly high praise given Sci-Fi’s track records, but if they were to pick this up as a weekly series then I’d be more than willing to give it a chance.

Now give me my Vampirella remake starring Natassia Malthe, dammit!


3 out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4 (3 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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