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After Sundown (DVD)

After Sundown
Starring Susana Gibb, Reece Rios, Natalie Jones, and J. Christopher

Directed by Christopher Abram and Michael W. Brown

Distributed by Lionsgate


If movie reviewers learn anything through years of experience, it is this: Never believe the hype. No matter what phrase may adorn the cover art of a movie or what any other friendly reviewer has said, reviewers must make their own decisions. Take, for example, After Sundown, the cover of which is adorned with the words “This year’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’.” A reviewer sees that in his assignment bin and should (rightfully so) get suspicious. While sometimes such phrases prove to be the genuine article, this is not the case for After Sundown.

Let’s start with the story, shall we? At some point in the old west, a vampire cowboy rode into town and turned a woman after impregnating her. For some reason, everyone in town thought she was possessed, so they performed an exorcism on her as she gave birth to the baby. Then they staked them both. The story flashes forward to the present time, when the old western cemetery is being dug up to make way for a housing development. The workers are startled to find the corpse of the young woman, still in perfect condition and still with an enormous stake driven through her heart, in one of the graves. They take the body to the local mortuary for examination, removing the stake in the process. Mass chaos ensues when “The Vampire” (that’s all he’s called) shows up after being God-knows-where for the past hundred or so years to reclaim his undead bride and child. But wait, there’s more. It seems that this vampire can raise the dead and control armies of the best-dressed zombies the world has ever seen. It is now up to Shannon and her dufous sidekick, Mikey, to save the world from certain shuffling annihilation.

Now let’s move to where it all fell apart. While the thought of zombie-controlling vampire cowboys might appeal to some, to others it seems reminiscent of the old “Dracula meets Billy the Kid” type movies. While I’m certain everyone involved had great faith in the project, it comes off as silly. From their budget Buffy the Vampire Slayer facial appliances (which, by the way, were poorly applied, wrinkle up, and show seams like should never be seen in a film) to the well-dressed bodies that look more like they’re coming from the mall or school than inside a morgue drawer, the producers needed to go back through and think things over. Here’s one obvious clue: Cadavers are not usually slid into drawers looking like they just got done with school pictures. The ones crawling up from graves should look even less pristine. And while we’re on the subject, blood should never be able to be confused for ink.

Also included in this movie are plot holes the size of aircraft carriers. For example, where exactly was “The Vampire” for the hundred or so years after his love and child were killed? Also, when finding a corpse that appears fresh in an unmarked grave, the workers just bundle up the little lady and toss her in the back seat of the car. No police, no “hey, we might just have stumbled into a crime scene,” nothing. Also, during one scene Mikey winds up trapped in a closet with only his cell phone. He calls out and explains his situation, also explaining that he needs someone to call the police for him. On their cell phone. As to why he couldn’t just call them on his own cell phone, I’ve no guess. There are other plot holes that assault the common sense of the viewers, but to divulge them here would spoil the film, so it must suffice to say that the plot holes just keep on coming.

There were a few points that kept After Sundown from being an utter crap-fest, namely the actors. Though they were handed a script that could very well have come from the bottom of a hamster’s cage, they all managed to deliver their lines not only with a straight face, but with conviction. Susana Gibb’s portrayal of Shannon was well done with Gibb taking her role quite seriously. At any given moment it is easy for the audience to feel that she believes herself to be in mortal danger. Of course, the illusion is spoiled by the Gap-uniformed zombies, but that’s beside the point. Natalie Jones does well when her character is human, though when she becomes a vampire she reverts to the breathy hissing and fang-baring faces that have become the bad cliché of vampire movies. Even Reece Rios, whom I did not want to like at all, wormed his way into my good graces with his dopey performance. J. Christopher’s “The Vampire,” however, did little more than stagger about like a parody of Frankenstien’s monster as he killed and reanimated his way across the city toward his goal which was…well…no one really knows for sure.

On the supplemental side of the fence we get your standard seen ‘em once, seen ‘em all behind-the-scenes stuff, and an overly enthusiastic commentary. I wish I knew what film these guys were watching.

Taken as a whole, After Sundown does not live up to the hype. In fact, it doesn’t even approach the hype. Even though the quote on the cover may make it seem tempting, one only need look at the face on the cover, which kind of looks like a vampiric Lone Ranger, to get a sense that this might not be worth watching. That the actors worked as hard as they did with what they were given allows some points, but the movie itself is dismal.

Special Features
Audio commentary
Behind-the-scenes feauturette
Trailer gallery

1 out of 5

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Jon Condit