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Blade of the Vampire (2006)

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Blade of the Vampire reviewStarring Michael Taggert, Rod Koch, Julie Tolle, Darren Robertson, Megan Ethridge, D.E. Simpson

Written & Directed by Miles Feldman


Blade of the Vampire tells the tale of a vampire that looks like a super intense stockbroker being pursued by a vampire hunter that looks like a soap opera actor in dire need of a good night’s rest. Did I mention that the vampire hunter wields this ultimate vampire-slaying weapon from which even a small cut can cause a fatal infection of sorts in the undead and that this knife looks like a little squiggly dagger only slightly bigger than a switchblade? Folks, this blade is so dinky that re-titling the film Pig Sticker of the Vampire would have been even more fitting.

Okay, let’s start with what few positives there are. Writer-director-producer Miles Feldman is obviously more technically proficient with a digital camera than most of his no budget, shot-on-digital filmmaking contemporaries and does deserve credit for making Blade of the Vampire a nice looking film, glossy and well lit, sort of like a low rent telenovela. I also have to say that while the acting still isn’t especially good and the two lead actors have an annoying habit of speaking in breathy tones with a good deal of pauses from time to time, I still found the overall acting to be a bit more adequate than what I normally see in a film of this sort.

But neither the look nor the acting matter since Blade of the Vampire is as uninteresting as it is derivative and trust me when I tell you that this is one of the most divisive modern vampire flicks you’ll come across. If vampire movies are worth a dime a dozen then this one’s story and characters are worth only about a nickel. Forget about the showdown between the vampire and the knife-wielding vampire hunter; the real showdown was between this DVD and the remote control-wielding me, and I confess that the DVD made me blink. I gave the film a chance but it insisted on trying my patience with its absolute nothing of a tale and all around uneventfulness. Boring bad makes for the worst kind of bad movie and Blade of the Vampire is boring bad from start to finish. And that’s even with liberal use of the fast forward button!

This is a vampire flick that offers precious little action, even less horror, and no atmosphere whatsoever. Since the vampires can walk around in daylight and the majority of the movie takes place in broad daylight, kiss any possibility of the director setting a mood goodbye too. The best director Feldman can muster is some fancy pointless camera trickery early on done for no particular reason other than he knew how to do so.

But if you’re the sort of person that likes vampire movies where most of the running time consists of characters just loitering or engaging in uninteresting conversations about various aspects of vampirism that’ll leave you wondering if perhaps maybe you’re actually watching someone’s unimaginative movie version of a live action vampire role-playing game, then Blade of the Vampire is just the vampire movie for you. If you like unexciting foot chases, if you like community theater-quality fight scenes, if you like movies so cheap that much of the film appears to be taking place under a freeway off-ramp, if you like characters that register so little you can’t even remember their names (I know I can’t!), then Blade of the Vampire is exactly the vampire flick you’ve been waiting for.

So you see there’s this age old vampire named Vandalis – I only remember his name because he’s the only character named in the plot synopsis on the back of the DVD case – who has just arrived in Los Angeles with a world weary vampire hunter in pursuit who’s name I honestly do not recall; I’ll just refer to him as the vampire hunter. Vandalis immediately looks into taking up sanctuary in a house for lease, but since vampires hate paperwork, he just puts to the bite on the real estate agent and begins squatting in the place. Then Vandalis goes out for the evening and strikes a deal with a punk teen willing to pimp out his girlfriend for money. A pair of young females, friends of the young low life and his “I’m not a prostitute but I’ll gladly whore myself out for $500” girlfriend, turn down the offer to go to Vandalis’ pad – at least I thought they did. So while the rookie hooker and her novice pimp boyfriend head over to Vandalis’ place, the hunter instead begins stalking those other two females that I’d sworn had said they wanted nothing to do with Vandalis because they thought he was freaky.

In fact, “freaky” could be the film’s buzzword for the first half hour since characters keep referring to both vampire and vampire hunter as freaky. They say they look freaky and act freaky, despite the fact that both vampire and vampire hunter look like regular Joe’s. And yet these two ladies, one of which with her colored hair and trampy clothing looks freakier than anyone else in the film, insist upon calling the vampire hunter freaky just because he’s prone to staring in their general direction. What about him makes these two young women think is “freaky” is beyond me. Heck, they’re describing him as freaky even before he begins stalking them.

And why does he begin stalking them? Why does this film squander countless minutes chronicling these girls high-tailing it down the street and taking refuge in a clothing store’s changing room just to get away from this normal looking guy that’s following them? Well, because he saw them talking to the young man that struck the deal with Vandalis and desperately needs one of these two girls to give him Vandalis’ street address so that he can go slay the vampire. Why didn’t he just follow the others that were already going to Vand … Ah, screw it!

Vandalis’ coming back to town draws out another vampire, an ex-lover of Vandalis whose name I also cannot remember. The actress playing this vampiress looking to get back into the loving arms of ex-squeeze (who keeps rejecting her) is doing her damndest to channel Musetta Vander. I’ll give her props for doing a better Musetta Vander impression than anyone other than Musetta Vander.

Two of the teenage idiots get bitten, causing the wannabe hooker to act like she’s stoned out of her mind, while the vampire hunter pairs up with the trampy looking girl that thought he was so freaky in order to save and/or kill the vampires and friends-turned-vampires or something along those lines. The bulk of the film’s second half appeared to be set in an outdoor area that looked to be under a freeway overpass or was down by the city’s drainage system. There’s virtually no plot for the first half of the film and by the time the film reached the halfway point I’d come to find the circumstances and conversations to be absolutely mind-numbing.

People, if you need one moment that sums up just how hopelessly pointless this whole movie is, the hunter gets knocked unconscious at one point and the vampires use the opportunity to run away rather than – oh, I don’t know –

KILL HIM!

I got my own knife for slaying movies like this, but in this case I only need half of one.

1/2 out of 5

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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life

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Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson

Written and directed by David Freyne


Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.

The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.

Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.

Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.

Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.

The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.

  • The Cured
3.5

Summary

The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.

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Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed

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Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim

Directed by Brian Coyne


Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.

Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.

So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.

  • Film
1.5

Summary

I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.

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Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone

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Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters

Directed by Jeff Houkal


Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?

Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”

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