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Vegas Vampires (2007)

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Vegas Vampires reviewStarring Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Glenn Plummer, Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree, Daniel Baldwin, Rio, Fredo Starr, Bernie Casey, Alex Wilkinson, Kurupt

Directed by Fred “Hammer” Williamson


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unfortunately, the plot to this movie must have been one of the things that got left in Vegas because this movie damn didn’t seem to have one. A character gets introduced an hour in and begins explaining in detail just what the hell is supposed to be going on, and even though what follows still only makes a modicum of sense, thank goodness that character came along because other than seemingly random and (for the most part) unconnected vignettes involving these characters in Vegas, eventually having run-ins with vampires, I had zero clue what the hell the point of this mess was supposed to be. All the jumping around doesn’t flow like it should in movies that balance multiple storylines that ultimately intersect and little of what happens in these vignettes ever form of a coherent narrative. Vegas Vampires is a case where the film’s title isn’t just a title – it’s also the plot synopsis.

Given the cast is predominantly African American, two icons of 1970’s blacksploitation have predominant roles; the campy tone and the rough around the edges nature of the filmmaking, there’s an unmistakable vibe emanating from the production that harkens back to the often silly blacksploitation horror flicks of that era, and a modern day blacksploitation film is what writer/director Fred “Hammer” Williamson (though I find it hard to believe that there was much to actually write) appears to have intended Vegas Vampires to be. Williamson’s enthusiasm to make the movie as such may have overridden his common sense and explain why a good portion of the film feels more like one colossal in-joke that the audience isn’t entirely in on. This is a very hard movie for me to review because the film’s narrative is such an incomprehensible mess, and yet at the same time there are a few genuinely entertaining moments, some even intentionally so.

You have three random sets of characters involved in a series of disjointed scenes that for the longest time don’t do anything to develop the characters or the plot and much of the dialogue feels improvised, too. I’d love to have seen the script for this thing. It plays like a collection of scene ideas scribbled down on notecards as the beginnings of a workable screenplay that ended up going straight into production.

Vegas Vampires review“Tiny” Lister (No Holds Barred, The Fifth Element) and Glenn Plummer (The Day After Tomorrow, Saw 2) play Vegas policeman that have a back alley encounter with vampires. Their superior officer naturally doesn’t believe them. Lister gets enlisted by this rich dude whose daughter has gone missing in Vegas. Lister’s investigation eventually leads him back in the direction of the vampires. Plummer has so little screen time following the back alley vampire encounter that his role is really more of a cameo, though still more significant than the likes of Daniel Baldwin, Bernie Casey, and a few other recognizable names in the credits that show up for little more than one scene cameos.

A young L.A. police recruit and his girlfriend head off to Las Vegas in a dumpy Winnebago with his best friend for a quickie wedding. They, too, eventually encounter vampires and the best friend has the bite put on him. It’ll also turn out that the young soon-to-policeman is the nephew of Lister’s cop character, pretty much the only reason their two characters eventually join up.

Blacksploitation icon Fred “Hammer” Williamson plays an (ex?) cop that calls up another (ex?) cop to join him for a trip to Vegas. Their vignettes for the first half hour consists of nothing more than Williamson and his still unseen friend driving around while Williamson waxes on about how much he loves Vegas to such a degree that you’d think you were watching a Vegas tourism commercial. Entering a titty bar we’ll finally get to see that Williamson’s old buddy is none other than Richard Roundtree AKA the original Shaft. The two of them eventually find some random vampires just loitering around their convertible outside a Vegas nightclub and proceed to kick some fanged honky ass.

The stuff with Williamson and Roundtree is just plain odd. They have little interaction with any of the film’s other characters and even when their on the screen interacting alongside those in the other two character groups they still seem completely detached from the goings-on, almost as if they’re ghosts that have just wandered in to help out the good guys. The are basically grumpy old blacksploitation men; trash talking, swearing a lot, making cracks about women’s breasts, and then whipping out their guns to bust some caps in some undead asses. The way they behave, it’s almost like Williamson and Roundtree have broken out of the old folks home, both suffering from a depreciated mental state where they can’t help but behave in the same manner that the blacksploitation characters they once played used to talk, act, and react, for one last Las Vegas adventure where they stumble upon a vampire conspiracy. On the plus side, at least their antics are somewhat entertaining. Shaft holding a vampire down while ex-football player “The Hammer” gets a running start and field goal kicks the vamp’s head clean off, and then both swagger off like fighting vampires and kicking a human head off is all in a day’s work for them, even making a joke playing off the lyrics to Shaft theme song – quite a scene.

Vegas Vampires reviewDespite Lister’s insistence on vampires running amok and even having one locked up in the police station, the cops believe there’s a cult at work in Vegas but refuse to believe in vampires. One police inspector believes the explanation for the guy in the next room with no heartbeat, a set of fangs and a thing for biting people on the neck is just the victim of a mystery virus and that they should be contacting the Center for Disease Control.

Instead the police call in Sister Angela, a hot young thing with a sassy attitude in a nun’s habit, an expert on the occult, particularly vampires. She’s there to pretty much provide an explanation as to what the hell all the random vampire encounters up until this point have been about. Long story short, a master vampire known only as Q is in need of a new bride and he’s been increasing his numbers in anticipation of the big event. You’d never have figured any of this out on your own based on the vampire action seen up until this point. She’ll end up joining up with Lister to help save his nephew and new niece-in-law from Q and his minions. But first Sista Angela will whip out her crossbow pistol and strip off her nun’s habit revealing a low cut bustier and stretch pants ensemble – Vatican approved, no doubt.

Now about those vampires… excuse me, Vegas vampires. They enjoy hanging out in back alleys and empty lots where they dance the Batusi around a flaming triangle on the ground. They attack like fanged zombies of average strength and limited intelligence. Some can super leap through the air, possibly fly, and sometimes their presence is accompanied by unexplained ground fog. I also never knew how much vampires growl until I saw this movie. Some even make the same sound you’d expect to hear from some sort of wildcat and the main vampire’s growling reaches King Kong proportions. Vegas seemed to be crawling with vampires. The longer the movie went on, the more vampires they kept encountering and these vamps didn’t seem to care about trying to keep their existence a secret: bursting into flames in front of a crowd of people, attacking en masse out in the open, storming police station lock-ups, just randomly picking fights with the main characters in ways that would lead you to believe they realized these characters were the main characters and they needed to mess with them for that reason and that reason only…

Sister Angela assures us at one point that vampires are smarter than the ones portrayed in the movies. Had to have been sarcasm given how hard pressed I am to think of too many vampire movies where the vampires were as mindlessly idiotic as they are here. This movie actually has a scene of vampires walking around in the daylight, not realizing that they don’t really like sunlight until getting hit directly in the eyes by a ray of sunshine. Later on, some vampires will be shown out in the daylight with no problem whatsoever. Some vamps are bulletproof and others can be killed with mere gunfire. There’s just no thread of logic running through this film anywhere.

Vegas Vampires reviewQ, this master vampire supposedly the catalyst for everything going on, is barely seen in the movie and I don’t recall him ever actually speaking – just a whole lot of hissing, growling, facial expressions, and hand gestures. He’s practically a mime – a mime that looks like a fanged Gary Busey with Ron Perlman’s hair decked out like a goth rock version of Ziggy Stardust. This dude should be on some cable access channel somewhere hosting horror movies, not playing the main villain in one. But like Williamson and Roundtree, he’s so silly it’s hard not to be slightly amused by his antics.

That’s again what makes this movie so hard to review. There’s no deny that the movie is awful. It’s poorly constructed and there are entire sequences in it that any real movie would have left on the cutting room floor for adding absolutely nothing but a few extra minutes of boredom to film. Calling the film gibberish would be putting it mildly. And yet there are isolated moments all throughout that are entertaining, whether they be intentionally amusing or just laughably bad. One scene has some petty thugs attempting to mug the gargantuan Lister, who reacts with amusement that these guys think they can take him. He looks up to the sky and recites a prayer, “God, forgive me for what I’m about to do. Luke Chapter 10, Verse 19. I’m about to kick some ass!” We next see him stuffing the young punks into the trunk of his car as they beg for mercy. That was intentionally amusing. On the other side of the coin, during the climactic battle at Q’s suburban vampire den, the actress playing Sister Angela flubbed her cue and damn near steps right in front of Lister’s shotgun blasting. The sight of her recoiling and ducking her head down from the shotgun blast so near her head is tremendously funny. But why was this obvious blooper left in? That it was again speaks volumes about the production as a whole.

I got the sense that Vegas Vampires was made for shits and giggles and that’s about all it’s good for.

2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.65 (20 votes)
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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 4.14 (22 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 3.95 (20 votes)
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