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...
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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