Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Sam McConkey, Paulino Hammer, Mike Lawler, Mark Alderson, Adrienne Embry, Charlotte Bell, Rich Williams, Shari Wiedmann
Directed by Dustin Rikert
I’d never heard of Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires until I found it listed on a Thai DVD website I peruse every so often. Werewolves vs. vampires is worth $7+s&h in my book. Imagine my disappointment that the film never actually delivers on its promise. A less misleading title would have been Death Hunter: Some Guy Bitten By A Werewolf Partially Cured By An Antidote That Leaves Him With All The Abilities Of A Lycan Without Actually Transforming Into One Begins Running Around Looking Like A Chemo Patient Blade But Barely Uses His Lycan Powers Vs. Werewolves & Vampires. A cumbersome title, for sure, and probably would have taken up the entire front of the DVD case; just abbreviate it down to DH:SGBBAWPCBAATLHWATAOALWATIOBRALLACPBBBUHLPVW&V for short.
Director Dustin Rickert previously helmed the absolutely terrible Alien Invasion Arizona (review here). Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires, which still doesn't even have an IMDB page, is only marginally better if only by virtue of actually displaying some visual ambition given the nominal budget and for having fewer dead spots, not to say the pacing isn't constantly starting and stopping.
One major bit of advice I would like to give Rickert is to not film night scenes if the lighting crew hasn't bothered to show up for work that evening. The movie opens with an African-American couple camping at night in the desert being stalked by a wolfman with black facial fur and a stationary animatic of a fully transformed werewolf. Everything was so dark I could barely discern any of the action going on. Then another couple is shown talking while driving down the dark desert road, and my eyes still had to strain to get a decent look at their faces. Rickert will later on switch to using a blue filter on scenes obviously shot during the day and just try to pretend this is all happening at night. Thankfully, by the last half hour, it appeared as if the electricians finally found their way to the set.
A guy named John Croix and his wife are running low on gas as they drive through a section of the Arizona desert where vampires dwell, werewolves run wild, and mountains of human skeletal remains somehow go unseen by man. The couple makes references to better movies like Motel Hell and Wolf Creek, although they really should be referencing From Dusk Till Dawn since they end up in an isolated bar populated by vampires. The head vampire, his name escapes me, adds Mrs. Croix to his collection of brides while John narrowly escapes into the desert, where he wanders for days dying of thirst as spaghetti western music plays before getting bitten by a random wolfman. Rescued by a crossbow-wielding figure in a black cloak, Croix is injected with a werewolf anti-venom that knocks him out for a month and awakens to learn he is now a mortal with lycan abilities. The werewolf-vampire hunter named Van Ness, who looked to me like a retired birthday party magician, trains John to use his powers to save his wife from the head vampire and deal with any pesky werewolves that might come around.
This flick reminded me a bit of Wolvesbayne, another movie that promised werewolves vs. vampires and never quite delivered. The hero of that film actually transformed into a werewolf, unlike Death Hunter, whose newly half-lycan hero merely demonstrates his ability to run at super speed via laughably sped up footage, and then has him barely use this or any other of his lycan superpowers in combat. He might as well have just gotten back in his car and run down any werewolves that cross his path seeing as how these werewolves have a pesky habit of running out in front of the only cars speeding down these deserted roads.
The writing displays such a child-like simplicity that you’d swear this was a movie written for children that was then made into a movie not appropriate for children. Did you know that silver can kill werewolves? I know - shocking. Were you aware that holy water and a stake through the heart can be fatal to vampires? This is remedial level werewolf and vampire lore presented in a revelatory manner by Van Ness. I kept waiting for Croix to reply with a hearty "Duh!" Turns out the ultimate weapon against vampires: Read your Bible, son. Having faith factors more into killing the main vampire than being half-lycan, so much that making his character half-lycan is nearly irrelevant.
An R-rated kids’ movie or just screenwriting as hackneyed as it gets? Sample some of the eye-rolling dialogue.
"I'm going to give you the choice I never had."
"Just like a rookie to bring a knife to a gunfight."
"Can you walk?"
"Does a vampire have fangs"
"How 'bout some fire, scarecrow!"
Right when Croix armors up in preparation of going vampire hunting to save his wife, the moment when the film should be getting you pumped for the big showdown, the filmmakers choose to throw us a curveball by spending ten minutes introducing a completely new set of extraneous teen characters that become comic relief sidekicks to Croix, yet then doesn't even include them in any of the actual vampire hunting to follow. They’re just there to engage in unfunny banter with Croix on his way to the vampire’s lair. Two thirds over, and suddenly Death Hunter turns into a dumb buddy road comedy when it should be setting the stage for the final life or death battle.
But at least I learned how you play strip poker in a car. Everyone draws a card and the person with the lowest card has to remove an article of clothing. Shoes do not count. Draw the joker and you have to take it all off. First of all, this is more like strip war than strip poker. More importantly, passengers playing this game are one thing, but the person driving the automobile? Lucky for the distracted driver he only hits a werewolf. Next time it could be an actual human. Remember, friends don't let friends strip and drive.
1 1/2 out of 5
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