Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring A.J. Bowen, Michael Parks, Lorri Hamm, Gary Chason
Directed by Jim Spanos
When AJ Bowen first told me about this project, during our interview for The Signal, I was intrigued. Ever since that conversation I have bugged him every chance I could get to finally see Maidenhead, and I’m very happy to report that all that pestering paid off; not only have I seen it but I liked it, too!
In Maidenhead Bowen plays Martin, a young man whose seemingly bed-ridden father (Parks) is the primary focus in his life. Every Sunday Martin has to go out, find the purest girl he possibly can, convince her to have coffee with him, then drug them and bring them home to his father to drink from.
You see, his father is a vampire. Not the traditional cape-and-fangs vampire, but rather a crazy old man who needs the fresh blood of virgins to keep himself alive. Well, it doesn’t have to be virgins, and it doesn’t have to be fresh, but Martin will never hear the end of his father’s complaining if its otherwise.
Obviously this is a pretty lonely existence for Martin and inevitably he finds a girl who actually develops feelings for him, and he in return. This complicates matters quite a bit, as you can imagine, and forces Martin to question every facet of his life, especially his bizarre relationship with his father.
While it sounds like it has potential to be very cheesy or, worse yet, very pretentious, Maidenhead manages to avoid both of those trappings thanks in large part to the strong performances. Bowen does a great job as the sadly tragic son trapped by the love of his father into doing something he obviously feels terrible about. Parks, on the other side of the coin, is completely insane; chewing up the scenery every moment he’s onscreen with his mad ramblings and wild cackling. The fact that he only leaves his bed a total of two times throughout the entire movie only aids his portrayal of a man driven mad being imprisoned in his home after being granted eternal life.
In a bold move that could’ve also lent to the film being pretentious, director Spanos chose to shoot the film in black and white. While it does give Maidenhead more of an “art film” feel, it also lends to the overall feeling of everything in this world just being slightly off. Though it most obviously takes place in modern times, Spanos still manages to give Maidenhead the texture of a much older film, both aesthetically and through the overall atmosphere.
The music also helps immensely with this feeling of everything being wrong. Expertly handled by Peter Adams, it almost becomes a character unto itself as, for the most part, dialogue is kept to a minimum. The version I got a chance to see did not have all the sound corrections done to it that are needed, so I can only imagine how much more effective it will be when the music really has a chance to stand out.
Despite some minor pacing issues and questionable scene choices, there’s really not much not to like about the simplicity of Maidenhead. Similarities to George Romero’s Martin are easily spotted, but the two films really couldn’t be more different (Bowen’s character name is an obvious nod, however).
The fate of Maidenhead is unknown right now; I’ve heard they’re getting it out to festivals as we speak so hopefully we’ll be hearing some good news on that front as the season approaches. Just keep an eye here and on the film’s official site for updates! All in all, Maidenhead is a welcome change from the standard, and even not-so-standard, vampire fare and a demonstration of a talented new filmmaker.
3 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Maidenhead in the Dread Central forums!