Subspecies: The Epic Collection (DVD)
Starring Angus Scrimm, Anders Hove, Denise Duff, Kevin Spirtas, Melanie Shatner, Jonathon Morris, Ioana Abur, David Gunn, and Kirsten Cerre
Directed by Ted Nicolaou
Released by Full Moon Entertainment
Let's face facts, shall we? Full Moon Entertainment is famous for putting out direct-to-video B-movies that, in the opinion of some, give new meaning to the word cheesy. For whatever reason, however, certain movies of theirs grab some kind of audience that follow those films with rabid devotion. Such is the case with the Subspecies series, prompting the release of Subspecies: The Epic Collection. Now fans of the blood-drooling, raspy-voiced Radu can rejoice in all five discs of cheesy goodness.
For those who do not know, the Subspecies series centers around the exploits of Radu, a psychotic vampire in Romania who claims a young American as his fledgling. Wielding the questionably awesome power of the Bloodstone, a relic that drips the blood of the saints, he pursues the young woman no matter how many times he gets killed in the process.
Contained in this collection are the movies Subspecies, Subspecies II: Bloodstone, Subspecies III: Bloodlust, Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm, and the spin-off The Vampire Journals. While the total running time of nearly ten hours may seem like too much for any person to endure, there is a strange level of enjoyment to sitting down with a group of equally twisted friends for a marathon of all five movies. In summing up, there'll be no mentioning of the characters by name as, frankly, they don't deserve mention. One-dimensional characters that are only there to provide beer-induced giggles are disposable.
In Subspecies, viewers first meet Radu when he kills his father (played by Angus Scrimm in a hilariously bad wig) to assume the role of king of the vampires. Coincidentally, it is during this time that the people of the village are holding their festival marking the last vampire attack on humans in the region. This festival is the reason that three pretty and flaky college students have come to Romania, to document the folklore surrounding the town. One of the students, Michelle, catches the eye of not only Radu but also his handsome emo-half-brother, Stefan. Mass chaos ensues as one-by-one Radu kills them all and then infects Michelle with the vampire thirst.
Subspecies II: Bloodstone opens up almost where the other left off, with Radu returning from certain demise to kill his half-brother and claim the newly redesigned bloodstone. Incidentally, the inconsistencies in the props are the least of the problems here. The next thing we see is Michelle, but it's not the same actress. Big deal, you say? But her sister shows up from the States, looking oddly like the Michelle from the first movie. Of course it isn't the same actress, but this little continuity slip caused a debate between me and several friends for quite some time before the invention of the Internet Movie Database. Again Radu seeks out Michelle, which leads yet again to his apparent demise. If anyone needs to get a clue and just move on, it's the drooling vampire. Added to this installment is the introduction of the hunky American-Embassy-Guy, the Romanian cop with a huge mustache and a skull almost as thick as his accent, and "Mummy," who is Radu's mommy....whom he calls "mummy..." It's a groaner joke in the middle of a laughable sequel. With the right amount of alcohol, it adds to the fun. Trust me.
Subspecies III: Bloodlust picks up where the last left off with the tragic American victim locked away with her master, Radu (who has somehow managed to escape death yet again but still can't stifle his obsession with Michelle. Get over it already! ) The newest character in this one is the hopelessly cliché "CIA-Guy," whose brief appearance is cut very short by Radu in all his drooling glory. It's also in this installment that director Ted Nicolaou gets lazy, replacing fancy camera work and shadows with a cartoon clawed hand of Radu to show him traveling. Again, I'm not kidding. Of course, Radu meets his certain demise, and viewers are lulled into a false sense of security thinking that the series is finally over.
But wait! There are two more disks to be viewed! Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm opens up with a strange twist in that all of the other characters, in the process of driving away from Radu, were killed in a car crash. All, that is, except for Michelle, who was stuffed in the trunk of the car in a body bag that apparently was thrown clear and saved her from being squished. I swear, I'm not making this up. (Later, in the VideoZone feature, director Nicolaou reveals that he killed them off because all the original actors [except for Michelle, who wasn't the original Michelle, but . . . ] were busy with other projects or were out of the acting business.) She's rescued and taken to a clinic run by a vampire who is masquerading as a doctor trying to find a cure for vampirism. It is during this time that Radu, the mangled and destroyed mess that was left impaled on a conveniently placed tree and burning in the sunlight, comes back. Yes, he still wants Michelle. We are also introduced to Ash, the Music Lover, and his bevy of topless victims. Of course, finally, Radu gets almost what he deserves. While what he really deserves is a stern flogging for stealing four hours of people's lives away, he just dies. Which leads us to . . .
The Vampire Journals. Why anyone thought it would be a good idea to take the transvestite-mime-vampire Ash and give him a central role in his own movie is beyond me. To watch him chew scenery and emote his way through painful dialogue is very much like watching a train wreck. Your rational mind tells you not to watch, but there's this little part of you that can't seem to look away. At least he has on a better wig.
The movies all show more heart than style in execution, more the fault of low budget and rotten scripts than of the production team or the actors. It is a testament to the dedication of those involved that the movies were as good as they were and that they even got made in the first place. Director and writer Ted Nicolaou manages to squeeze every last bit of value from his cast and artists, though he falls short in several instances. The good points of these films are that vampires are monsters, first and foremost, visceral and bloody, and Anders Hove (Radu) plays his part with sadistic glee. However, irritatingly bad dialogue, weirdo characters (such as Radu's mother, a mummy he calls "Mummy"), and a few vampires that look like transvestite mimes in bad wigs (See "Ash" from Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm) are just enough to taint this collection, or provide guffawing entertainment, depending on the blood-alcohol level of the viewer.
As for special features, don't get your hopes up. If you rented these years ago (and let's face it, if you've seen these you had to have rented them), all you get are the original "VideoZone" behind-the-scenes tidbits that you've already seen. However, it is amusing to watch the evolution of the actors -- and director Nicolaou's hairstyle. These dated documentaries show the filmmaking process with gusto, as if you'd just finished watching something certain of Oscar glory. Given the cheese factor in this set of movies, Full Moon should have just run with it and given viewers the special features they deserved, like a Sing Along with Radu and an interactive version of Hide the Bloodstone.
All things considered, the Subspecies series is great fun for anyone not looking for great meaning or hidden messages in their movies. They are low budget filmmaking at its finest and belong squarely in the realm of either guilty pleasure or movies you watch while wasted. Though the set leaves a great deal to be desired, the movies alone are worth the price.
Original VideoZone featurettes
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