Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries 1 (2008)
Reviewed by Heather Wixson
Starring Ellis Cahill, Devon Bailey, JoJo Hristova, Michael Strelow, Anthony Morelli
Written and Directed by Phil Messerer
Distributed by Sugar Factory Films
It would be true to say that I am a big fan of independent horror. I’ve grown tired of the endless supply of (mostly) crap-tastic theatrical movies that have come out over the last couple of years so seeking out horror in alternative ways has become almost second-nature. Recently I received a copy of Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries 1 from writer/director/producer Phil Messerer, and since I always love a good vampire story, I settled in to give it a watch.
Thicker Than Water is the darkly humorous story of the Baxter family, who specialize in dysfunctionality. Mr. Baxter (Morelli) announces one night at dinner that he and the missus are getting a divorce and he’s just leaving the family behind. Mrs. Baxter (Hristova) is your typical church-loving maternal figure who emphasizes positivity in her children to almost uncomfortable levels. Older brother Raymond (Strelow) is newly out of the closet and has some very odd medical experiment tendencies.
At the center of the everything are the Baxter twins, Helen (Bailey) and Lara (Cahill), who couldn’t be farther from opposites of each other. Lara is the Goth chick with a love of the occult and dark arts, and Helen is the perfect vegetarian daughter who is both popular and a cheerleader. These differences end up driving a wedge between the sisters to the point where Lara tries to cast a spell on Helen. Shortly after, Helen abruptly becomes sick and dies, only to come back to life with a vampiric bloodlust. It’s up to the rest of the Baxters to protect and feed Helen.
Thicker Than Water is a pretty decent offering in terms of indie genre fare. While it’s far from perfection, it demonstrates that Messerer clearly has an appreciation for dark humor and gore, and the flick shows moments of promise in terms of the director’s abilities. Cahill as Lara was somewhat of a surprise. Goth-type characters tend to be almost stereotypical these days, but her performance demonstrates that Cahill has the chops to add a bit of dimension to the character through her acting abilities.
Bailey as good-girl-turned-vampire Helen was a bit flat for me in the beginning, but her transformation into a bloodsucker was startling; her character’s need for blood conflicts with her “human” dislike of meat, echoing a junkie trying to kick the habit, and Bailey played her scenes with ferocity that one wouldn’t think she had just looking at her.
Hristova plays her role as the religiously torn mother with heartbreaking tenacity. Almost a caricature at the beginning, by the end the inner turmoil she faces as she has to kill to sustain her vampire daughter wears clearly on her face. Strelow has the meatier parts of the comedic aspects of the film and seriously delivers a great performance. His head reanimation scene is killer, trust me.
My only two issues with Thicker Than Water are that sometimes Messerer struggled a bit with finding his pacing as a few scenes just seemed "off" and the soundtrack felt a little intrusive to what was happening onscreen. I always think music in a movie should complement the story, not take you out of it. These are just minor flaws, though, and it will be interesting to see what Messerer can deliver with the next two films since Thicker Than Wateris the first part in his Vampire Diaries Trilogy.
For more information on the film, you can click here and also check out the trailer below:
3 1/2 out of 5
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