Thompsons, The (Blu-ray / DVD)

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The Thompsons (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Cory Knauf, Elizabeth Henstridge, Daniel O’Meara, Joseph McKelheer, Ryan Hartwig

Directed by The Butcher Brothers

Distributed by XLrator Media

Six years ago (six!) the After Dark Horrorfest struck theatres. A rather brilliant idea, Horrorfest’s “8 Films to Die For” essentially acted as a wide release horror film festival, bringing several indie genre pics to movie theatres nationwide, allowing fans to catch some creepy fare on the big screen that’d normally be relegated to straight-to-DVD releases. It was a fantastic idea, hampered only by the inescapable fact that most of the films were just no damn good (Jim Mickle’s Mulberry Street and Nacho Cerdà’s fantastic The Abandoned excepted), which ultimately killed the fest after four years.

Within that glut of films in the fest’s inaugural year was The Hamiltons, an occasionally creepy (though mostly dull) thriller from the directing duo of Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores (dubbed “The Butcher Brothers”). While I was no fan of the film, its last minute twist was pretty great: The titular family whose murderous shenanigans we’ve witnessed over the course of ninety minutes isn’t merely a Sawyer clan or a pack of Bloody Benders. Nope, as it turns out, The Hamiltons are actually a brood of bloodthirsty vampires. Vampires that can walk in the sunlight and be felled by knife or bullet, but vampires all the same. It was an intriguing twist, and one this writer felt could be successfully elaborated upon in a potential follow-up.

Oh, but be careful what you wish for.

The Hamiltons (now “The Thompsons”) are on the run from the law after a gas station bloodbath that also resulted in one of their own getting critically injured. Though sought by seemingly the whole of the United States, along with Interpol, our “heroes” manage to make it to jolly ol’ England, where they hope to find a fellow vampire clan that may have the answer to saving their dying sibling. The family members send Francis (Knauf), the broodiest of their bunch, to seek out these British vamps and plea for their help. He succeeds in tracking them down, only to discover that the salvation his family seeks may ultimately lead to their destruction.

Though the film is a significant improvement over its predecessor, The Thompsons is still a bit of a mess with dodgy acting, dodgier writing, and a middle section that drags too much. To be fair, the film looks great with some rather beautiful photography throughout. In addition, Cory Knauf is a (mostly) solid lead, carrying the film well enough, while the film’s voice-over and chronologically disjointed first half keep things interesting, as does the story’s radical departure from the previous film’s narrative (think of Rob Zombie’s repurposing of the Firefly family from House to The Devil’s Rejects in terms of disparity).

And the movie certainly has its fangs in the right place, being more of an attempt at, say, Near Dark than Twilight, but that isn’t quite enough to save it. Many of the actors are passable when reigned in but are downright laughable when the script seems to call for histrionics. The dialogue doesn’t do the actors any favors, nor do some of the terribly executed CG effects throughout. Couldn’t use a real blood squib, guys? Couldn’t find a set of sharp fangs for the elderly vamp at the film’s climax? C’mon, now.

Overall, The Thompsons is a noble attempt at stretching a franchise’s wings and providing genre fans with a fun action/horror fusion that flicks like From Dusk Till Dawn have done so well. Unfortunately, it’s hamstrung by its writing, acting, and visual effects. Still, while The Butcher Brothers are 0 for 2 with the series, this writer is interested enough in the characters and basic concept that I’d welcome a third installment, provided more effort is put into it the next time around.

The image on XLrator’s disc is surprisingly good, remaining fairly sharp with mostly deep blacks and decent colors throughout (though the interior sequences look a bit flat at times). The audio track is perfectly decent, neither immersive enough to find noteworthy nor weak enough to bemoan. It gets the job done.

The bonus features section is perfectly adequate. We get the film’s trailer and a collection of a half dozen fairly chunky featurettes covering various aspects of the film’s inception and production. Included are: Relocating the Family, explaining the change in locale for the series and a look at the film’s various locations; Scribed in Blood, which discusses the scripting of the flick by The Butcher Brothers and star Cory Knauf; Human to Monsters, which sheds a light on the fight choreography and special effects work; Awakening the Project, a look at how the film was originated, funded, and produced; Families, which focuses on the film’s warring family members and the actors who essayed the roles; and The Ringlestone Inn, a brief glimpse at the gorgeous pub used in the film. Overall, it’s not a terrible package, though quite a bit of the material repeats from one piece to the next (which could be why we have this collection of featurettes, as opposed to one big making-of).

Ultimately, this writer cannot bring himself to recommend The Thompsons. While The Butcher Brothers have shown improvement with their filmmaking skills, their writing still needs a bit of work (as well as their abilities to pull consistent performances from their actors). Still, this movie will likely appeal to vampire junkies out there who will undoubtedly want their fix. If you count yourself amongst them, here’s hoping you enjoy. All others? Best to leave this family be.

Special Features

  • Six Featurettes:
    – Relocating the Family
    – Scribed in Blood
    – Humans to Monsters
    – Awakening the Project
    – Families
    – The Ringlestone Inn

  • Trailer


    2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 1/2 out of 5

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