Body

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“Bah, humbug.”

It’s the festive season, and Holly (Rogers), Cali (Turshen), and Mel (Molina) are bored. At the suggestion of Cali, they head over to her uncle’s fabulous mansion – conveniently, he’s out of town for the holidays – for a little par-tay. Except, it’s not actually her uncle’s house. Worse is to follow, ending with the caretaker (Fessenden) lying, apparently dead, at the foot of the stairs. The three young ladies are left having to decide whether to ‘fess up and face the consequences, or cover up and create an alternative version of events.

According to Wikipedia, the three characters “represent Sigmund Freud’s model of the id, ego, and superego.” I guess that’s something you don’t see every day. Certainly, they’re radically different characters, to the extent you wonder somewhat, quite why they’re hanging out with each other. Cali is prepared to go to absolutely any lengths, to avoid responsibility. Holly is at the other end of the spectrum, convinced they are only making things worse for themselves by committing further crimes. Mel is the undecided voter, and it’s her shifting support which largely drives the second half, as Cali and Holly solicit her support. Who knew teenagers were such sticklers for the democratic process?

bodyIt kinda works, mostly for the dynamics between the trio of leading ladies. At first, Cali’s approach seems sensible, arguably a legitimate way to make the best of a bad situation. However, a change in the scenario shifts things seismically, and even the toughest of her supporters would have to admit an unpleasant streak of psychopathy is opened in her make-up. Evil sometimes wears a pretty face, and Turshen reminded me more than a little of Denise Richards in Wild Things – manipulative and . Less successful, to the point of entire irrelevance, is the boyfriend who shows up and yells for a bit. I suspect, given the slight running time of 75 minutes, his presence may have been a late-added necessity in order to reach feature length.

However, if the ending is probably when the film is most fun, it’s also where the script seems to be weakest. The eventual conclusion would likely not withstand scrutiny, by anyone with even a passing knowledge of forensic investigative techniques. In the film’s defense, that might be the point. Though given one of the girls is supposedly looking to attend law school, her pre-legal knowledge inexplicably appears about the level obtained from a few episodes of C.S.I. On the other hand, Berk and Olsen have done a fairly good job of crafting a story that fits within their resource limitations,

Dir: Dan Berk and Robert Olsen
Star: Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen, Lauren Molina, Larry Fessenden

Maggie Marvel

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“Juggling family and career can be murder.”

maggiemarvelMaggie Marvel (Beretta) is a single mom, with all the issues that implies. She has to try and juggle work with raising young daughter, Samantha (Katherine Brennan), on her own. But complicating matters enormously, is that work in this case is operating as an assassin for criminal kingpin Dutch – who also happens to be Maggie’s estranged father, who sent her away after his wife (and thus, Maggie’s mother) tried to poison him. Maggie was raised instead by Dixie Brown (Barron), who also works for Dutch as a killer. For he believes women are better at the job, and though he employs men, such as Bobby Shea (Dan Brennan) and his brothers, they are kept for non-lethal work. However, this line gets blurred as Bobby has fallen for Dixie, and his request that Maggie work with him on a bank robbery – hoping to make Dixie jealous – kicks off a series of events that threaten to destroy Maggie, her family and the entire crime organization.

It’s a good concept, and is helped enormously by Beretta, who was even more awesome in Hell Fire, even if her Australian accent requires some particularly convoluted explanations. Indeed, the story-line here in general is sometimes insanely complex, which explains why this runs 108 minutes: in some ways, I suspect less plot might well have been more successful here. Could certainly have done with less of the aspects which, particularly in the early going, occasionally make this feel like it’s a fetish tape for glove enthusiasts… Instead, writer-director-costar Brennan (who cast two of his own daughters in this, as well as it being produced by his wife Jean, keeping it a family affair) could perhaps have expanded on the single mother aspects, Maggie using her skills to deal with bitchy PTA rivals, recalcitrant teachers, etc., in a way similar to Serial Mom.

However, there are still a number of positives, not just Beretta. Most of the performances are solid, and the technical aspects are better than I was expecting – it’s often indistinguishable from a “real” movie. The comedic aspects work particularly well, in particular those surrounding the bank job. It involves both a vault which can only be opened by tap-dancing the combination, and also the impersonation of a German princess by someone who is neither a princess, nor can speak German. This kind of dry wit is endearing, and plays into the strengths of Beretta and the rest of the cast. The action is plentiful, though appears mostly constructed in the editing room rather than out of the participants’ obvious skills. It’s something of a shame the movie doesn’t build to the expected face-off between Maggie and Dixie, instead diverting into one of the subplots, this one involving an actress hired to play the part of Maggie, because… Well. I’m sure there was an explanation somewhere. Like much of the film, probably best not to sweat such details, instead just appreciating a strong lead and the quirky independence here.

Dir: Dan Brennan
Star: Selene Beretta, Dan Brennan, Katherine Barron, Dianna Brennan

Underworld: Blood Wars

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“Game of Vampires”

At this point, five movies into the franchise, it probably becomes churlish to complain about the aspects that have sustained the series thus far. You’re watching an epic war, waged down the centuries, between vampires and werewolves. It is, literally, non-sense. This, however, is separate and independent from any entertainment value, and despite some issues, this is perhaps the best in the series since the original [some may argue for the third entry, but that appears to have strayed in from a different franchise entirely, containing only peanut-allergy level traces of Selene].

Wisely, it begins with a “previously on Underworld” synopsis: it has been four years since the last installment, and neither Chris nor I could remember much of it without checking Wikipedia. Brief précis: Eve, the daughter of Selene (Beckinsale), is the key to determining who wins the vampire-lycan war; Selene has abandoned Eve and wiped her own memories to avoid being used to track her down. Now, moving into the current edition: word of this doesn’t appear to have reached the powers that be. For both her own team, under Thomas (Charles Dance, occupying the “British thespian” role previously occupied by Bill Nighy), and the rising werewolf overlord, Marcus (Menzies), want to use her to their own ends. After a bit of slaughter and betrayal, Eve and Thomas’s son, David (James) are forced north, to seek refuge in the last vampire coven, with Marcus and his pack in hot pursuit.

By this stage, Selene is clearly a character that gives precisely zero fucks. She’s lost her family, her one true love and her daughter in earlier installments, and the bastards still won’t leave her alone. By the end of this one, she has made some gains, in the shape of slutty blonde highlights and powers resulting from one too many sessions playing Mortal Kombat. I find myself endorsing both of these. It’s apparent the writers here are also big Game of Thrones fans: the Northern vampires are a cross between the Night’s Watch and Daenerys Targaryen. The whole back-stabbing familial stuff is cut from that cloth as well, and Dance isn’t the only Thrones face to show up. No, not Peter Dinklage, though the idea of him as a were-corgi appeals greatly.

It comes in at a remarkably brisk 91 minutes, a pace from which certain other movies could learn [I’m looking at you – and my watch – Rogue One], and there’s not much slack. Nor, admittedly, is there much of a complete plot: the ending opens more doors than it closes, particularly with regard to Selene’s new abilities. There are some elements that appear more style than substance, such as the heroine drinking her own blood to remember things. Wouldn’t it be easier to… ah, just remember things? I can only imagine a vampire going, “Now, I know there was something I had to do today. What was it?” [gnaws on wrist] “Oh, yeah: take the garbage out. Anyone got a Band-Aid?” It’s on much safer ground sticking to the hack-and-stabbage, though we could have done with some better lighting there. Disclaimer: we watched the 2D version, theatrically. Your mileage may vary in more dimensions, or at home.

On the plus side, we get a couple of bonus strong female characters. Lara Pulver makes a good impression as the scheming vampire, and Clementine Nicholson does a fine imitation of a low-rent Emilia Clarke, playing the Nordic Coven’s leading warrior, Lena (maybe another GoT nod in that name?). On the downside, the CGI werewolves still look awful, particularly during their transformations, and there’s another (sigh) vampire-werewolf romance, which works out as well as they always do i.e. not very. You’d think people would have learned by now. Then again, this is a universe where Kate Beckinsale is basically the same as she was in 2003 when the first film came out, and is still capable of kicking ass while being easy on the eye.

Interestingly, this entry was directed by a woman. Foerster makes her feature debut, though she has helmed episodes of Outlander, a show set just a few miles from where I grew up in Scotland. Sorry, that’s not relevant to anything – what probably is, is that Menzies played that series’s main villain. Foerster also did second-unit work on Aeon Flux and was director of photography on White House Down, so has action experience. Hard to say if this makes any particular difference to the tone here, but I generally  support more women directors in our genre, as they can potentially offer an alternative perspective. Here, though, it’s simply another entry in the franchise. If it’s unlikely to lure in or convert any new fans, those who appreciated the previous four entries are probably not going to come away feeling short-changed.

Dir: Anna Foerster
Star: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver

Vendetta

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“Ripe for a remake starring Zoë Bell.”

vendettaMovie stunt-woman Laurie Collins (Chase) is out for the night with her sister, Bonnie, until the latter accepts the company of a young man. When things get more than a bit rape-y, and Bonnie ends up shooting her attacker dead. She is convicted of second-degree manslaughter, much to the chagrin of her sister. Worse is to follow after Bonnie is sent to prison, as there, she then falls foul of the jail’s top dog, Kay Butler (Martin). Bonnie soon turns up a corpse, with the incident written off as suicide, due to the heroine found in her veins. But Laurie doesn’t believe a word of it, and deliberately commits grand theft auto, among other crimes, in order to be sent to the same prison, where she can find those responsible, and make them pay for what they did to Bonnie.

Starting with a film-within-a-film scene which had me wondering if I was watching the wrong, post-apocalyptic movie, it’s a nice idea to have the heroine be a stunt-woman, and gives a credible explanation for her physical talents. This 1986 film is also ahead of the curve in making, in explicitly making the facility a “for-profit” prison, something which would eventually become an issue almost three decades later. That said, this does appear to be a rather cushy penal establishment, where inmates are well compensated for their work, and there is both a swimming-pool(!) and a video-arcade(!!). It doesn’t skimp on the exploitational aspects, with the shower scenes typical for the genre, and the rape of Bonnie is genuinely nasty.

In this, it shares something of the same look and feel as Reform School Girls, made that year, right down to the presence of an blonde, obvious Ilsa-lookalike in charge, though Collins’s Miss Dice is far more sympathetic  than Sybil Danning’s Warden Sutter. [Coincidentally or not, both films also feature the Screamin’ Sirens’ song, “Love Slave”, during a scene of sexual abuse.] The main weakness here is likely Chase, who seems rather unconvincing in terms of physical presence, though does acquit herself half-decently in the action scenes. Her Laurie just doesn’t quite feel like the kind of character who would go to such elaborate lengths to extract brutal vengeance – and it’s a damn good thing she wasn’t sent to another facility. You can contrast her character with that of Martin, who definitely feel like the kind of scum that would rise to the top inside.

There is a certain bleakness to the ending [spoilers follow]. After Laurie has completed her revenge, with the help of Miss Dice, the warden turns to her and says, “Did it bring Bonnie back?”, then adding, “You have the rest of your life to think about that.” It’s somewhat disconcerting for the viewer who has been brought along on Laurie’s quest, suddenly to have the moral carpet yanked out from under them like this, instead of any closure. If the hairstyles haven’t aged well, this philosophical ambiguity has.

Dir: Bruce Logan
Star: Karen Chase, Sandy Martin, Kin Shriner, Roberta Collins

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl

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“They’re super, thanks for asking…”

Initially a web series, the eight episodes are combined into a feature-length production here, and it’s done well enough you can’t see the join. It’s inspired by a Sid + Marty Krofft creation from the mid-seventies, which parodied the Batman and Robin dynamic. Four decades later, when it seems every other movie is a superhero of one form or another, the updated concept works deliciously well, helped by a winning lead performance from Hart as Dyna Girl. She and her partner Electra Woman (Helbig) are low-tier superheroines – without any particular powers, in fact – who operate out of Akron, Ohio until video of them disarming (literally) a convenience store robber goes viral.

That gets them the attention of CMM, the top talent agency for caped crusaders, which necessitates a move from Akron to Los Angeles. With the fame and fortune comes its share of problems, as the more photogenic Electra Woman is seen as the lead, with Dyna Girl increasingly reduced to “sidekick” status. Worse is to follow, as the first supervillain in a long time shows up in Los Angeles, and the ‘Empress of Evil’ rapidly takes out Major Vaunt, the city’s top hero. Can EW + DG patch up their creative differences and save the City of Angels? [Or, at least, the City of Vancouver, attempting to stand-in for the City of Angels…]

I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by this. I had no clue at all what to expect, having never even heard of the show before, and not even seen a trailer. But I greatly appreciated the dry wit, often bordering on sarcasm, not often seen to this extent in American films. Helbig and Hart are, apparently, YouTube stars, which may help explain the abundant references to social media and pop culture in the script. These may not date well, i.e. jokes about Uber discount coupons or filming with your phone vertical, and if you don’t know what a “Reddit AMA” is, much of the satire there may go over your head. For now, however, it hit the mark for me, and the entirely underwhelming nature of the heroines along with their (lack of) abilities and down-to-earth personalities made them far more relatable than the likes of Jessica Jones.

As you should probably expect, the action aspects are somewhat restrained. Yet these are more successful than you’d imagine and are meshed into the rest of the film nicely – the villains who are beaten up by our two leading ladies sell their punishment magnificently, which certainly helps! It’s also refreshing that there is basically not even the hint of any romantic elements here at all; EW & DG sleep in twin bunk-beds, above each other. This charming naiveté extends to other aspects, such as Dyna Girl’s adorably dorky hair-cut, which looks like the kind of thing you do to yourself in the mirror – if you had the attention span of Dory. The self-awareness here is almost off the charts, and this shows that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Dir: Chris Marrs Piliero
Star: Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, Matreya Fedor

Julia X

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“Battle of the sexes.”

juliaxA date appears to go badly wrong for Julia (Azlynn), when her companion (Sorbo) turns out to be a serial-killer who has been using Internet dating sites to find the young women he targets. However, it turns out the tables are eventually turned, for Julia and her sister Jessica (Willis) are every bit as monstrous, who have been luring in and killing men, as a result of the abuse they both suffered at the hands of their father. But Jessica is a bit fed up of taking a back seat to her big sis, and wanders across the street to kidnap a victim of her own (Moore). But Julia’s captive is not exactly prepared to give up his liberty without a fight.

Nice bit of casting against type for Sorbo, whom we’re used to seeing in more heroic roles. He’s quite effective in a Patrick Bateman-esque way (American Psycho, if you’d forgotten), and this is certainly an equal opportunity film, in terms of the copious violence inflicted both on and by women. The last third is not much more than the two leads battering each other forcefully through the entire house, with extreme and escalating aggression. It’s the kind of thing which I should love. So why does it all feel relatively unaffecting and forced?

It may be because the scenario unfolding requires almost industrial strength idiocy from the main characters. Sorbo’s killer, for example, is so sloppily incompetent, it’s a wonder he managed to pull off his first murder without accidentally killing himself. The sisters aren’t much better, and we’re not given much of a reason to root for Julia and Jessica either. I get the feeling the reveal of them being psychos as well is supposed to “matter”, but it has next to no impact at all. The backstory offered for the sisters is pretty trite and cliched too; maybe it would have been better off if they’d begun with that, and we’d been brought along with the siblings on their journey, to the point where murder apparently started to make sense.

What does work, fortunately, is the action, which is well-staged and crunchy. The film doesn’t linger on the pain with sadistic glee, as it could; this is wise, since if the makers did, some scenes would likely be hard to watch. Instead, there’s an almost Looney Tunes element to the mayhem, particularly in the way the protagonists are able to take a pounding, and bounce back with an even more enhanced vengeance, like a human version of an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. On the whole, I’d not have minded at all to see this deliberately outrageous aspect played up, highlighted particularly by a beautifully ironic use of The Carpenters’ soft-pop anthem, Close To You. For the film arguably doesn’t do enough with its script or characters to make the viewer interested in taking them seriously.

Dir: P.J. Pettiette
Star: Valerie Azlynn, Kevin Sorbo, Alicia Leigh Willis, Joel David Moore

Morgan

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Hannah goes Haywire.”

I watched this twice: once on an airplane flight from London, and once after I returned, and I think I preferred the second viewing. For the ending here, if not perhaps what you’d call a “twist”, does provide a piece of information about the lead character, that will change the way you watch her performance in subsequent viewings. It’s something I appreciate, and also goes a long way to explain what would otherwise potentially be flaws in the plot. Said character is Lee Weathers (Mara), a “risk-management consultant” for a tech company, who is sent to a remote outpost, literally buried in the heart of the countryside.

Its inhabitants have spent more than five years working on developing an artificial life-form; after multiple failed attempts, their current creation, Morgan (Taylor-Joy) had appeared to be doing better. Initially, crafted with talents such as accelerated growth, she (or, as Lee stresses, “it”) is now developing unexpected talents such as precognition. However, a violent streak is also making itself known, culminating in Morgan stabbing one of the researchers in the eye. This is where Weathers comes in, seeking to assess the viability of the project, as well as whether it should continue or not. And if not? Well, as the one-eyed researcher, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, bluntly tells her, “You’re a goddamn assassin.” But Morgan’s creators won’t take that lying down; nor will Morgan her/itself.

Mara captures just the right degree of cold, passionless disinterest, and is helped out by a very solid supporting cast. This includes Leigh as well as Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti and even action heroine icon, Michelle Yeoh, albeit in a non-action role, playing the head of the project. After the opening scene, depicting the eye-stabbing from the POV of the complex’s security cameras, we already know everything is going to kick off, it’s just a matter of when. Given this, the first half could be considered too slow; we really don’t need to be introduced to everyone, because what matters is the Weathers-Morgan dynamic, perhaps with a side of the latter’s closest “relative”, Dr. Menser (Leslie, not without her own action cred, having played Ygritte in Game of Thrones – like GoT, this movie was filmed in Northern Ireland).

The arrival of Dr. Shapiro (Giamatti), the man in charge of carrying out Morgan’s psych evaluation, signals the start of this inevitable escalation of hostilities, and the pace certainly kicks up from that point forward. It’s this aspect which separates it in tone from the similarly-themed Splice, a more horror-oriented story, also about an artificial life-form gone awry. I note the stunt personnel here included Zara Phythian, a British action actress, whose star appears to be on the rise. Despite the loaded cast – it helps having Ridley Scott as a producer! – this was relatively cheap to make, at $8 million, and was somewhat unjustly overlooked on its cinema release. Even if it probably does take two viewings to appreciate it.

Dir: Luke Scott
Star: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie

Angel of Reckoning

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“Near-dead reckoning”

angel-of-reckoningReturning from a stint in the military, Rachel Baldwin (Kabasinski) is looking forward to reuniting and reconnecting with her family. But any hope of happiness is rudely disrupted when her niece slits her wrists in the bathtub. After the funeral, Rachel finds her late relative’s phone and realizes the reason for the suicide was a sex tape she’d made with her boyfriend (Wieczorek), which he had traded to a drug dealer for cocaine, and then ended up on the Internet, to her fatal shame. A thoroughly unimpressed Rachel decides to take her army skills and apply them to the sleazy individuals responsible, working her way up the ladder to Beverly (Hamblin), the woman at the top of the scumball chain of command.

This kind of thing certainly can work well: Sweet Karma is probably the best example of the genre immediately to come to mind. However, this is just too cheap a production for it to be any more than occasionally successful. The poster (right) promises a level of quality that the actual movie rarely if ever matches, in a way that significantly distracts from proceedings. For example, check out the supposed “cinema,” occupied entirely (and inexplicably!) by goths. The performances, in particular, are all over the place in terms of quality, often a real issue with low-budget film-making. The decent ones, such as that of Detective Trufont (Frederick Williams),  the cop chasing down the source of the ever-increasing body count, make the bad ones – by which I mean the rest of the heroine’s family – all the more noticeable.

The other main area of deficiency is the plot. It lurches from incident to incident rather than flowing, and there’s no sense of escalation as Rachel moves through the criminal underworld. I did enjoy the supporting role of former adult actress Jasmin St. Claire as an arms dealer – the makers certainly have to be given credit for casting against type there! But the only memorable action sequence was the one which took place in a shoot at a porn studio, to which our heroine had obtained an invitation to perform. The use of a strobe and UV lighting there was undeniably effective, if arguably somewhat contrived and gimmicky, and also put over her ruthless streak well.

Unfortunately, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and the other sequences are forgettable. It’s perhaps somewhat unfair to judge what’s clearly a small budget film, by comparing it against movies with far greater resources. However, when you’re lined up on the shelf in Wal-mart or wherever, there’s no discount given for limited resources. Although the film’s heart is in the right place, it simply falls short of delivering on its aims and goals. That said, it looks like the director’s studio, Killer Wolf Films, has produced some other GWG flicks; this showed enough promise, I wouldn’t be averse to checking out their current production, Hellcat’s Revenge, when it appears.

Dir: Len Kabasinski
Star: Jessica Kabasinski, Donna Hamblin, Lisa Neeld, Hunter Wieczorek

Unsullied

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“Tumblr in action-movies”

unsulliedIf you’re looking for unsubtle social commentary, you’re in the right place, because this take on The Most Dangerous Game ticks off the trifecta of -isms:

  • Sexism: men abusing women
  • Classism: the 1% versus the 99%
  • Racism: the main protagonist is black, all the antagonists are white.

Heroine Reagan (Gray) is a track star on her way to a college meet, when her car breaks down in a remote area of Louisiana. Unfortunately for her, this leads her into the grasp of Noah Evans (Joiner, looking very much like Brad Pitt’s stunt double) and Mason Hicks (Gaudison), two stockbrokers with a fondness for kidnapping and hunting down young women. They have the deep pockets to ensure that just about everyone in the local area looks the other way, so Reagan is on her own. However, might her athletic ability make her survival changes rather better than the previous victims?

I was kinda hoping this might be some kind of Game of Thrones spin-off – if you don’t watch the show, the title is shared with one of the fiercest warrior armies there. Unfortunately, Reagan’s main skill is, as you might surmise from the synopsis, running away rather than combat, so there’s a lot of jogging here. And swimming, too, for some reason. You also get copious flashbacks of back-story, since Reagan’s sister mysteriously vanished some time previously. You don’t exactly need to be a psychic to figure out where that plot-thread is going to lead, in a remarkable piece of happenstance which will likely stretch disbelief for even the most credulous of viewers.

Director Rice is actually a former NFL defensive end, which I think is a first. I’ve seen a few go on to be actors, such as Fred Williamson and O.J. Simpson, but not direct. Save for a couple of flashy “Go Pro”-esque shots, he takes a workmanlike approach in his debut feature, which is likely wise. Gray is proficient enough too, putting over strength and resolve which is appealing. The problems here are largely in a script which concentrates on the duller aspects, to the exclusion of potentially more interesting ones, such as the apparent way the hunters have bought the connivance of the entire town. Yet even this doesn’t make sense, with them randomly killing someone who appears to be entirely on their side. Because they’re bad people, that’s why. Hey, they’re bored and rich, young white men. What else would you expect?

That may be the core here: an almost total lack of motivation for everyone in the cast, from the moment Reagan blithely decides to get in her abductors’ truck – minutes after cautiously spurning a single man who tries to help. Thereafter, the film relies too much on mutual idiocy. For every moment where Reagan, say, decides to start a fire for no particular reason, there’s one where a captor doesn’t bother to tie her up. The number of times I rolled my eyes was likely exceeeded only by the number of derisive snorts.

Dir: Simeon Rice
Star: Murray Gray, Rusty Joiner, James Gaudioso, Erin Boyes

Vampire Chicks With Chainsaws

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“Had me at ‘chainsaws’, to be honest.”

This probably seemed better than it is, simply because it had the benefit of being watched immediately after Iconoclast. Two hours of static would have been an improvement on that. All told, this doesn’t suck. While clearly extremely low-budget (it reportedly cost a thousand bucks), and I’m not sure the plot would stand daylight any better than a vampire, it does at least deliver on what the title and sleeve promise. Indeed, within the first five minutes, we have fanged women wielding mechanical wood-cutting equipment. Check, check and check, even if the specific woman on the poster is not actually in the movie.

It plays somewhat like a backwoods version of Underworld – there’s certainly a lot more running through forests. By this, I mean the vampires are engaged in a centuries-long war against their enemy, into which an innocent human man is drawn, only for the lead vampire ass-kicker to fall in love with him. The vampires here also seems to share the same couture choice, albeit (obviously) at a much lower level of budget. The main difference is the opposition is provided, not by werewolves, but extra-terrestrials called “outlanders”. They came to earth and mated with our species, the resulting offspring being vampires. However, again for reasons of cost, the aliens are indistinguishable from humans, except for coughing up green blood when shot, stabbed or cut up (out of shot) with chainsaws.

The hero is Quinn Ash, whose life has sucked since his wife left him, and he’s living in crappy trailer, thoroughly disgruntled. Even though he’s a redneck in a vest. he speaks in voice-over, like a private eye in a hard-boiled film noir. Things change, albeit not necessarily for the better, when he literally runs into a young woman on a country road. Remarkably unhurt, she injects him with a syringe and runs off, before being captured by a group of men. Quinn is then captured too, by Karel (Lisonbee) and her vampire posse. They eventually – and by this, I mean after about 40 minutes where neither hero nor audience have any clue what’s going on – explain the scenario. Turns out Quinn had been injected with an experimental drug, developed by the outlanders to kill the otherwise immortal female vampires. So, the makers have seen Ultraviolet as well.

With a bit more money, this could have been worthwhile, even if the scenario (as noted) largely consists of aspects cobbled together from elsewhere. Instead, there’s too much running around in woods, and even the chainsaws are almost entirely sound effect. The script also needs to establish what the hell is going on a lot quicker: by the time there’s any meaningful exposition, you’re halfway through and have largely given up hope. All this said, it was never specifically dull, and I’d not mind seeing what Diego could do with a bit more resources. But this was simply a significant improvement on Iconoclast, and I’m very grateful for that alone.

Dir: Carlos Don Diego
Star: Adam Abram, Jenna Lisonbee, Jamie Rosquist, RaeAnn Christensen