Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Night of the Vampire Hunter

(This is a repost of a film review from the old Dog Pile site. If you read this review and think you would like to see this film, do two things: 1. Go to and poke around on the official web site for the film; 2. Contact American film distributors of horror films and badger them to pick this film up and release it in the United States. Go on and do it now.)

You know, I really don't care for Superman. He's like this all-powerful character with precious few weaknesses, so they have to keep bringing out more and more powerful enemies and more and more complicated schemes to hurt him. Oh, sure, he has his emotional weaknesses that have been played with in the last few years, but who wants Alan Alda as Superman?

Give me Batman any day. Not because he's dark and hip and got that Gothic thing going (although there is something to be said about Goth girls with their frightfully pale skin). I prefer Batman because he has nothing going for him except himself. Yeah, he's got gadgets, but he doesn't have x-ray vision or high-tech blades that shoot out of his hands when he wants to slice people up. He's human, just human, and a single bullet or miscalculation could end his life. That makes the man himself more interesting; the character IS the focal point, not his mutant/alien powers.

I know, I know, the question here is why am I talking about superheroes when I am supposed to be reviewing a movie? The movie in question here is "Night of the Vampire Hunter," also known as "Night Shade". It's a German film shot over three years as the production company gathered money to continue filming. And as you can tell from the Americanized title, the movie deals with vampires.

You know, I really don't like vampires. Here is where the superhero thing comes in. Vampires are the Superman-type of your basic roster of monster. They can shapeshift, turn into vapor, move with superhuman speed, there's only a precious few ways to kill them, blah blah blah. And they sleep ALL DAY! (Lucky bastards.) They have this supposed sexual attractiveness that wows the opposite sex. (How sexy can someone with rotted, clotted blood breath be?) They just have too much going for them; they are too much like Superman.

But there has been a recent trend to bring the image of the vampire down to earth, to make them more human. In essence, they are turning Superman into Batman. Kevin Lindenmuth has put a few spins on the vampire myth, turning vampires into supernaturally advanced humans in his "Addicted to Murder" series of films. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has paraded so many vampires past our eyes that by sheer volume they have become demystified and have taken on the image of people afflicted with some rampant disease.

"Night of the Vampire Hunter" continues this line of thought, only using traditional vampire myth where it helps to enhance the story. In fact, the story doesn't depend too much on the fact it is about vampires. With just a little tinkering, it could almost become a revenge flick of any genre. So you are really working with normal characters that happen to be vampires and WHO they are becomes more important than WHAT they are.

Jens Feldner(Stefan "Cheesy" Keseberg)writes under the name of Henry Gloom. He churns out a novel a week in an on-going series about vampires. His books have become a big hit. Yet he lives a simple life with his girlfriend Selin(Nicole Müller), who works nights at a photo-processing shop. The city is living in fear of a serial killer who has been racking up a hefty body count. Nothing too unusual. Except that Jens knows his subject matter so well because Selin IS a vampire. And Selin isn't too worried about the serial killer because she IS the killer. But that is just your set-up in this movie. The story itself doesn't really come into its own until Arnold (Alex Kaese) comes to Selin's aid after she is nearly killed during a fight with another vampire. Creepy Arnold wants nothing more than to be turned into a vampire, and he thinks Selin is his gateway to the dark side.

The acting is pretty solid from just about everyone. Only a couple of people ham it up, like Alex Kaese, but it tends to keep things from getting too serious and intense and maintains an air of fun escapism, which, I think, was the aim of the filmmakers. That is not to say that it is a family film. Ample blood splatters the scenery, nudity pops up occasionally, and there are a few truly tense scenes to remind the viewer that this is a horror film.

One minor complaint I have is the film quality. It is kind of muddy and dark. That may have been caused by the fact that the tape I watched may have been a copy of a copy. I tend to think the original film would look better, but then a lot of small budget films seem to look rough, and personally, I feel it adds to their charm as long as it doesn't get in the way of following the film's story and action.

The only other complaint I have is that the characters are interesting enough to support a couple more films, but to get a second film out of this, the filmmakers would have to pull the American bullshit of basically repeating the same story or popping the characters into a ridiculously contrived story.

No matter, though. "Night of the Vampire Hunter" is good bloody vampire fun. Crack open a couple of beers or a bottle of your favorite red wine and enjoy it. Now, where do I sign up for the Nicole Müller fan club?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Triple Threat review


Starring Lorin Becker, Curt Bonnem, Kay West and Stephany Sterans. Produced, Photographhed, Written and Directed by Mark Vasconcellos.

Just to prove that not all micro-budget movies have to be either horror movies or sex movies (preferably both, in the opinions of most of the producers I've worked for), Mark Vasconcellos has made this entertaining little tease of an action picture, sort of a La Femme Nikita meets Bond, played appropriately light and fast.

The plot tells of ex-assassin Dina LoBianca, a motorcycle riding super-spy played appealingly by Lorin Becker, who is brought back for "one last job" by her slick and slimy boss, played by writer/director/DP Mark Vasconcellos. She is partnered with an even more sexy side-kick/protégé (Stephany Stearns), who steals most of her scenes. Through the course of the mission she uncovers plots within plots and thwarts planned violence against innocents. She also gains a boyfriend along the way in a straight-laced-but-not-stuffy character played with good humor by Curt Bonnem.

We've seen this plot before, and this is really low budget stuff, so most of the action is of the one-on-one sort. No big stunts, explosions or car chases. So director/writer Vasconcellos was wise to keep the proceedings frothy, light and fun all the way. It never bogs down with pretenses subplots. It tries only to be popcorn fluff, and succeeds at it's goal admirably.

Also, it has a very slick look that appears more expensive than the picture's budget. And the performances are all of a professional caliber. Another thing not usually seen in a micro-budget movie.

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