It’s been a long time since we watched one of Len Kabasinski’s films, partly because I’m broke and couldn’t afford any new DVDs, and partly because the last one (Curse of the Wolf) was pretty ropey. But luckily there was a sale, and here we are!
The film starts in 1977, and a gang of vampires are munching on some unfortunate lady in an alley, when wandering into the scene is a businessman on his way home from work. Why was he in a filthy alleyway? Shortcut? Anyway, he escapes only to lead the vampires to his house, and his entire family is wiped out.
Right away, you have a choice. Very little effort is made to dress any of the scenes to look like 1977 – there are modern cars on the street, most of the clothes don’t look time-appropriate, main vampire Nicholas (pro wrestler Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron) looks like he wandered out of a Limp Bizkit video…so you can dismiss it as yet another ultra-low-budget horror, turn it off and go about your day. Or you can let the small stuff slide, because this is clearly not a film designed to turn a quick buck for its creators, and have yourself a good time.
I chose the latter (obviously) and got to enjoy the present day tale of DEA Agent Lee tracking down the gang thanks to their drug-dealing activities, and getting involved in the underground fight club they have going on. Lee’s first time on screen is him wiping out a house full of dealers, and it’s really well-done – everything’s timed well, the choreography of the fights is great, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a much bigger-budget film (well, they’d have to replace the rubbish-looking gunshot effects, but you know what I mean).
It’s easy to mock the efforts of films like this, because they’re made for basically no money and people are hired to act who can fight, rather than to fight who can act. But there’s a real sense here that he’s developing a style. There’s plenty of unusual effects – from a sort-of bullet time thing, to the final fight being so hard-hitting that the film appears to break; during a gun battle in a video store Len’s other films are on prominent display, and the drug dealers at the beginning are watching “Swamp Zombies”.
But…there are a few fun things to spot in this movie. Agent Lee moves to Pennsylvania to pursue Nicholas and his gang, and we see an attractive female neighbour bring him some brownies as a welcome to the neighbourhood sort of thing. The only other time we see her is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her moment as Lee is getting out of bed and she’s asleep next to him – you sly dog, you! We get a glance at the camera from a chap counting up drug money, and if you like you can wonder at just how high-class this apparently high-class underground fight club is by the clothing choices of the people who attend. And Agent Lee’s DEA handler does everything other than have a scene inside the DEA building – he’s in dirty phone booths and on park benches and does the poor guy not actually have an office? Government cutbacks? I do like the effect though of him always being on the move.
This is the first film where I wish Kabasinski had a bigger budget not because of the effects, but because of the scope of the movie. The vampire gang seem to keep on killing people who they shouldn’t be killing, almost by accident, and the story of them falling to pieces as a group could have been really compelling (although one could wonder why they’d suddenly started doing this after being fairly quiet for 30 years). Perhaps it’s the presence of another undercover cop in their midst?
This is, I think, Kabasinski’s best film yet. The man is a workhorse – actor, writer, director, producer, fight co-ordinator, and location manager! He’s come along quite a lot as an actor, so I’d be interested in seeing him star in a movie in the future too.
You definitely have to look past the bargain-basement special effects and occasionally woeful acting, but once you do you’ll see a group of people who clearly are doing it out of love, and who are starting to develop a bit of style. It’s just a load of fun to watch and as far as underground fight-club-vampire-drug-dealer films go, it’s the best (a quote for a future DVD release, there).
Rating: thumbs up
EDIT: I was overly harsh to the initial set dressing in the flashback scene, and am happy to alter some of the wording after Len set me straight (see below).