Bloodlust: Subspecies 3 (1994)

sub3bluraycover

Full Moon Entertainment had a deal with Paramount, to produce low-budget but still decent entertainment for their home video section, along with the occasional cinema release. Paramount got more stock for their catalogue, Full Moon got financing and distribution. This was a sweet deal, but with changes in the market, Paramount cut ties finally in 1995. Full Moon were going to make two movies for them for proper cinema release, but Paramount cancelled that deal, and they could see the writing on the wall. So they took what were going to be higher budget shoots, for “Subspecies 2” and “Puppet Master 4”, and got those crews to make two cheaper direct-to-video movies each.

 

This caused a problem for the subject of this review, and it’s the same one “Puppet Master” 4 and 5 had, which is they didn’t bother writing enough plot for 2 movies. Michelle, the beautiful new vampire (Denice Duff) was re-captured in the terrible non-ending of part 2, then spends the entirety of part 3 in the thrall of Radu (Anders Hove), vacillating between wanting to learn all the powers of being a vampire, and wanting to die. Her sister Rebecca (Melanie Shatner) and Mel, the guy from the US Embassy (Kevin Spirtas) sort of flirt with each other; and replacing the comic relief Professor is a comic relief cop, Lieutenant Marin (Ion Haiduc, a decent actor considering it’s not his first language). Radu’s mother, an immortal witch I guess, doesn’t like Michelle so there’s going to be a showdown between mother and son.

subspecies3_preparingtosleep

Here’s how they could have done it. Michelle escapes the castle at the beginning of part 2 and calls her sister. She then gets recaptured by Radu and this training / indoctrination from part 3 starts. Rebecca arrives, then meets up with the guy from the Embassy and a local cop, and the three of them try to track down Radu. They find out about the professor but perhaps there’s a confrontation at his office, as our heroes get the information they need but the Prof still dies. All this while, Michelle sees a chink in the mother-son armour, so starts criticising her to Radu, which leads to their eventual confrontation. A tooled up and prepared Rebecca turns up at the castle, ready to fight for Michelle.

 

Okay, I’m not a scriptwriter, and I hate armchair-quarterbacks when it comes to movies, but the above is just an example of how to fit the decent bits of plot from the last two movies into one. I’m not saying “Subspecies 3” is full of padding, necessarily, it’s just full of not-terribly-interesting stuff, and as neither film is very long (80 minutes each) there could be one very good movie to be made out of these two okay ones.

subspecies still 3

I think I understood what the movie was going for, but I think they let themselves down a little. Take Radu and his Mummy – the sole foreshadowing for them having their final “argument” is a few crossed words earlier on, so given how devoted he was towards her, it felt like it came out of nowhere. And Michelle didn’t sell the conflict between wanting to become a proper vampire and wanting to die / escape; the idea was good (if beyond played out) but the execution was weak.

 

Of course, it’s a bit “Beauty And The Beast” as well, with Anders Hove occasionally nailing the performance. He seems to have forgotten how to act since part 1, though, and he really hams it up here. I never really got that he was as in love with her as his actions indicate, but he tries I suppose. A lot is made by this movie’s defenders of its tragic love story, but she’s certainly never in love with him and he vacillates between extreme love and “I’m just off to murder your family and friends now, see you in a bit”.

 

The special effects are a mix of brilliant and terrible, with little in between. Radu’s face and fingers are excellent, and the various death scenes are gory and look convincing. However, the shadow effect, used to decent effect in part 2, is awful here. I think they might have used proper lighting to create shadows in that one, but in this the money must have gone so it was all done via the medium of animation, and looks terrible.

hqdefault

Still, I have to give them credit. The Subspecies and the Bloodstone actually appeared useful, right at the end (well, the Subspecies themselves are in about 1 minute per movie, nice work if you can get it). I don’t know. I’ll leave the discussion of how they left Radu at the end of this movie in my discussion of part 4, should you wish to join me.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

Advertisements

Bloodstone: Subspecies 2 (1993)

maxresdefault

The sequel to “Subspecies” is intriguing, for several reasons. First up is the name. In the special features which Full Moon used to put at the end of all their VHS tapes (and subsequent reissues, I think they’ve stopped doing it for new stuff as a matter of course though), we found out from part 1 that the titular creatures were the little gargoyle-looking fellows that evil vampire Radu could create from his own blood – or possibly finger ends, it was never really clear. Anyway, one would expect a movie named after the blighters to have them in it, from time to time. Well, apart from the “previously on Subspecies” recap, which is done with in two minutes, we get nary a single sighting – they even made it to the movie’s poster, indicating head honcho Charles Band’s love of all things miniature was not to be thwarted by something as insignificant as them not being in it.

 

So for those of you keeping score at home, evil vampire Radu had been decapitated, staked and then just left in the middle of the floor, while good vamp Stefan and his love Michelle, who’d been bitten by both brothers, went for a sleep in a nearby coffin. The subspecies helped Radu’s head back near his body and removed the stake, and after a surprisingly good re-attaching effect, Radu’s back! Michelle sensed danger or couldn’t sleep or something, so went for a stroll (with the Bloodstone, which Stefan had liberated at the end of part 1) and while she was off, Radu staked Stefan who just immediately turned to ash. He wasn’t bothered about coming back for the sequel, and neither was original Michelle actress Laura Tate, replaced by Denice Duff.

podvidyi-2-kamen-krovi

A brief aside – Tate was an atypical, and therefore interesting, horror heroine. Short hair, tomboyish look, remained fully clothed throughout, smart and resourceful. Duff is much more stereotypical – long curly hair, gorgeous, flowing dresses, a couple of “tasteful” nude scenes, and doesn’t have the sense she was born with (okay, that’s down to the script, I guess). I think Duff fits the atmosphere much better, as it turns out, but it would have been nice to see Tate have a go at the sequel.

 

When she discovers her boyfriend has been turned into dust, Michelle hightails it to Bucharest with nothing but a few crumpled dollars, her passport and the Bloodstone. Because Radu can turn into a shadow now and cover large distances in no time at all, he follows along, as it turns out his Mum, the evil witch, is still alive, living in a Bucharest cellar, looking like a particular ugly and dried-up zombie.

 

She, for reasons the movie never bothers to clue us in on, wants the Bloodstone. I mentioned in my review of part 1 that you could remove it from the plot and everything would be exactly the same, and that criticism can also be levelled at part 2. Apart from Michelle drinking a few drops of blood from it, no-one uses it for any purpose and it doesn’t seem to confer any power or other abilities on anyone. It’s not even really a MacGuffin – those drive the plot, this is completely secondary to it. Oh, there’s some reference to it containing “the blood of the Saints”, but this is never elaborated on either.

The-remaining-family-of-Count-Vladislad

Michelle calls her sister Rebecca (Melanie “daughter of William” Shatner), who drops everything to fly out from the USA to Romania, and the rest of the movie is Rebecca, the hot guy from the US Embassy, and a weird old professor called Popescu, traipsing round the sights we remember from the first movie. That sounds a little dismissive, and it shouldn’t be – while I think Michelle loses her mind a little quickly, phoning her sister up and then doing everything in her power to not see her, it’s a decent, solidly plotted movie.

 

The Romanian locations are used to the fullest, with more stuff filmed in the centre of Bucharest this time. It was a fascinating looking city, and it again gives what was a fairly low-budget movie a boost. Strong camerawork too, with some lovely shots (particularly of Duff, who just has the perfect look for this movie). And the acting is good too! Even the people you’d expect to be weaker, like the Professor, are fine, and there’s a nice Full Moon strand of humour running through things too.

Subspecies 2 Bloodstone MOVIE.mkv_snapshot_00.03.10_[2012.11.04_07.06.54]

So, aside from an irrelevant title and a non-MacGuffin, we’re onto another winner. Oh, I suppose the ending is a bit dumb, but I’ll leave you to ponder that one for yourselves (I will say, though, “why didn’t they wait inside, together?”).

 

Rating: thumbs up

Subspecies (1991)

main-subspecies_LRG

As our review series have headed down some weird paths (the recent swathe of “erotic” “thrillers” has been tough on us) it’s always nice to get back to one of the ISCFC’s grand projects – this time, it’s Full Moon Entertainment. Charles Band’s merry group, while not always right at the top of the quality tree, are like Shakespeare writing for Tarantino compared to some of the movies we’ve watched recently, so I hope you like this review series of “Subspecies” (which will stretch to four movies and a sort-of spinoff that didn’t go anywhere).

 

Before we get going, because it’s 100% going to be the thing you’re most impressed by with this movie, let’s talk filming locations. There may have been a small handful of others, but this is billed as the first movie allowed to film in post-communism Romania, and the free access they had to some amazing locations makes it looks like the budget was ten times bigger than it really was. Old ruins, amazing castles, forests that look nothing like anywhere in the USA – it’s a bit of a visual treat. Apparently, all the sequels are also filmed in Romania, so there’s no dread with the idea of watching four more of these.

subspecies_4

Radu is an evil vampire, the result of a dalliance between the vampire king (Angus “Phantasm” Scrimm, here with a magnificent mane of hair) and a witch. He wants the Bloodstone, which is in the possession of his father, but the King quite sensibly realises Radu is a bad ‘un, so calls his other son to come home and take over the family business. Here’s where the Subspecies comes in – the King traps Radu in a cage, so he chops his own fingers off and the fingers turn into little creatures, freeing him, stealing the Bloodstone and allowing him to kill his father. One might think that the King would know his son had those sort of powers, but his complete lack of self-defence indicates not. It’s also sort of weird that this entire movie series is named after the monsters created by Radu’s blood, bit like calling The Wizard Of Oz “Flying Monkeys”.

 

The good brother Stefan doesn’t show up immediately, although it’s pretty obvious who it is, when he interacts with our main characters, three college students, Michelle, Lilian and Mara. Mara is Romanian and met the other two at college in the USA, and they’re off to Transylvania to do a bit of study into the local folklore. So they go to stay at the mysterious castle, there’s friendly locals and mysterious ones, a few vampires, all that good stuff that a movie like this needs. Radu takes a shine to Lilian (who, to be fair isn’t aware of his existence), and Stefan and Michelle are making googly eyes at each other from early on.

subspecies3big

I like the use of local customs to inform the plot. While it’s not the first movie to be set in Transylvania, the use of the real location, along with the reason for their annual festival (the murder of an invading Turkish army by vampires, back in medieval times) gives it a fresh flavour, I think. It’s basically a tightly made, fun movie, with decent special effects and totally serviceable acting.

 

Respect to director Ted Nicolaou as well. He shot local stuntmen in rubber suits as the Subspecies, and put them against giant sets to make them look small, but when he noticed that they were a bit rubbish at acting, replaced them with models and special effects. I admire a guy who’s prepared to cut his losses when he knows something isn’t working. We’ve already covered a number of his movies for Full Moon – “TerrorVision”, “Bad Channels” and “Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys”, and he’s among their strongest directing assets.

 

Time for the traditional “it’s not all good news” paragraph! The Bloodstone is sort of a MacGuffin when the movie doesn’t need one – in other words, you could completely remove it and the end result would be exactly the same. I think it’ll do something in one of the later movies, but that’s no excuse. Radu was a bit too Nosferatu-y, and while the end fight was decent, his little post-movie wink to the camera was just the sort of garbage which makes people not want to watch sequels.

subspecies_3

Anyway, this is a surprisingly good movie, and I’d definitely recommend it. Go to www.fullmoonstreaming.com and pay a low low monthly price for access to all their movies and behind-the-scenes videos, why don’t you (I am not getting paid for this recommendation, or any other one I give, although I’m totally happy to be bribed if you make movies and have cash).

 

Rating: thumbs up

Red Lips (1995)

n3j8sb51qaX21IhmU30BTCwZHmX

I think there’s some sort of graph you can draw that plots the descent of a certain sort of director – as the budgets drop on one axis, so the number of boobs increase on the other. Such luminaries as Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski have long since gone down this path, the late great Don Dohler did too, and there are dozens of others whose names are lost to time but whose smutty movies are not. Luckily, a glimpse into the future reveals this isn’t the fate of Donald Farmer, who’d go on to all sorts of weird and wonderful cinematic works. Although we were worried there, for a minute.

 

Although I’m a heterosexual man and like boobs just fine, I’ve never quite understood why low-budget horror directors are so insistent on having a few in there – no-one sees horror movies for titillation, surely? Even full frontal shots and hefty amounts of simulated sex? Especially now, when everyone with a phone has access to an almost infinite amount of smut at any time, there’s a significant number of low-budget directors who seem insistent on getting women to disrobe on camera, which speaks more to them than it does to their audience. Perhaps I’m over-estimating the tastes of low-budget cinema fans?

 

But enough of our armchair psychoanalysis, we’ve got a movie to cover! After a girl-girl sex scene which might be related to the rest of the movie or might not (thanks to the VHS quality, it’s pretty difficult to tell) we get right into things. Caroline (Ghetty Chasun, resplendent in an L7 shirt) is a young woman, living on the streets, and has been reduced to selling her blood in order to survive. The doctor (billed as “Doctor”) says that actually, if she wants $100 a day rather than just the $15 every 6 weeks from selling blood, she can get Caroline into a special test programme, where they inject her with a special new serum that may well render her immune to any disease.

red lips_doc

She naturally jumps at the chance, but there’s a side effect – she grows horrific sharp teeth and is compelled to drain peoples’ blood, murdering them in the process. You know, that old chestnut! So, one day, she’s just wandering the streets in a serum-induced daze and happens upon Lisa (Michelle Bauer), who’s just broken up with her girlfriend over the phone. That girlfriend, by the way, is famed B-movie actress Kitten Navidad, who lived with Russ Meyers for many years, the chap who according to legend paid for her breast enlargements. She was at the stage of her career where she was appearing in pretty much anything (including many hardcore movies, where she would just go topless and not do any of the actual “work”). It appears Navidad never learned to act, or perhaps it was a little hard to motivate herself when the scene involved Donald Farmer turning up at her apartment with a camcorder, filming her in the bath for ten minutes then leaving?

 

Much like every Donald Farmer movie, there’s so much rich detail that it’s tough to not just recap every scene.  Anyway, Caroline and Lisa meet, and Caroline is a mess by this point – she’s already killed quite a few people, and she’ll kill the doctor soon, too. Lisa looks after Caroline, and the two of them fall in love remarkably quickly (the entire movie seems to take place over the course of maybe a week, although it’s difficult to tell). They meet Gina at a club and all three of them hit it off. I think? Anyway, Gina invites them to stay with her, but Caroline wakes up in the middle of the night, drinks her blood and kills her in the process, and Lisa, insanely committed to the woman she met YESTERDAY, disposes of the body for her by cutting it up and putting it in the fridge! A brief cameo from Farmer favourite Danny Fendley as Gina’s pimp and you’ve got yourself a movie, kind of.

red lips_vamp

There’s so much more I wanted to talk about, and I’d happily tell you everything that went on, but we don’t have all day. As with all Farmer’s movies, I recommend you watch it because it’s a singular experience. Saying that, though, this one honestly feels like a regression in terms of budget and acting – Farmer’s previous two had real actors in them, and at times looked like actual movies. Certain scenes in this are as close to home movie footage as anything I’ve seen for the ISCFC – Navidad’s is the best example, but there are plenty of others. One would hope that after directing movies for close to ten years, he’d have figured some stuff out, but apparently not.

 

You may have noticed the little recap section up there bounced around a bit – if so, it was only because it was mirroring the movie. It would have made a ton of sense to have a bit about their developing relationship, perhaps a montage intercut with Caroline’s feeding, but all we get is…well, nothing. This mirrors the attitude of every woman in the movie, as they’re all up for a lesbian experience pretty much anywhere, at any time. Caroline just walks up to a few victims and starts kissing them, and every one of them is “cool, let’s go” and not “excuse me, I’m just washing my hands, I was in the middle of lunch”. Although Farmer seems to have finally figured out sex scenes, that both people should look like they’re enjoying themselves.

4813725_l5

There’s half an interesting plot here, too! The issue is, it feels like he couldn’t be bothered to develop it. If they’d merged the Doctor and Lisa characters, they could have had the doctor race to find a cure for her lover’s weird vampire curse; this would have provided at least a bit of dramatic tension. Instead we just get endless scenes of Caroline eating people with not even the pretence that we’re moving forward in any remotely logical way.

 

Factor in the out-of-nowhere conclusion with Fendley, and you’ve got a movie that feels like Farmer knocked it out in a bored weekend with whatever piece-of-crap camcorder he could get his hands on. And that’s a shame, I reckon. Ghetty Chasun as Caroline, while not the greatest actress of all time, is strikingly beautiful (I think, through the VHS haze) and towers over the other women, so she’s already 100 times more visually interesting than the average Farmer actress. She appears to have opted out of acting according to this chap who did some research before me, so good for her. Michelle Bauer as Lisa is fine too, but everyone else is just awful, including Danny Fendley, although mercifully he’s kept to a few minutes in this one. I keep expecting him to luck into hiring a good actor, the law of averages indicates he’s due a few, but no. Just legions of the wooden.

red lips_fangs

Every Farmer movie is weirdly compelling and absolutely worth watching, but even for him this is grimy and ugly and undeveloped. Don’t jump in with this one, only for the experienced. For a final bit of trivia, Leslie Q, a fascinating experimental musician active in the 90s, is featured in this movie, and you get the entirety of one of her songs. Hell, I liked the music in this much more than anything Farmer had done to this point, a wild noise assault which mirrored (possibly accidentally) the descent of the main character. But this review is nearly done, I can’t start it up again!

 

Rating: negative thumbs up

 

PS thanks to “Taliesin Meets The Vampires” for the screenshots, saved me the hassle. Go read their reviews, should you need more vampire-related stuff in your life.

Vampire Cop (1990)

Now that's how you do a tagline!

Now that’s how you do a tagline!

As a bad movie enthusiast, I occasionally worry about running out of the really weird, low-budget movies whose reviews have littered these pages and which have become so famous. I think “there’s only a finite amount, right? One day I’ll have seen the last really bonkers one”; but every time I feel that way, I pop on something like this and discover a masterpiece.

 

This may be a tricky movie to track down, especially on this side of the Atlantic, and not just because it’s fairly obscure. There are lots of self-published “dark romance” novels about vampires and cops, the Rick Springfield “Forever Knight” pilot has been renamed “Twilight Vampire Cop” by some enterprising soul, there’s a Japanese film called “Vampire Cop Ricky”, another movie called “Vampire Cop” from 1993 which was eventually renamed “Midnight Kiss”…but of this, no trace. Hell, if “Hollywood Cop” and “Demon Cop” can get distribution and bad-movie love, this deserves to be there with them!

Vampire Cop (1)

The first ten minutes of the movie, as well as having one of the most amazing opening songs of all time, appears to be the psychic visions of a sleeping Melissa Moore (who we loved in “Samurai Cop”, talking of amazingly bad movies whose titles end with that word). Some drug deals go down, a guy appears to buy two women from a bikini beauty contest (?), a scumbag tries to rape a woman, and we meet the mysterious backlit vampire. Over and over again, the guy is backlit, even after we know who it is and it makes no sense for him to be stood that way – well, it might make more sense to say they repeat the same bit of footage, a complaint we’ll return to later. Moore is Melanie Roberts, a TV news reporter, and after being approached by a woman who the vampire saves from rape, decides to do some investigation.

 

Our hero is amazingly billed on IMDB as “Vampire Cop Lucas”, just in case you confused him with one of the movie’s other Lucases, and is played by a guy called Ed Cannon, for whom this was his one and only acting credit. He’s bloody terrible, in case you were wondering, but I’m kinda interested in how he got the role, and his acting seems to mainly consist of baring his awful vampire teeth and slowly walking towards people who are shooting at him. Well, that and sex. The love scenes are enough to make me bored of sex, as they just go on and on, making sure the man is as fully covered, and the woman as naked, as possible. Poor Melissa Moore has to take a phone call related to her job with one of her boobs hanging out!

Vampire Cop (4)

I’ve still not really described the plot of the movie, have I? The local drug kingpin wants to keep the cops and reporters off his back, and does this by giving lots of money to charity (and killing a surprising number of people, including taking a chainsaw to a police Lieutenant who’d just gone on the air to say he was going to bring the guy to justice!) He realises Lucas is a vampire and wants the power for himself, while Lucas, on the other hand, despite having lived for over a century, has inexplicably become sloppy, biting his enemies and letting them turn into way more powerful enemies. He’s also not exactly a nice guy, being seen killing and eating at least one prostitute – which was perhaps justified as cleaning up the streets? God knows. Anyway, good ol’ Vampire Cop kills and eats his way to victory, with Moore pretty much just along for the ride (although she does finish off the last bad guy by exposing him to sunlight, and then is given perhaps the stupidest ending of any movie ever).

 

Somewhere in this movie is a sense of humour. The news producer talks about his favourite former segments, which include “Transsexual House Pets” and “Men Who Name Their Testicles”, and one of the Kingpin’s goons (no names on IMDB, so I can’t narrow it down) is clearly having a good time. But these moments which are funny on purpose are few, and far between. The stuff which is brain-hurtingly bad by accident is far more plentiful.

I've got no idea why this bloke was in the movie

I’ve got no idea why this bloke was in the movie

I’d lay good money on this movie having an interesting backstage story. First up, it’s only 82 minutes, with an extremely slow credit sequence taking up a good 7 of them. The Vampire Cop just disappears a few minutes before the end, never to be seen again, which makes me wonder if he was a little “difficult” – also, check out the number of times the same footage of him driving his car and standing there backlit is repeated over the course of the movie. And then there’s the slow motion! Almost every scene has some slow-mo in it, including those for which it actually works against the story, or is just meaningless (Moore running down some stairs at her beach-house, for example). So, if you take out the credits and the repeated footage, speed up the irrelevant slow motion, and halve the sex scenes (which would still leave you with a heck of a lot of sex) this movie would be about half an hour long. But it’s a fun, bizarre half an hour!

 

It’s a movie set in a variety of ugly spaces. One scene set in Moore’s bedroom pans across a little too far so you can see the other bed in what is very obviously a hotel room; in fact most of the movie seems like it was filmed on the fly in whatever cheap motel had an offer on that day. To this barrage on the senses, you can add the cheap, gaudy cars that everyone drives too – drug dealers and cops alike.

hqdefault

I feel bad for Moore, exploited in movies like this and “Samurai Cop”, and I feel bad for that one good actor (not enough to find out his name, obviously). But everyone else pretty much deserves whatever they get. Writer/director Donald Farmer appears to have spent his career making movies of this sort – “Cannibal Hookers”, “An Erotic Vampire In Paris” and “Chainsaw Cheerleaders”, among others. If only they’re all as wonderfully terrible as this!

 

Wholeheartedly recommended (if you can find it) for your next bad movie night.

 

Rating: thumbs up