Red Lips 2: Bloodlust (1996)

red lips bloodlust

A woman meets a seemingly indifferent woman in a bar, and tells her about a dream she had. The dream is about a female vampire picking up a woman and starting a relationship with her, eventually turning her into a vampire too. The woman in the bar, it turns out, is also a vampire, and after a long conversation, turns her new friend. They go for a walk and the first woman gets bored and just ditches her on the street, walking off laughing.

 

That’s it. That’s everything that happens in this movie. I would love to tell you I’m joking, or being a little facetious, but no. Donald Farmer has done it again! This is the most unfinished-seeming movie I think we’ve ever covered, and I have a theory, but more on that later. It’s yet another movie that manages to be bizarre in a whole new way, so our admiration for the great man grows still further. It’s also a welcome return to the ISCFC for Debbie Rochon, who doesn’t get the chance to show much of her acting chops, but is definitely the best of the cast. It’s got lots of different sorts of filler too!

 

The initial scene, in the bar, is insane. According to the end credits, most of the characters in this movie don’t have names (and IMDB definitely gets at least one wrong) so I’m going to have to go by their actual names. Anyway, Debbie Rochon is sat at a bar, and Maria Ortiz (credited co-writer) just sits next to her and starts talking. Perhaps ranting would be a more appropriate word, as she reveals to Rochon, whose body language could not be any more uninterested, her most intimate fantasies about vampiredom. Ortiz, who I’m guessing wrote her own dialogue, trips over her lines and repeats herself and generally acts like a lunatic, but Rochon, who remains turned away from her the entire time, humours her.

red lips bloodlust_in the bar

The majority of the movie is Ortiz’s dream, starring two completely different actresses. I admit I’m assuming that the footage we see is her dream, because the movie doesn’t tell us. A couple are casing a bar before robbing it…well, I say bar. They’re obviously in an empty room with a dark curtain draped behind them, but I’m not sure whether to think this is some deliberate audience alienation stuff from Farmer, or he had ten minutes to get a scene done, no money and no props. The plan is, the woman (Jenny Wallace) is to seduce the owner of the bar while the guy (really not sure who he is) robs the office. So far, so good, but while Wallace is in the “bathroom” (which looks like someone put an unplumbed toilet in the middle of an empty room), snorting some cocaine to give her courage, she’s approached by Caroline, the only person referred to by name in this entire thing.

 

Now, I know I’m as guilty of hyperbole as the next low-budget movie reviewer, but Kashmere, the lady playing Caroline, could well be the worst actress I’ve ever seen – In a field with many, many strong competitors, she stands head and shoulders above them all. I presume she was an exotic dancer (this is her sole movie credit, thank heavens) who was the only person to turn up for the audition, because I’ve seen corpses who’d be more convincing as a sexy vampire than she is. She bites Wallace, which makes her her slave, sort of, and after Wallace and the boyfriend indulge in a remarkably extended sex scene (I began fast-forwarding, it went on for a good three or four minutes), Wallace sees her at the window, bashes her boyfriend over the head with a bottle and the two of them go off together, with Kashmere eventually turning her into a full vampire (whatever that means).

 

If you thought the Wallace / sleazy boyfriend sex scene was unerotic and too long, wait til you see her and Kashmere go at it! Although it’s difficult to read any emotion on Kashmere’s face, she appears thoroughly bored, and the two ladies sort of lay next to each other, naked, occasionally stroking each other on the arm or the leg. Again, it’s so bad that I’m beginning to wonder if this is all some Dadaist experiment. The second sex scene, positions the same as the first, at least has something moderately interesting visually, as scenes from classic horror movies are projected onto their bodies. But this pales into insignificance next to filler so blatant they might as well have replaced it with a blank screen.

red lips bloodlust_effect

After a heavily processed scene in a graveyard, where Kashmere may or not kill Wallace’s boyfriend, our two lesbian vampires go to a cinema – well, five chairs in a room somewhere, that looks a bit like a cinema. Bearing in mind this scene is a dream, apparently, being related by Ortiz to Rochon in the bar…we’re then treated to approximately 10-15 minutes of the movie they’re watching! It’s a spy thriller set in Moscow (and apparently filmed there, if the credits are to be believed) about some woman who can kill people with a touch, and the KGB guys who want to stop her. The sheer balls to put something like this in your movie is almost to be commended, almost. So, the couple kill a guy in the cinema, go home and live the rest of their lives happily.

 

The ending is Ortiz then doing the same thing to Rochon, the two of them walking through New York for a few minutes – which is the most interesting thing in the movie because they’re really filming, guerrilla style (best guess, they hid their camera) on the busy streets. Then Rochon fails to attack some street bum, and is left by Ortiz, with the final scene being Ortiz walking off laughing. Wrap your minds round that!

 

If I had to guess, I’d say this is the result of Farmer trying and failing to get three different movies off the ground. There’s the stuff with Rochon and Ortiz; the stuff with Kashmere and Wallace; and the Russian stuff. Neither of the two vampire related stories have anything close to a resolution – one is “they killed a bunch of people and lived happily ever after”, and the other is “huh?” Kashmere is so mind-blowingly awful an actress that perhaps Farmer did everything he could to limit her time on screen. And the spy movie? It’s a rich stew of truly baffling moments. Also, if you have Debbie Rochon in your movie, who’s a great actress in the right project, and she’s barely in it compared to the amateur hour people surrounding her, then there’s some serious questions you need to ask yourself.

red lips bloodlust_projection

I’m sorry for asking more questions than I answer (information is very thin on the ground about this movie). I wonder how Maria Ortiz got a writing credit on this? It’s her only one, and she only ever acted in Farmer movies, before dying in 2000, at age 27. I get the feeling she could have been a decent actress, too, but the dialogue she gave herself, about vampires and eroticism and dreams, while possibly very important to her, sounds like lunacy coming from the mouth of a person in a movie. I wrote in my notes “this is the dumbest conversation ever” and underlined it several times over the course of “Red Lips 2”.

 

So, yet more ultra low budget lunacy. Drink it in, dear reader.

 

Rating: negative thumbs up

 

PS – and yet again, pictures borrowed from the fantastic blog Taliesin Meets The Vampires. Go read their stuff, it’s great.

red lips bloodlust_bitey bitey

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Dracula’s Curse (2006)

Bram_Stokers_Draculas_Curse_The_Asylum

DAMN YOU THE ASYLUM – after promising to never review any of their movies again (over-reliance on unpaid interns, terrible health & safety, and that all their movies suck) they managed to stealth another one past me. Having rather enjoyed “Wolvesbayne”, which I discovered after watching was this movie’s sequel, I thought there was at least half a chance I’d like this one, too.

 

Oh, how wrong I was! First up is a change of director – although Leigh Scott wrote both movies, Griff Furst stepped in to direct “Wolvesbayne”, while this was also directed by Scott. Looking at his list of credits is realising that some people have too much money, and some TV channels have too much time to fill, because there’s no other excuse for that much garbage. ISCFC readers will remember him from “Transmorphers”, and his family might, possibly, remember all the other popular-franchise-ripping-off crap that doubles as his resume.

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I’m sad we’re doing this in 2015, because back around 2008 or so, it seems Mr Scott was pretty active on the message board section of IMDB, and would insult people who didn’t like his stuff. Dammit! Normally, I’ll say “any criticism of this guy’s movies can be tempered by the fact he went out there and did it, while I sat at this dull office job and insulted him” (directors do occasionally happen upon the ISCFC) but honestly, I’d rather do my job than be known as the guy who directed “Dracula’s Curse” and “Transmorphers”. Remember, directors, writers and producers (especially at the lower end of things) aren’t cleverer, or better, or more talented, than any of us, they’re just richer or have better connections.

 

I suppose I ought to talk about the movie a bit. Actually, no I won’t, not yet – while “Wolvesbayne” is clearly supposed to be a sequel to this, I think because they were made by different companies they had to play all that down, which is the only way I can think of to explain the wafer-thin continuity between the two. One of the many problems of making a movie with public domain characters (Dracula) and real historical figures (Countess Bathory) in it, I suppose. It’s quite funny that anyone thought this was crying out for a sequel (the only laugh you’ll get while watching this, certainly), but there you go.

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Movie! There’s a group called “The Nine”, vampire hunters who are so strong and powerful that they’ve beaten the world’s vampires into submission. The vampires sue for peace, and an uneasy truce is forged between the two – the Nine will stop hunting vampires, and the vampires will stop hunting humans. This holds for five years, until Countess Bathory and her tedious underlings decide to break the truce pretty much for no reason (there is a reason given, but it’s stupid and doesn’t really make sense).

 

The Nine are made up of people who I honestly couldn’t pick out of a lineup, and I saw the movie less than 24 hours ago. The men are all moody and wear long coats, the women are all pouty and wear cut-off tops to show their model-toned midriffs – not a muscle or scar on any of these professional vampire hunters. I also think everyone in this film is in a competition to smoke a cigarette in the most ridiculously “cool” way possible, to the extent where lighting one stands in for character development in some cases.

Were they taking the piss with this makeup?

Were they taking the piss with this makeup?

Anyway, blah blah blah, there’s vampires and the ludicrous twist that gives the “Bram Stoker’s” attachment a reason to be there, and so on. First things first, it’s too long and there’s way too many characters in it. Low-budget genre pictures really shouldn’t ever cross the 90 minute threshold, and this lumbers to a close at 107. Having a group of nine hunters, plus all the vampires, means there’s no way of giving them all a character, so there’s people whose main job appears to be posing in the background (either with a weapon or a cigarette, depending). No-one ever told Scott to get to the point, it would seem.

 

Blade has cast a long shadow, to the point where I’m sure some people now think that all vampires automatically know kung-fu, swordplay and that sort of John Woo-lite bullet ballet. When you’ve got no money and none of your cast are any good at that sort of thing, it might be better to just not do it, stick to your “strengths” (I’m sure they have some) and not try and hide it with cheap camera trickery.

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Anyway, that’s about all I can be bothered to say about this. If I thought this was the best they could achieve with the time and people they had, I’d be at least sympathetic, but it’s not. They have a potential leading actress in Sarah Lieving buried down the cast, give the voiceover duties to Rhett Giles, who sounds like he’d rather be filling in his tax forms, and don’t even feel like they’re trying. Whatever reason director Leigh Scott got into the movie business, whatever burning desire he has to tell tales, he really ought to reconsider. There are other jobs, and I hope he takes one, soon.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Fist Of The Vampire (2007)

I'm not sure either of these people appear in the movie

I’m not sure either of these people appear in the movie

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.

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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?

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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).

Stake Land (2010)

stake land

Directed by: Jim Mickle

“Under the right circumstance I’d blow Bill Murray”. I’m listening to David Choe and Asa Akira’s podcast, and I wonder whether this is a worthwhile waste of my time. Simultaneously I’m writing a review about a vampire film that I saw last Friday evening, on the very day that I went absolutely gaga about eating a three cheese pizza that had been adored with the contents (greasy oil as well) from a tin of John West tuna. Essentially all of this is meaningless, in fact why are you still reading this?

You’re reading this because you love film; this is why you are here.

I’m in a blue mood, a little tetchy, so I can only apologize. On days like this I long for some kind of apocalyptic meltdown that might bring me closer to the end. Perhaps this is why ‘Stake Land’ appealed to me, because it is so damn bleak.

‘Stake Land’ follows Mister (Nick Damici) and a teenage boy called Martin (Connor Paolo), as they drive across the Vampiric States of America in the hope of finding New Eden, a place which used to be known as Canada. Mister trains Martin to fight the beasts and ghouls that come out at night, though it isn’t until the end of the film that the boy earns his spurs. For the majority of the film Mister has to look out for Martin because the vampires are particularly difficult to kill. In a throwback to the days of Hammer Horror a stake actually needs to be hammered into a chest of a vampire, and it is very much a two man job. Along the way Mister and Martin pick up a few other lost souls, a traumatised nun called Sister Anna, a pregnant folk singer named Belle and a former marine known as Willie.

Director Jim Mickle has captured an even more divided America where Religious cults, redneck communes and military outposts occupy the wilderness. Oh, and there are thousands of these blood thirsty monsters, in various stages of evolution that roam around after human prey. Explaining early in the piece that the cities are no go areas allows the action to stay along the barren back-roads and in and around small town America.

I would say that a desperate bleakness reigns throughout the film. We witness some shocking events, but they seem ‘realistic’ given the circumstances the characters find themselves in. Aside from these vampiric creatures feasting upon warm bodies, we also get grisly barbarism galore, most of which actually comes from the humans, in particular a sinister religious cult called ‘The Brotherhood’ who are behind most of the mayhem, acting in the name of God. They are like a feral version of the Westboro Baptist Church.

I was most impressed with the performance of Michael Cerveris who plays the sinister leader of the Brotherhood, Jebedia Loven. He leads a band of savage believers who believe they are carrying out the Lord’s bidding, there is one scene where they use a helicopter to drop previously captured vampires into a town of survivors to raise absolute pandemonium. Every act in the film they carry out is inhumane, and they represent the true evil in ‘Stake Land’.

Some comparisons have been made with the recent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’, although I think this is mostly to do with Jim Mickle’s decision to film in the North American wilderness, which is desolate and unforgiving at the best of times. You relate more to the hopeless situation the survivors find themselves in because they are engulfed by the vast expanse of harsh territory.

My biggest problem with the film is that it loses its way in the final stages. The ending feels too tidy and convenient after all that Martin and Mister have endured. I don’t know if Jim Mickle was too fond of his characters that he decided to give them what he felt they deserved, to reward them, it is a bit like the paternal love shown by McCarthy towards the boy in ‘The Road’. When you look at a film like ‘The Mist’, sometimes a tragic finale can stun the audience, after all we have just sat through ninety minutes of misery and though childhood ‘Disneyfied’ cinematic experiences make us long for a happy ending, seeing a little sunshine seems rather unbelievable in this film. Although you could argue ‘Stake Land’ isn’t really a transgressive movie, despite gore and other unsavoury themes it seems odd to finish by saying that the director has a heart.

– RJW
7/10

Stake Land on IMDB
Buy Stake Land (Double-Disc Edition) [DVD]

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Because any excuse to promote my own stuff, I’ve already done a review of the Asylum Entertainment mockbuster version of this film, “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”, here – https://iscfc.net/2012/06/04/13-abraham-lincoln-vs-zombies/ . Reading that back, I’ve got some bad news for fans of big budgets – on reflection, I sorta enjoyed the Asylum version more.

Luckily, I don’t need to do tons of recapping on this plot. Abe, as a kid, helps out his black best friend, and not only gets a whupping from the slaver, but causes the vampire doing the whupping to kill his Mum. He goes looking for revenge as an adult, but instead meets Henry Sturgess, a vampire hunter himself, who trains Abe up to swing that axe straight through trees, and therefore through the vampires. So far, so good! He moves to a new town to do his vampire hunting and lodges with the real person he lodged with in real life, Mr. Speed (played by Jimmi Simpson, aka one of the McPoyle clan from ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’).

He still wants revenge on the vamp who killed his Mum, though, and in the course of this comes into contact with Adam, the chief vampire, played on autopilot by Rufus Sewell, who can do these cool bad guy roles in his sleep. Young Lincoln doesn’t have the beard, and while he’s on an early hunting job, there’s maybe the most amazing bit of beard foreshadowing in film history.

And that, pretty much, is that. His advisers as president appear to be his friend from childhood and his old landlord; he keeps the secret of his other job from his wife, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead; has to kill his own son after he gets infected by a vampire and then goes after Adam right at the end.

Nice and simple. You’d think this would be the sort of film I’d love, with its genre mashup and wild ideas; but the problem is it fails like most mashups do, by expecting people to go “hey, history and vampires, this should be fun”, as if the mere fact of throwing two genres together is enough somehow. It also throws 3D into the mix, but as I was watching it at home, all I got was a bunch of stuff flying towards the screen, a profound waste of time (as is all 3D).

I’m trying to think of a nice way to put this, but it’s vaguely offensive to me that the Civil War didn’t start because of slavery, and because the Southern states wanted to subjugate blacks, but because vampires wanted easy access to food. The real Abraham Lincoln would have probably let the pre-Civil War southern states keep slavery, as long as they stayed in the Union, but they put a speech in his mouth where he insists that slavery should be abolished forever – small potatoes, in a film with vampires in it, I know, but still irritating. On the plus side, the film pretty much states that Harriet Tubman and the rest of the heroes of the Underground Railroad won the war for the North, which I liked.

The action sequences, for such a big-budget film and competent action director (Timur Bekambetov, who did Nightwatch and Wanted), are a bit crap. There’s a horseback fight scene early on which looks like it came out of a cheap computer game, and the climactic train scene at the end may have looked great in the cinema, but seemed a bit underwhelming on a TV. Also, both scenes are covered in dust and smoke, which is I guess to obscure background details and make the special effects easier to pull off, but it obviously looks like that, which is no good.

All in all, a qualified thumbs down for this one. It either needed to be more serious or more camp, and fell between two stools. Also, their choice for Abraham Lincoln wasn’t great, as his makeup looked obviously fake, and honestly the guy playing the role in the Asylum version did a better job. I know, it sounds like some asshole cult film reviewer trying to be cool, but it is what it is.

Big budget!

Pathetically miniscule budget!

ADDENDUM: There’s an amazing book about Abraham Lincoln, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I recommend everyone read. It’s the great book written about a man who, for his faults, was one of the greatest leaders of modern political history.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on IMDB
Buy Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter [DVD]