Friday, February 15, 2008

Strange Things Happen at Sundown

The title of the film is a tad misleading, as the vampires in this movie are quite capable of moving around in the daylight, a fact that is noticeable over an hour before they feel the need to explicitly state it. The film itself is notable for two additional reasons not directly related to the quality of the film: for one, at 136 minutes, it’s easily the longest movie in the set thus far (possibly the longest in general), and two, watching it means I’m now one fourth of the way through the entire set. It’s a good feeling.

The film’s plot kind of meanders a bit. It opens up by giving us a group of vampire mobsters, which was the essential premise of John Landis’s Innocent Blood, a film that was fairly amusing but didn’t seem to know where to really take the story. I was a bit curious to see if co-writer/director Marc Fratto would be able to succeed where the director of Animal House and An American Werewolf in London failed, but the film fairly quickly moved away from that whole concept.

Instead, we get a big jumble of different plots, as the vamps only wanted to take control of the city’s drug trade because the head vamp wanted to leave trace amounts of his blood in the whole drug supply and turn everyone into his slaves. There’s also a pair of renegade vamps that stole a hundred grand from him and are now fleeing to Canada, a female vamp that hunts down and kills other vamps like an even whinier Vampire Hunter D, and an uber-vamp known as the Reaper who is contracted to kill the thieves. There’s also a number of scenes of exposition where we get a female vamp explaining what vamps are actually like to us, and a few vamps telling the stories of when they were turned. So yeah, this film did not have the firmest structure one could have hoped for.

However, it did manage to at least keep my interest for most of the movie. The actors largely seemed to understand that they were in a retarded film, and weren’t afraid to go over the top and goofy with it, which mostly helped (as with the blatant stereotype mobsters) the film. The scenes of violence also mostly looked better than what I’m used to from these movies, which was a definite plus. That said, there were some significant problems. The main one comes from the vampire slayer, as she is just as whiny and horrid and shrill as one could imagine a person being. Her torturously long monologue describing her pain is one of the worst things I’ve had to sit through in any of these movies. Just dreadful. Another main problem just comes from the recurring problem of low production values. This film clearly could not afford top of the line mics for its actors, and the ones they use tend to be on the loud side. Normally this is fixable just by me turning down the volume on the TV, but when someone, such as the vampire slayer or the Reaper’s wife, starts to scream, I would not have been surprised if every dog in my neighborhood had started howling. There's also a problem toward the end of some curious jump cuts. For whatever reason, there’s a few scenes that will just jump ahead a second, play a normal second, jump ahead another second, play a second, etc. I suppose it’s nice that they tried some way of shortening the damn film for me, but perhaps a better method would have been to outright edit out some scenes entirely rather than just making some of them indecipherable. Just a thought.

This is not a good movie, but it’s a watchable movie, and that does place it squarely in the upper half of the movies I’ve seen thus far in this collection. Between this and Kill Them and Eat Them, I think it’s safe to say that the streak of each disc being better than the last has continued, although just barely here. I hope disc 4 can ramp things up a notch, though with a lead-in title like Barely Legal Lesbian Vampires, how could it not?

Rating: * ½

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