Thursday, October 30, 2014

All Cheerleaders Die – review

Directors: Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson

Release Date: 2013

Contains spoilers

When I watched the All Cheerleaders Die trailer I was struck that it looked a little like a low-end Jennifer’s Body with more than one reanimated cheerleader. As it is, the film is much more obviously vampire – though the lore is fairly much its own in terms of the reanimation process.

However, things are not perfect. I said the trailer looked low-end – in fact the final movie is of a higher filmic quality than I expected – but what, of course, the trailer didn’t put across was the fact that there was more needed within the film – more deaths and more tension primarily.

filming Lexi
The film starts off with the unlikely pairing of head cheerleader Lexi (Felisha Cooper) and Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) as Maddy filmed a day in the life of a cheerleader. Lexi takes her around her world, explaining the fact that cheerleading is a dangerous sport and that proves prophetic as there is an accident and Lexi dies due to a toss gone wrong. Maddy is one of the girls that goes to try out for Lexi’s unfortunately vacated squad slot – to the initial disgust of new head cheerleader Tracy (Brooke Butler). However Maddy used to do gymnastics with Lexi and she earns the squad place

Maddy tries out
Later, recording her video diary, we see that Maddy is disingenuous about her place on the team. She is doing it to get at Terry and, it would seem, Tracy who are now together. Actually we later hear that Tracy was a means to an end and it was simply Terry she was going for as he raped Maddy when she was filming a memorial video for Lexi. This could have actually been said from the beginning and was a bit of a pointless later reveal – the early knowledge of what Terry was like would have helped carry some cinematic momentum. She goes off to a pool party with Tracy – brushing off her erstwhile girlfriend Lenna (Sianoa Smit-McPhee)

Sianoa Smit-McPhee as Lenna
The football team turns up at the party but are given short shrift as it is a girl only event. However Terry gives Tracy a bracelet he found (actually we again later discover it is Maddy’s, ripped off her during the rape, again early disclosure of this would have been better). Maddy tells Tracy that she had seen Terry with another girl, Tracy buys it and has a bit of a Sapphic kiss with Maddy seen by Terry. At a party after the first match the two girls make out (seen by Lenna who is a practising witch and trying to protect Maddy as she believes the omens are against the girl – plus she’s kind of a creepy stalker, not enough was done with this). There is an altercation with Terry, who punches Tracy and then the cheerleaders (including sisters Hannah (Amanda Grace Cooper) and Martha (Reanin Johannink)) drive off, pursued by the Jocks. They crash and drive into a river – the Jocks do not help them.

However Lenna has seen it and pulls the dead bodies from the water. Earlier we had seen her talking, to team mascot wearer Hannah, about the stones she used for magic and the danger of spells (consequences such as a mother wishing her soldier son home and him returning in a body bag) – Hannah has some issues as she loves a Jock named Manny (Leigh Parker) but he fancies her sister. Despite the earlier warning Lenna realises the stones are reacting to the blood and she uses her own blood to cast a spell. Four green stones embed in the dead girls and a purple stone embeds into Lenna – the girls return from the dead.

The girls awaken in the morning at Lenna’s home and there has to be some persuasion of what has happened. We also discover that the sisters have swapped bodies (this is used in film but could have been expanded around). Tracy is hungry and goes to Lenna’s neighbour Larry (Michael Bowen), after some drinking milk and throwing it up she opens a vein in his neck with a nail. The crystals in all the girls start to glow and they all feel it. The four girls feed on Larry’s blood, leaving a desiccated corpse with the life drained from it.

blood sucked through the air
Now, I said about needing more – there is another vampiric kill, with the stone leaving Tracy’s body and burying itself into her victim and then the blood leaving his body and flying through the air to her mouth before the stone reinserts itself. However there could have been more done. Terry works out very quickly what is happening and then starts cutting stones out of cheerleaders (which kills them) and eating them to gain power. This was a leap – why did he do this? The film could have done more with him and spread that out. Of course Maddy’s duplicity also comes to light but there was not enough done with the fact that the girls all feel what each other feels but have a rupture in their unity is never really played with.

into the school
So much more could be done but resurrection by magic stone was fairly unique. Other than that apparently major trauma can kill one of these vampires as well as losing their stone. Their renewed life lasts a pitifully small amount of time – hence not much is done within the film, though there is a (more zombieish) late resurrection that opens the film for a sequel. The acting is ok but the characters we meet in detail are mainly two dimensional and others are little more than ciphers. Sianoa Smit-McPhee tries her best to channel Fairuza Balk in the Craft (including switching from odd to – straight after the spell – hot) but, like everyone else, has little to play with.

sequel fodder
There seems to be little in the way of killers remorse emoted by the girls (except for Maddy, who is slightly bothered by thoughts of a life of blood drinking, but even that is minimal) and Terry does not come across as that badass for the focal bad guy. This had a lot of potential but the potential is squandered by not doing enough with it. As it was, the film was ok but that’s about the best I can say about it. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Home Again, Home Again

I’m just back from the Bram Stoker International Film Festival and what a great time I had. Thanks to the friends I attend with and the friends I have at the festival also.

Vampire wise there were the films I mentioned when leaving – unfortunately I did miss the Japanese short Anemia as it did clash with Fields of the Nephilim (who were as superb as ever) and even more unfortunately el Vampiro did not show for technical reasons. However there was also short film the Dark Hours that was definitely vampiric and also Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch, an excellent comedy with a vampiric witch that I hope to feature in the near future.

No review at TMtV today but my review of Anne Rice’s new novel Prince Lestat went live at vamped yesterday – check it out here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Offline for a short while

I’m afraid I’m putting TMtV into hiatus for a short while, but for the best of reasons. I am about to wander Whitby bound for the annual Bram Stoker International Film Festival, which long time readers of the blog will know is a regular pilgrimage for me.

This year the festival has a lot of vampire goodies on offer – though little that we haven’t covered on the blog. An exception to that is on Friday when they are showing the short Japanese film Anemia – my worry is that it will clash with the Fields of the Nephilim who are playing the festival that night.

However other goodies that I will be able to watch on the big screen are: (Zinda Laash) Dracula in Pakistan,TikTik the Aswang Chronicles, The Sadist with red teeth, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, El Vampiro and The Hunger.

As well as these there is a whole cornucopia of horror films to watch over the five days and I will see you all after the event.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vamp or Not? Flesh for the Beast

This was a low budget film from 2003, directed by Terry M. West and is a film about succubi. But, as we know, there is a Hell of a lot (pardon the pun) of crossover between vampires and succubi both within the media setting and in folklore (especially when tied in through the mare folklore). As such I ensure that I do check out films that feature a succubus or two.

This is not always a positive experience for me, however. This flick could have been more positive than it was, there were glimmers in there but the film rushed to the “money shot” in the horror sense of the word and thus failed to build the tension that was necessary.

Jane Scarlett as Erin
The prologue of the film sees a man running round a cellar area, screaming that they’re all gone and, when he does meet a fellow survivor they are quickly dragged off by an unseen something (leaving a severed arm behind). It’s nothing new; it’s neither brilliantly done nor awful. It just was, and then segues into a group of parapsychologists turning up at the Fisher House for an investigation.

Clark Beasley Jr. as Ted
The team are: Ted Sturgeon (Clark Beasley Jr.) leader, tough guy and human energy detector, Jack Ketchum (Jim Coope) and Monks (David Runco), video experts Clegg (Aaron Clayton) and Shelly (Michael Sinterniklaas, Blade the anime (English dub)) and psychic Erin (Jane Scarlett). They are meeting the new house owner (and dodgy occultist) John Stoker (Sergio Jones) who officially wants them to check the house out but actually is searching for a certain amulet.

So the team split up to check the house, leaving Monks at a control booth. Almost immediately Ted is set upon by something and herein lies the issue with rushing to attack the team. It felt as though there was precious little time to build a rapport with the characters and expand their characters beyond a quick 2D cut-out. There was certainly no real time to build any form of tension. So what do we get monster wise? Well some of the team see what might be zombies (and they are called so in the credits) but I got the feeling that they were more like spectres of past victims (what with them appearing and disappearing) than flesh and rot zombies and they did not seem to pose a real danger.

demon face
The danger came in the form of three succubi (Caroline Hoermann, Ruby Larocca & Barbara Joyce), apparently trapped in the house. They had been whores who had worked from the house for Fisher and had remained there through the intervening decades. We see them in human and demon form, they can change appearance to look like other women and, unusually for succubi – who are normally consumers of (sexual) energy – they are flesh eaters. They do like to play, sexually, with their food however.

Caroline Munro as the gypsy
I got the impression from the dialogue that they had actually been human once and the bodies were host to demonic presences (whether brought back from the dead by the demonic force or simply possessed whilst alive, is unclear). The amulet Stoker is searching for is one that allows the succubi to be controlled and was given to Fisher by a mysterious gypsy (Caroline Munro, Dracula AD 1972, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, Nite Owl, Absence of Light & Midsomer Murders: Death and the Divas) who paid a high price for handing him the gift.

So, is it ‘Vamp or Not?’ Well there is always a temptation to include succubi as a form of energy vampire but they are not such a thing in this case. Their victims become undead – either spectral or zombie creatures – and the succubi eat flesh, which some vampire types do. They are possessed or reanimated by demons – and the idea that a vampire is a corpse animated by a demonic force is both one of the folkloric vampire theories and occurs as a trope in such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They are possessed by a voracious hunger (for flesh) and have a sexual aspect to their nature – they seem to be able to read the desires/fears of their victims.

There is another aspect that I don’t want to mention because it is a spoiler too far and, to be fair, whilst it might impact the ‘Vamp or Not?’ debate it would serve, I think, to confuse matters rather than shed light on them. I really wanted to go ‘Not’ on this but the more I thought about it the more I saw that the tropes owed as much to vampire flicks (with some zombie aspects around the victims) as it did to anything else. So it’s a reluctant Vamp.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Honourable Mention: Epitaph: Bread and Salt

Nathyn Masters had a vision and to create that vision he made a comic book. As well as a comic book he made this low budget (big ambition) prequel movie, which was released in 2013. Whilst you can buy the movie he has made it free to watch on YouTube.

Now, to be fair, it is the fact that it is free to watch that has led to me covering it as an ‘Honourable Mention’ rather than reviewing it and I will say from the outset that the film is flawed. However it is inexperience and low budget that has primarily flawed it and Masters has done much with little.

death by confetti
It begins with a woman, known as Fist of God AKA Sarah (Marissa Joy) and her brother Rabbi Adam Hassan (Vahan Artin), as they fight a group of vampires using guns (silenced) and melee weapons. The vampires, as they die, explode in what can only be described as a flurry of confetti. Its not the best effect but bear in mind the budget. We then see a character called Victor (Nathyn Masters) getting ready for work.

Victor at work
Nathan works as a clerk of some sort in an office and does church volunteer work but, also, he can detect supernatural creatures with a spidey-sense type ability. He hunts them too and is a foretold warrior called the Avatar. What being the Avatar means is not exactly explained but all sorts of people either want a piece of him or want him on side. The Jewish vampire hunters want to work with him but a group of Lilith worshipping women also want him to side with them.

zombie (& unfortunate makeup)
We get genetic engineering conglomerates, demons, vampires and psi-enhancing drugs. We get Nephilim (or their off-spring), wizards and we get a woman, Cassie (Jenna Ambien Halvorson), turned into a zombie – or so it would seem, though the green makeup used is unfortunate, to say the least. So there is a rich cornucopia of storyline but all is not good with it unfortunately.

a gaggle of vampires
I cringed when the rabbi suggested that the descent of civilisation into evil was due to various things including promiscuity and homosexuality. As these were the views of the good guys it suggested a bigotry that was unpleasant. Beyond that, the story itself was too complicated in places, with many aspects hanging unresolved and frustratingly underexplored. The story has little in the way of resolution – though as a prequel I suppose that the themes are continued and explored further in the comics.

The directing needed tightening, the film could do with a strong edit and, you know what, I’m feeling mean because, as I say, the very weakness of the convoluted story is also the film’s strength. Masters clearly has a set of stories he wants to tell. Inexperience is probably the key (though he has other directing credits) and that old bugbear budget. But he has done something most of us won’t and has done so with vision if not perfect execution.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express – review

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

First aired: 2014

Contains spoilers

The latest incarnation of Doctor Who managed to get my attention back. Other than the Vampire of Venice and the Rings of Arkhaten - both of which were vampire episodes (the second an energy vampire) – and the special that contained the death of the Doctor, I was pretty much cold on the Matt Smith era.

the Doctor and Perkins
This wasn’t the fault of the actor, who really did play an old man in a young body exceptionally well, but more to do with the writing and direction. However the actor behind the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi (Lair of the White Worm), has long been a favourite thespian and so I gave this incarnation a chance and I was impressed by the way the actor (and thus the writers) have taken the character – perhaps not as impressed as I should have been, but I’ll explain that in a short while.

Clara and the Doctor
So Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor are having relationship problems since his regeneration and much of that (beyond the fact that he is older in appearance, and there has been a suggestion of that level of shallowness) is down to the fact that the Doctor no longer really knows who he is. The Time Lord has passed his maximum regenerations (having been given perhaps limitless regenerations by the hidden people of Gallifrey) and seems – finally – to be coming to terms with the incarnation known as the War Doctor. Thus this season has seen repeated mentions of war, of leadership, of the ambiguity of heroism – indeed this has been further embodied in Clara’s new boyfriend Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). So, as a last hoorah, the Doctor takes Clara onto the Orient Express.

the Foretold
However, this is a replica that flies through space and we have already seen a passenger (Janet Henfrey, Doctor Who: the Curse of Fenric) killed by a mummy. Only she could see it and a counter started for us. The creature is The Foretold (Jamie Hill) a mythical Mummy who appears to those about to die at its hands but is invisible to everyone else. The counter signifies that it takes exactly 66 seconds to kill its victim. The Foretold appears wherever a specific scroll is and it turns out that those on the train are all scientists enticed aboard so that they can be forced to study it.

draining a victim
So, you might ask, if it is a mummy, why are we looking at this? The Doctor, working primarily with the train’s chief engineer Perkins (Frank Skinner), realises that the 66 seconds is significant. The Mummy puts the victim out of phase and powers up a device that drains their energy, in fact Perkins actually suggests that it is a vampire – metaphorically. What we have is a soldier from an ancient forgotten war, who was killed and resuscitated by tech that will now never let him die but needs the energy of the living to keep the tech running…

Jelly Babies
This was a fun episode that had some nods to earlier incarnations. The Doctor asks the Foretold, “Are you my mummy?” repeating a line from the Christopher Ecclestone incarnation episode The Empty Child. He also offers out a jelly baby bringing the Tom Baker era straight to mind. The series generally has been better than Who has been of late and this is primarily down to Capaldi and the way he and the writers are exploring the character. However I do think it could be stronger as I find some of the in season writing a little weaker than it might be. There is a new dark edge to the character but that edge is not being exploited as much as it might be. However, this is the BBC.

That said, I enjoyed this episode. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Night at the Theatre and a Kickstarter

Hello to all TMtV readers. I have been approached by a couple of folks about an event and a kickstarter and I wanted to share them with you.

First of all, good friend of the blog Margaret let me know about a silent theatre company’s version of Nosferatu that is being performed at Prop Thtr, which is at 3502 N Elston Ave in Chicago. The play runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 19th October to the 23rd November. Tickets can be bought here.

Honestly this sounds absolutely fabulous and if I wasn’t an Ocean away I’d be there. So if you are in the Chicago region why not give it a go and let us know what you thought in the comments.

I was also contacted by Chris Denmead who has a kickstarter running for his new version of Dracula – the kickstarter page is here.

Chris has decided to remake the story in a modern setting, though he is using black and white rather than colour. However the really interesting aspect of the remake is the fact that he is gender swapping all the characters. So, Dracula is now female as is Harker and Renfield. The brides, on the other hand, will be male.

Will this work? Chris has made a no-budget short, Dracula’s Guest, to showcase the idea and I’ve embedded the video of it below.