365 Film Challenge Part 20: Vampires Special

Film #68: Priest

Paul Bettany is the title character here, a vampire killing warrior who now lives in obscurity within a walled city run by the church. Haunted by his failure to save his allies on raid, and disillusioned with his life. He’s drawn out of retirement when his brother’s home is attacked by vampires and his niece taken, making this a post-apocalyptic version of The Searchers.

It’s an interesting and unique set up, and well realised, with the church run mega city being particularly striking visually, and things like automated confessional booths. There’s also a great opening explanation which details the war between man and vampires, told through a gory cartoon. I kinda dug the whole movie, which has a kind of simplistic, direct plot and a badass performance from Paul Bettany at the heart. Sure, sometimes it clearly thinks itself rather cool, but for the most part it worked for me as a dark, brooding sci-fi horror action flick. 7/10.

Film #69: Stake Land

This might be a vampire film, but it’s very much in the debt of the zombie genre. A plague of vampires springs up, leading society to collapse and survivors to struggle on in the ruins of the old world. A teenage boy, Martin (Connor Paolo) witnesses his family killed in a vampire attack but is saved by Mister (Nick Damici), a skilled fighter and vampire killer who takes him under his wing. The two travel together, with the older man teaching him how to fight and heading North, where they hope to find safety in sparser populated areas.

They have encounters with other survivors, and deal with a lunatic cult known as the Brotherhood. Can they beat the vampires and the nutters? And what kind of life can they build for themselves in this savage and bleak new world?

It’s almost unbearably bleak and grim in places, and while there are moments of dark humour, its slow going for much of the run time. The quiet, sombre feel, and Martin’s narration give a sense of a film that is trying for more, but it just ends up being a rather depressing affair. The characters aren’t developed a lot, and there’s a grimness as they start getting picked off.

It’s only in the end stages where you realise why they chose vampires rather than just using zombies, which is essentially what the majority of the fanged fiends are for most of the run time. It’s not awful, but I think horror movies that take themselves this seriously don’t make for the most entertaining watches. I need action, humour or human moments to break up the bleakness. 7/10.

Film #82: Redwood

I’m a huge Buffy fan, so it was kinda cool to see Nicholas Brendan turn up in this.

A couple have gone for a hike in the woods after the guy finds out he has cancer. Cue lots of walking and bickering. The film’s run time is only 82 minutes, but these early stages drag. Brendan plays a mysterious ranger who warns them not to go near a place some view as having healing properties, and to be careful, hinting at dangers in the woods.

These dangers finally appear in the form of backpack rummaging and cries in the dark, but it’s past the forty minute mark before any fanged nasties turn up, and I still didn’t give a crap about the couple. There’s also the problem that having only two characters means you don’t get many deaths along the way. You need supporting characters to get whacked along the way to establish the threat and keep the action going.

This film is painfully dull, and both the main characters are kinda irritating. I was kinda hoping the vampires would make short work of them. The reveal at the ending is also underwhelming because it’s obvious to see coming, and as I said, I didn’t give a damn about the two characters, meaning it had no emotional impact. 2/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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