Reviewed by: Dave Murray
Casper Van Dien
What's it about
Deep in the rainforest, military commander Hawk (Van Dien) hunts down a tribe of viciously savage pre-Incan vampires, who are being led by his former best friend and new vampire baddie, Grieves (Grevioux), who has kidnapped Hawk’s scientist ex-wife (O’Dell) for his ancient master. Can Hawk save the day, get the girl, and avoid all of the flying fanged munchy-machines? They’re bringing the cheese, so you’ll have to bring the liquor. Trust me, you might need it.
Is it good movie?
Going into this flick, that answer would have been an overwhelming No. I mean Casper Van Dien is not known as one of the greatest actors of our generation. Add to that the fact that most of the vampire movies made since Near Dark have sucked harder than Old Drac on a blood bender, this movie was shaping up to another tired rehash of the same old thing. However, I’m a big fan of director Kevin VanHook’s other two films (Voodoo Moon & The Fallen Ones, which were some good old campy drive-in fun. Plus, I liked Kevin Grevioux in Underworld, so I thought this might be at least entertaining and fun.
Well since I wasn’t expecting much, the movie met my expectations. It was a fun watch, but there were just some things that got on my nerves. I don’t know whether VanHook meant for the movie to be this cheese heavy, or that the script was just that bad. Overacting is not always a pretty sight. Most of the performances were so overly dramatic that the movie became laughable without meaning too. Not all of the acting was crap, as Grevioux was his usual imposing, deep-voiced self and looked supercool as a vampire, and stuntman Ray Park as the kung-fu Russian vampire twins was cool to a point, but his screen time was limited. Both of the female leads (veteran Lynda Carter and our heroine Jennifer O’Dell) seemed out of place, and the annoying hissing of one of the vamp women needed to be cut from the film really badly. As well, it seems like there are huge chunks of the story missing, which slows down the narrative with moments of “How in the name of hell did they get there?!?”. While the action kicks in straight away, the story crawls to a halt on several occasions which really brings you out of the ride.
Despite the poor performances, cheesy action, giant plot holes, boring camera work and a severe lack of gore effects, the movie was okay in a fun Friday night camp sort of way. It’s the kind of cheese that’s great with some friends and some beers. It’s good for a few laughs. And the vampires were an interesting alternative to the usual brooding Eurotrash vamps that we’re usually treated to. These vampires are savage, animalistic and downright nasty, but they don’t do a whole hell of a lot on the screen. The gore effects are mostly just spurting blood from wounds that are almost invisible, and the makeup they slapped on the chief badguy at the end was just hilarious. From the photo gallery, I was expecting some face splitting coolness like the Reaper vamps in Blade II, but instead all we got was a cheesy Halloween costume! That was a letdown. I’m a huge fan of the cheese factor in any movie, but sometimes enough is enough! In places it tried too hard to be a poor imitation of From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, even with a cameo by Danny Trejo, but that level of coolness never seeps into the movie.
All in all, the move is mildly entertaining and funny for the wrong reasons, but there is nothing else redeemable about it that would warrant another viewing. Which is sad, because we need some good vampire movies soon before the subgenre dries up and blows away.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) with 16:9 enhancement, and the film looks great for a digital transfer, very colourful and crispy!
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0) with closed captioning.
Not much to report here, as we get an Audio Commentary with star Casper Van Dien and director Kevin VanHook which is not as good as others I’ve heard, but still a little informative; a Photo Gallery with some concept art that looks killer, Trailers for VanHook’s two other films as well as for Hellboy Animated, Room 6, and the horror goodness that is Masters of Horror – Season 1. Plus you can read the Screenplay for the movie on your PC. Exciting, I know.
This is a simple, fun, dumb cheesefest with over the top acting, some cool vampire concepts, minimalist gore and a super high body count. The lack of a good story, excessive violence, T & A, and a more talented cast really hurt this one in all the wrong places. However, if cheese is your thing, you’ll have a bloody fun ride. Even I rocked along with some of the on-screen goodies. But ultimately, it failed to live up to the coolness that it could have been. Go and watch Near Dark or one of VanHook’s other films instead.