You all know how much Old Grizz be lovin' his cheese. And Old Grizzy really enjoyed corn-hollin' October this year. So I wanna mix up November a bit by covering 90's Full Moon vampire opus Subspecies 1 - 4. I will also cover the spin-off feature Vampire Journals.
As such this post will be updated every-other-day until I have covered:
Subspecies 2: Bloodstone.
Subspecies 3: Bloodlust.
Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm.
Click for some side-boob, clay animation, nosferatu finger-lickin' action....
Subspecies - review by Grizzly
"Don't poop out on me now"
I should get this out of the way first:
Barring a few exceptions (Creepozoids... sweet sweet Linnea Quigley shower scene) I pretty much can't stand Full Moon pictures. Too many puppets - blah blah blah - I won't go into it. I also tend to avoid vampire movies which, in my opinion never really got better than the perfect mid 80's trifecta of Fright Night, Vamp and Near Dark (Snout old buddy, you know that review is coming).
What a pleasant surprise this is then: the first installment of Subspecies (imdb).
It's clear from the start that there is something of a back story at play. This lends a sense of mythology and corresponding atmosphere that is surprisingly engaging for a Bmovie.
Bad son - and vampire - Radu makes an unexpected homecoming (mid-banishment) and assassinates his father (the benign and somewhat reformed vampire king). In doing so Radu seizes the mighty Blood Stone, a kind of diamond in the shape of a boob that perpetually oozes blood. Radu wraps his laughing gear around the nipple stone and looses his shit completely. Spending the next X amount of hundreds of years hanging out in a crypt with some clay animated mini-demons just a suckin on that ol' blood stone.
As a firm believer in harm minimization I'm like "whatever man, no harm done" until...
Mara, Michelle and Lillian arrive on the scene and start snooping around the crypt. Bad idea. Mara inadvertently cuts herself all over the crypt - awakening Radu who is in the mood all of a sudden, for something other than nipple stone. Of course there is a battle for their
I was really looking forward to the clay animated creatures, the only part of this film I remember from childhood - the rest presumably repressed with all the other confusing Bmovie violence I enjoyed from such a tender young age. The subspecies creatures tend to carry out menial tasks for Radu, such as: throw a net over Stefan, taunt scantily clad (yes, side-boob) victim shackled to the dungeon wall, and fetch nipple stone. In terms of cheesy clay animated baddies superimposed horribly on blue screen you cannot get any better *
The clay animation is worth the price of admission alone - fuck CGI ftw.
All told this is a very encouraging start to the series. All you really need after all is 70 minutes of cheese interspersed with the occasional side-boob / vampire ogling at some boob and clay animated monsters. Is is too much to ask?
Here's to four more of the same.
* High gore score here is for those fucking awesome clay animation sequences.
Subspecies 2 - review by Grizzly
"He looked like some kind of... goul"
You've gotta love sequels that pick up exactly where the previous left off. As such I'll try not to spoil too much about how the previous one ended.
Similar to the first film, the sense of atmosphere in Subspecies 2 (imdb) is so much better than it should be for b-grade shit like this. The frequent use of Nosferatu-like shadows is very nicely done. The fact that it was utilized rather unremittingly did not bother me at all, I loved it. Radu sweeps across the city (shot in Romania again) in creepy long-finger shadow form, and when he appears in flesh form to taunt his victims he mumbles incoherent madness and regurgitates blood. Surprising, Radu's character traces a nice arc in which he actually comes off as a somewhat pitiful victim of madness... too much nipple stone, too much being an undead goul. Throughout the film he must come to grips with several events including a reunion with his mummy-like.... er... mummy, his desire for the bloodstone (aka the nipple stone) and what to do with a recently aquired "fledgling" - aka a babe he turned vamp.
The story of the "fledgling" provides the central story-line, again the film is surprisingly engaging in terms of delivering a strong character driven plot. The fledgling has to come to grips with the radical changes in personal identity that come with a vampire lifestyle - such as avoiding the sunlight, a taste for human flesh and showing just enough side-boob to score a point or two on Bmovie Cheese.
The gore is packed on a fair bit heavier in this sequel, which is a welcome addition to the mix. The opening scenes contain some very enjoyable practical effects and make me yearn for a simpler time in the history of cheese. Compared to the original the clay animation sequences are very limited - but look even better and are ultimately made up for by all the head chopping and blood vomiting throughout the film.
Of course there are some would-be vampire-killers, a climax in which the fledgling must try to retain a trace of her dwindling humanity and an ending that sets up perfectly for the third installment. At first I thought this series was going to suck balls, at this point I'm expecting more awesomeness and look forward to part three.
Subspecies 3 - review by Grizzly
Again we pick up precisely where the previous left off, which is very satisfying. Again ill try not to spoil things.
Whilst continuing to deliver the enjoyable, character driven gothic cheese of the first two films, Subspecies 3 (imdb) - comparatively speaking - suffers a bit in pacing. This is the Empire Strikes Back of the series. With less Tauntuans.
With the final events of Subspecies 2 left somewhat unresolved our fledgling vampire (see scantily clad babe on above VHS art) continues to struggle with her transition from mortal babe to vampire. Given the series is capable of delivering relatively unexpected character arcs and plot devices it's genuinely interesting to see how she is going to ultimately decide between good and evil.
If anything the performances are perhaps a little more cheesy, but then again so is the whole plot of part three. With Becky still attempting to save her sister (the fledgling) from the grips of Radu this one really boils down to something of a siege scenario with Radu and his zombie mother "holed up" in the castle whilst Becky and several other would-be vampire hunters attempt to break in.
Subspecies 3 brings back all the blood vomiting, decapitating and side-boob action that made the first two films enjoyable. Whilst the clay animated creatures are extremely infrequent the vampire shadow-travel thingy is almost equally cool in it's old school stop-motion style.
I suppose that I do feel a little underwhelmed by this component of the series. But then again my expectations were set pretty high following Subspecies 2. Given the standard shit so often served up this deep into a horror series Subspecies 3 is a decent enough part three. I'm just glad there's another...
Subspecies 4 - review by Grizzly
That crazy old fuck Radu is back and chasing his girlfriend around the crypt again in this, the cheesiest of the series by far.
Strong points include more gothic cinematography, excellent use of the Romanian setting and a continuation of the booby-blood-tone set in the previous three. Weak points in the film tend to be a natural by-product of the cheese: Subspecies 4 (imdb) branches out into new territory including a science meets mysticism angle that may disappoint the vampire purists. Didn't like the final scene of Near Dark? 1) I feel sorry for you; it must be hard being retarded and 2) You may like to put aside your prejudice for Subspecies 4, because it's worth it. Especially if your gonna watch all of them close together as has been the case this month on Bmovie Cheese.
The cheese factor more than makes up for the low-points in the film. Here's deal: Again we pick up exactly where part 3 left off. Radu regroups in the crypt whilst his fledgling girlfriend vampire finds an unlikely ally in the form of Dr Blood, a Romanian haematologist working on the secret to immortality and the worlds worst bowl hair-cut.
In short, everyone wants the bloodstone. Again. And yes, there is a character on here called Dr Blood.
It's a shame there weren't another 4 or 5 sequels really. With the addition of new characters (including some hipster brothel owner vampires that predate True Blood by a decade) this series could well have gone on indefinitely as a TV series style drama. Mind you the actors who've been there from the start do seem a little lackluster compared to previous sequels, a case of Subspecies over-saturation that I cannot personally relate to. This has been a solid boxed set of sweet sweet cheese.
So did it have a satisfying finale? Of course not.
Bring on the dubious spin-off feature.
Vampire Journals - review by Grizzly
"I drink in shame, only to survive"
Yeah. Me too. But you don't hear me complaining.
I'm tempted to sugar coat this review a bit, based on my affections for the Subspecies series, but at the end of the day I have to admit that Vampire Journals (imdb) ain't so good. In fact I found it impossible to get through it in a single sitting, a situation which isn't really all that rare, however on this occasion I actually put the dvd away at one point only to realize several days later that I hadn't finished it.
Vampire Journals is set in the same "universe" however, which is fairly satisfying if you've watched them all in a row. This is the story of the vampire Ash - disciple of Radu (titty-rock sucker from the previous four films) and his various exploits as a master vampire in his own right. Actually Ash gets his first mention in Subspecies 4, intertwined as he is with the character of Dr Blood. The good doctor makes an appearance or two in this film - sadly he is not sporting the bowl hair-cut that made Subspecies 4 so memorable.
This time the story revolves around Zachary, a "vampire with the hear of a mortal" (*cough* Angel *cough*) who is on a quest to destroy Ash and apparently the entire vampire bloodline. As Zachary is planning his attack on Ash the innocent Sofia becomes embroiled in their overly dramatic vampire battle: "Sophia! Sophia! daaaammmnnn you Ashhhhhhh!" cue dramatic piano soundtrack and pouting.
Boobs are - as always - a positive. There is more nude action in this film than the previous four combined. But again, it just doesn't seem enough to hold my interest. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but hey, if boob and a complete lack of all other elements was all I wanted I'd just watch the motel scene from My Bloody Valentine 3D over and over on a loop...... again.
I'm guessing from the ending (possibly the most anti-climactic final vampire battle of all time), that the intention here was probably to kick off another series of films. Thank god we will never have to endure them. Shame on you Vampire Journals. Way to ruin a perfectly good box-set.
And so endeth the epic Subspecies Box-set review of November 2011.