Bloodwars (The Thirst: Blood War)
There are a lot of horror flicks flooding the market lately. It seems that a growing percentage of the independent movies that come around are in this ilk. Most are terribly predictable and usually have the depth of a puddle after a spring shower. The shame here is this was once a proud genre of films. This genre once provided audiences with such classics as the Universal monster movies of the thirties and forties and award winning films like ‘The Exorcist’. Now all it takes to make a horror flick is to get a whole lot of fake blood and guts; find a few young women with absolutely no sense of modesty and wham; you are a film maker. This has changed the landscape of not only horror films but independent movies in general. Then something happens that reaffirms your faith in the art of cinema. A film comes around that while not great has made an honest attempt at providing some good old fashion entertainment. One such movie is ‘The Thirst: Blood War’ also known as ‘Blood Wars’ for its American DVD release. This film by Tom Shell combines action, humor and thrills in a way that allows for more than the usual slash and dash format. It was made with a reported budget of only a million dollars; extremely small even for a modest Indy. It is also a direct to DVD flick. In the past this was a stigma that few films could work their way out of. Now, with the popularity of home theaters and the rising cost of going out to the movies a direct to DVD release is far more respectable. It allows a small film with little to spend on marketing to get a broader audience. One of the distributors that have becoming a great source of smaller, unknown films is MTI. This is a admittedly flawed film but shows a great deal of potential for the cast and crew.
Ramesh Thadani is a new comer; this is the first script to his credit. He does make a strong attempt to balance the demands of the various genres he is working with. Thadani infuses some dark humor in the proceedings the thing that stands out most is the perspective that he provides. This is basically a vampire flick. Again, this is an age old foundation for a horror story. Some of the legends predate the written record of our species. The most common approach to telling a story like this is to make the vampire a monster. What is most interesting is the psychological approach to the transformation. The vampire has inspired a plethora of mythology and back stories that have become canon in many circles. This screenplay offers a glimpse at what the person who has been bitten by such a heinous creature of the night goes through. By taking such a tack Thadani departs from the easy way out and tries to give some thought to the process of transformation; both emotionally and psychologically. Going in this direction opened up the story to include elements of horror and dark comedy. The protagonist is a slacker college student who once bitten finds himself caught up in an ancient battle. He was content in just hanging out but now everything in his world has been plunged into turmoil. This is a variation of a popular and successful theme; the reasonable man facing the most unreasonable of circumstances. He could have done more with character development though. Some of the main characters come off as two dimensional in nature which detracts from the personalization of the protagonist’s plight.
The film was directed by Tom Shell. He has a short and a couple of other films under his belt. He has also worked as an actor, a producer and production manager so he certainly knows his way around a movie set. His style here is thankfully devoid of the usual new director’s tricks and fancy camera work. He sets out to tell a story and lets the camera provide the necessary view for the audience. He does work with the screenplay to make some interesting choices in his direction. One is how the vampires are depicted in this case as effete almost lackadaisical creatures not the usual suave and overpowering beings we are used to. He has a visually interest style that helps to hold the attention of the audience. The special effects do betray the lack of budget. While Shell did the best with what he had available you have to go into this movie with a little of that attitude we had as kids; able to ignore the inconsistencies of the effects in order to just enjoy the show. The tongue is planted firmly in cheek here so while it does go further than usual in the psychological aspects of becoming a vampire the film is intended as a piece of entertainment; pure and simple. It also has Tony Todd in a featured role. It does appear that some law was passed making an appearance by him mandatory for any horror flick.
The film begins with a pounding heavy metal beat and the camera taking a first person point of view ride through the barren tress in a forest. This technique has been over used of late but Shell is still on the learning curve and maturing as a director so he can be forgiven. We come to a frat house where the guys are busy with their beer bong. The house is lit in blues and reds adding an interesting contrast to the surrounding set. A pretty young woman, Laurie (Stephanie Lemelin) runs out and pulls down an election poster for Jason Pierce (Nick Holmes) who is hot pursuit of the girl. She is upset that she saw him with another girl. He was trying the old ‘just friends’ line but Laurie notes his hand was up her shirt. Jason is a first class jerk who finally tells Laurie that he acts only on what feels good. Suddenly a vampire bursts on the scene, Bites Jason turning him into one and sets him upon Laurie. All of this is just the setup to the main event. Will (A.J. Draven) is a hippie type who rooms with a ROTC student Rico (Owiso Odera). Rico is always riding Will about his failure with women and catches some grief from his ROTC buddies about rooming with the likes of Will. When Will is bitten by a vampire he winds up in the middle of an ancient war between the vampire covens and a group called Sentries who are sworn to eliminate vampires. Will has to come to grips with the changes that are going on and his place in the world he was forced to be part of.
The cast does well in their roles. Draven is able to pull off the role of a hippie vampire who is hesitant to drink blood because he is a vegetarian. Todd pulls off the role as the Vampire leader with his usual delicious approach to evil. He can deliver the corniest lines with a straight face and conviction. Overall the film just misses what it sets out to do but it demonstrates great promise for the writer and director. They are definitely on the right track and I look forward to their next project. MTI is the place to go for some of the strangest independent flicks around and this is a prime example.