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Vampire (2002)
Director: Jon Cunningham

review by James A. Stewart

My, oh my... This is truly awful. I can't think of an arty or more inventive turn of phrase to describe Vampire. Firstly, let's look at the history of this film. It was made just after the turn of the millennium and was originally known as Demon Under Glass, but it has been re-branded as Vampire for a DVD release on July 2010, complete with new cover design, a look which in itself adds nothing extra to this re-release.

The opening scene in this movie sets the tone for how bad the whole thing is going to be. A police stakeout is set-up to capture 'Vlad', a murderer who has terrorised Los Angeles and who has killed six prostitutes, draining them of their blood in the process. It would appear the stakeout is manned by 1970s' porn stars that are stiff-backed and hapless in the straight roles they have been given here. The acting is so hammy you could slice it and put it on a sandwich. After this the film goes downhill, quickly.

'Vlad', whose real name is Simon Molinar, is captured by the SWAT team who are on hand to close out the sting operation. He is then transported to a 'secret government facility', which is so clandestine it is on the top floor of the hospital to which Molinar's body was taken. When the snooping Detective Taylor (Denise Alesandria Hurd) puts two and two together and surmises Molinar is in the hospital, it is hardly a surprise given that - a.) it's the hospital where they took him, and b.) she's a detective.

The picture in this movie is grainy and blotchy - the colours and the light are out of control and it feels that you are watching a pre-release screener as opposed to something that is on general release. Overall, the production is disjointed and the direction abominable. There are things like Molinar licking his protruding incisors, as if to let the two people who haven't worked out he is the vampire yet, and the SWAT team's uniforms being adorned with crosses which make you slap your forehead in frustration. Indeed, the hackneyed attempts at humour are upstaged by these unintentional comedy moments. It is honestly like watching the dissertation movie of a failed film student. Now, don't start me on the montage scenes; director Jon Cunningham has an alarming penchant for these.

Babylon 5's Jason Carter plays Molinar and is about the only person to come out of this film with even a modicum of credit. His character is subject to an array of tests at the not-so-secret government facility, but again, and almost laughably, the government's lead scientist Dr Bassett threatens Molinar with death by sunlight should he not acquiesce to the doctors' battery of tests. The laughable bit is at this stage they don't actually know if sunlight harms Molinar. Seriously, you couldn't make it up. Indeed, Molinar, who has just ripped a door from its hinges with one hand, is tied down with leather straps, now, if it was me I'd be thinking, 'hmm, these shackles may not suffice.' But, on with the show...

If the acting at the outset was dreadful, then Jack Donner as Dr Bassett, and Harrison Young as government agent James Conroy are truly dire; I have never seen such wooden acting on a general release before. Both look as if they are painfully constipated any time a camera comes near them and stammer and stutter their way through a series of dialogues as excruciating as the acting itself. Some of the lines in Vampire had to be placed as a joke, such as when then FBI man is on the phone when a visitor arrives: "Hold my calls," he tells someone. Then, Molinar when Dr Bassett visits him: "Dr Bassett, I presume?"

The supporting cast beyond those mentioned already is frankly inept, but I do wonder if they can really be this bad. There is the ever-alert soldier, the man with his hand on button to flood Molinar's room with light at the first hint of trouble and the once-sassy nurse who has one quip too many - all of these characters exaggerate their body language and actions to the point where any attempt at a serious delivery is lost.

Vampire isn't even a horror or a gore-fest to at least distract from the poor fare on show. Underneath all the bluster is an attempt to show how evil is about perspective and how in the end, that one species' fight for survival is another's deadliest fear. The fact that Molinar allows a sequence of tests on his millennia old body is neither here nor there as it was a device to get closer to his captors, to gain trust. His regret is plainly oblique and for no other reason as to facilitate his own escape.

Dr Bassett's spiral into destruction is quite simply baffling. One minute he is a rational scientist, the next he is bringing prostitutes to the vampire for experimentation purposes. All the while, stereotypical characters appear throughout the movie to remind the viewer, who is too dumb to make connections themselves it would seem, of what they need to know. In no particular order, we have: the grieving father, the indefatigable detective, the blonde hooker, the conscience-ridden good guy, the FBI man who is not at liberty to discuss things, the meek assistant who finally grows a pair, and the government man who gives the orders around here.

This is movie to avoid with all possible conviction. It is ridiculously acted, plotted and directed. Even the attempts at some kind of I Am Legend (the book, not the Will Smith led carnage) subtlety fails as Vampire crawls through an endless montage scene to an ending which it has the audacity to leave open for a follow-up. Please, no.

Vampire - Demon Under Glass



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