Friday, September 4, 2009

Live Evil (2009)

Vampire flicks are always a staple in the horror genre, though their popularity tends to go through ups and downs. I’ve always dug vampires, and I’m glad to see that their popularity is on the up-and-up at the moment…and no, I’m not referring to the retch-worthy Twatlight. I’m talking about the great indie flick Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part 1, the wondrous Swedish import Let the Right One In and the addicting TV show True Blood. These films and TV show succeed because they put a different spin on vampire mythology to keep it fresh and interesting without watering it down. So, when I heard about Live Evil, a new independent vampire film that dealt with the issue of vampires starving because humans’ blood was becoming increasingly polluted by chemicals, drugs and other impurities, I was eager to check it out.

In Live Evil, the vampire population is struggling to stay alive after humans have slowly but surely been poisoning their bodies with alcohol, drugs, disease, bad food, polluted air and so on. Vampires can only survive on “pure blood”, so getting a good meal is increasingly hard to find. Additionally, since there is so much competition in the food chain vampires have formed clans or gangs that are fighting amongst themselves.

One such group of vampires, including leader Benedict (Mark Hengst), his girlfriend Sydney (Osa Wallander), wig-wearing Baxter (Gregory Lee Kenyon) and feisty Yeal (Eva Derrek), is fighting its way west to Los Angeles to hopefully find some pure blood and hole up with their friend Max (Ken Foree) in Hollywood for a while. Unfortunately for them, a cowboy hat-wearing, samuri-sword wielding, vamp-hunting priest (Tim Thomerson) is hot on their trail. It seems a past incident has left The Priest at odds with these particular bloodsuckers and he aims to wipe every last one of them out.

I wouldn’t call Live Evil one of the best vampire flicks I’ve ever seen, but it does a pretty serviceable job. I especially liked the unique idea of tainted blood that writers Lance Polland and Jay Woelfel came up with. If you think about it, what vamp would want to drink our blood with all the chemicals and pollutants going into our bodies? Also, the story was treated with just enough seriousness but it did have its moments of fun silliness (vampire babies, anyone?) plus some great one-liners (“Goddamn vampire babies…they’re the worst”). Most of the film played it straight, though, and took its time to build its own vampire mythos (for example, most of them can go out into the sunlight).

The only part of the writing I didn’t particularly like was the development of the characters. I guess we are supposed to be rooting for The Priest the entire time, but I found him too blah, even though the writers tried to give him a backstory about his vampiric encounter as a kid. Yet, I didn’t feel any sympathy for him and kept cheering on for the vampires to off the decrepit old dude…sadly, that didn’t happen. I also would have liked to learn more about the individual vampires’ pasts and would have liked to have seen the female vamps with more personality. It feels like most of the girls in the film were put there for just T&A, which is a pretty sad thing in this day and age.

As for the acting, it was a bit shaky at times but you could tell the cast had a blast with the film. I really enjoyed the strong performance Mark Hengst gave as the lead vampire, Benedict. The actor who stole the show, though, was Kimberly Sanders as The Priest’s sidekick, Roxy, whom he picks up in a bar and forces at gunpoint to drive him around, chasing after the vamps. Roxy was a spitfire and reminded me a lot of Tara (Rutina Wesley) from True Blood! The film also features tons of cameos from familiar faces in the horror industry, including Tiffany Shepis and Ken Foree! Keep your eyes peeling during a party scene, because you’ll see lots of regulars from within the horror community!

As for the special effects, this low budget film really impressed me! It has several car chases and car crashes that you usually don’t see in a production this small! Yet, they were impeccably filmed and looked absolutely stellar! Live Evil also features lots of gory moments, but one of the best is towards the beginning of the film when a vamps head is decapitated! Sure, the effects tend to look a bit low budget, but I appreciate the fact that they are all practical and not CGI…plus, they look pretty cool! There are also scenes that are bathed in blood, sure to satisfy your inner Bathory.

Live Evil is a solid indie undertaking with a new twist on the vampire story. While it has its flaws, its interesting twist on “tainted blood” ultimately won me over. It comes out in limited release September 18th and then on DVD and Video-on-Demand on November 3rd, so get ready to sink your teeth into this vampire tale!

Available from Amazon!

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