Vampire (2002)

VAMPIRE aka. Demon Under Glass (2002)

Director: Jon Cunningham
Main Cast: Jason Carter, Garrett Maggart, Jack Donner, Kira Reed

Country of Origin: USA
Running Time: 111mins
Certificate: 15

The themes staked at the heart of Vampire are interesting enough, the balance between science and ethics, and a look at what stage research and study devolves in to transgression. The problem lies in the execution of these ideas on a budget that couldn’t finance a bag of penny sweets – taking this in to account, it’s not such a bad job, but it’s far from cinematic eye-candy.

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The film kicks off as a vampire, Vlad, is caught in an undercover police operation trying to solicit a prostitute. Injured in the ambush, he is taken to a government lab and studied as he heals. Naturally the doctors and scientists assigned to his case become very personally involved, particularly the characters of Dr McKay (Garrett Maggart, The Sentinel) and Dr Bassett (Jack Donner, General Hospital). The scientists begin to discover just how far you can go in the name of scientific research as study turns to torture, and torture to murder; the lines between morals and ethics become distinctly murky as the doctors confront the ultimate dilemma.

Unfortunately there are a number of problems with the shooting of Vampire. The grainy footage is bad even for a B movie, it’s as if the whole thing was shot from various CCTV cameras concealed on set. Particularly the opening scenes of the undercover police sting are so retro you half-expect ‘reconstruction’ to appear in reassuring white letters in the top left hand corner. Patronising stills of the sunrise or sunset between almost every scene attempt to remind you what time of day it is, just in case you’d forgotten: Vampires don’t do daylight (If they did, it’d be the best daylight in the world…wait, no, that’s Carlsberg).

The script, whilst boring, is actually one of the strong points. It goes in to a lot of depth discussing the various angles relevant to keeping a vampire in captivity and under treatment, and is pretty strong on character development. That said, there are a few hiccups in the dialogue, lines that would be hard pressed coming from an 18th century Lord, let a lone a hooker or military operative – this is supposedly 2002, people just don’t say “begging your pardon, sir” or “you sir, presume too much” – indeed, has that ever been the everyday vernacular? And while I’m on the subject of era, their hi-tech government laboratory is about as technologically advanced as my microwave, except with bigger buttons and dials, not to mention the only actual computer screen visible on the entire set has the appearance of a prototype ABC computer monitor, deeper than it is wide, not the gadgetry you would expect to find in the UK equivalent of Area 51. Vampire isn’t just dated visually either. One classic montage has a musical accompaniment that could have been ripped straight from an episode of the original Miss Marple starring Jean Hickson.

Bemusingly, the screenwriter has included the occasional attempt at humour, but this is totally at odds with how seriously the film takes itself, and clashes heavily with otherwise dull cinematic tone. Ironically, the terrible costumes, effects and frequently hammy acting are much more likely to draw laughs and/ or snorts of derision.

Hookers are the victim of choice in Vampire, arousing that morbid blood lust that conforms to the good film formula: sex + violence = excitement. So why doesn’t it work in Vampire? Perhaps because the scarce violence portrayed is less convincing than Charlie Chaplin slapstick and the sexual content is less raunchy than a Carry On film. Don’t get me wrong, these two ingredients don’t necessarily make for a good film, but if you’re going to attempt them, do it with a little conviction! Vampire really needed to decide what kind of film it wanted to be, it dabbles with scenes of action and thriller, and yet the dialogue gets bogged down with in depth discussions (over games of chess!!) about the nature of the human condition. You’ve heard of style over substance? This is kind of like and ill-conceived attempt at the opposite.

Best advice…if you’re a fan of Twilight – don’t watch this. If you’re a fan of Blade – don’t watch this. If you loved that new movie Daybreakers with Willem Dafoe kicking ass – don’t watch this. Why? Because this isn’t a conventional vampire movie. There are no big budget special effects because there was no budget. There are no A list actors for the same reason. There is also not much excitement, terror or any other form of enjoyment. Vampire is essentially just a classic tale of moral dilemma stripped of all the stereotypes that ironically would have made it worth a watch. Unless you’re literally being threatened by a fanged psychopath, probably best to give this one a miss.

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