By Last Caress.
Today, I am reviewing a pair of budget titles distributed here in the UK by Brighton-based budget title specialists Safecracker Pictures. With a back catalogue of pictures such as Nazi Zombie Death Tales (2012), Easy Rider: The Ride Back (2012) and Venom (2011), you do at least get a fairly good idea of what you’re getting into from the off: If the titles of those movies appeal, the movies themselves likely will too. Shall we crack on?
God of Vampires (Fitz, 2010)
Made over six years-worth of free weekends and days off, God of Vampires tells of a contract killer, Frank Ng (Dharma Lim), who lands the contract of his life when he’s asked to off a triad mob boss for a million dollars. Alas, it turns out that the mob boss he’s supposed to off happens to be Kiang Shi, the “God of Vampires”, who not only refuses to be a good boy and die, but also curses Frank causing everyone close to Frank to die.
This is a terribly frustrating one, this. The concept of God of Vampires is both interesting and original, two adjectives so rarely attached to vampire pictures anymore. The opening scene is intended to paint Frank Ng as a Leon-level hitman, and setting this protagonist against rarely-seen-on-screen Chinese vampires (much more zombie/vampire hybrids, subservient to a master vampire with a vastly different set of “rules” under which they exist than that of their more familiar European counterparts) is, I think, a terrific idea. On top of this, God of Vampires wants to set its stall out as being as gory as fuck to boot. And it is, it’s all of these things, except… ah, it’s just not. It can’t escape it’s micro-budget, and at every level its cheap production values let it down. Scenes of dramatic dialogue get lost behind the score. Actors seem uncertain as to whether they should play it straight or ham it up; either way, they’re rarely up to the task. The tone veers ‘twixt that of a Hellraiser movie and that of a Robert Rodriguez Shoot ’em Up. And it has to be said that Safecracker’s blocky, non-anamorphic presentation doesn’t help the picture in any way, shape or form. It’s like watching a pre-broadband YouTube clip in a big black box.
Look: If you’re a fan of vampire pics I’m going to recommend you give God of Vampires at least a look, despite my misgivings. It is a freshly original piece of writing, that’s for sure. For my money, this is exactly the sort of film Hollywood should be remaking instead of the classics which didn’t need a remake in the first place. Because of the woeful production values, I’d also say that those of you looking for a treat on a “Bad Movie” night might find something here as well. Anyone else can swerve this one with confidence.
Wolf Town (Reiné, 2011)
College student Kyle (Levi Fiehler) wants to date Jess (Alicia Ziegler) but is too timid to ask her. She’s a history and anthropology major though, so he concocts a trip with her to the deserted former gold mining town of Paradise as a school research project. He takes his friend Ben (Max Adler) with him to act as a wing-man but, oh noes! Jess has brought her boyfriend Rob (Josh Kelly)! Who foresaw that happening? Anyway, what the audience knows thanks to a cold opening set a hundred years or so earlier but the quartet of students don’t know is that Paradise was overrun by a pack of killer wolves who appear to have held the town right up until the present day, however chronically unlikely that may sound. And I guess the pack haven’t enjoyed a good meal since the 1890s either since they’re plenty keen on wolfing down these four (“Wolfing” down, brilliant).
Wolf Town is almost the opposite of God of Vampires: Where God of Vampires was an intriguing idea executed poorly, Wolf Town is a competently-made piece – the wolf-centric sequences notwithstanding – featuring four likeable protagonists, but with a dull and badly-scripted central conceit. What sort of “school project” is this supposed to be? What was Kyle’s further plan upon conning Jess to go out into the middle of nowhere with him and his mate (they didn’t know the boyfriend would tag along)? How was Kyle close enough to Jess for long enough that he could both foster an obsession with her and talk her into taking a research trip with him, but didn’t know she was dating anyone? How has this historical resource of Paradise been discovered and publicized as such whilst all this time being populated by man-eating wolves for literally over a century? I guess none of this matters once we’re into the main thrust of the picture – vicious wolves lay siege to these poor buggers – but then the picture is beset by its other big problem: The aforementioned wolf-centric sequences, which involve lots of close-ups and jump cuts to imply that “stuff” is happening when, really, all that does is disorient the viewer and pull us out of the moment. At least Wolf Town fares better than God of Vampires in its treatment by Safecracker, presented in proper widescreen with a slightly better standard-definition encoding.
If you were to catch Wolf Town late at night on SyFy or Movies4Men or The Horror Channel or somewhere you may find a mild enough distraction for eighty minutes or so but I can’t imagine that too many people who actively sought it out could have been anything other than disappointed.
God of Vampires and Wolf Town are out now. Check out Safecracker Pictures’ site here.
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