Friday, January 8, 2010

Vampires + martial arts = gory fun

Fist of the Vampire (2008)
Starring: Brian Anthony, Leon South, Darian Caine, Cheyenne King, and Brian Heffron
Director: Len Kabasinski
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Two police officers, the beef-cakey Lee (Anthony) and the babealicious Davidson (King), infiltrate an underground extreme fighting ring, only to come into direct conflict with the vampires that run it (Caine, Heffron, and South).

"Fist of the Vampire" is a rarity among low-budget action films. It sports a decent cast, a well-conceived script, and some effective use of both CGI and blue-screen effects. Overall, it's an entertaining film that fans of vampires and street fighting will enjoy.

The film derives most of its strengths from a solid script that moves along speedily from beginning to end. There isn't any big surprises in it, but it makes full use of both the vampire and extreme fighting angles. The good script also gives the lead actors plenty of material to work with, and they all do a good job in their parts. The weakest performer is Brian Heffron, who plays the vampire ring leader. His role called for someone to be completely over the top, but instead he seems subdued in most scenes. He is reportedly a professional wrestler who goes by the name of the Blue Meanie, so this is surprising to me. If anyone can ham it up, it's professional wrestlers!)

Another strong point in the film is the use of CGI. It's become commonplace for low-budget films to use CGI to simulate muzzle-flashes and gunfire and we have that here, too. The degree to which it's done is the most impressive I've seen so far. (The filmmakers go a little overboard here and there--such with an animated bullet speeding through the air that's cool the first time we see it but which gets tiresome when they use it a second and third time.) The CGI explosions, fire, and other blue screen effects are also very nice executed, particularly the ones where vampires meet their fiery ends.

Unfortunately, for all its good parts, it also features a number of weaknesses that are often present in low-budget action movies.

The most glaring of these weaknesses is in the fight scenes. While the staging of the action and the cinematography is superior to what I've seen in many films at this budget level, they are still obviously staged and choreographed. The angles the fights are being filmed from successfully hides that full-on blows don't connect, but the actors are under-rehearsed and blows and parries are telegraphed so far in advanced that nearly all illusion of reality is dispelled.

In final analysis, I think "Fist of the Vampire" is worth seeking out if you like vampires and martials flicks. Despite its flaws, it's a fun and fast-moving picture.

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