PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Review: Bloodstone – Subspecies 2 / Cert: 18 / Director: Ted Nicolaou / Screenplay: Ted Nicolaou / Starring: Denice Duff, Anders Hove, Melanie Shatner, Michael Denish, Pamela Gordon / Release Date: March 18th

This is the second of the Subspecies films, a quartet of vampire movies made by Full Moon Features on location in Romania during the early '90s. Along with its successor Bloodlust, it's very much the centrepiece of the series, and its shows its writer-director Ted Nicolaou taking wing as a master helmsman of old school horror with a twist.

Having been bitten by the evil vampire Radu (Hove) and now in the process of turning into one of the undead herself, American student Michelle flees to Bucharest, where she contacts her sister Rebecca (Shatner), who hops on a plane to come and help her. However, by the time she arrives, Michelle is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, Radu is also looking for her because he wants back the Bloodstone, a powerful holy relic that Michelle has liberated from him.

The shock-haired bloodsucker emerges as more than just a bogey man this time round. While he's in town, he catches up with his sorceress mum (Gordon), a vicious skeletal hag with a wispy-bald head who lives in an underground crypt full of bubbling potions. With a mother like that, you can see exactly why he's ended up the murderous malcontent he is. She's eager for him to kill Michelle, but he hesitates. He's feeling lonely (his fault – he's slain almost everyone he knows) and rather fancies the idea of having a fledgling to raise in the ways of darkness.

Denice Duff takes over the role of Michelle from Laura Tate. With her birdlike beauty and flowing curls, she makes a touching damsel in distress, clad in a series of fetching beggar-girl costumes filched from the opera house where she holes up during the day. Bit by bit, we watch her hardening into a predatory animal who doesn't belong in the human world.

It's in this film that the creative team's skill with in-camera and practical FX really comes to the fore. As Michelle wanders the streets of Bucharest, she's pursued by wheeling, grasping shadows that are as beautiful as they are sinister. Nicolaou is also very good on the little things that go into being a vampire, in particular the importance of a nice, cosy resting place to take a nap in. In Michelle's case, she finds a crystal coffin among the opera house props that fits her like a glove.

The tightening bond between Radu and Michelle is the core of the film, but its corners are filled out with colourful and engaging characters. There's Popescu (Denish), an eccentric professor who serves a mean plum brandy, and Lt. Marin (Haiduc), a seemingly comical cop who correctly surmises that this all boils down to 'a case of stolen goods'. Quirky and fresh but also potently romantic, Bloodstone is a release not to be missed by anyone with a thing for fangs.

Extras: Cast and Crew Interviews / Killer Montage / Videozone / Trailer

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