Review: The Thompsons / Cert: 18 / Director: Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores / Screenplay: Mitchell Altieri, Cory Knauf / Starring: Mackenzie Firgens, Elizabeth Henstridge, Cory Knauf, Ryan Hartwig, Samuel Child / Release Date: October 15th
A belated sequel to The Hamiltons (2006), The Thompsons is about a dysfunctional family of vampires left to fend for themselves after the deaths of their parents. Caught doing their whole ripping-off-heads-and-guzzling-blood thing on CCTV and now wanted by the law, the gang light out for ye olde England in the hope of tracking down some distant relations. Good idea. After all, we Brits are known for being friendly and welcoming, right?
Following a lead, Francis (Knauf) drops into a picturesque pub somewhere in the Home Counties. Behind the bar are Father and Mother Stuart (O'Meara and Giles), heads of the local vampire clan, which include their two burly sons and Riley (Henstridge), their nubile daughter, who is soon offering Francis toothy smiles and a free pint. Hooray, time to summon the others so everyone can get together for a jolly old knees-up. But hang on, doesn't this all sound a bit too good to be true?
The Thompsons aims straight for the True Blood fanbase. As in that show, there is copious bare breastage (courtesy of a Scandinavian backpacker terrorized by the Stuart boys and a naked prostitute who gets thoroughly groped before being sucked dry). Francis, with his puppy dog eyes, is very much in the soulful, sensitive vampire mould, and he sports Eric Northman's floppy haircut. And, despite sporadic comic book gore, the storyline has a comfortingly soft centre revolving around the themes of family and togetherness.
Which is all fair enough. What lets it down, rather badly, is the English setting. The filmmakers seem to have only a hazy idea of how an English pub works (and an inflated notion of how much a publican might earn, with the Stuarts living it up in style in a stately castle). The dialogue is clunky, with more than a whiff of Dixon of Dock Green between the expletives. And the lack of any even half well-known British thesp's gives the film a cut-price feel.
Another problem is that there's precious little sense of a family dynamic. At the start, a number of flashy directorial flourishes are employed to big up Francis' siblings, but after that they fade rapidly into the wallpaper, stumbling into frame every now and then to service the plot.
On the plus side, Knauf makes for a watchable lead – droopy enough to appeal to the ladies, but not so pretty than men will hate him. And the DVD boasts some generous extras, including an interview with the film's British co-producer, who explains that the creative talent were inspired by “old English movies like An American Werewolf in London”. Oh, you mean the one directed by Sir John Landis? Great movie.