Richard Johnstone’s micro-budget British horror movie, retitled from the slightly more subtle Bloodless, sees a quintet of young couples (all supposed to be the same age although one or two look distinctly more mature than the others) rock up at a spooky old ‘castle’ (although it’s really more of a sprawling country pile) as volunteers in experimental medical trials. If they can last the thirty-day trial period they’ll get a tasty £20,000 per couple as ‘prize money’ for their trouble. But naturally all is not as it seems in their rural seclusion where they are cut off from the outside world (they even have to surrender their mobile phones - shriek!) and the mysterious ‘team’ conducting the experiments aren’t quite who they seem. They’re vampires; don’t start screaming ‘Oi, spoilers!’... did you catch the film’s title?
At first blush it seems as if Vampires hasn’t got much going for it we’ve not seen a zillion times before. Mismatched kids trapped in middle of nowhere – check; eerie strangers watching and manipulating – check; things going bump and arrgh in the night – check. Yet despite its story shortcomings – we can pretty much guess the way it’s going to play out the moment the kids step nervously out of the van that’s brought them to the ‘castle’ – Vampires is oddly agreeable and surprisingly accomplished for a film starring no-one of note and undoubtedly put together for not much more than pocket money. Johnstone’s script is light on its feet, its characters better sketched than many of the cyphers who populate generic horror fare (if rarely especially more likeable) and he makes superb use of the semi-dilapidated location and the autumnal English countryside surroundings, all grey skies, squelching mud and squawking crows. The vampires, when they are finally revealed, are a suitably gruesome bunch too; the use of roaring lion sound FX as they hunt and kill gives them a pleasingly animalistic – and mercifully un-Twilight – demeanour and encounters with a beguiling child vampire are genuinely creepy and disconcerting thanks to an effecting performance from young Holly Louise Newton.
Vampires doesn’t reinvent the subgenre but then it’s not trying to. It does, however, succeed in giving the undead their bite back after years of touchy-feely teen twaddle and for that alone Johnstone, a promising talent with a real feel for his subject matter, deserves considerable kudos. Our sincere fangs, in fact... (Ouch – Ed).
Special Features: Making of / Cast and crew interviews
VAMPIRES / CERT: 15/ DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: RICHARD JOHNSTONE / STARRING: BILL FELLOWS, VICTORIA HOPKINS, ANGELA ZAHRA, MELISSA ADVANI, JUDITH ALEXANDER, KRISTIAN JAMES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW