Monday, December 05, 2011

Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part 1

Sisters Helen and Lara Baxter have typical sibling rivalry, quickly and effectively set up within the first scene featuring the two, in the indie horror flick Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries, Part I (now re-titled Bloodborne). Goth-chick Lara (Eilis Cahill) worships at her Anne Rice altar while over-achieving Helen (Devon Bailey) gets all the school awards -- and all the boys. Lara wishes her sister was dead, and soon that wish is granted.

But Helen returns as a vampire, and the film then tells the story of a devoted mother (JoJo Hristova) and the rest of her clan as they cope with a family member who has returned from the grave.

This new Helen is handled without much flare (or over-questioning the "whys" and "hows"), in part due to her mother's religious devotion. Soon biologist brother Raymond (Michael Strelow) chimes in with some pseudo-science regarding the cause of Helen's vampirism, while Lara fills in the blanks with her mythological knowledge. Starting out with promise, and some good practical makeup effects, the film soon runs out of things to say.

The story itself is pretty straight-forward, and although technically the film is plagued with muffled dialogue and poor lighting, these aspects are easily forgiven; after all, it is low budget. Championed with enthusiasm by one-man-band Phil Messerer, who acted as writer, shooter, producer, director and editor, Thicker Than Water was perhaps too much a burden for one man to bear. The trouble with wearing so many hats is there's no one else around to tell you what works, and what doesn't. As a result, for a horror-comedy, most of the jokes fall flat, which is unfortunate because the over-the-top gore and bizarre actions of the family members really need a good counter-balance of comedic situations, but alas this is not the case. As with many films, the comedy that works is featured in the trailer.

Interspersed within the main story is a back story of the vampiress "Oya," featuring Freemasons (check) and an ancient culture (check), which I guess in some way is a counterpoint to what modern-day Helen is going through, perhaps setting up future tales, as "Thicker Than Water" is part 1 of a proposed trilogy. The trouble is, each time this back story is presented, the movie hits a brick wall, and we're left to take a washroom break or grab a drink rather than sit through these unnecessary scenes. What really would have helped the story is a tighter edit; many scenes are too long, somewhat repetitive, and the over-use of montage really drags the plot. Add to that too much voice-over, some bizarre musical choices, and too many crotch-level & extreme close up shots, and you get a story with a lot of promise but without the best execution. By the time a vampire shows up straight out of an Anne Rice novel, all you can do is say "huh" and wonder why this and another plot twist was added so late into the story.

I have to say the acting is a standout; lead Bailey effectively chews the scenery, while Hristova makes the best of what little she is given as the devoted mother. Cahill effectively portrays the emo "all the world is against me" teenager, although she eventually becomes a little too annoying for her own good.

Overall, The Vampire Diaries series shows promise, and if Messerer can "Let The Right One In" by bringing in a collaborator or two, part 2 may be a worthwhile sequel to this story.

3 out of 5

  • Format: NTSC
  • Region: All Regions
  • Studio: The Sugar Factory
  • DVD Release Date: November 2, 2009
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • ASIN: B001HZY1DE

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    Monday, December 05, 2011