"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> SUBSPECIES
By: Pamela Torres
If, like myself, you have gotten weary of the uninspiring and cinematically castrated TWILIGHT craze that has plagued our country's Hot Topic and Borders stores, then lo and behold, I have an A-positive remedy straight from the nearest blood bank! Just recently I took a trip to a Movie Stop in Tampa, Florida and used my credit to purchase a shockingly good DVD set; an R-rated franchise that's guaranteed to make vampires scary and sexy again! Directed by Ted Nicolaou and released on video by Full Moon Pictures, SUBSPECIES is a thrilling 1991 gothic horror film about three college girls who travel to Prejnar to study ancient folklore concerning Vlad the Impaler's holy battle against the Turks. You will be happy to know that both Nicolaou and executive producer Charles Band (who himself has written a weird gaggle of cult favorites like PUPPET MASTER, DOLLMAN and DEMONIC TOYS) gave the movie's setting a kiss of authenticity by having it lavishly shot in and around Romania's Transylvanian ruins, including a crumbling 19th century church. Even the script's dialogue successfully manages to incorporate alot of vampire myths that were passed down from generation to generation, particularly during the pagan-style masked dance sequence performed at the Festival of the Undead.
Michele (Laura Mae Tate), Lillian (Michelle McBride), and a foreign exchange student named Mara (Irina Movila) go out to the countryside to take photos and do some sightseeing when they discover Castle Vladislav. Naturally, they get curious over why this foreboding monument was never mentioned in any of the historical texts. But what these three heroines don't know is that this structure happens to be inhabited by the evil and flesh-crazed Radu, a hideous-looking bloodsucker brought to life thanks to a tour-de-force performance by actor Anders Hove. Now, for anyone who hasn't yet seen the trailer, Radu is unlike most other long-tooth predators; he bears a pallid complexion, a drooling red mouth and grotesquely long, claw-like fingers, bearing a stronger resemblance to Max Shrek's Nosferatu than Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula. Also, you will find a brief but regal appearance of PHANTASM'S Angus Scrimm in the role of Radu's father, who unfortunately gets stabbed to death before the start of the opening credits. Now, where was I? Oh yes! Radu's Daddy, the wise old Vampire King, had spent 5 centuries maintaining peace between his race and the human gypsy peasants by guarding The Bloodstone, a precious relic that holds the purified plasma of religious saints (or something like that). Upon hearing word of the King's decision to pass the royal power torch to his younger, half-mortal son Stefan (played by General Hospital's Michael Watson), Radu returns from exile, murders his father and seizes the Stone as his birthright. But even that isn't enough to satisfy his gluttonous appetite. Sure enough, he spots Michele and skulks the night to messily pig out on her two best friends, eventually transforming them into his own scantily clad concubines. Left on her own, Michele is protected by the handsome Stefan (who falls romantically in love with her, of course), and the two attempt to drive a wooden stake through Radu's heart with the aide of Karl (Ivan Rado), the Van Helsing of the cast.
The pre-CGI effects used in SUPSPECIES are quite impressive for their time. The pint-size horned critters who aid Radu (which I shall refer to as hemogoblins) were made from a combination of stop-motion animation and foam rubber rod puppets. Ironically, the very first hemogoblins to be incarnated (and scrapped) on the set were played by costumed acrobats and stunt men. Another trait that I need to praise in this review is the delicate use of Radu's shadows, which either stretch and creep diagonally on stone walls or float upside-down over the floor; it's a simple but frightening visual technique that had to have been borrowed from the expressionist silent films of the early 1920's.
As shown in the newly packaged box set, SUBSPECIES spawned three sequels and a 1998 spin-off titled THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS. Although I haven't watched those DVDs yet, I can say for certain that they all remain consistent with each other and remain both grisly and entertaining without making the decremental descent into parody or campness. To be honest, this is the second top-notch franchise I came across since HELLRAISER. Here's a little sneak preview of what's to come: poor Michele becomes cursed into becoming a vampire, Radu is increasingly aroused by her hatred of him, and audiences will be introduced to his wicked and powerful sorceress Mother (Pamela Gordon).
If you wish to see a film in which a bite on the jugular vein is equivalent to intense sexual foreplay, the SUBSPECIES saga comes highly recommended!