The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

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Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blood Angels aka Thralls (2005)

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I first saw this about four years ago, around the time I was first starting the DTVC, when it aired at 2AM on Sci-Fi (now SyFy). I wasn't entirely fond of it, and though it was a Lorenzo Lamas flick, I put it on the back burner, wanting to hit more of his 90s DTV action classics first. Then Netflix put it on Watch Instantly, so I put it in my instant queue, and forgot about it again. The vegan straw that ended up breaking the carnivore's back was when Netflix put the warning out that they were about to dump it from Watch Instantly, which put my cheeks to fire and made getting this done a priority.

Blood Angels, aka Thralls, is about a group of women who were turned into some kind of slave style vampire by vampire master Lorenzo Lamas, and held in a white room of a mansion, shackled at the ankle. They escape with a plan to turn themselves into full vampires so they can go back and take Lamas out. The only thing they have to do is perform some ritual on the night of the Winter Solstice, which they plan on doing through the help of a rave they're running. Only problem, Lamas is after them, and he's less than stoked that his possessions have run out on him.

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This wasn't too bad. I'm not sure why I didn't like it so much then, but I don't have the same animosity now. The whole thing was pretty much played for laughs, a vampire/horror/comedy so to speak, coupled with a lot of hot bodies, including the female stars. I had two big problems with it though: first, to do a comedy like this, the key is to not let the joke get stale, which is kind of what happened here. On top of that, it's hard to do comedy while at the same time falling back on a lot of cliches that traditional horror films like these use, especially the drawn out "who's going to stop Lamas's evil ritual before it's finished?" plot device, which was so tedious in the context of the rest of the film. The other problem was that a good chunk of the film's appeal was based on the appeal of the female stars, both for their beauty and their abilities as strong, no nonsense vampire business owners; but so much of that appeal is diminished by how dimly lit the rave scenes were. In fact, we only see the women clearly when they're being held as slaves by Lamas. In the end, it's one of those things where the intentions were good, which made the film fun, but there wasn't enough focus, which made the film not as much fun as it could've been.

I'm probably going to take a lot of heat for this, because Lamas isn't the most popular of our Hall of Famers here at the DTVC, but he acquitted himself very nicely in Blood Angels, especially in the comedic realm. No, I'm not getting soft on my old age, I'm dead serious, the guy was legitimately funny. He has this one great scene where he rips a drag queen's head off, throws it to his friend-- another drag queen-- then tells him "I think you'll need to find another ride home." To me, that's pretty fantastic. The problem is, even though he's top billed, the cover tells the true story, because he only has a supporting part as the head baddie-- though maybe that's not so bad, because it didn't give him a chance to get stale like a lot of the rest of the humor.

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I want to say it started with the Blade series, but somewhere along the line, among the many powers vampires possess, a mastery of martial arts became one of them. "I'm bit, now I have superhuman strength, like to hang out at raves, and can do Kung Fu." For women, it's supposed to have the added effect of empowerment, the idea that beefy, musclebound oafs can be taken down by thin, seemingly diminutive, pretty girls. We get a good sense of that early on when one of the vampires takes out a gang of thugs planning to sexually assault her and her sister, and then the theme comes full-circle when the girls team up to take down Lamas. I bring this up because, while this is the trend, the most popular vampire saga of the moment, the Twilight series, bucks this by featuring a diminutive female lead who is protected by her stronger vampire beau.

This film took place in Iowa, but was shot in British Columbia. I don't get that. Why can't it be set in British Columbia? Maybe get some shots of Vancouver in there too. I've never been, but I hear it's the most beautiful city in North America. Has it been proven with American test audiences that on average, we don't enjoy a film as much if we know it takes place in Canada? It must be the same focus group data that was used in the 80s to determine that Journey should get the most airplay on nationwide corporate radio stations. The other aspect of this I didn't get was the idea of city dwellers versus those from the country. In Iowa? Is there that big of a disparity between Des Moines and the rural outskirts? I only mention this because I grew up in Maine, and I didn't see that much difference between the people from Portland-- the state's biggest city-- and the people from the more remote locations I'd been to.

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One cool thing in Blood Angels was this quick reference to Hunter S. Thompson. One of my earliest influences in writing was Thompson, and I know a lot of other writers in the country would say the same thing. It's hard not to be inspired after reading his stuff, and though I don't see as many of his fingerprints in my current state as a writer, when I go back about ten years and look at old drafts, I'm almost mimicking him entirely.

This is no longer available on Watch Instantly as of this posting, which means you can either get it on DVD or wait for it to pop up on SyFy again. It's pretty nondescript, and other than the Lamas humor, it doesn't really bring anything special to the table. I'd say you could do a lot worse at 2AM, you're procrastinating on that final paper, and you see this on TV; but to go out of your way to find it isn't worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0404496/

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, this was an ahem "interesting" film all right, I saw it before I even knew who Lamas was, BTW how many more Lamas films do you have left to review?

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  2. Only about 11 or 12, give or take. I thought the number was more than that, and I guess it would be if we did all the TV movies and kids films he's done.

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