Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vampires: Los Muertos

How does one make a successful sequel to John Carpenter's Vampires without James Woods and his incredibly foul mouth?  Apparently, the answer is by casting Oscar nominee John Bon Jovi as the vampire slayer du jour.  If that doesn't whet your vampire slaying appetite, then howzabout this?  He's backed up by the guy who played Eddie Winslow in Family Matters.  Can I get a "Hell yeah"?

Anybody?  No?

The film opens with Derek (Bon Jovi) doing his thing in Mexico: staking a vampire and dragging it into the sun, so it burns and dies.  Derek is a professional vampire hunter, who is paid for his work by the Van Helsing Group.  Get it?  Van Helsing was the original vampire hunter...and was later adapted into a terrible movie.  Just like this one!  The group offers him a new job through a mysterious benefactor, which doesn't sound suspicious at all.  The job requires Derek to assemble a vampire hunting team; he gets a list of hunters from some vampire hunting priests and goes about recruiting.  There is a problem; every time Derek reaches a hunter, the hunter has just been murdered.  To make matters worse, Derek is getting occasional visions of bloody butchery.  His priest buddies hypothesize that vampires must be linking to Derek.  Eventually, Derek arrives at a diner where the resident hunter hasn't been killed.  Derek makes a bathroom stop while the hunter gets ready to leave and, in the time it take Derek to toss a paper towel away, the film's villainess, Una (Arly Jover), arrives and kills everyone in the diner.

Derek eventually manages to assemble a team that consists of veteran hunter (Darius McCrary), a poor Mexican kid (a slumming Diego Luna), a suspiciously buff priest (Christian de la Fuente), and vampiress that is taking anti-vampire medication (Natasha Wagner).  It turns out that Una is looking for the Berziers Cross, which is the key in a ceremony that can allow vampires to walk in daylight unscathed.  Fans might recognize the artifact from the original movie, one of the few ties this sequel has to its predecessor.  Basically, Una was reading Derek's list telepathically and killing off the local hunters until she finally found someone with the Berziers Cross.  That means that she's his mysterious employer.  Doesn't the Van Helsing Group do even a little bit of research into their contributors?  Like, maybe a questionnaire asking what their favorite flavor blood type is?  Una never finds the cross, but Derek's buff priest has it.  To convince the priest to perform the ceremony that will make Una vitamin D-ready, she decides to go to convoluted lengths.  Reasoning that Derek kind of gives a crap about his pet vampiress, Una plots to get her hands on the anti-vampire medication.  To do this, she approaches the group at night, when only Darius McCrary is on guard.  She pretends to be incredibly attracted to him (this is the middle of nowhere, mind you) and her first act is to fellate him.  I'm a man, too, but if some strung out chick wandered into my campground from the middle of nowhere, I wouldn't be immediately dropping my drawers.  I could just be a prude, though.  Anyway, in a surprise turn of events, when you receive oral sex from a vampire, you get bit.  Darius then begins to follow Una's commands and steals the medicine for her.  Una then uses the medicine to walk in the sun and kidnaps the group's unwilling vampiress.  This is the bait for the final fight.  Will Derek give up the life of a casual acquaintance that doesn't like being a vampire?  Will the buff priest perform the ritual ceremony?  Will Una reign supreme?  Will Family Matters be the peak of McCrary's career?  In order: no, yes, no and yes.

Okay, I'll ask.  If Una is so damn fast, why is Jon Bon Jovi still alive?  She encounters him a couple of times, and he is still left alive.  I get tracking down the cross and keeping a priest alive.  All the others should be inconsequential collateral damage.  Perhaps more to the point, if Una's ultimate goal is to become a daywalking vampire, why doesn't she just start taking the same medication that the unwilling vampire is taking?  And what's with the unwilling vampire?  We later learn that replacing vampire blood through transfusions cures vampirism, which I admit could have been a scientific leap that was only discovered as this movie took place.  I'm fine with that.  My question is what kind of multivitamins are needed to make vampires less vampy?  Echinacea root?  Cod liver oil?  Sugar that causes cavities that attack vampire fangs?  And why is Bon Jovi having visions?  The original movie and this one feature bitten folk having a psychic connection to their vampire donor, but there is never an explanation given as to why Bon Jovi is so lucky.  Does it even matter?  The visions add nothing to the story except maybe five minutes of running time.

Surprisingly, the acting isn't actually all that terrible.  Diego Luna and Christian de la Fuente were both pretty likable.  The rest of the cast was less impressive --- Darius McCrary was especially unconvincing as a tough guy --- but nobody made a direct reference to being wanted dead or alive, or even about living on a prayer, so I'll give credit where it's due.

That credit is definitely not belonging to writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, whose last theatrical work (direct-to-DVD or otherwise) was Fright Night Part 2.  The story didn't make much sense and the acting ranged from poor to mediocre.  The plot was essentially a retread of the first Vampires, substituting a female for a male head vampire.  Other than that, this was an artful tour de force from a cast and director that deserve to share every star this film earned.

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