Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993)


If you are like me, and I know I am, then you were filled with the desire to know more about the infamous Bloodstone introduced in the “hit” film Subspecies. So when the sequel was unleashed on the direct to video market there was much rejoicing. Not only would we find out more about this mysterious arcane object, but we would also be treated to more tiny demons and of course more of the terrifying Radu. Well, let’s modify expectations a bit, because this film goes in an unexpected direction. Unless you watched Subspecies and said to yourself, “You know what this movie needs? Shatner!” then you are in for a treat.


Picking up right after the original film ends, Radu (Anders Hove) has a bit of a dilemma. His brother has decapitated him and stabbed him with a wooden stake. For any other vampire this would mean certain death. But Radu has the Subspecies at his command, and they pull his head close enough to his body so the spine can stretch out and reconnect everything in an admittedly cool looking effect. Radu rises and takes vengeance on his brother and nearly slaughters Michelle (Denice Duff taking over the role). But the sun interrupts his murder spree.

Michelle manages to escape Radu’s castle and makes for Bucharest, where she contacts her sister Rebecca (Melanie Shatner). But things don’t go quite as planned. You see, Radu is still pursuing Michelle because she has the Bloodstone, and because he created her, making her his fledging. Along the way he makes contact with his Mummy (Pamela Gordon) who gives him magical aid. Rebecca teams up with Mel (Kevin Spirtas) from the American consulate and the eccentric professor Popescu (Michael Denish). Can these three save Michelle’s tainted soul or is she doomed to walk the night forever with the Bloodstone?

Good Points:
  • Denice Duff does a good job portraying Michelle’s confusion and anguish as a new vampire.
  • The movie never takes itself too seriously, providing intentional and unintentional laughs
  • Location shooting in Romania gives the whole movie a unique feel

Bad Points:
  • The script is a mess, and character motivations are very hazy
  • Most of the scenes with Mummy are hilarious when they should be scary
  • Radu comes across as an idiot in this movie, an imposing idiot, but still an idiot


Bloodstone improves on the previous film in some ways and is worse in others. The final product is just as entertaining but for different reasons. This movie is much less serious and going for pure entertainment. Hove still goes for the gusto as Radu, but the script turns him into a bumbling idiot for half the running time. If you enjoyed the previous film, odds are you’ll have a good time with this one. Perfect October viewing if you are in the mood for cheesy vampire fun.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 2
Music: 3
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 4
Total:  3

In Depth Review

Radu loves the night life. He loves to boogie in Bucharest.
Subspecies was going for a traditional gothic horror film set in modern times (the early 1990s in that case). But Bloodstone: Subspecies II is going for… um, well its not aiming totally for horror, because it is aware how cheesy it is and throws in quite a few laughs into the mix. It makes for a bit of muddled viewing experience, but one that is fun enough that you can forgive some of the missteps it makes.

One thing I really like about the film is that it is a direct continuation of the events and characters from the previous film. It almost feels like it is sticking closer to trashy horror novels or comic books in that way. Bloodstone literally starts minutes after the events of the previous film (the blood from Michelle’s dead friends is still wet on the floors of Radu’s castle). The events of this film occur over the course of a few days and it gives the film a bit of urgency.

"I'm telling you, Meatloaf stole my act!"
What helps this continuity work is Anders Hove back in the castle as Radu. Once again, Hove is all in with his performance. He is still horrific and intimidating as the fearsome vampire, looming into scenes, melting in and out of the darkness and drooling blood. Those eyes, damn are they malevolent. I’m probably going to say this in every review of the Subspecies films, but this series would have crashed and burned way sooner than it did if they didn’t have Hove as the primary antagonist. I love the way he savors each murder he is about to commit and his unleashed rage when he realizes that the Bloodstone was stolen from him. This is how a vampire should be.

Unfortunately the script doesn’t really help Hove out too much. Time and again Radu makes really dumb choices and could have easily avoided half the problems he runs into over the course of Bloodstone. I really wonder how much of this script was written days before filming, because it feels like with a bit more time and script tweaking, half of these issues could have been avoided.

Diaphanous gown? Check! You are ready to be the
vampirical bride.
Let’s just look at the first sequence in the castle as an example. So Radu is rescued by the Subspecies (in their only appearance in the film – what gives? Why name the film after them if they are barely in it? Rumor has it that the stop motion animation was too expensive to keep up, so they were dropped from the films entirely). Radu takes his revenge on Stephan (who is played by another actor who looks completely different from the original guy and is way older to boot). Now, Stephan was holding the Bloodstone, but Radu just leaves it there in the pile of slime and bones. He opens Michelle’s coffin and says “You are mine” and then proceeds to spend a good thirty seconds slowly raising his wooden stake and glowering. If he wanted her, why is threatening to kill her? Doesn’t matter because the sun comes through the window and Radu cries out in anguish and runs from the room – leaving the Bloodstone behind. Sure enough when it gets dark Michelle rises, grabs the Bloodstone and weeps a little over Stephan’s bones and her friend’s corpses. She then escapes from the castle as Radu sleeps in. You’d think the Subspecies would have woken him up or something.

The bloodstone gets and upgrade. Shame the
script didn't.
How to remedy this? Easy, have Radu kill Stephan (because seriously who cares about him, he was the weakest part of the first film), pick up the Bloodstone and gloat a bit. Then carry the stone over Michelle and taunt her with it, lording his power over her and the death of Stephan. You can even keep the “You’re mine.” line in there too. No need to threaten her with a stake. It also gives him an excuse to put the Bloodstone down next to her as he gloats in her face about his triumph, then the sun appears and he rushes off. All this keeps in character, is just as terrifying (if not more so) and allows Michelle to get a taste of the Bloodstone early on, so it makes sense why she keeps it throughout the movie.

See, I just made all that up after a few hours thought about the film. This is why I get the feeling that the messy script was written in a hurry right before filming. Because things like that happen all the way through the script and most of it impacts Radu in a negative way.

Vampire fledglings come running for the great taste
of saints' blood.
Time and again Radu is thwarted by stupid choices he makes. And as fearsome as he looks, he starts to become a less credible enemy, because he is so dumb. Again, with some script work you could have him in more of a fish out of water scenario where modern Bucharest befuddles his medieval mind and causes him to get distracted or confused. But none of that is really used either. Bloodstone seems more concerned with using him to loom in the shadows and glower, instead of actually building his character in a way that makes him a threat in the modern and medieval worlds.

Perhaps the worst offender of the weakening of Radu is the character of Mummy played with outrageous verve by Pamela Gordon. Looking like a combination of The Crypt Keeper and a deranged Mummy, the character is literally Radu’s mother. He keeps calling her, Mummy and gives her sheepish obedience. With these two actors chewing the scenery in their scenes you have some of the most entertaining sequences in the film. Mummy’s makeup effects are pretty good, she’s gross to look at, and devilishly amused by everything. But Radu’s total obedience to her reduces his fearsome nature. And the scenes are so funny that it is hard to take Mummy seriously as a threat to anyone.

Mummy gets down with her bad self.
Again with some script tweaking this character could have been something interesting and build on the horror of Radu. If he had used a spell to raise this mummified witch from the grave and have her serve him as a minion using her magic to find Michelle, or to grant him some kind of power this could have made sense. You could have kept her performance as outrageous, but dropped the mother-son dynamic and maybe even have her as a rival to Radu. Her actions to save him at the end of the film would make sense, if she was his servant and not a vampire. Anyway, Mummy is a fun character, and she adds a lot of humor to the film. It is just a shame it is at Radu’s expense.

That covers the villains of the movie, but how about our heroes? While I did like Laura Tate as Michelle in Subspecies, Denice Duff does a good job with the character in Bloodstone. She handles the desperation and fear that Michelle feels as her vampire instincts grow within her. After the events of the previous film, she is terrified of Radu (with good reason), so her constant paranoia that he is following her is handled well. I also like how Duff gives us that self-loathing at her desire for blood combined with the lust to kill. It’s a tricky mix of emotions but Duff does it well. Obscurus Lupa did give Duff some grief about crying so much in these movies, but I think it makes sense in Bloodstone. After all the shit she’s been through and dealing with now, I would think her emotions are a real mess.

"Vampires. Why did it have to be vampires?"
Melanie Shatner does a good job as the concerned sister and the newest damsel in distress as the film progresses. The movie doesn’t give her too much to work with other than concern for her sister and making googly eyes at Mel. But I do like how she has an open mind when it comes to the Romanian folklore about vampires. I also like the way she respects Professor Popescu, even when the old man keeps admitting that he is getting on in years and may not be remembering his vampire lore quite right. Shatner gives a solid performance, and would come back for Bloodlust: Subspecies III.

Fearless vampire slayers? Or posing for for the
Romanian travel brochure?
Spartas has a pretty flat role as Mel, but he does a decent job. He’s the solid hero type that falls for the cute girl. I do like how the script has him bail out near the end because it all gets too incredible and he doesn’t want to lose his job at the consulate if they find out he’s been “vampire slaying” with an old man and a cute girl. Michael Denish is pretty amusing as Professor Popescu, mixing the wise old mentor and doddering old man archetypes together in a fun character. He has some very funny interplay with Rebecca and Mel. Sometimes you think he really knows what he is talking about and then his eyes go a little mad, and you start to really wonder about him. There is also a subplot with Detective Marin played by Ion Haiduc. He’s mostly around to bumble his case and make jokes about learning his English from American cop shows. It’s another amusing character, but he kind of vanishes part way through.

Nothing brings the giggles like being evil and undead.
What annoys me about Bloodstone is the simple fact that you have this relic in the title and at times it seems like an important plot element with Radu chasing after this and Michelle coveting it. But really, it all comes to nothing. We don’t learn anything more about the Bloodstone, or what it does, or why everyone wants it (even Mummy). It just is there. At least the prop looks more impressive this time with a brass claw gripping the crystal push-pop. This feels like such a missed opportunity, the Bloodstone could have been developed into the crux of these films with Radu seeking it and unlocking its power. But it really is just a MacGuffin that goes nowhere.

Michelle stopped her blood drinking to call the
Castlevania hotline.
That said, there is a compelling story to be told in Bloodstone. Michelle as Radu’s fledging and her slow but eventually corruption should be the primary tale being told. And for the most part it is. Rebecca does hijack the film a bit with her antics with the three male characters. But when this movie really works it does because we follow Michelle in her flight from Radu, battling her cravings for blood, and eventually succumbing to her hunger and killing a heavy metal fan. Her disgust and fear of herself and eventual fear for her sister are handled really well. It also gives the Bloodstone a reason for being something Michelle needs. She can sate her hunger with the stone and not harm anyone doing it.

I also like the finale where Radu has captured Rebecca and threatens to destroy the sister in front of Michelle – severing her last link to humanity. A more interesting approach may have been to force Michelle to drink from Rebecca and by killing her sister destroying everything good within Michelle. But that is just my twisted mind at work. In any case, these elements of the story are effective and with a tighter script this sequel could have surpassed the original as an examination of Michelle’s fall and Radu’s pursuit.

Two sisters separated by darkness.
What we get with Bloodstone is a messier movie all the way around. But I still had a great time watching it. The location shooting in Romania is still very impressive. Director Ted Nicolaou does a great job of making Bucharest look creepy and threatening at times. There are some excellent scenes of Radu’s shadow rising, moving and overwhelming the screen, just as effective as it was in Nosferatu. The music is nice and gothic and the sound effects support the action. It makes for a solid night of bloodsucking entertainment. You may even find yourself quoting Radu and his Mummy from time to time afterwards. Bloodstone is light on actual scares, but very entertaining any way. Recommended if you are in the mood for some cheese on a chilly October night.

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The finger demons are going to play tether-ball
on Radu's corpse.

Radu plays hide and seek with Michelle. He's not very

"Do you think you cold get your dad to sign this napkin?"

Even the graffiti in Bucharest is vampire themed.

"Seriously, look at these hands. You know what they
say about a guy with big hands, right?"

Radu's got a headache this big, and it has Michelle written
all over it.

"Van Helsing? I taught him everything he knew."

"I can make some awesome shadow puppets.
You wanna see?"

Would you trust this guy to save your sister's soul?


  1. It's not very gentlemanly to demand jewelry back just because one gets staked through the heart and dumped. That's always a risk and is just part of the game. Dracula wouldn't act like that. "Radu" sounds like a spaghetti sauce.

    1. Yeah it is hard not to just say a bunch of sauce related riffs when watching the "Subspecies" films. I usually allow one or two per viewing. Otherwise it gets out of control. :)

      Radu isn't a gentleman. Turns out he's a mama's boy!

  2. Yeah, this is the sort of fare that the El Ray network has been showing lately, if fact, they did show this series. I got caught up in watching the first one just to see what it's about. My tolerance for this type thing has pretty waned, I guess it's my age. But I can see where a younger person might enjoy these. They also showed the last Phantasm film, which are about the same genre and budget, and I was curious about. I have to say with what they had to work with, it's watchable too. Cheesy and throw logic out the door, but watchable.

    1. Yeah you have to be in the right mood to enjoy cheesy 90s horror fare. Since I grew up with this kind of stuff there is a lot of nostalgic value to watching it. But yeah, they aren't good movies, but they are fun movies.

      If memory serves the first film is probably the most serious and maybe best made of the series. But the third film goes all in with the over the top cheesiness. The scene with Radu vs a soldier has to be seen to be believed.