Over the past couple years I’ve been exploring the 1990s vampire series, Subspecies. Today we dive into the third film of the franchise (or Subpecies cinematic universe if you prefer). When it comes to horror series, it is usually a case of diminishing returns. But a couple of things give this film an edge. They planned to make this particular sequel and the surviving cast returns from the previous film. All they need to do is finally get a decent script. Should be easy, right?
The film opens moments after Bloodstone: Subspecies II ended. Rebecca (Malanie Shatner) left her vampiric sister Michelle (Denice Duff) in a tomb to wait for nightfall. The plan is to return with help and then… um… well Rebecca’s plan is unclear. But it doesn’t matter anyway because the decaying Mummy (Pamela Gordon) is still alive! She seizes Michelle and drags her back into the depths of the tomb. There she performs blood rites to resurrect her son Radu (Anders Hove). The three then transform into mist (with a lot of over the top chanting, laughing and screaming) and escape, just as Rebecca returns with American diplomat Mel (Kevin Spirtas) and skeptical Detective Marin (Haiduc).
Now the hunt returns to Radu’s mysterious castle as Rebecca, Mel, and detective Marin attempt access the fortress via the crypts. Meanwhile Radu and Mummy continue to train Michelle in her new vampire powers and force her to embrace the darkness. Villagers are abducted, blood is spilt and Radu gets to drool a lot more gore. Finally Mel contacts his CIA pal Bob (Michael Dellafemina) to lead the attack against the castle. But will a trained military operative be enough to defend against Radu’s Bloodlust?
- Feels like a natural continuation of the previous film
- Hove is still horrifying as the vampire Radu
- When the movie goes over the top it is at its best
- There doesn’t appear to be much of a script to this film
- So many ideas are brought up, but never explored
- Never gets into a solid and entertaining flow
When it comes to these films the script has been the major issue. We run into that again. But this time it feels like they added a bunch of padding because they only had a few ideas (and locations) to explore. The result is a movie that has some of the best scenes of the series surrounded by scenes that meander in circles. The climax is impressive and fitting to a trilogy, but I will say it is the weakest of the three films.
Scores(out of 5)
In Depth Review
|"Oh yes, I'm back, and droolier than ever!"|
So what happened? Mostly the script (or lack of one) happened. Just about all the production elements remain the same. Visually the movie looks a lot like the previous one, with some excellent location shooting in Romania. But we’ve seen many of the locations already, like the castle and Bucharest. There is a new village we get some time in, and some more scenes in the forest surrounding the castle, so that helps things a bit. The familiarity of the settings isn’t a deal breaker, but it was one of the advantages the previous films had over your typical vampire horror.
|"No seriously its just marina sauce, and a little blood. But not my blood. That makes it OK, right?|
I think Spirtas is actually a bit better this time as Mel. He as a little more to do here, becoming a full-fledged vampire hunter. His interaction with Shatner works well, and his disgust and horror at Radu and Mummy is palpable. As for Detective Marin, well Haiduc is playing the same skeptical clueless detective he played before. He’s supposed to be the comic relief, and he doesn’t really succeed. But it’s a thankless and pointless role anyway. He just takes up too much screen time for so little payoff. I never laughed or really even smiled when Marin was around.
|Not really comedy gold here, more like comedy pyrite.|
Still Anders Hove has so much presence and goes for the blood drooling with such gusto that he overcomes a lot of the issues within Subspecies III. He has some really good scenes with Michelle, and manages to show some kind of affection for her, in his own twisted way. Hove is absolutely fearsome when he faces down those that would attempt to separate him from Michelle. When Radu is on screen the movie is usually at its best, and it is a shame that the script is so flimsy because we could have had a real winner here.
|"See I have the Bloodstone right here. It isn't going to impact the story, but I still have it."|
So lets look at the culprit right in the face – the script. Subspecies III builds on the events in the previous two films, but only in a halfhearted way. It almost feels like they had a series of ideas they wanted to explore over the two sequels, but never really fleshed out a full script until they were close to shooting. With most of the intense stuff captured in Bloodstone, they were left with not a whole hell of a lot for Bloodlust. The result was sequences and scenes that just kind of go in circles.
|Looks like someone had one hell of a night... get it, hell... see what I did there.|
Then there are a number of scenes where characters go the castle, can’t get in, talk for a bit about how they need to get into the castle, and then drive away. It happens about four different times and doesn’t do anything to forward the story. From a narrative point of view you only need that to happen one time and then have Rebecca and Mel head to the town to regroup and come up with some kind of idea (maybe contact agent Bob at that point). Detective Marin adds nothing to these scenes and we spend way too much time with him and his “funny” antics.
|Mel and Rebecca doubt the veracity of your claim.|
Mummy just hates Michelle on principle and you don’t have to do too much with her. But I think she remained around a little too long. I love that Radu kills her (and the way he rips off her arm and beheads her with the knife still clutched in the desiccated hand is wonderfully ghoulish) because she just keeps trying to kill Michelle when he isn’t around.
|Oh yeah, Michelle goes all femme fatale goth style in this moment.|
The vampire scenes have less padding but they still suffer a bit because Michelle keeps changing her motivations and seems to reset to whimpering and helpless every other scene. This worked fine for Subspecies II, but by the time we get to Subspecies III we need to do more with her character.
|Nice little chat about finger demons.|
The first is Bob the CIA agent. When he shows up, it feels like you popped in a whole new movie about one liner spewing army heroes storming Dracula’s castle. Bob is a surreal character that comes out of nowhere with his machine gun and camo gear. His first reaction when he sees the desiccated Mummy is to shout “Heads up Granny” and open fire. It is hilariously silly and then his demise is just about the funniest thing in the entire Subspecies series. If the film had embraced this horror comedy feeling it would have been wonderful. Instead, it just feels like an odd moment that sticks out in the meandering film.
|Bob and Mel: Fearless Vampire Slayers!|
|"Oh man I should really pay attention to my Swatch!"|
|I think Michelle has a little surprise for her sister.|
|Would you trust these two to do anything right, much less slay a vampire and his Mummy?|
|I don't know who is more offended in this picture.|
|"No problem. Everything is fine. I'm sure there will be another sequel or two."|
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