Monday, October 8, 2012


Way back in the late 80s/early 90s, when there was money to be made in the direct-to-video market, Full Moon Features was the biggest name in the B-movie market, at least for horror fans. They had several lengthy series, the best known of which is the still-going Puppet Master films. In 1991, they ventured into vampire movies, with Subspecies, which spawned three direct sequels and one kinda sorta sequel.

In rural Romania, vampires are still thick on the ground (The characters in the movie mention there being many vampires, although we only see three. The recession is hitting every profession.). The local vampire king is one Vladislav (Angus Scrimm from Phantasm in a cameo scene). He has a generally pro-human policy, and has left the local populace alone. He has two sons, Radu (Anders Hove) who is more the typical bad-guy vampire, as evidenced by his amazing finger extensions, and his wimpier son Stefan (Michael Watson). Vladislav is in possession of the Bloodstone, an acorn-shaped jewel from which drips the blood of saints. All the vampires crave the Bloodstone because…well, I didn’t really catch that part. Maybe the blood of saints has a chipotle flavor? I thought the blood of saints kept vampires from needing to drink human blood, but this is contradicted by the movie.

Careful where you scratch.

Anyway, Radu decides to kill his father for the Bloodstone, but is thwarted when his dad hits a switch that releases an overhead cage exactly where Radu is standing. What luck. Vladislav’s victory is temporary, however, as Radu breaks off his own fingers (!) and they turn into tiny demon-looking creatures. I swear I was not on any medication, legal or otherwise, when I was watching this. Seeing this, Vladislav obligingly runs to the other side of the room so the homunculi can get to the switch to re-raise the cage, instead of, you know, stepping on them. Radu is released, Vladislav is skewered.

(Incidentally, the little creatures are apparently the subspecies of the title. I assumed it referred to vampires, but no, it’s a group of four-inch high toadies.)

Coincidentally, there is the arrival in town of four graduate students to study local folklore. They are played by three attractive young ladies, hired more for their willingness to forego a no-nudity clause in their contracts than their acting ability. Well, two-thirds of them, anyway. They could not behave less like graduate students if they tried. It’s sort of Valley Girls in Eastern Europe. Stefan shows up, falls in love with one of the girls, and they fight to end Radu’s (short) reign of terror. Radu is disposed of, although if you remember where I mentioned sequels, you know this doesn’t take.

Subspecies is a victim in many places of the film’s microbudget, but it is a good bit of fun. Director Ted Nicolaou does a good job of setting the mood, and was strongly influenced by Murnau’s Nostferatu, most obviously with Radu’s long fingers, and the creepy way the shadows of those hands look thrown against walls and across of the faces of sleeping victims-to-be.

Subspecies was the first movie to be filmed in Romania following the fall of Communism. The featurette on the blu-ray disc shows a number of Romanians being asked if they believe in vampires. All say they do not, and think it a frivolous question, no doubt partly because they had just gotten out from under the thumb of Nicolae CeauČ™escu, a dictator so beloved that when he fell from power he was given a two hour trial and an immediate three minute execution. One of the interviewees stated that Dracula was a myth made up by a “stupid American.” I don’t think Bram Stoker was stupid, and I know he was an Irishman.


The Doctor said...

I remember this movie. Like most Full Moon/Charlie Band productions it was crap, but I kinda liked it. In fact, there are several Full Moon movies from the period I'm fond of. That says more about my taste for, well, bad taste, than the quality of the movies.

Craig Clarke said...

I remember seeing the poster for this movie prominently displayed in my local video (VHS) store. Didn't Full Moon do Meridian, too? I remember that one fondly.

KentAllard said...

I was a fan of those Full Moon pictures, too, particularly the TRANCERS series. Yes, they did Meridian, which I remember well from Sherilynn Fenn and Charlie Spradling.