Saturday, March 27, 2010

A rare sequel that's better than the first film

Subspecies II: Bloodstone (1993)
Starring: Denice Duff, Anders Hove, Melanie Shatner, Kevin Spirtas, Michael Denish, Ion Haiduc and Pamela Gordon
Producers: Charles Band, Oana Paunescu and Vlad Paunescu
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Young Michelle (Duff) has recently been turned into a vampire and is on the run from the evil vampire prince Radu (Hove) and his twisted, immortal mother (Gordon). Her sister (Shatner) arrives in Romania hoping to help her, but what can a mere mortal do against an ancient vampire who is not only chasing Michelle because he want to possess her, but also because she has stolen the magical Bloodstone?

"Subspecies II: Bloodstone" is a direct continuation of the original "Subspecies"--it picks up just one single night after the final scene of the first movie--and it's one of those very rare sequels that manages to turn out better than the movie it follows. This is an especially remarkable feat because a near-total cast change has taken place and the film takes some very unexpected directions as far as story goes.


The only actor to return in the sequel is Anders Hove, who repeats his performance as the extremely vile, supremely creepy Radu. Although Radu doesn't actually kill anyone in this film--or even sink his vampiric fangs into a single neck!--he's an even more menacing presense than he was in the first film. He develops a maniacal need to possess Michelle, the mortal woman who was made a vampire by Radu's brother Stefan and he seems to start deluding himself into thinking that she will care for him, partly because he murdered Stefan to gain her as a possession. This insanity makes him even spookier than he was in the first movie.

Radu also seems more creepy because of superior camerawork and lighting present in this film. From beginning to end, there is a consistent mood of dread and darkness in every frame of the film, most of it created with simple lighting techniques and camera angles. (The same is true of a number of low-cost effects that seem to make the vampires beings of living shadows--something that is created through well-considered placement of spotlights and cameras and the result is far more effective than more costly special effects could ever have been. (The one time where there is an animated shadow, it looks cheesy, but every time Radu's arrival or departure is demonstrated with shifting, giant shadows it's very dramatic and cool.)

Aside from the competent camera work and lighting, the film also sports a great soundtrack that is fresh yet still reminiscent of the one present in the first film. The featured actors also do an excellent job in their various parts, with Denise Duff being particularly noteworthy for stepping into the role of Michelle quite nicely (even if one has to wonder why they chose to go with her as Michelle when Melanie Shatner, the actress who plays Michelle's sister, bears closer physical resemblance to the actress who played Michelle in the first movie) and Michael Denish for serving as the film's comic relief as a scatter-brained Van Helsing-type scholar.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film when one considers it was produced by Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainment is the fact that the film follows continuity from the first film very closely. Even with a near-total cast change and the film shifting in tone from Hammer-style gothic horror to a more modern sensibility, the storyline and all the characters remain consistent. Other Full Moon series, like "Puppet Master" and "Trancers" seem to almost go out of their way to screw up story continuity between the various movies, but writer/director Ted Nicolaou chose to actually pay attention to what he'd done before and remain consistent with it even though he took the story in a very different direction than the ending of "Subspecies" seemed to be leading toward.







1 comment:

  1. While I did enjoy SUBSPECIES II and found it to be one of the better Full Moon sequels, I still felt the FX in the original were much more impressive. Storywise? II absolutely has the upper hand, but I still enjoy the original a bit more

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