Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thicker than Water - The Vampire Diaries: Part 1

Review by The Bone Breaker

It is times like these when I wish that I had money to just throw around, because if I did, I would throw a whole lot Phil Messerer's way! You see, Phil is a self-taught director and this is his very first film, and I was completely blown away! [this is why I love movies!]

As you can tell from the title, there is much more of the story to be told - I believe that Phil's intention is a projected trilogy, though there is infinite growth potential. I sincerely hope that Phil finds the perfect distributor, who will not only finance the remainder of this project, but will give Phil free reign in his future endeavors.

But enough of all that, let's get on to the film, shall we?

The film takes place in Sugar Loaf, New York, where we meet the Baxter family. We first meet twin sisters Lara & Helen, who couldn't be more different from one another! Lara is a cynical, precocious Goth teen who seems obsessed with death and has an altar with a shrine to Anne Rice. Helen is the "goody-two-shoes" of the family - she is sweet, innocent, and also a vegetarian. We immediately feel the reality of these two as sisters, just in the way that they argue with one another.

While eating a holiday dinner, we meet the rest of the family. The father, who is the kind of guy who picks his nose with a q-tip and talks about seizing the day and grabbing the bull by the horns, and the mother, who is an old-world Bulgarian immigrant. We also meet Lara & Helen's brother, Raymond, who is a neuro-scientist.

One of the traditions of the Baxter family, is to talk about their accomplishments, that day, over dinner. Raymond went first, telling everyone that he just won 1st prize in a monthly neuro-science journal for a paper that he wrote on the benefits of lobotomy in treating obsessive compulsive disorder! Helen went next, telling everyone that she just lost 2 pounds. When it was Lara's turn, she informed everyone that she posted a picture of her butt on the internet - ha!
Over this dinner, we become completely comfortable in knowing each member of this family, which is important, for what is to come. . .

During Lara & Helen's 16th birthday party [in which Lara claimed she would rather be gay in Texas, than have a party] we come to realize that Lara genuinely despises her sister, who is little "miss popularity" during the party. After Lara is humiliated at the party, she retreats to her Anne Rice altar and performs an intricate voodoo ritual [which involves a "Margie doll" from "Toys R Mine" - copyright issues, I guess - and a calf's heart] At the end of the ritual, we learn that it is an Anal Acne Curse.

The next morning, Helen awakens with the worst nose-bleed EVER and then ends up dying [in a very emotional scene] in Lara's arms. Lara is filled with guilt and her mother [who is very religious] is filled with philosophical anguish.

Raymond, who was more curious than anything else, ended up taking a sample of Helen's blood [for research] and ended up determining that Helen died, not only from blood lost through her nose-bleed, but also because of red-blood-cells that were disappearing inside of Helen's body. This is apparently due to a new, unknown virus, which feeds on red-blood-cells and is still reproducing itself in Helen's blood.
After further study, Raymond discovers a vulnerability - the introduction of ultraviolet light!

Shortly after Helen's death, there is a knock at the door, and there is Helen standing outside, still wearing her white body bag, covered in blood. After Raymond takes a look at her, he determines that the blood is not hers. About this time, the police show up to inform the mother of Helen's body disappearing. Lara & Raymond quickly rush Helen downstairs to the basement. Here Raymond lets the family know that Helen's blood-cells are dying again, and will need to be replenished within the next 72 hours.

The family then realizes that they are going to have to kill, to feed their vampiric daughter. However, Helen refuses to feed, suffering through gut-wrenching blood withdrawals, until she blacks out and rips her victims to shreds!

Her first "human sacrifices" were a pair of Mormons who had stopped by, to spread their message of love. After Lara basically interrogated them both about their faith [as well as picturing them in their underwear, while they responded] the mother ended up poisoning their tea.

When we first see Helen feed, we see needle-thin fangs protrude from behind her teeth, right before she rips into her victim's throat.

Around two weeks later, we find out where some of the "sacrifices" are coming from and how the family goes about disposing of the bodies.

After about two months go by, the plot begins to thicken, with the introduction of a new character - Patrice Duchamps III - who seems to know that Helen is a vampire, and a lot about vampires [fledglings & pure-bloods] in general.

Which brings me to another underlying piece of this film, which I haven't discussed yet.
Interwoven within this film's story is the tale of Oya - the 1st vampire. Her story is told to Lara by the owner of a "cabinet of curiosities" type shop where she likes to hang out. He recently came across one of only 13 copies of Oya's illustrated biography. [Phil Messerer, the director, has a brief cameo as the guy who printed these copies]

Oya's tale goes back to the days of the Mayan empire, where she lived comfortably in a Mayan pyramid feeding off of their human sacrifices to her. However, after the Spanish army basically massacred the entire Mayan civilization, hunger drove Oya back out into our world. . .

I will definitely be looking forward to learning more of Oya's story, in the sequels [especially since her son was mentioned. . . Count Vlad [Dracula] perhaps?!?
Also, even Elizabeth Bathory was mentioned [and even shown briefly, in a scene portrayed by Ginger Stebbins] I'm not sure why, but I've always been fascinated by Bathory.

There is a huge reveal at the end of this film and a shocking ending!
Even though future sequels are planned, Messerer made a complete film here, explaining to us how Helen became a vampire, however some questions remain, such as - How did vampires come to be and what exactly are they in Messerer's mythology? I so cannot wait to find out!! :-)

There is so much more to tell [the only reason that I've told you this much, is so that you will at least remember something about it, when this film is finally distributed]

I didn't even get into the film's inspiration from American Beauty, nor did I discuss the film's outstanding soundtrack [an eclectic mix of music ranging from piano all the way through goth metal!]

Messerer has made a completely believable film here - one in which I was completely immersed in. He raised challenging, thought-provoking questions, and covers a range of emotions - ranging from funny to horrific! Messerer has proven that a film can be made, on a low budget, that rivals anything released out of Hollywood! [and as for the cast - every single person gave an Oscar worthy performance!]

This film has already received numerous awards [it is currently running the film-festival circuit] and rightly so. Once again, I hope that Messerer finds a worthy distributor for this film!

Thank you Phil, first of all for making this film, and secondly for sending me a screener copy.
This is, hands-down, the best independent film that I have ever had the pleasure of watching!


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