For Halloween 2015 I will review
all of the films from this
little known or probably forgotten
series from Full Moon
Lets start at the beginning but be warned there will probably be spoilers
Oh, in Transylvania the best wine is red–
Before Full Moon Studios was known for the Killer Bong Series they made very good and original low budget horror that almost always included some surprisingly good stop-motion animation in their films.
Probably best known is their Puppet Master series which I would love to see all of but there are quite a few of them.
Another series of theirs based on classic Vampire lore was Subspecies.
Directed by Ted Nicolaou who directed TerrorVision (1986), Subspecies is set in Transylvania, Romania and follows two American students who have come to meet up with an old school friend of theirs so they can all continue their studies based on Romanian superstitions.
Meanwhile we meet our antagonist Radu Vladislas, now that is a cool name, played wonderfully by Anders Hove who you might remember from Critters 4 (1992).
If you do remember Critters 4 then I’m very sorry for you.
Radu has come to claim the Bloodstone that can make him more powerful but also he has become addicted to it. One of the stones drawbacks.
To claim it he has a confrontation with his father played by Phantasm Legend Angus Scrimm who would rather see Radu’s half-brother take control over the Bloodstone as well as the Castle he has resided in for over 300 years.
Without giving too much away I think everybody reading this has seen enough films to know that all the characters will end up involved in the final confrontation in whatever way the film takes them.
I love this film. Yes there is some slightly dodgy acting by the female leads but given how bad some of the acting is in low budget horror films these days their acting isn’t really that bad and then only in a few places so easily forgiveable.
The locations are beautiful. Filmed in Romania and at a beautiful but slightly run down castle that serves to add atmosphere, though I would’ve liked to have seen more of the castle as well as the surrounding towns and woodland.
Thene there is the real star here, Radu.
A no nonsense, slightly hammy at times, bad to the bone Vampire based more around the look of Nosferatu.
He knows what he want’s and he wont be distracted from getting it but he will fuck with you and will use anyone he can just to spite you.
Without Anders performance this film would probably be above average as it has a bit more going for it but Anders has the look and personality as well as a voice that can take a bit of getting used to but is one of the characters defining features.
There are some nice stop-motion creatures thrown in, with some bad compositing also thrown in for good measure at times and a story that while simple is good enough to give the characters enough to do.
This one has held up for me.
Still a favourite of mine.
Subspecies 2 (1993)
Forgive me brother!
But the bloodstone is MINE!
Again directed by Ted Nicolaou (who also wrote this and the rest of the franchise) and starring Anders Hove, Bloodstone starts off exactly after the events of the first film.
More like still during the climatic finale.
With the events recalled by Michelle from the first film though this time played by a different actress Denice Duff, Subspecies 2 begins with Radu exacting revenge in a very bloody way. Stopped by the break of dawn thus allowing Michelle manages to gather the Bloodstone and flee to Bucharest where she is able to contact her sister Becky in America for help.
Becky, who must have a Concorde at her disposal, arrives in Bucharest to find her now missing sister.
Naturally as all films of this type follow she uncovers what has happened to her sister and what Radu really is.
Now for one of my pet peeves…
So Becky is helped by Mel who works for the US embassy and Lieutenant Marin and they seek out a professor who tells them of the myth of the Bloodstone and the Vladislas being Vampires.
Naturally Mel doesn’t believe and with the flimsiest of circumstance that actually only someone so gullible would use to link up creatures we have all grown up with thinking didn’t exist to now being real, Becky tries to convince him.
She later sees Radu and his magical vanishing act but rather than tell Mel that she says and I quote “The Bloodstone, the legends, The empty grave, what does it take to convince you”
Now here’s my peeve.
None of that would convince a sane person. We all know she’s right because we are two films into the series and so we are supposed to think Mel is wrong because we know better.
Well this is one trope I no longer subscribe to.
There has been zero evidence supplied by anyone that should convince him so his conclusions are valid yet scenes like this are played out that either the doubters are idiots or that the piss poor job done at convincing them is acceptable.
Usually we have a follow up scene where the doubter sees for themselves and finally believes only to be put down with a smug “see I told you so” scene. (something subspecies thankfully avoids)
Pointless and they should’ve had Becky start believing only when she seen Radu for herself and not in the scene before that offered nothing in the way of evidence or leaning towards her sister being involved with creatures of the undead.
Anyway that’s my pet peeve and rant over.
In this one we get to meet Radu’s mother, Mummy who is the source of the Vladislas family curse, cast out by Daddy Vladislas centuries ago so we know she’s evil but when Radu goes to her she immediately turns him away.
If even she doesn’t want anything to do Radu he must be a wrong’un.
Looking all haggard and dare I say mummified, Mummy is a great addition to the series.
One of those delightfully evil characters we love to watch.
While the acting has improved overall and there is some lovely shots of the streets of Bucharest not to mention the gore level has been upped (it was almost non-existent in the first film ) the film flows along nicely but doesn’t quite live up to the original.
I still enjoyed it immensely pet peeve an’ all, and this one leaves us with a cliffhanger ending plus a promise of a third outing.
I guess that’s tomorrow night sorted
Check out the trailer from a dedicated Subspecies Fan channel on YouTube Subspecies World
Subspecies III (1994)
when Radu tires of you,
you’ll belong to me.
Then, you’ll know harm
Starting off where the second film finished we find out the fate of Michelle and Radu returns as he always does.
It’s difficult to talk about this one without giving away too much of what happened in the last film as well as answering some of the questions we were left with.
All the cast return from Bloodstone with Lieutenant Marin being more prominent. I like him. He doesn’t believe Becky’s story about mythical Vampires (nor should he) and is convinced this is to do with smuggling antiques.
He really is the proverbial bad penny so he always turns up no matter where Becky and Mel are and always when they are about to do something which is usually somewhat illegal.
Filmed in all the same locations as the previous two films there is a sense of continuity that is usually gone by part 3 in most series or at this point there is a shift in story that takes it away from the original.
Not so here. Whilst it is the same story of trying to rescue someone that doesn’t mean the reasons for them being trapped are the same or if they even want to be rescued.
Again there is some nice stop-motion animation, how I love stop-motion, and good use of shadows to show Radu and co travelling from one locale to another but this film seems to be trying to achieve less.
It is definitely going at a slightly slower pace but that could be because the film makers no longer need to find a way to explain any of the lore or backstory which then has to shove those explanations into as many scenes as necessary.
I think the film benefits from this and would say this is better than Bloodstone which Rotten Tomatoes disagrees with me on but does agree that the first is best.
However the users at IMDB disagree with me on every point.
I consider this a strong entry and worth checking out especially if you liked the original. Now you don’t have to have seen Bloodstone as there is a brief catch up but when all 3 films follow on so closely from each other why miss out an entry.
Here is the trailer that is slightly misleading in places
Vampire Journals (1997)
Take me out into the great Night, Master! I crave the hunt…
Now we have the spin off.
I’m not quite sure the purpose of this very low budget film. I’m guessing it was to start a new series based off Vampire with a conscience Zachary and his quest to rid the world of all Vampires.
Main baddie here is Radu progeny Ash played rather well by former B-B-Bread actor Jonathan Morris in one of his last roles which is a shame as he is the only credible part of this, what is best described as a TV movie.
The story is just like the rest of the Subspecies series in which it is about someone needing to be rescued, this time a master pianist Sofia who to her credit gives a credible performance too.
Zachary who is trying to find Ash is at a concert hoping Ash’s love for music will draw him out which it does. He manages to ward Ash away from Sofia but fails to stop her going to Ash’s home for a private recital.
Fearing he is too late to stop Ash from converting Sofia he still carry’s on with his intention of slaying all the Vampires within Ash’s sanctuary.
First and foremost this looks cheap which is impressive given the beautiful building and outside locations Vampire Journals is filmed in. Written and directed by Ted Niclaou again and produced by the same people as with all the previous Subspecies I’m at a loss as to how this looks so TV movie-ish.
It is hard to believe this is directed by the same person but a bigger issue is the use of sound.
We still have the shadow effects though poorly done but these are made worse by the laughable, almost comic like sound effects that accompany them not to mention the almost kissing like sound effects when drinking blood from a victim.
Utterly pointless just like the monotone delivery of Zachary’s constant narration which itself is really not needed.
This feels more like a pilot for a TV show than a TV movie at this point.
That said it is still entertaining if you don’t mind these flaws. There are some quite decent performances and it is especially good to see Jonathan Morris again but if you have seen all the Subspecies films yet fail to see this then you aren’t missing out on much.
Probably better than the remake by Subspecies creator Charles Band, Decadent Evil Dead (2005).
Even I might not go as far as to watch that
Here is the trailer so you can marvel at Mr Morris’ hair.
You know what this doesn’t look that low budget. I must have a really shitty copy of the film. I think I need to find a better copy.
Challenge me at your own peril,
I delight in such diversions
So here we arrive at the finale made just a year after Vampire Journals.
Sadly this one starts of with the type of bad 3d rendered text you used to see on early websites and a weird intro that quickly flashes lots of scenes from all 4 of the previous films that appears in the trailer below.
This is looking cheap too isn’t it?
Just like all the other films of the main series this one starts of with a quick re-cap and then begins immediately where part 3 finished.
without giving too much away Michelle is found by a local doctor who takes her to the private hospital where she works ran by Dr. Niculescu played by Ciaran Hinds lookalike Mihai Dinvale.
The good doctor might not be so good but you probably expected that.
So Radu want’s his fledgling back and seeks refuge, or more likes waltzes into and takes over the sanctuary from Ash from The Vampire Journals played again by Jonathan Morris who delivers another good performance.
Thankfully this feels like a proper Subspecies film and not the TV movie I was dreading it would be. I don’t know how director Ted Nicolaou managed to make Vampire Journals come across like a TV movie yet this film made so shortly after, and I doubt for that big a budget, looks far more professionally done but again that might be my copy of Vampire Journals as the trailer posted above looks more polished.
All the nice shadow techniques are back but sadly no stop-motion this time round and the performances are good enough but as always Anders Hove steals the show as Radu.
It does feel like this is going to be the film that takes the series off onto some random tangent as that tends to happen to every film series by this point but it still stays within the storyline and world set up by the previous 3 films… but barely.
All the themes are there, Radu trying to get Michelle to submit wholly to him, Michelle desperately trying not to succumb with success and failure but overall this film has the inherent distrustful nature of Vampires take centre stage thanks to the inclusion of Ash and Serena who also appeared first in Vampire Journals and just like Jonathan Morris, Subspecies 4 was actress Floriela Grappini’s last film according to IMDB.
The constant submitting of progeny to Master but with every comment being a very obvious insult or show of contempt whilst the masters show very little care for their progenies.
You get a sense of how fragile not only their alliances and culture is but also how if given the chance they would slaughter each other like they do humans. They are all controlling, backstabbing and scheming as soulless creatures of the night should be.
Anyway is this the weakest of the main series… Yes
Worth a watch… Yes
Should there be another? No. Let it end here.
Given the low budget nature of Full Moon films you shouldn’t go into this expecting anything too spectacular and if you are new to horror but haven’t learned how to appreciate the nature horror from the 80s\90s and like your glossy teens angsty modern films you’ve grown up with you might not like this.
If the old traditional style is to your liking give it a go. At least the first one.
I love these films and thankfully they’ve held up better for me than I was expecting with Anders Hove, Denise Duff and Jonathan Morris giving superb performances.
I would’ve liked the Denise to have been the original Michelle or the original actress to have stayed on seeing as this series has some of the tightest consistency throughout but that’s a minor complaint.
Radu is a fantastic horror character that should get more love and has a name that flows of the tongue, Radu Vladislas, almost poetic in my Lancastrian accent.
I hope I can get a higher quality copy of Vampire Journals and producer Charles Band is able to get a HD remastered version of Subspecies 4 but if not I would settle for the oft talked about prequel being made.
And for those that remember here is Jonathan Morris as Adrian in B-B-Bread
He’s on the left arms folded. God this was crap but had a few funny catchprases