There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Since we just wrapped our discussions of the classic Full Moon Video franchise Puppet Master, it only made sense to revisit another of my childhood favorites from the Full Moon library, the vampire epic, Subspecies. So, without any delay, we now dive into the bloody world of Radu and his creepy fingers.
Today’s Key Movie:
Subspecies follows the adventures of three colleges students as their study of Romanian culture takes a dark turn when they get caught in the power struggle between Vampire brothers Radu and Stefan as the two battle it out over who will control the sacred BloodStone! Starring Irina Movila, Laura Mae Tate, Michelle McBride, Anders Hove and Michael Watson, this is the first in the classic direct-to-video series.
Why this movie?
My dad was a massive Vampire fan. If it had even a mention of one of those blood sucking fiends, he had to watch it. So, with the advent of VHS, this love of Vampire films became a growing collection that eventually included this and the rest of the Subspecies epic. I vividly remember seeing the box art for this film in our local video store and my father thrilled to rent it and take it home for our regular horror film consumption. The box art was far from subtle, with a partially clad woman being carried by an army of stop motion demons while a dark figure stood by, it had all the trappings of a campy B-Horror and that was just what the doctor ordered. However, it wasn’t quite what we expected it to be…in fact, it was so much better.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Imagine a world where Dracula was indeed real, but his descendants had found a way to survive without harming any humans through the use of an ancient artifact known only as The BloodStone. This stone, which is said to drip the blood of saints can be used to keep Vampires from consuming human flesh or as a symbol of power allowing the barer to have a source of life that only he can bestow. With this basic premise, we are treated to a fascinating world that takes the Vampire myth head on giving it a fresh take that has not been matched since.
Subspecies is an insanely impressive Vampire film for something that was a direct to video release. This film is truly a testament to the writing talents of Charles Band and Jackson Barr under the direction of Ted Nicolaou. While the setup does take a little time, no line or scene is wasted, instead every moment is used to set up a dark mood and brilliant backstory where we are pulled into the realm of Radu and his brother Stephan.
The visuals in this film are really nothing short of perfection. From the subtle yet effective Vampire makeup to the genuinely creepy stop motion demons, it was clear from the start that the filmmakers wanted to make something that would last. Practically every special effect in this film is done using practical effects making them even more realistic than ever. I particularly love the use of shadows and light throughout the film echoing the classic Dracula and Nosferatu films of old. In fact, speaking of Nosferatu, there are some rather fun callouts to these classic movies throughout making Subspecies more than just a Vampire film but also an homage to all that came before.
One special effect that has always stuck with me is that of the ‘subspecies’ themselves. Utilizing stop motion animation, Radu can break off bits of his fingers and form a creepy demonic race that do his bidding. Not unlike the nightmarish demons from the horror classic, The Gate, these red miniature nightmares are certainly nothing to contend with and, while they don’t really do a ton plot wise, they are memorable just for their incredible animated qualities. From my research into this film, apparently they came from an unfinished film and used in this one in order to flesh out parts of the story. While this seems an odd choice, in a way they really do add a cool air of mystery as to just how far Radu’s power extends.
Cast wise, this is probably one of the most solidly cast films in the Full Moon library. Everyone in this film is fantastic and there really is not a single weak link in the bunch. No, none of these roles would be Oscar contending performances but it is more than clear that they were giving it their all in every scene. I particularly love Anders Hove, the actor portraying the aforementioned dread Radu. There is something insanely classic and authentic about his portrayal of this ancient evil. In fact, If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that he was the reincarnation of Max Schreck who was best known for his appearance as Nosferatu in the classic silent film of the same name. Hove’s movements and presence in every scene is something all together frightening and wonderous at the same time. To say he is frightening is truly an understatement, this guy is the embodiment of evil in every way.
I’m sure you grasp how much I love this film and you would be absolutely right. This is one of the best Vampire films made in the early 90’s and one that thankfully lives up to my memories of it some thirty years later. Overall, you can not go wrong with Subspecies and if you love horror films yet have not seen this one yet, well, you are seriously missing out.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can pick this one up on bluray directly from the folks at Full Moon Video here and, well, you really should. It’s pretty great. I will warn you, being an early 90’s direct to video film, there is a certain prerequisite amount of nudity in this one, thankfully it is done in a rather tasteful manner although rather unnecessary. Oh yeah and as a special treat for Horror Fans, Radu and Stephan’s father is played by none other than the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrim!
Next week we continue our journey into the Bloodstone saga with Bloodstone: Subspecies 2, until then…
Late To The Game 11/11/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
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