Friday, April 03, 2009
Morality is relative
By Edward Copeland
Moviegoers love vampires and filmmakers are more than willing to fill that void, even though sometime it's hard to come up with something that hasn't been done before. First-time filmmaker Phil Messerer with a budget around $200,000 pulls off a fun, accomplished original feat with Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part I.
Messerer not only directed the film, he wrote, produced and edited it and served as director of photography. For such a relatively low budget, the production values are quite impressive.
The story centers on a family with twin teen daughters, one goth (Eilis Cahill), one wholesome (Devon Bailey), a closeted and strange older brother (Michael Strelow) and their parents (JoJo Hristova, Anthony Morelli).
Mom (Hristova) a devout Bulgarian immigrant finally proves enough for dad, who leaves just in the nick of the time. Lara (Cahill) sees her resentment of her sister Helen (Bailey) grow as the two mark their 16th birthday and she casts a dark spell upon her. Helen wakes up in the middle of the night with an out-of-control nose bleed and is soon dead. Lara is understandably guilty but during a stormy night, there's a knock on the door and Helen is back, covered in blood, dressed in her funeral garb and rambling about something happening to the mortician.
Lara didn't intend it, but her sister is back and she's a vampire, only she's uncomfortable with that whole killing aspect of the species. Through much discussion, the family decides to capture the victims for Helen and keep her as part of the family. It doesn't seem to matter to mom that it isn't really following her religious upbringing, because a mother's love is more important.
In one scene as they are discussing the Helen problem, the brother confesses that he's gay and mom downs a bottle of liquor. It's a funny bit, but it seems to me that some more laughs and points could be made from a religious woman who compromises for vampirism but not homosexuality. It's a minor criticism, because most of Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part I (Messerer intends to make it a trilogy) moves fleetly and is campy entertainment.
There are a few too many musical montages for my taste and the music steps on an early dinner scene, but otherwise I enjoyed it. Some of the performances are over-the-top or wooden, but that seems perfectly appropriate for the material. The film has been playing festivals, but still doesn't have a distributor. If you'd like to learn more about the film click here.