The SUBSPECIES franchise has turned into one of those straight-to-video goldmines, with its producers churning out one after another only to be eaten up by fans of shlock horror. I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit the first of the series. My conclusion is that this is actually a pretty cool movie from the fine folks at Full Moon Entertainment, those great people who brought you such classics as PUPPET MASTER and TRANCERS. Unlike the latter film, this one suffers from not starring Tim Thomerson, but really, doesn’t any movie? SUBSPECIES is still well worth your investment in time and money.
A modern retelling of the Dracula fable, SUBSPECIES begins with an old dude in a castle in Romania or some such variety of Eastern European country. This man is in possession of a thing called the Bloodstone, a gem which perpetually creates blood from which its owner can suck (I know, poor sentence structure, but I just wanted to end a sentence with ‘suck’). But who would want to suck blood all day long? Why, a vampire, of course. A benevolent vampire who uses the Bloodstone so he doesn't have to kill. Thing is, the old man’s got two sons, one of whom is kindly like himself. The other, however, is a hideous, evil character who somehow has recruited an army of Claymation miniature creatures, which he uses to kill his father to get hold of the Bloodstone.
We jump ahead many hundred years to the modern era and find three American women (attractive, of course) come to the country to do some sort of graduate research on folklore or something (they never crack open a book). They get to stay at the castle, although everyone warns them against it (a la Bram Stroker). This review now not only features a sentence which ends in the word ‘suck,’ but a paragraph in which every sentence ends with a phrase in parentheses (annoying, isn’t it?).
Before long, the American girls come into contact with both the good and bad brothers and become entwined in their conflict over the Bloodstone. The bad brother kills a few villagers and then turns his attention to the three women, who have to band together to stop him.
Sure, it sounds contrived, but it's really not bad at all. It's got poor special effects (the little Claymation dudes shouldn't have been in the movie), granted, but that's about the only real problem. There is a haunting and authentic recreation of a folk dance, the foreign setting is used well, and there is a pretty decent plot going on. Better yet, Anders Hove as the evil brother is fantastic! He looks evil, he talks evil, (he probably smelled evil on set) and he's unforgettable. The movie even ends with a great sword match.
All in all, SUBSPECIES has got it all: blood, nudity, action, everything you could want. It even has a cool video magazine following the movie which was genuinely interesting, albeit highly promotional and self-serving for Full Moon. If only Tim Thomerson were in it, then it would get four stars.
Rating: *** and a half (out of four)