(director/writer: Frank Sabatella; cinematographer: Matthias Schubert; editor: Frank Sabatella; music: Sam Ewing; cast: Jay Jay Warren (Stan), Cody Kostro (Dommer), Sofia Happonen (Roxy), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Sheriff Dorney), Timothy Bottoms (Ellis), Frank Whaley Bane (Bane), Chris Petrovsky (Marble), Mu-Shaka Benson (Deputy Haiser); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Peter Block/Cory Neal; RLJE Films; 2019)
“It’s more concerned with how the traumatized people act when facing danger rather than just telling about the vampire’s urge to kill.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Though this small-budget indie presents a familiar horror trope for the vampire genre, it’s satisfyingly different because it’s more concerned with how the traumatized people act when facing danger rather than just telling about the vampire’s urge to kill. Writer-director Frank Sabatella (“Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet”) makes the most of his gory tale by keeping it simple, bloody and well-executed, that is until it shifts gears and goes from a character story into the usual formulaic teen horror film of traditional genre scares.
The unhappy teenager orphan Stan (Jay Jay Warren) lives with his abusive grandfather Ellis (Timothy Bottoms) in the country, in a small town. Both Stan and his best friend Dommer (Cody Kostro) are bullied at high school and have no recourse but to accept their dire situation.
The film opens showing a frightened old man named Bane (Frank Whaley) being chased through the woods late at night by some unseen entity. Soon a shadowy figure appears behind him and without pause the mysterious creature sinks his teeth into the man’s neck, vampire style, before disintegrating as the sun rises. Bane recovers and seeks shelter in a tool shed at the edge of the woods, which belongs to Stan’s grandfather. When he’s inside the tool shed, he transforms from a man into a monster and screams from the shock.
That morning Stan heads to school on his bike. Along the way, a car full of bullies run him into the truck of Sheriff Dorney (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) and Deputy Haiser (Mu-Shaka Benson). While Dorney feels sorry for the abused boy, her deputy could care less about his plight.
At school, the ringleader of the bullies, Marble (Chris Petrovsky), continues to bully both Stan and Dommer without being stopped by any teacher, with Dommer getting the brunt of the bullying. Stan also feels lousy because the girl he’s sweet on, Roxy (Sofia Happonen), has turned away from him and now hangs with Marble and his ruffians.
Back home after school, Stan goes to the tool shed to get ready to mow. Then he’s attacked by the vampire Bane. The kid escapes and tries to get his dog Ike to get the attacker out of the shed, not realizing he’s dealing with a vampire and not some drifter. Grandpa Ellis goes into the shed to confront the intruder and never comes out alive.
When Dommer learns about Stan’s mysterious intruder being a monster, he schemes to weaponize it’ to get revenge on the bullies.
The vampire remains unseen in the chained shed, as the boys try to figure things out. The story builds on how traumatized the boys are about being bullied and are now possibly capable of acting like monsters themselves to get revenge.
This splendid way the film has of relating the boys’ cruel everyday life with a vampire tale, suddenly goes in a different direction in the third act. Unfortunately the filmmaker makes a poor choice and it turns its back on being a meaningful psychological character study to become a predictable, violent, traditional horror film. Its transformation doesn’t get the scares it seeks to sate the horror film crowd, as it turns prosaic and a by-the-numbers product. The botched climax took away much of the earlier achievements of trying to intelligently say something of value about the social concerns of the modern-day teens and left it as just another disposable horror film.
REVIEWED ON 11/15/2019 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/