Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rise: Blood Hunter

Posted as part of Operation 101010
Category: Impulse buys / In category: 1 of 10 / Overall: 3 of 100

Why buy?

It was £3.00 (about $4.85).


It looked like an unapologetically trashy horror flick.


Decent eye candy quotient: Lucy Liu, Carla Gugino, Cameron Richardson.

The expectation

The ‘18’ rating promised a more full-blooded vampire flick than the norm. A couple of clips I’d seen on the internet hinted at a lesbian vampire subtext (hey, it works for Jess Franco and Jean Rollin!) The basic premise – journalist uncovers a society of sexually motivated vampires, is turned into one, enters their world, then goes all out for vengeance – promised a down ‘n’ dirty, fast-moving, gory, sexy horror thriller.

The actuality

You’ve read the parenthetically incorporated synopsis in the above paragraph, yeah? All 21 words of it. If I really wanted to expand that synopsis, it’d go something like this: Journalist Sadie (Lucy Liu) receives a curious coded message which leads her to investigate the disappearance of some goth-like teens. She discovers a society of sexually motivated vampires led by the debauched Bishop (James D’Arcy) and the seductive Eve (Carla Gugino). She is captured and turned into a vampire. Struggling to cope with her new-found blood-lust, Sadie first of all ingratiates herself with fellow vampire Lloyd (Robert Forster) then teams with hard-bitten cop Clyde Rawlins (Michael Chiklis) – whose daughter is one of the missing teens – to track down Bishop and Eve and get some payback.

That’s 95 words. And seriously, that’s pretty much all there is to ‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ (or just plain ‘Rise’ according to the credits; I assume the ‘: Blood Hunter’ bit was added either in the hope of establishing a franchise or just to make the title sound cooler). Now go here and read the full synopsis on IMDb. It’s riddled with spoilers and basically gives you a précis of every single scene. It clocks in at 4,200 words. It contains sections in red and blue text, clarifying the structure and narrative development of the film dependent on whether one is watching the edited or unedited version.

Now, it would make things a lot easier if I could lay claim to watching the edited version, toss out a few stock phrases like "non-linear", "confusing" and "disjointed", blame it on the studio for inflicting nearly half an hour of cuts on writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez’s original version and opine that it probably makes a lot more sense in its unedited incarnation.

Problem is, the unedited version of ‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ is the one I bought. And it’s definitely non-linear, confusing and disjointed. Non-linear I don’t have a problem with: ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Providence’, ‘The Prestige’ – all on the personal faves list, all non-linear, all masterful pieces of filmmaking that I could watch time and again. Confusing is a word I try not to use in reviews; it’s one of those words that reflects badly on the writer, suggesting they should have paid more attention to the film, deliberated over it a tad longer, tried harder in arriving at an analysis. Disjointed, however … there’s really no way around that criticism. When a film just plain doesn’t hang together then something’s gone wrong, whether with the script, during filming or in the editing room.

The problem here is, I think, twofold:

Firstly, Gutierrez has said that he intended ‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ to have the atmosphere of a fever dream, or the fractured narrative of a trippy 60s movie. It may be that he was being overambitious (not that I’d ever knock anyone for that; "a man’s reach should exceed his grasp" etc.) in this respect. The harsh urban settings and the paucity of stylistic flourishes that might have emphasised the fever dream aspect mean that the actual look and feel of the film seldom gel with Gutierrez’s intended aesthetic.

Secondly, there was an expectation/actuality disparity which I am already starting to worry might prove a common theme to my impulse buys. With the subject matter, the ‘18’ rating, the sex/death connotations, and (almost NSFW) images like these

… I expected ‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ to deliver the aforementioned down ‘n’ dirty, fast-moving, gory, sexy B-movie thrills. Instead, the film juggles horror, revenge movie and mystery thriller tropes, strives for character study and suffers from uneven pacing, scenes that juxtapose awkwardly and characters who are invariably dour and unenthralling. Bishop and Eve – ostensibly amoral, sexually predatory sensualists who enjoy the pleasures of the flesh and then go straight for the blood vessels underneath – fit the blueprint for seductive, sinister and deliciously appealing villains, and one scene in particular veers close to the provocative and darkly erotic direction I anticipated Gutierrez taking. On the whole, though, the villains are underused, particularly the potentially fascinating Eve.

Good buy/bad buy?

The opening scene between Liu and Richardson delivers the requisite frisson, but I’d already seen it on YouTube for free. Liu looks cool cutting loose with a crossbow, but it’s imagery that’s already been made iconic by Meg Foster in ‘The Osterman Weekend’ and Juliette Lewis in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’. Gugino is slinkily appealing but underused. The main issue is that the whole thing is so ploddingly serious when it could/should have been good (un)clean trashy fun.

Ultimately: bad buy.


Aaron said...

Nice review. I thought about impulse buying this one too because I found it for pretty cheap, but ended up passing. I'm not a big Lucy Liu fan. Isn't Marilyn Manson in this?

Neil Fulwood said...

Manson has a completely wasted cameo as a barman - another example of the filmmakers having a potentially great opportunity at their fingertips and not doing anything with it.

You made the right move passing on this one.

The Film Connoisseur said...

One of the most frustrating movies I have ever seen. Its so afraid to be a vampire movie. I mean, they are even afraid to use the word vampire.

That plus it was just...disjointed. Really couldnt make much sense of it, I literally HATED this movie!

Neil Fulwood said...

I know the feeling. On paper this should have had everything going for it. Sexy young cast; a plotline that combines vampire movie, revenge thriller and sex 'n' violence exploitation B-flick; an erotic subtext; iconic death scenes; the idea of a vampire hunter who has been made into a vampire. And like you say, the script couldn't even bring itself to use the word!

£3.00 is pocket change, even to someone on my salary!, but I still feel cheated that I actually bought the DVD.

J.D. said...

"I expected ‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ to deliver the aforementioned down ‘n’ dirty, fast-moving, gory, sexy B-movie thrills."

Y'know, what film you should track down that delivers far better on these counts? RAZOR BLADE SMILE, which I felt RISE was cribbing excessively but mebbe that's just me.

Good review! I've seen this on TV a few times and it was an "okay" time waster but that's about it.

Neil Fulwood said...

'Razor Blade Smile' is now officially on my list!

Ty said...

This should have been so much better! What a disappointment.