August 10th, 2009

THICKER THAN WATER: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES PART 1 (2008) ***

I get a lot of weird things in the mail.  Mostly it’s just junk:  credit card applications, Watchtowers, and free trial samples of Viagra.  Like I really need that stuff.  First off, I already got me a credit card.  Secondly, I ain’t no Jehovah’s Witness and I don’t plan to be so there’s no sense in trying to recruit me into the Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program.  And don’t get me started on that Viagra stuff.  I don’t need that crap.  I need Anti-Viagra, if you know what I mean. 

 

But the other day I got something in the mail that I could actually use:  A free horror movie.  It’s called Thicker Than Water:  The Vampire Diaries Part I, and it was directed by an up-and-coming filmmaker named Phil Messerer.  I’ve never been one to turn down a free movie so I thought I’d put it in and give it a shot.  Turns out it was pretty damn good.

 

TTW:  TVDP1 is all about Lara (Eilis Cahill), a Goth chick who practices voodoo, keeps an Anne Rice shrine, and narrates the movie in a snarky Juno manner.  She’s got a doofus dad, a former Olympian skater mother, a gay biologist brother, and a twin sister Helen (Devon Bailey), who happens to be a vegetarian.  After a bad Thanksgiving and an even worse birthday, Lara puts a death curse on her sister using a dollar store Barbie doll. 

 

Hey who can’t relate to that right?

 

Much to Lara’s dismay, the curse really does work and Helen really does die.  Luckily, Helen comes back to life the next day.  The downside is that she is apparently now a vampire and to make matters worse, she just sucked the mortician dry of all his blood.  Unfortunately since Helen’s a vegetarian she doesn’t believe in killing living things in order to get food and will only kill once her “hunger” turns her into a wild animal.  Lara and the family quickly rally around the newly vampiric Helen and take to kidnapping tourists (as well as the occasional Mormon) in order for her to get her sustenance.  Eventually, another vampire comes a calling on the family and beacons Helen to embrace her vampirism and join him.

 

Messerer is no dummy.  He knows that vampires are all the rage nowadays with the kids with their Twilights and their True Bloods and what have you.  He knows he’s gotta strike while the iron’s hot.  Vampires as a rule are usually pretty cost effective for a low budget horror movie so this set-up is tailor made for Messerer.

 

Fake blood is pretty cheap but good writing is a harder commodity to find.  The reason most low budget vampire movies (pardon the pun) suck is because the writing is piss poor.  Messerer’s writing is smart and at times very funny.  All of the characters are remarkably fleshed-out and three-dimensional, which helps to compensate for some of the film’s missteps.  (And by missteps I mean the irritating Southern Fried vampire who turns up and threatens to derail the third act.)

 

The characters really come to life in part because of Messerer’s strong writing but also because the acting is top notch.  Cahill gives the best performance of a tormented Goth chick in a low budget horror movie since Phoebe Dollar in Goth.  She does a great job at anchoring the movie and has a healthy bit of screen presence.  I think the best acting though came from Bailey.  She actually kinda got on my nerves in the very beginning of the movie while playing the uptight sister.  That’s alright though because once she became the vampire she was nothing but impressive.  The way she wigged out and started crawling around like a contortionist was eerie to say the least.  The last time I saw crazed wriggling and writhing like that was Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

 

In the end, I think what I like most about Messerer is his confidence.  He’s pretty bold by proclaiming that this is “Part 1” of an ongoing series.  Usually when you do that, you set yourself up for disaster.  Remember when Mel Brooks did History of the World Part 1?  Nobody went to see it so they didn’t make a Part 2.  Or how about when Van Halen released The Best of Van Halen Vol. 1?  They broke up soon after they dropped that album and never got around to releasing a second collection.  I heard that Phil’s getting started on Part 2 as we speak so it looks like he's going to break the cycle.  I wish him well.

 

Cahill gets the best line of the movie when she proclaims, “I’d rather be gay in Texas!”

 

If you want more info on the flick, you should check out www.bloodjunky.com.