Out for Blood (2004)

Los Angeles: Detective Hank Holten’s life is in complete disarray. His wife left him, and he has since started drinking and is obsessed with trying to get her back, to the extent that he is even stalking her.
His boss tries to distract him by throwing an obscure missing person’s case his way. But that case leads him straight into a seedy subculture world with its own rules and dangers….

This film is a bit of a waste of a rather decent cast. In the more prominent supporting roles you have “that-guy”-actor Jim Ortlieb as a doctor, and Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Prison Break, The Vampire Diaries) as Layla, a “person if interest”, while Hank’s boss is played by Lance Henriksen (Blood Shot), who is one of those guys you call if none of the Carradine brothers is available. I believe that these three represent the best acting in this film. Henriksen even almost manages to compensate the two-dimensional way in which his character is written; and O’Keefe seems to enjoy playing the bad girl so much that her borderline hammy performance creates a very positive energy, giving her a significant screen presence that has a beneficial effect on the film as a whole.

Vanessa Angel could be called the film’s female lead, even though she possibly has no more screen-time than O’Keefe. Angel gives a mostly decent performance, but she never fights back against the bad writing and instead seems to decide at times to rather phone it in. Kevin Dillon (Entourage) is the actor I have the biggest problem with in this film. He is supposed to be the film’s protagonist, but I am unable to buy his performance as the troubled Hank. This is probably partially caused by the writing and the directing (both courtesy of Richard Brandes), but I believe that the more basic problem is that Dillon has been miscast. He seems more suitable to roles that have more of a doofus angle, or for pompous characters. Both would have worked in this story, had the script been tweaked accordingly, but as it stands, Hank is a highly unlikeable character, but with not nearly enough personality to pass as an anti-hero.

 

Hank is entirely at the centre of this film. This is meant to be his story, his “adventure”, his emotional journey, his psychological trial of fire. But with Hank being unlikeable, uninteresting, and quite frankly not very bright, we as an audience have no-one to root for, and nothing here that would interest anyone.

Well, that’s not entirely true: early on, the film offers the viewer lots of nudity and sex, and it tries to go for a burlesque vibe, just like Temptation, but maybe even a tad more risqué, a tad more SM, and a tad more tasteless. But even if that would be down your alley, this visual style (and tonal choice) is only used in the first act and not kept throughout, which on the whole makes it seem a bit odd and ill-fitting and only highlights Hank’s blandness in the second act.

And with a bland protagonist and a boring story, you are less engaged, and your mind starts to wander and notice the many small discrepancies, script defects and plot holes that you would otherwise have ignored. Like the film-makers seriously using a Cat Scare in the 21st century, in a way that is neither ironic nor self-aware. Or the fact that Hank’s ex-wife Susan, who conveniently is an author of vampire novels, provides a lot of exposition on-the-go, whenever the script writers need someone to justify what they have just done. Or the fact that – based on this film – we have to assume that in L. A. a mere four hours lie between sunrise and sunset.

The film was probably done on a very tight budget. The number of sets and locations used for the shoot is limited, and the set decoration spartanic. And while the practical effects (and the one special effect) are OK for a cheap B-movie, the vampire make-up does not look good. It’s is a notch below “Buffy season 1” in quality. Like Nattens Engel and The Strain, Out for Blood operates on the premise that the master vampire is not human, but of a different species entirely; and like those two examples, this film also fails in delivering a decent visual execution of that idea: the goblin type mask of the master vampire is looking pretty ridiculous (and rubbery) and is limiting the actor’s movements and speech. The actor beneath all that rubber, Sam Kanater, is still able to pull off a somewhat credible performance, but that cannot make you overlook the mask’s silliness.

My main problem with this film is in its story and in its narrative flow. The first act, while camp, is at least somewhat scary and exciting, but the film loses all momentum in its second act. The focus here is meant to be entirely on Hank’s desperate situation, with no-one he talks to believing what he has seen. It would require top-notch writing, directing, and acting, in order to make that drama and inner turmoil interesting for more than two minutes. And those are three things we do not get here.

The third act fails to regain the momentum the second has lost. The final battle is short and lacklustre, and there is no pay-off to some of the antagonisms that were established earlier in the film. There is a kind of twist ending that results in a “fourth act” of sorts which has some more twists and turns. But instead of creating excitement or suspense, all of this is pretty lame and tedious. You are basically constantly looking at your watch for the final 15 to 20 minutes of this film.

Out for Blood is not the worst vampire film out there, but it is unfortunately rather bland and boring. I’d probably rate it at around 3.0 out of 10, thinking that its basic idea and its plot might have been better suited for one of those TV anthology shows like Tales from the Crypt, etc.

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