This film is a “labour of love”, as they say, but unfortunately it is also a bit of a waste of time.
Which is sad, because it has some interesting ideas, and a premise that – albeit not exactly new – would have offered a solid base to start from.
The story begins one century ago, when Jonathon Travers loses the love of his life – a maried woman who suffers from her husband’s violence – under tragic circumstances. It is prophesied to him that she will be reborn roughly one hundred years after her last birth, so he allows to have himself turned into a vampire and he sleeps for a hundred years in order to be reunited with her.
Meanwhile, Victoria – seemingly the “reborn” lover – has strange dreams that show her scenes from that past life which she does not remember. Victoria also lives in fear of a violent husband. Apparently reincarnation is a bitch that way.
And while Victoria tries to escape her real life and her dreams in order to get some peace and quiet, her recent past and her not-so-recent past are going to catch up with her and things are going to get ugly.
As I pointed out above, Song of the Vampire is not really a good film. It does not work as a horror film, because it isn’t one. It does not really work as a mystery film, because all is revealed from the outset. And it does not really work as a romance story, because it is too poorly written and constructed. Oddly enough, it almost works as a domestic violence drama, and in a way also as a sexploitation film – but more about that later.
Right from the start you can see and feel the limitations of this production. A lot of it feels like a self-financed, fan-made film – and sure enough, the end-credits close with the following dedication:
“This film is dedicated to
every horror fan who ever
dreamed of making a film
just because they thought
it would be fun.
Well, you’re right…
Which is almost like saying “if you get off your couch right now, cobble together a script, and start shooting with a handheld camera and a couple of friends, you couldn’t do much worse than us.”
And that is the problem with this film. All too often it feels amateurish.
The dialogue is often mediocre. And while some of the comic relief works at times, it is often also quite stupid. There are also far too many narrative non-sequiturs in the story, too many events that are just left dangling never to be brought up again, and far too often there are jarring jumps from one scene to the next. I am not sure how much of this is a writing problem, and how much is down to editing. But the fact is that the second act loses its grip on time entirely, as it is never clear how much time has passed; or why it is suddenly night again; or what all the characters have been doing in the meantime. There are scenes that appear to be taking place within the same day, even if they should be taking place on two separate days – or vice versa.
There are also many shortcomings in the art and technical departments. The historic scenes never feel genuine. The sets and wardrobe do not hold up, do not feel consistent, and neither they nor the language seem to fit the era that they are supposed to take place in.
In one of the later scenes there is – quite visibly – far too much make-up on the face of the male lead, which makes him look quite bizarre. And if you were to play a drinking game based on every time you can see a boom-mic in this film, you would risk alcohol poisoning. In fact, there are two lengthy scenes during which the boom-mic is happily dancing in an out of frame for the entirety of those scenes.
Finally, the film has a strangely lax attitude when it comes to violence towards women. Many scenes depicting these violent acts would not have been needed – neither to set up the husband’s character, nor to move the story forward. These scenes also have an escalation in them, an apparent urge to outdo each other. These scenes therefore seem at least partially gratuitous and have a distinct sexploitation vibe to them.
Song of the Vampire was the directorial debut of actress Denice Duff (known from the Subspecies franchise), who also plays the lead role. And while I am rather happy with her acting in this film, I am not sure directing is for her. Many of the shortcomings of this film are not directly in the director’s hands, but still in fields that a director should be able to supervise and control. That’s easier said than done in a production with limited funds and – in all likelihood – time, because noticing a problem does not necessarily mean that you also will get a chance to fix it. But the question remains if Duff was too distracted by her double workload as lead actress and director in order to notice some of the things that were going wrong here – a danger that is sometimes quoted when it comes to such acting&directing combinations.
There are, however, also some upsides to this rather shoddy production. As I said, there are a number of nice ideas here. Amongst other things, the film tries to work with two “mirror effects”. The constellation of the three characters in the past is equal to the constellation of the three present-day characters. But at the same time, the threat presented by the far-from-peaceful vampire Jonathan can be compared to the threat posed by Victoria’s violent husband. More could have been done with this, but the parallels are definitely set out in this film.
There are also a few artistic aspects that work well – some of the gore, for example, is effective and the artificial blood that is shed in ample amounts does look the part, even though the “spilling” of the blood often looks “just adequate” rather than really good.
The less experienced actors in the minor roles do a decent job – but there are also amateurish performances, with at least one standing out as a particular low-point. When it comes to the leading and major supporting roles, however, there are a number of talented actors at work here. Denice Duff, James Horan, Marilyn O’Connor, and Frank Bruynbroek all show their talent, as do many of the other supporting actors. By that I do not mean that we get any stellar performances from these actors – that would be impossible in a film like this – but their talent and professionalism shows in the way these actors not only put up with the mediocre script, but even actively try to sell their lines. This works for most of them, but James Horan more often than not loses the uphill-battle against the sub-par writing.
This film’s main intention is to be a romantic drama. And a lot of the acting and directing is reminiscent of the style of doomed love or domestic violence dramas as you might find them in made-for-TV productions. To try and combine this with a supernatural angle and some horror elements is an interesting approach, but in this particular case this ambitious attempt at a genre-mix was destined to fail.
With a net running time only 72 and a half minutes (including one mid-credit scene), the film still feels too long, as what little plot there is seems to be stretched out far longer than necessary. In fact, drop a few of the supporting characters and you would have yourself a plot that (in terms of duration, theme, and story) would neatly fit into an 45- to 60-minute episode of your average TV horror anthology series.
Despite some effort by the people involved, there are just too many shortcomings in the film to allow Song of the Vampire ever to come together as a whole. I cannot rate this film any higher than 2.5 to 3.0 out of 10.