Subspecies seems to be a franchise I am failing to warm to. This sequel to the 1991 film, again directed by Ted Nicolaou, is as bland as its predecessor, but it doubles down on the ‘70s-style creature make-up.
The plot picks up immediately where the first film ended. American student Michelle has to flee from Radu and she temporarily takes possession of the Bloodstone. As Michelle flees to Bucharest, the film mainly take place there. Severely traumatised, she does not leave the country, but instead phones her sister Becky and asks her to travel all the way from the US to Bucharest. In addition to Becky, the local police and an employee of the US-embassy also become involved in Michelle’s affairs.
To say this right up front: there is very little real plot in this film, and what little plot there is does not make much sense. There is not much of a structure, and the pacing is off, which is surprising for a film whose plot takes place within 3 to 4 days at the most. Like the first film, Bloodstone fails to build a relationship between the characters and the audience, which means that the arc of suspense falls flat and you never experience any real drama or tension.
The whole film feels like an extra chapter added-on to a previous film (just like Underworld Evolution). This film only has a net running time of under 79 minutes, but honestly there is nothing in this film that could not have been told within 10 to 15 minutes. And there is a whole bunch of scenes that seem to be pure padding.
There are a few mildly positive aspects. The acting is not bad – but it never rises above average either. As in the previous film, Anders Hove is somehow able to infuse his character Radu with some form of insane menace. And in general I feel that all the main actors have a certain screen-presence, which helps. Apart from Hove, the core cast consists of William Shatner’s daughter Melanie as Becky, as well as Ion Haiduc, stage actor Michael Denish, Kevin Spirtas, Pamela Gordon, and Denice Duff (Song of the Vampire). Duff is taking over the role of Michelle from Laura Mae Tate, who did not to return to this role she had played in the first film. In between the first and the second film, the role of Michelle not only acquired a new actress, but also gained an additional “L” in its spelling…
The film has some sexploitation elements (like its predecessor), and it also tries to throw in a bit of body-horror for good measure.
A number of things do work nicely here, visually. The filmmakers have a good eye for location, which – I guess – was also true in the first film, but comes more into play in this one. Nicolaou also worked with the same cinematographer as before (Vlad Paunescu) and they employ the same type of impressive shadow play here that they had used successfully in the first film (although some of it is clearly a post-production effect in Bloodstone, not pure cinematography). The creature make-up also is quite impressive. While Radu is some odd sort of mixture of different styles, there is a newly introduced character who consists of full ‘70s creature make-up. It is very well done and Gordon adds to the character’s effectiveness with her performance. The one visual set-back in her scenes is an alchemist’s lab that looks rather cheap and plasticky.
In some ways this film looks better than the first film, and perhaps the acting is slightly more consistent. But without any real plot, or characters (or anything else) that would be even remotely of interest for the viewer, this film falls entirely flat. I guess a rating of 3.0 to 3.5 out of 10 is in order.