Like Vampire Kids, Project Vampire is another film that I was made aware of by connoisseurs of bad films. It is a cheap film that has such poor production values that it has a very distinct TV-feel. So I am pretty sure that this was a straight-to-video affair, and I am hesitant to call it a B-movie as C-movie would be a more accurate description.
As the film begins we meet Victor and two of his friends, who have just escaped from a lab involved in “Project Alpha” (what that is will be revealed later in the film, but I will not spoil it here). Anyway, the film opens with the three of them running, and running…
…and running, and running, and running, and running. They just kept shooting scenes of the three guys running and strung them together. It’s all a bit ridiculous really, but the purpose was to have all the opening credits over and done with during that escape sequence, and so that running montage became longer and longer. The opening shot in a tunnel is actually not bad for a B- or C-movie, but its impact fizzles out because of the ridiculously long montage.
The three run-aways split up, and Victor, who is in poor health, runs into Sandra, a nurse (and possible medical student?), who tries to help him. But Victor’s problem goes beyond conventional medical knowledge…
Meanwhile, the mastermind behind Project Alpha is trying to bring his plan to a successful conclusion, while also trying to get hold of the run-aways.
As you can see, the plot is somewhat thin. And the film is rather boring. Two reasons why this film feels pretty long even though it has only 90 minutes of running time. And the odd pacing also plays a role in this.
Project Vampire (1993) is the brain child of Peter Flynn, who wrote the script and directed the film. From 1988 onward, Flynn has made a living as a prop maker for film and TV, for more than two decades. But Project Vampire seems to be a sign that early on in his career he tried to branch out. The film represents the first and only writing and directing credits for Flynn, who may have realised that writing and directing are not as easy and not as satisfying as it looks, especially when you have no budget.
I said that the film is oddly paced. The reasons lie in the mishandled pace of the story’s two main elements. The way (and the stages) in which the evil plot is revealed, is somewhat odd, and the way and speed in which the relationship between Victor and Sandra develops is completely off. I believe that these are the factors that create the feeling that the story’s pacing does not work.
And talking of the film’s central relationship: Victor and Sandra have absolutely zero chemistry, so this entire plot-line fails. Not good for a film that has little else to offer. Some blame for this failure has to be shouldered by the two actors (Brian Knudson and Mary Louise Gemmill), who have somewhat limited acting abilities.
Knudson might be able to deliver in a small supporting role on day-time television, but he cannot carry a film, not even a sub-par C-movie such as this. Gemmill’s acting chops seem much more solid, but she is no thespian either. She is the kind of actress you expect to play a lead role as a betrayed wife in a day-time TV-movie.
Moving over to the “evil plot”, we have Dr. Frederick Klaus, an Austrian vampire whose entire family was destroyed by an angry peasant mob centuries ago. He is posing as a lecturer on biochemistry/genetics at the university, but secretly working on Project Alpha. That evil plot’s details and mechanics stay confusingly blurry, even though it is a pretty simple plot. The large number of people (including humans) Klaus employs for his rather simple and straight-forward scheme is surprising and seems risky (and Victor’s escape is proof of that). Klaus is played by Myron Natwick, who may be the only good actor in this film. Not that it matters much with a script like this. Klaus’s two closest collaborators are played by comparatively decent actors (Paula Randol-Smith and Ray Essler), while his henchmen are mostly cannonfodder and are played by the kind of actors you often see in B- or C-movies: the ones you suspect to be stunt-people trying to “branch out”. Kelvin Tsao is the only one of them with an expanded speaking role, but he appears to be no professional actor either.
Supporting actors in this film include Christopher Wolf, who is not bad at all; John-Scott Taylor, who is decent in a day-time television sort-of-way; and Christopher Cho, whose poor performance rivals that of Knudson, but a lot of that may have to do with the accent he had to fake.
Cho is also the central figure in another of the film’s failures: humour. Flynn intended his film to have comic relief, and Cho’s character was to be the source of 95% of that comic relief. But the script’s jokes itself are mostly of inferior quality, and Cho is entirely unable to provide the kind of delivery necessary. Nothing indicates that Cho is necessarily a bad actor, but it is clear that he has been completely miscast for this role.
And it is not only the central relationship, the evil plot, and the comic relief that do not really work; there are also some minor plot holes (and plot conveniences) that begin to add up in a script that is pretty poor to being with. The visual aspects are slightly better, with some of the make-up and some of the practical effects looking pretty OK by 1993 B-movie standards; but some of the sets look rather poor. Add the generally rather bad acting to all of this, and you have a rather dismal film in front of you, which is not exactly helped by Robert King’s very generic 1990s soundtrack.
Altogether, I cannot rate this film higher than 1 out of 10, which is rather sad as I have to assume that quite some effort was put into this, in spite of the lack of budget.
I am not even sure that this works as a so-bad-it’s-good film, although I guess some amusement can be derived from Knudson’s and Cho’s acting. And the fact that no-one involved in the production seemed to have any idea how a computer works and what it definitely cannot do (or should not, such as providing exposition for the plot), is also rather fun to witness.