Fist of the Vampire DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Brain Damage Films
I guess I can call Count Fucking Chocolua to see if I can get any more leads. – Detective
2007, Region 0 (PAL), 97 minutes
DVD released on October 12th, 2009
Brian "Blue Meanie" Heffron as Nicholas
Darian Caine as Jade
Brian Anthony as Lee Southward
Cheyenne King as Davidson
Deanna Visalle as Barker
Stevie Vaneck as Angel
JC Nickles as Ace
Brian S. Arrington as Mac
Dave Campbell as Agent Dawkins
Victor Kuehn as Agent Williams
I have to admit, I had some reservations when I popped Fist of the Vampire into my DVD player. After having recently watched and reviewed Curse of the Wolf, I was a little dismayed that Vampire was brought to my by the same writer/director, Len Kabinsinski. So I started the movie with some trepidation and hope. Trepidation because of the shitfest Curse of the Wolf was. Hope because I tend to give filmmakers, especially low-budget ones, the benefit of the doubt. I was right to feel both.
Vampire has a decent start. 30 years ago, a man witnesses an attack. He is chased by the attackers, but safely makes it home where he calls what he saw into the police. Unfortunately for him, the baddies — a group of vampires — managed to follow him home where they slaughter the good Samaritan and his family, and torch his house. The crime goes unsolved.
Flash forward three decades later, where Detective Lee goes undercover to infiltrate a crime ring where, among other things, there are nightly fights à la Fight Club. Eventually, and with the help of Detective Davidson (Cheyenne King), Lee puts the pieces together and determines this group is up to more than just underground fights and drug sales — they are responsible for a decades old murder.
Fist of the Vampire's story is hopelessly plain and clichéd, but it's not quite the trainwreck Kabasinski's prior work was. Vampire moves at a more-or-less steady pace, mainly due to the fact that there is very little down time. Where there is lack of story, Kabasinski fills with punches, and like in Wolf, he does an admirable job with the fight choreography. It seems like everyone is throwing down in this flick. Men vs. men, women vs. women, men vs. women, women vs. men. It's as if Kabasinski put out a call that said, "If you want to come to a good old fashioned throw down, call me." And he got a ton of responses.
However, with so many fights, the problem of how weak the story is quickly comes to surface. If you take away the fights, you have a 10 minute movie. To make matters worse, it's a movie you've seen a thousand times before, and done better 999 times out of that thousand. Yet if you take away the story, you have an overpriced "Back Yard Fights" DVD, neither of which you really want. So what the film seemingly becomes is a showcase of Kabasinski's skills as a choreographer, with some blood thrown in the mix. Unfortunately, though, while there is no denying that he is good at what he does, Kabasinski isn't quite good enough to pull off an all fight movie with the tools he has to work with (be it money, stuntmen or untrained actors).
But it's obvious with Vampire (where it wasn't so obvious with Wolf), that Kabasinski is trying his best to work with what he has, which isn't much. There is a lot of unnecessary CGI in the film, from bullets and blood to exploding cars and houses to a very weird and surreal cage match at the end of the film. Some of it works, as it gives the movie a comic-book like quality, but many times it doesn't. It's impressive what Kabasinski wants to do, but that, sadly, doesn't translate to the final product very well.
Fist of the Vampire is far from a good movie, but unlike Curse of the Wolf, it's at least watchable — more so if you have a couple friends and a six pack with you. After watching Vampire, I'm not quite ready to write Kabasinski off. I think this cat hasn't quite found his stride yet, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie he makes when he does find it.
Video and Audio:
Video and audio will not be graded as this is a screener.
Special features will not be graded as this is a screener, but trailers are promised on the final DVD.