Umbrage : The First Vampire DVD Review
Written and directed by Drew Cunningham
2009, Region 2 (PAL), 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 17th October 2011
Doug Bradley as Jacob
Jonnie Hurn as Phelan
Rita Ramnani as Rachel
Grace Vallorana as Lauren
Natalie Celino as Lilith
James Fisher as Stanley
Umbrage: The First Vampire begins in the American West where the assassination of a cowboy is intervened by a vampire who turns the assassin into a one of her own. We are then propelled a 100 years in to the future to the English countryside, where antique dealer, Jacob (Doug Bradley), has moved to a new isolated farmhouse with his pregnant wife, Lauren (Grace Vallorani) and annoying, whiney, teenage step-daughter, Rachel (Rita Ramnani). He has acquired an ancient obsidian mirror that he plans to sell to the highest bidder, but has bigger problems in the form of the two women in his life wanting to kill each other. In the neighbouring woods two guys are on a camping trip, but are interrupted when a mysterious beautiful woman claims to be bird watching. From there things become very strange, there is definitely something lurking in the shadows of the forest that is attacking innocent people. Jacob and his family are now wrapped up in an ancient battle as a vampire cowboy lurks on their premises, wanting revenge.
There’s a definite sense the filmmakers, if the budget allowed, would have had this set in the American West for the entire film. There is constant country, bluegrass style music in the background that, although fitting with our cowboy vampire Phelan (Jonnie Hurn), but doesn’t fit so much with the rest of the story. The mix of genre styles makes the film pretty disjointed and it doesn’t help that the storyline is incredibly muddled too. It all just comes across as a bit of a mess at times, one where you’re lucky if your attention span allows you to get to the end of it all.
It’s not all lost though, there is a good performance by Jonnie Hurn, he is charismatic and creates a lot of the intrigue in the film. It also has a very good ending, so it is worth the payoff if you’ve managed to stick it out that long. Sadly, Doug Bradley doesn’t quite do it for me in this role, there’s more going on in his life than meets the eye and in that respect I just couldn’t get behind the character.
This film isn’t bad, but after recently watching the stand out vampire film Stake Land I couldn’t help but compare it to the likes of that. Umbrage definitely suffers in trying too hard, there are some great comedy moments, like when Phelan utters, “what would Buffy do?” but then it takes itself really seriously in other aspects, so it is hard not to see these lines as glaringly obvious places they've tried to lighten the tone. Horror geeks will like to spot all the cool references hidden within the film (An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead etc) but not much of this film is original so there’s not much else to take away with it.
Basically, this film tried too much to do lots all at once and with its obviously small budget, its main failure is how ambitious it is for what it can realistically do.
Video and Audio:
I didn’t have any real complaints, though I found at some times the sound wasn’t always consistent, so I had to adjust accordingly.
There are a few interesting features on the disc including a making of Umbrage documentary, a music video, director and cast commentary and an interview with Doug Bradley
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