Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Breed


I arrived for the opening night's performance of There's No Ibizaness Like Show Ibizaness at Barcelona's Teatro Estrella early, so as to be in my box seat in full view of the audience as soon as the house opened. I made sure to wear one of my very best GlamourPuss gowns, a floor length Skimbleshanks in daffodil yellow, with matching Jimmy Choo sandals and Kate Spade bag. I wanted to be sure and glitter under the lights, radiating the aura of a true star, no matter what tired tart might be impersonating me as Veekay Lester on stage in some jumble of Catalonian folk dances and Euro pop tunes. I was immensely gratified when I was recognized early and got a little standing ovation from the first nighters just prior to show time. I was most gracious, executing a few twirls on the railing of my box for an appreciative crowd.

The curtain rose on a set depicting a little tavern on the shores of Ibiza and there was an opening number which I think was about the joys of local seafood but it might have been about sex. My understanding of Catalan isn't as good as I had hoped. Then there was a drum roll and a spotlight and the evening's star tapped into view singing some new lyrics to my signature song, The Ham That Got Away. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was that odious Doreen Scrawcrunch wearing one of my best Bob Mackie creations that had disappeared when she and her horrible husband had occupied Chateau Maine. I sprang into action, leapt to the stage shrieking Sic semper tyrannis as I attempted to tear my property from her vulgar body. I was really quite put out when the local police showed up and had me arrested for disturbing the peace.

Joseph, my manager, had me immediately freed on bond and I retired, much too shocked to sleep, back to my hotel. There I did a certain amount of channel surfing. Amongst the late night Italian beauty contests and English football matches shown on Spanish cable, I ran across The Breed, a new made for cable vampire film with Adrian Paul and Bokeem Woodbine. Being something of a fan of this subgenre of the horror film, and feeling victimized and drained by the evil Doreen, I settled in to see a new twist on old legends.

The time is an indefinite future. A pair of police detectives, including Steve Grant (Bokeem Woodbine) are investigating a missing van and possible kidnapping. They find the van, the missing young lady dangling and drained of blood, and a mysterious man in black who kills one of them, throws Grant out the window and escapes by climbing a sheer wall. Needless to say, we're in vampire country. Grant returns to headquarters quite upset. Here he finds out his superiors are well aware of the existence of vampires. They made themselves known to the authorities some years back, in exchange for being left alone. They no longer drink blood, rather a synthetic blood substitute and they're productive citizens. There are, however, a few renegades around who cling to the old ways. In typical cop film fashion, Grant finds himself with a new partner, Aaron Gray (Adrian Paul) who is, surprise, surprise, a vampire. Gray leads Grant into this hidden world, full of not so subtle references to Dracula and other vampire tales as they pursue their suspect.

The film has much going for it. It approaches the conventions of vampires in some new and unusual ways - paying lip service to the old legends while modernizing some aspects for purposes of the vampires fitting in. It also has a wildly inventive visual look. The film was shot in Budapest and it makes full use of the contrast between the fairy tale architecture of the 19th century public buildings of that city with the grimy industrial blandness of the buildings of the communist period. The director, Michael Oblowitz, also has a certain visual flair. Images are genuinely creepy, especially of the villainous vampire in motion and the juxtaposition of the vampires with the human characters.

On the other hand, other choices almost sink the film. The near future is depicted with images straight out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Gilliam's outlandish fantasy had its own internal logic. Using his ideas and art direction in a story about vampires overloads the piece visually and stylistically and it keeps collapsing under its own weight. There are also a lot of parallels drawn visually between the plight of the vampires and the Nazi Holocaust (complete with jarring staccato flashbacks) that also undermine the film by trying to place too much dramatic meaning on a fantasy story. Too many other moments also seem to be heavily borrowed - the synthetic blood, the unlikely police partnering, the wild eyed scientist.

The performances are pedestrian and nothing too special. Various familiar character actor faces turn up in smaller parts. Paul and Woodbine, in the central roles, have a nice chemistry but never seem to rise above the visual chaos that occasionally surrounds them or is able to convincingly help us through the more idiotic plot points. It's a nice diversion for late night cable, but don't go searching it out.

Leering homeless guy. Unfriendly vampire cafe. Grumpy secretarial staff. Gratuitous totalitarian entrance halls. Rooftop leaping. Synthetic red fluids. Dark vampire secrets. Gratuitous Nazi firing squads.

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