3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2010
Originality is something that is lacking in vampire movies nowadays. I have 200 in my collection and when one like this comes along that is an original story it stands above its faults. On the downside the picture quality is only vhs standard and the sound is hollow and that damned piano made me think of silent movies. On the plus side this film has won awards for the quality of its acting and deservedly so. The scene when Helen becomes feral and takes her first victim since escaping from the morgue was superb, Devon Bailey could show the girl from 'The Ring' some moves. When she hovered over her victim's neck before plunging in certainly impressed me. The only letdown for me was Peter Morr as the vampire Duchamp who was so over the top I was cringeing. This was a good story, well told, well produced on a small budget and so ripe for a remake.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2009
With low budget independent films - those not made independently by the huge studios - you find a few gems in the muck. Thicker than Water: The Vampire Diaries is that.
It has its faults, as all films do. There's a bizarre Mayan temple start and creepy (but not in the good way) double-intro voice over situation. Then we shoot over to the cool part of the story.
Story goes...a young Goth chic, Lara Baxter (Eilis Cahill), complete with the cheerleader twin sister, Helen (Devon Bailey), live in a tourist shanty on the eastern shores of the United States.
Lara is into black and red and hangs at the local Wicken filled Freakatorium Shoppe of Curiosities. Her sister, a bubble of sunshine, has the local letter-jacketed testosteronies buzzing around her and a Pollyanna look at life.
Mom (Jo Jo Hristova) is an ex-professional skater from a foreign suppressed land close enough to Transylvania to make her immediately suspicious. And brother, Raymond (Michael Strelow) is an uber eccentric scientific loose canon channeling Crispin Glover; but with originality and less spoofing.
The family is very dysfunctional. But when Goth chic tries to give Cheerleader chic acne via some voodoo curse, perhaps Lara was a tad a heavy handed on the toad spit. Because viola! Helen becomes a vampire.
But the seemingly McHateful Clan suddenly really pull together - and pull apart others - to keep their family together. Here TTW:VD becomes unique; women leads, a cool story line, and real emotional relationships.
Underneath all this we are hinted to that there may be more to Helen's transformation than sis' ill-thought voodoo curse juvenilely involving a cut up Barbie, some hair strands, and a few cage-free eggs whipped gently with teenage hate and crested with a nice firm cow's heart.
The family believe (for now) that the spell is what has turned little Ms. DoRight into a creature of the night.
I am ignoring many of the faux pas of the Mayan jolts, and odd back-story of the dad who is instantly out of the film via divorce. Because the cast left behind are wonderful.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2009
I wasn't sure what to expect from this low-budget vampire tale, but I wasn't expecting to be so impressed! It seems that vampire movies have been making a comeback lately, and not just the tween fluff like TWILIGHT. This new breed of vampire flicks, like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, take preconceived notions of vampirism and play with their conventions. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES PART 1: THICKER THAN WATER is one of those vampire movies and one of the best low-budget ones I've seen in quite some time! I'm definitely looking forward to future volumes.
First of all, it starts like a quirky family drama, introducing us to the very different characters. While Lara acts as a kind of narrator and main character for the film, equal screen time is given to all of the characters within the Baxter family. Both Lara and Helen are well-developed, but surprisingly time is also taken to develop the characters of the mother and brother. All of the characters' personalities and interactions with each other really bring the film to life and make you care about what happens to them. What horror-lover wouldn't adore the character of Lara, with her Anne Rice shrine, cool, candle-lit room and obsession with death? Or the quirky character of Ray, whose room looks like a sterile, white-washed doctor's office? In fact, the first 30 minutes or so when we are learning about all the characters and exploring their environment really feels like more of a Wes Anderson movie (along the lines of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS) than anything else. I even enjoyed the campy New Orleans vampire that comes a'knocking later in the film, looking as if he was directly lifted from an Anne Rice novel! Though he felt a bit out of place, I'm betting future films in the series explain his character and introduce other vampire characters as well. All of these characters show that writer/director Phil Messerer really knows how to develop and connect his characters with the audience without sacrificing the pacing of the film.
Speaking of pacing, the film glides along at a near-perfect speed, something that is quite rare for an indie flick. We relate to the characters because of the development invested in them and after that connection you just can't take your eyes off the screen. The writing, by Messerer, feels natural and has more heart and soul than most horror films. He really takes the time to not just make it another ho-hum horror film, but to invest some real emotion into the plot. So, along with the horror aspect of it, there are also moments of drama and comedy. I also enjoyed how Messerer beefed up the mythology of the film by interweaving the story of the first vampire, Oya, into the plot. This new mythology (and the beautiful accompanying paintings, by artist Rostislav Spitkovsky) really adds more depth to the film and takes a new approach as to where vampires come from and how they are created.
Besides the excellent writing, the acting is also stellar! Devon Bailey as Helen goes from a sweet sugar-and-spice 16-year-old to an uncontrollable and ferocious vampire - and we believe every second! She makes us feel both sympathetic and disgusted by her character, who covers the walls of the basement with the blood of her victims. Her character also requires a lot physically from Bailey, but nonetheless she delivers a stunning, provocative performance. Eilis Cahill as Lara is also excellent. Her character pretends to be sarcastic and cynical, but underneath it all she still loves her sister and would do anything for her. Cahill does an amazing job of letting her vulnerability peek out from beneath her hard exterior and is really a joy to watch in her role. Michael Strelow brings Raymond to life and really makes it scary watching his transformation from quiet and mild-mannered to an accomplice who brings men home for his sister to kill and later hacks up the bodies to get rid of them. Finally, Jo Jo Hristova as the mother really brings all of the characters together and makes it feel like a real family. Plus, her conflict over her religion and her love for her daughter really makes for some great drama.
THICKER THAN WATER also features some impressive special FX. The basement lair of Helen is coated in bright, sticky blood that drips from the walls. Helen's special FX makeup is also impressive - she cries blood tears and is a pale, almost luminescent white after turning into a vampire. When she doesn't feed her skin takes on a mottled, bruised and rotted appearance. The special FX were done by Randall Leddy and they are amazing, especially considering the low budget. Throats get torn out, a guy's face gets cut off and there is blood constantly coating the walls of the Baxter home and pouring out of people's necks! Kudos to Leddy and anyone else involved with the makeup and special FX because they look very realistic and professional.
As if I haven't rambled on enough about praise for this film, the direction by Phil Messerer is also very professionally done. There are some great shots in the film, including one where a strange visitor to the Baxter home is shown silhouetted against some nighttime fog and another where Lara is traipsing through the snow-covered cemetery. Beautiful shots like this as well as the solid direction just add more allure to the film. It's hard to believe that the film is Messerer's first!
Truly my only real complaint with the film was the overuse of the background piano music. I feel that some scenes would have benefited more had they been shown in silence. It seemed that the piano music was playing constantly in the background and after a while this started to overpower everything (even though it was beautifully played). On the upside, the other music, ranging from rock music to slow ballads, used on the soundtrack was impressive and used more judiciously.
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES PART 1: THICKER THAN WATER is a very impressive first volume in what I hope turns into a trilogy of vampire films. The well-rounded storyline, drawing elements from horror, family drama and comedy, the quirky characters and the awesome special FX really make this film something very special. Phil Messerer has created a unique vampire film, one that avoids the usual genre conventions of just using "boobs and blood," and it has turned out to be one of the most memorable independent films I've ever seen. I can't wait for the next volume!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2009
Sisters Helen and Lara Baxter have typical sibling rivalry, quickly and effectively set up within the first scene featuring the two, in the indie horror flick "Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries, Part I." Goth-chick Lara (Eilis Cahill) worships at her Anne Rice altar while over-achieving Helen (Devon Bailey) gets all the school awards -- and all the boys. Lara wishes her sister was dead, and soon that wish is granted. But Helen returns as a vampire, and the film then tells the story of a devoted mother (JoJo Hristova) and the rest of her clan as they cope with a family member who has returned from the grave. This new Helen is handled without much flare (or over-questioning the "whys" and "hows"), in part due to her mother's religious devotion. Soon biologist brother Raymond (Michael Strelow) chimes in with some pseudo-science regarding the cause of Helen's vampirism, while Lara fills in the blanks with her mythological knowledge. Starting out with promise, and some good practical makeup effects, the film soon runs out of things to say.
The story itself is pretty straight-forward, and although technically the film is plagued with muffled dialogue and poor lighting, these aspects are easily forgiven; after all, it is low budget. Championed with enthusiasm by one-man-band Phil Messerer, who acted as writer, shooter, producer, director and editor, "Thicker Than Water" was perhaps too much a burden for one man to bear. The trouble with wearing so many hats is there's no one else around to tell you what works, and what doesn't. As a result, for a horror-comedy, most of the jokes fall flat, which is unfortunate because the over-the-top gore and bizarre actions of the family members really need a good counter-balance of comedic situations, but alas this is not the case. As with many films, the comedy that works is featured in the trailer.
Interspersed within the main story is a back story of the vampiress "Oya," featuring Freemasons (check) and an ancient culture (check), which I guess in some way is a counterpoint to what modern-day Helen is going through, perhaps setting up future tales, as "Thicker Than Water" is part 1 of a proposed trilogy. The trouble is, each time this back story is presented, the movie hits a brick wall, and we're left to take a washroom break or grab a drink rather than sit through these unnecessary scenes. What really would have helped the story is a tighter edit; many scenes are too long, somewhat repetitive, and the over-use of montage really drags the plot. Add to that too much voice-over, some bizarre musical choices, and too many crotch-level & extreme close up shots, and you get a story with a lot of promise but without the best execution. By the time a vampire shows up straight out of an Anne Rice novel, all you can do is say "huh" and wonder why this and another plot twist was added so late into the story.
I have to say the acting is a standout; lead Bailey effectively chews the scenery, while Hristova makes the best of what little she is given as the devoted mother. Cahill effectively portrays the emo "all the world is against me" teenager, although she eventually becomes a little too annoying for her own good.
Overall, "The Vampire Diaries" series shows promise, and if Messerer can Let The Right One In by bringing in a collaborator or two, part 2 may be a worthwhile sequel to this story.