First, a picky quibble. Strange Things Happen at Sundown (2003) posits vampires that can walk abroad by day, so the title is kinda pointless.
But really this film is extremely good-of-kind. Now I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to someone who didn't like cheapo vampire flicks with lousy acting, but for me, as someone who keeps watching microbudget horror films even though dissatisfied with the majority, here's one that justified the quest.
To some extent it does for vampires what the vastly better Cemetery Man (1994) did for zombies -- wrapping bits of humor & genuine imagination around material that is so often tedious, cheesy, & predictable.
This is a veritable epic at around two hours, with an ambitious story packing in a lot more than bloody-goo FX, though it certainly is packed with strawberry syrup too.
It starts out as a kind of Vampire Sapranos as some whimsically stereotypical mobsters begin taking over drug territory leaving blood-drained victims in their wake.
These mobsters plan to distribute a drug that will transform the whole neighborhood into an army of vampire zombies.
When the mobsters begin to be picked off one by one by a super-violent vampire huntress, they hire bodyguards who are famous among vampires for their skills, but who were "turned" during the Disco era so are now permanently stuck as disco king & diva.
Lots of this stuff is comedic to be sure, yet the characters are permitted to act out their fates or stories as though they were real people, so they function as more than jokes.
By the time the Sopranos vampires are all dead, it's pretty clear that this is not a one-note vampire film, but that it is going to tell a series of little tales held together by the presence of the vampire hunter, a woman who is herself a vampire filled with a vengeful need to track down the eternally young man who killed her husband & turned her into a monster.
An assassin called The Reaper dresses in Death's cloak & is secretly the original Dracula.
He lives in the suburbs with his menacingly henpecking vampire wife "June" (secretly the vampire countess, Elizabeth Bathory) who has evolved into a psychotic clean-freak who flips out if anything is out of place or dusty.
The Reaper is hired to track down a certain vampire who robbed the mob, who is the same vampire against whom our vampire slayer is seeking her revenge.
Having stories within stories, a girl vampire who after a full year hasn't yet even learned how to extend her fangs is the girlfriend of the bad-ass vampire our angry slayer is after.
Her story veers off from the central tale when she saves the life of an intended victim & wanders off with the other woman & tries to embrace a Jesus Freak philosophy & be a good person finding salvation & forgiveness so she can get to heaven.
Her boyfriend meanwhile, striving to evade his own assassination, takes up residence in a vampire madhouse, where vampires who've lost all sense of propriety continuously torture victims. This aesthete house of gore is appalling, & I mean that in the best sense.
The film is just endlessly inventive, imaginative, & funny. It does more with no budget than is ever expected.
The brilliance is more in the script than in the acting, but with such good lines for interesting characters that. after a while. even the acting starts to look stylized instead of amateur.
Even acknowledging it's a film for horror fans rather than for everyone, I would have to rate this a great film in its own sphere of influence. Had the actors been first-rate, it might've been only a little shy of Cemetery Man in its perfect blend of story, character, humor, & horror. Just make sure you get the unrated version as there's reportedly a ruined version floating about which I've heard is not half as appealing.
Continue to reviews of:
Nosferatu (1922), Nosferatu the Vampire (1979)
and Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl