Victoria Pratt plunges into the vampires’ nest and meets some famous horror faces in Brotherhood of Blood. Mark Lee reviews.
Whilst having proven a popular horror theme for centuries, the recent über-fashionability of the vampire in popular cultural output has led to an increased risk of the production of tired and cynical products depicting our blood-sucking friends, especially in the movie sphere. Brotherhood of Blood attempts to mitigate this risk and harness the fascination surrounding the vampiric underworld by introducing some enhancements to the vampire mythology, and developing the character of a Romanian super vampire demon, an entity known as Vlad Kossei. The filmmakers also manipulate some historical events, morphing the context, to inject some intrigue directly into the bloodstream of the collective horror-fan’s consciousness.
Many indicators would suggest that this approach has paid dividends; Sam Raimi enjoyed the movie enough to release it on his Ghosthouse Underground label (a Lionsgate imprint) in the US and Canada, and some of the assembled cast share an aggregate pedigree of considerable quality. Here we have underground horror legend and Rob Zombie darling Sid Haig, Dawn of the Dead hero Ken Foree (who also co-produces this piece), the pretty and well-spoken Rachel Grant (as seen in Die Another Day), and Victoria Pratt, a regular face on U.S. TV shows such as C.S.I.
For all of its promise, though, Brotherhood of Blood only partially delivers. The performers certainly work hard with what is an inconsistent script, which wavers from the perfectly acceptable down to the cringe-worthy and ridiculous. The special effects are clearly constructed on a rather thin budget, with one particularly inadvisable use of CGI, although in the main the filmmakers walk a sensible line by pitching a balanced ratio of story to gore. The plot is generally imaginative so scores extra points here, yet the delivery of the story and the salient twists and turns is done in such a way as to feel rushed, and somewhat artificial, especially with the non-linear narrative structure – which whilst not normally a problem per se – adds potential confusion and frustration here. Perhaps most disappointing, though, is the manner of the direction of the camerawork, which is at best pedestrian with conventional and unimaginative movements, and at worst irritating, with some scenes cutting between shots of the characters with rapid and seemingly uncontrolled pace. In mitigation, the film was reportedly shot in a couple of weeks, under the guidance of German directorial duo Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer, but this time constraint has affected the production for the worse, rather than injecting any pressure-driven energy.
It’s the afore-mentioned star players of this vampiric romp that separate it somewhat from the piles of low-budget horror vehicles. Victoria Pratt convinces as the tough but guilt-laden heroine vampire hunter, Carrie Rieger. Ken Foree is enjoyable playing on the side of evil this time, revelling in his tortured vampire character of Stanis. It’s Sid Haig, though, that ignites the movie with his depiction of Pashek; his haunting stare, weathered face, and engaging story-telling transcends the limitations of the framework he has to work within.
Brotherhood of Blood certainly can’t compete with many of its superior rivals in the trendy vampire genre, but amongst its lower budget contemporaries, thanks to performances from some decent and respected actors, you could do a lot worse than to unearth this from its murky underworld.
The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and encoded with region 2. The transfer is clean and free of distortion, although I did pick up a good deal of pixilation on one of the trailers. I’m guessing this may be the disc I was sent, rather than a representation of the retail product, and the feature itself was free of any such issues anyway.
The colour spectrum is rather muted on the whole, with a lack of richness, although this is rather fitting for the murky and grimy territories of the core scenes of this story. Definition suffers somewhat, with separation of shades becoming a problem particularly during the darker scenes. When bright lights are captured, such as the opening scene featuring Pashek at a table with lit candles, the brightness saturates the image, and bleeds into other areas of the picture. For all of that, the visual presentation of the movie is acceptable considering its budget status.
Trailers include the disturbing Vietnam drama 1968 Tunnel Rats, Bloodrayne 2 (don’t mess with her), and Uwe Boll’s daring and silly Postal.
Audio is available in 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround sound. The sound is delivered cleanly enough, although there is a slight lack of bass resonance and general depth. Vocals are clear and defined well, although the recording can sometimes vary between performers, with some voices appearing to carry small echoes in contrast to others located nearby.
The schlocky and primitive soundtrack, awash with gothic organ chords and occasional generic guitar riffs, is a disappointing aural backdrop but is represented in acceptable if uninspiring fashion.
Extras are limited, but we do at least have something here.
If you can count it as such, the first extra is a trailer for the movie, and it’s pretty standard fare (although there is a marked dip in audio and visual quality, making it seem much more “b-movie” than it already is).
The real ‘extra’ here is a five minute Behind the Scenes cut, which splices together some rapid fire comments and views from some of the pertinent players, including Haig, Foree and Pratt, and lends us a snapshot into the filming of some of the special (and the not so special) effects. For a five minute piece, it’s not too bad.
Brotherhood of Blood attempts to tap into the bloodstream of modern, popular vampire culture, and though the direction and narrative structure triggers an element of frustration, the performances from some well known horror faces makes this adequate release and limited extras worth a viewing for fans of lower budget vampiric horror.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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