In the woods, near dawn, panicky regular guy Harry Bane (Frank Whaley) is stalked and bitten by a Nosferatu-look vampire (Damian Norfleet), who seems to have strayed into a low-key realistic rural American horror movie from something far more extravagant and gothic (rather as the similar-looking Bonnie Aarons character does in Jakob’s Wife). The monster turns to dust in the daylight, and the infected Harry staggers into a handy shed to hide from the sun and transform into a Yorga-fanged bloodsucker. Then, writer-director Frank Sabatella leaves Harry to seethe in darkness for a few reels as the film skips track and becomes an account of the miserable life of teenage orphan Stan (Jay Jay Warren), who lives with his domineering asshole grandfather Ellis (Timothy Bottoms), pines for ex-pal Roxy (Sofia Happonen) who has ditched him to hang out with the school’s alpha thug Marble (Chris Petrovski), hangs out wit his even more miserable best pal Dommer (Cody Kostro) and seems destined to be badgered or bullied or beaten into an institution.
Then Stan takes his grandfather’s dog for a walk and the animal barks at the shed, which is on the isolated property – when the vampire rips off the dog’s head, Stan assumes he’s just a psycho … but he gradually catches on as to what exactly he’s dealing with, and a parade of victims finds its way to the shed. There is a small tradition of films about feebs who wind up custodians of vampires – Let the Right One In is the most prominent, but see also such Renfield variants as Bitten, The Insatiable, Demon Under Glass, The Night Flyer, etc – and this takes a slightly fresh approach. Traditionally, the lead of the film would be Dommer – pronounced as a homonym of Dahmer – who goes the Little Shop of Horrors route of becoming eager to feed his tormentors to the hungry creature in the shed (Kostro’s standout performance is a little reminsicent of Stephen Geoffreys in Fright Night), but here we stay with the conscience-stricken Stan, who does get some troublemakers out of his life but is genuinely aghast to lose people like the sympathetic Sheriff (Sobhan Fallon Hogan) and rallies in the climax when the monster finally gets loose.
Even Harry Bane is a victim here, and the film presents a chain of abuse that runs through families and communities almost through tradition and laziness – it’s a teen movie convention that when the kid who’s been bullied all his life finally punches his tormentor in the face, he’s the one who gets into trouble … but, let’s face it, that scene wouldn’t be in so many movies if it wasn’t true to life. Petrovski, playing the sort of creep who gave Keith Gordon a hard time in Christine, is splendidly hateful, but also satisfyingly whimpery when on the day one of his favourite victims punches him out he discovers that the other has turned into a blood-drinking monster and is out for payback. It’s a small-scale film, but all the more effective for it – and, in its lack of modish trimmings (no social media blitz, few mobile phones), it has a nice throwback feel, evoking a tradition of fable-like teen horror movies from Carrie onwards. NB: it bears a 2020 copyright date.