Joshua (Josh Plasse), shirtless and bleeding from the neck, barges into a rep cinema screening Nosferatu to a sparse audience, ranting about a real vampire who is coming to kill everyone. A cowled figure, Maximilian (Aric Cushing), torments him, hiding behind patrons and wagging a Dracula glove puppet – then the action shifts to the road, as Joshua drives away from Maximilian’s sinister RV and winds up in a minor accident and then hitching a lift with Ariel (Emma Holzer), who is convinced reasonably swiftly that something supernatural is up because the monster makes her have a vision of her dead mother.
Directed by Logan Thomas, who co-wrote with Cushing, this is a vampire movie mapped onto the structure of The Terminator, with a few licks from John Carpenter’s filmography (including Vampires, of course) and a dollop of cinematic self-awareness that means the film pauses for a discussion of seminal slasher movies at the home of a film academic (Will Haden) before adjourning to a police station – where they have to report a vampire attack during a hectic Halloween that reduces cop tolerance for this sort of yarn to zero – for a vampire version of the Terminator’s one-man assault on a whole precinct. There’s a complicated, if guessable backstory and enough hints of a bigger picture to make this a franchise-founder if it wants to be – though so much of it depends on bits and pieces of Grave of the Vampire and Near Dark and a dozen other sources it’s sometimes hard to discern the new stuff.
Holzer is the standout performer as the most grounded character, and there are cameos from Meg Foster as a creepy old nun, Raphael Sbarge as a disbelieving detective and Judy Tenuta as a nut. On the road, it’s exciting and the more shadowy encounters with the latex-masked arch-vampire are impressive – but things slow down whenever characters, including the monster, decide to have nice long chats. Like Carpenter, Thomas also handles the music – accompanying the action with a driving synth thrumm.