‘That man was going to eat you, and I don’t mean the euphemism for oral sex.’
Girl reporter Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu) happens across a story which she thinks involves a sub-culture of s-m goth chicks being ritually slaughtered by a well-connected cult, but is pounced upon and extensively abused by suavely brutal vampire Bishop (James D’Arcy) and his consort Eve (Carla Gugino). Raped, bled dry and dumped, Sadie wakes up in the morgue and realises that Eve has ‘turned’ her. After a disorienting spell on the street and at a homeless shelter, she learns to survive. Under the tutelage of a mysterious guru (Julio Oscar Mechoso), Sadie sets out to execute Bishop’s coven with silver arrows, eventually teaming with drunken burned-out cop Clyde Rawlins (Michael Chiklis), who wants revenge for the death of his daughter (Margo Harshman).
Writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez opts to tell this simple story (essentially, it’s Point Blank with vampires) out of order, though not quite as oneirically as John Boorman did in his film of Point Blank. We pick up on an already-transformed Sadie in the midst of her revenge spree, then intersperse the forward action with flashbacks that show how she got to this point. Its Los Angeles milieu, with luxury mansions and goth clubs, is slightly overfamiliar in the sub-genre, but Gutierrez (perhaps influenced by The Hunger and The Addiction) presents an unusual take – these fangless blood-drinkers have to use knives to open veins (Sadie picks up Eva’s deadly crucifix necklace) and drench themselves in blood when they feed, are given to specious philosophising about sex and murder, and are only marginally more resilient than regular humans. After so many films in which vampires have superpowers, it’s refreshing that Sadie is badly (though not fatally) hurt by gunshots, can’t break a pair of handcuffs and takes a beating from a martial arts-proficient Renfield type (Mako).
In slightly Tarantino mode, it brings on an odd array of guest stars for effective little bits of character byplay: Robert Forster as a guy who nearly picks up a hooker (Cameron Richardson) Sadie needs to bait a trap for a wheelchairbound sleaze vamp (Allan Rich), Samaire Armstrong as a girl who is too easily persuaded by Bishop’s line of chat, Marilyn Manson as a bartender/snitch, Nick Lachey as a thug minion, and Elden Henson as a college boy geek who unwisely helps Bishop make an attempt to kidnap Sadie (‘I just wanted to hook up with goth girls who are into threesomes?’ he bleats, prompting her to sneer ‘what is it with you geeky guys and goth girls?’). Gugino, one of the most underrated actresses of her generation, is slinkily interesting as the ambiguous number two vamp who is the real trigger of the plot: her acceptance of Sadie’s justice also sets up Sadie’s own desire to have Rawlins kill her when her crusade is over – though there’s the inevitable last-second reawakening back in the morgue in case a sequel is needed.
Like a lot of vampire movies which refrain from using the v-word (at the expense of credibility), not to mention like a lot of vampires, it is slightly pompous about its pretty-pretty looks and badass attitudes, though its more action-oriented than Octane or The Wisdom of Crocodiles. A hulking Chiklis is fine in the role of a drunken, vengeance-seeking cop – but even the character name Clyde Rawlins sounds second-hand, and it’s a toss-up as to whether Gutierrez is deploying archetypes or lazily cribbing from old movies and comic books. Still, among the better recent vampire films.