[DVD Review] ‘Subspecies: The Complete Chronicles’

I grew up in the era of cinematic vampires that would crash your bonfire and scalp you with their teeth. I would spend the weekends of my childhood watching “Scream Theater” in four hour blocks on channel 62 here in Kansas City up until I left for college in 1997. I watched a lot of films in those years. Sadly, I never had the pleasure of the vampire film series Subspecies.

I just found out I was sorely deprived.
Arriving on DVD this Tuesday from New Video is Subspecies: The Complete Chronicles. The set includes the four “Radu” movies – Subspecies, Subspecies II: Bloodstone, Subspecies III: Bloodlust and Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm – and the spinoff, Vampire Journals.

The Subspecies films capture, for the most part, what vampires more or less should be. Hideous creatures that want nothing more than to make humans suffer. The main character, Radu, is reminiscent (or would that be a presentiment?) of the Buffy TV series vampires with a bumpy head and unique fangs. His greatest features include foot long fingers (which make for insanely fabulous shadows ala Max Schreck) and a constant thick blackish bloody drool coming from his mouth.

An “Epic Collection” of the films was released in 2007. This new set seems to be an exact copy down to the bonus features. And all of these original “VideoZone” segments were originally released on VHS. Speaking of VHS, the VideoZones seem to be rips that have not been cleaned at all. Several frames have tracking marks at the bottom. If you are too young to remember adjusting the tracking button on a VHS player – or young enough that you never even had a VHS player – then I now feel really old and you will probably just laugh at the poor quality.

Sadly, the entire box set is of this caliber. Yes, the original film is now 20 years old; however, a little scrubbing could have cleaned the series up nicely.

If you’ve never had the pleasure, the original story follows three college students through their studying folklore in Romania – which leads them to bump into Radu Vladislas. The sadistic vampire has returned to his home and killed his father – a nice cameo by Tall Man Angus Scrimm – for the beloved Bloodstone. This ancient relic is said to be filled with the blood of saints and prevents a vampire from having to feed on humans. Radu, of course, takes a liking to one of the students and the next three films follow their adventures as she fights to keep her human ways, while he wants her to come to the dark side, so to speak. Family becomes involved on both sides and hilarity ensues. Part IV then includes a character, Ash, which leads to the spin off of Vampire Journals

To continue with a review of the quality, I always thought the box art was cheap looking; however, the DVD cover insert almost looks like a color copy of a copy. The case is simple with two flip disc holders and one back holder. There is nothing more to the packaging. It’s pretty plain to say the least.

Overall, the films are entertaining in that 90’s direct-to-video kind of way. I can say I’m now a fan, though my re-watch premonition is low. Unless you are a diehard fan and want to own every copy of the films, I would advise on waiting for a true remastered set. Otherwise, Subspecies: The Complete Chronicles is for those who are desperate to convert their VHS tapes to DVD, but are too lazy to do so. For the quality this set offers, save yourself the money and do it.

Score: 6/10