After Sundown (V)

Sometimes, a film comes along that just makes you sit up and scratch your head. I often find that such a film is followed by one of two thoughts. Generally those musings are either, Wat were the filmmakers thinking? –or– Alright, that one thought pretty much sums it up. What it doesn’t entail is all the underlying possibilities behind the contemplation. After Sundown highlights a specific subsection of that class – we’ll call it the too much information/too little focus film – and it’s frustrating as hell.

Like it or not, most people are looking for their horror to be simple. Psycho stalks teens…Film at eleven. Dead rise from the grave…Kill ‘em all. Vortex transports hero back to Medieval England….Groovy. Very few filmmakers have the tenacity it takes to fuse genres. One of the best examples in the past decade is directly cited on the cover art for this very release. A few years back, Austin movie maverick -Robert Rodriguez and the auteur of ADD – Quentin Tarantino delivered a maniacal melding of road movie/western and vampire film that all but blew the doors off anything that had come before. From Dusk Till Dawn will likely go down in history as one of those great films that sounds really bad on paper, but looks brilliant on the screen. So, since the box art is telling me that After Sundown is “This year’s From Dusk Till Dawn” I’m gonna go check it out. After all, I saw last year’s versions, like John Carpenter’s Vampires 1 & 2, plus The Forsaken, so I figure how bad can this flick really be? Oh baby…famous last words.

One of the main reasons that low budget filmmakers avoid shooting period films is that the budgetary constraints are generally too overwhelming. To realistically pull off the film, you need costumes, props, sets and a whole gaggle of other problems to realistically create the past. Surprisingly, the highest production values and the most interesting bits of filmmaking in this production all take place during the projects “Old West” segments. It’s the big problems that surface and ultimately drown the film, when the time shifts from the dusty cattle town of yore to modern suburbia.

The plot concerns the resurrection of a pair of vampires (including writer/co-director Christopher Abram credited here as J. Christopher) and their illegitimate newborn. As the gruesome twosome terrorize the inhabitants of this small town by turning their helpless victims into Zombies, a group of morgue workers and bumbling cops must find a way to stop the deadly duo from destroying everything as they attempt to reconcile their unholy family.

At times it’s difficult to determine if directors Abram and Michael W. Brown are making a comedy (a la Return of the Living Dead) or a revisionist vampire film. The latter is suggested by the liberties they have taken with some of the tried and true vamp stamps. To begin with, a stake through the heart does not kill their bloodsuckers. Harkening back to old Romanian beliefs, the stake immobilizes the vampire. It is through this method, that our fiends return, when the stake is removed, the creatures’ walk again. In a somewhat interesting twist, instead of siring their prey and creating new vamps, the blood of After Sundown’s monsters serves only to create legions of zombie-like nightwalkers bent on further feeding their innate craving for human flesh. Both interesting and arguably original concepts are slightly diminished by the lackadaisical commitment on the part of the principal cast who stumble regularly by perpetrating performances that are nothing more than caricatures of every conceivable horror film cliché.

As far as the look and feel of the film goes, again, it seems that the real waste was in not focusing the entire film as a western. All the credibility garnered by the skillful execution of the flashback scenes is utterly squandered in the murky mess that makes up better than ¾ of the finished product. Chalk one up for After Sundown in the “coulda been a contender” category and lets keep our fingers and toes crossed that Brown and Abram consider revisiting the backstory on their next outing. That’s the movie I was hoping for and that’s the move I’d still like to see.

Official Score