Maidenhead is an unique and artistic, mild toned vampire film for the hardcover cafe’ eclectic. The main focus of this black and white vision is Martin, played by AJ Bowen (House of the Devil / The Signal), a 30 something year old man who finds himself tending to his ill, bed-ridden father – who is extremely old and fading away – to the point that his social life has come to a complete and utter halt. Not making things any more simple is the fact that dad (Michael Parks) is also a blood fiending, monster of vampiric sorts, who has to be kept strapped to the bed, and every Sunday his demeanor becomes hungry and obnoxious. The only thing that appeases his deathrattled groans is fresh virgin blood that Martin must woefully manipulate out of the local churchgoers every single weekend, and its getting old fast. Especially when Martin becomes attached to a particularly innocent and sweet young woman named Meredith (Lorri Hamm), who’s blood he has just collected and fed to his old man, like all the others. Realizing what this is all doing to his life and his chance at love perhaps just a week too late, is there any chance at all for Martin to salvage a normal relationship and life with Meredith after all this?
Relying moreso on the legs of a plot taken seriously than comedy, the attempts at social acceptance and some sort of adherence to a normal life amidst a family cursed by vampirism soon brings to mind George Romero’s underground cult favorite Martin. While all things are reminiscent and induce recalls of what is personally my favorite vampire film of all time, it should be clearly stated that Maidenhead is not an attempt to be an homage film. It follows its own personal path art house style and tells a quaint and basic story of the struggles of living a normal life with an aging, ancient vampire dying hospice style in the house.
Generally different in nature than what we’ve been used to of late from the bloodsucking genre, it doesn’t clobber you with imagery or terror, nor is it leaping to wow you the duration that you sit in your seat watching it. It instead ingrains itself in the back of your mind with a refreshing and simple tale of domestic vampire horror that your mind can appreciate. Its an intricate, personal take on an overused whore of horror – the vampire – which manages to avoid becoming a bombardment of stakes, fangs, and necks, fitting comfortably into the niche of your mind that longs for humble, original storytelling – like the old days. This is a different sort of viewing experience that I cant quite put my finger on. Director Jim Spanos does a signature effort blending the oddity of B&W and quirky solid performances by Bowen and Hamm and really delivers something bleak and semi-literary thats as awkward as it is acceptable.
Final analysis: Some things take time to brew, and Maidenhead isn’t something that gets fully appreciated until it ferments in your mind or a couple of hours after viewing it. It was refreshing to watch a vampire tale without the overly dramatic trying to wow the scene with instant gratification. Its no unaccomplished task to make an audience shriek or shrill with grindhouse imagery. Its another thing to deliver a new story that provokes remembrance in an entry to the subgenre that is more youth friendly, finding its heme in the lifeforce that drives originality and imagination. It signatures its memory with a subtly that slightly cracks the lobe of your brain that processes thought and imagination, as a good book of foreign origins might do. However, its likely that few viewers will see the value in this and accuse Maidenhead of being too soft on the fright factors. Where is the blood, the scares, the Transylvanian romance? There’s a library of that available in every video store. Maidenhead is a fangless misfit sister to the vampire film legacy – a shy and imperfect reflection of a story that reminds you just enough of George Romero’s cult favorite Martin, without coming out of the fridge like a colder, stale version of something you’ve tasted before.
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