Reviewed by Michael Erb
With a tagline like “Twilight Meets Tarantino”, it’s okay for your first impression of The Thompsons to be less than charmed. Luckily, the film is nowhere close to that description and is all the better for it.
The movie starts with the Hamilton family, now going by the surname of Thompson, scattered across Europe. They’re hiding from law enforcement after a very public bloodbath in the States makes international news and gravely wounds their youngest brother. Francis Thompson, finally coming to terms with the monster he is, has taken point searching the English countryside for vamps like them. What he finds is another family just like his; the Stuarts. As he and the Stuart’s daughter Riley get more acquainted, Francis is blind to the threat coming at his family in their wounded state.
Having never seen The Hamiltons, I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Thompsons is a movie that stands on its own. The story even adds to the world and mythology of these particular vampires. This is all thanks to a solid script from co-writer/co-directors The Butcher Brothers and leading man Cory Knauf. The personal and familial struggles are all handled pretty well, with some good dialogue peppered in as well. It’s a vampire movie that relishes the chance to through some larger than life characters into an unfamiliar situation while keeping the stakes high and very personal.
Not everything works story wise; the movie employs a non-linear narrative that is needlessly complicated and doesn’t add to the story in any way. But the jumping around in the story is not all that detrimental to the film. It’s more of an annoyance. There’s also a strong undercurrent of violence against women. It’s not just the murder and biting that usually comes with vamp flicks; that’s still present and accounted for. Multiple times in the movie there’s suggested gang rape, with some scenes cutting away at the last minute. All of these are used to further develop the third act threat, which feels like the shallowest way to do so.
The cast is a mixed bag of performance, but the mix is mostly good. Cory Knauf’s mellow aloofness sometimes brings out a different side of Francis’s state of transition, and sometimes the performance looks like Knauf drank a lot of cold medicine before the scene. Mackenzie Firgens and Joseph McKelheer as the very odd Hamilton/Thompson twins are both way over the top, but at least Firgens has a bit of nuance in her performance. She’s feisty, psychotic, and touchingly warm when the situation calls for it.
The real breakout performances belong to the children of the Stuart family. Joseph McKelheer and Tom Holloway as the prize Stuart brothers Cole and Ian are in tune with each to a scary degree. They’re brimming with swagger and malice and make their scenes darkly humorous. Elizabeth Henstridge is equal turns sweet and dangerous as the Stuart sister desperately searching for her place in her family.
The makeup and practical gore effects look believably gooey. The blood looks especially great, a must for a vampire movie. It’s got a syrupy viscosity that looks great on film and on unfortunate victims. The CGI effects don’t fare better, and the effects that appear in the final confrontation look very cheap. Seeing a guy with a mouth full of poorly rendered demon teeth is distracting enough to take you out of the movie.
With a strong script and pretty cinematography, The Thompsons was a pleasant surprise. The script does a good job of making these characters likeable and making their plight thrilling. The relationship between Francis and Riley shows an interesting dichotomy of how the two families live with their condition. The action and gore are viciously entertaining. Outside of a few story issues, The Thompsons is gruesome fun for newcomers to the series and returning fans alike.
The film looks good on an HD setup, especially during the flashback scene. The audio is crisp and clear with no noticeable issues. You’ll have no trouble taking in the carnage on this disc.
There are some meaty extras on this disc, most of which act as making of features for various parts of the movie. There are six features in all, focusing on things like writing the script, getting the funding, location scouting, and the essentials of getting a movie off the ground. If you’re interested in how films get made or why the Butcher Brothers decided to return to these characters, than the extras are well worth your time.