I know I said this week I’d review the Jan./Feb. F&SF, but it appears I never received it. I have the Nov./Dec. one, and the Mar./Apr. one, but not the Jan./Feb. So apologies to all concerned. I’ll review the Mar./Apr. one real soon.
Okay. Let me make myself perfectly clear (even though I risk alienating some readers): I’ve never been a Doctor Who fan. In fact, I’ve only seen (counts on fingers)… uh, three or four episodes, even though I’ve been aware of it pretty much since it began showing outside the UK. Fact is, it looked pretty cheesy back then, which didn’t help it attract me, even though at that stage of my life I watched anything with even a vague connection to SF/F. Dunno why, but there it is.
However, for some reason, I stumbled on Torchwood a few years ago—the first episode, where Gwen discovers Torchwood—and was instantly hooked. Again, dunno why; Eve Myles—who plays Gwen—is not your standard centrefold-type actress; shas a gap-toothed smile, and is not conventionally pretty. But something about the whole setup and the people of Torchwood—especially Gwen and Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)—just fit into a mental slot I didn’t even know I had! And as I got to know the rest of the crew as well as Cardiff, I got even more hooked, even though I knew it was a spinoff of Who.
All that is just preface to the fact that when I get bored I look for genre movies, no matter how bad, just because I’m a genre junkie. I had seen the poster for Eat Locals a while ago and dismissed it. (“Oh, no, not another vampire movie!” There are several genre tropes that are severely overused, beginning with zombies, continuing with vampires, and including werewolves.) But I saw a lot of movies last year—all (I think) the best genre movies, and I was bored, so I put this one on. Okay, the poster said it had Eve Myles, and that was enough to interest me a bit (I know she’s been on other shows, but this is the only one I’ve seen). And, obviously from the poster, it’s a vampire movie. This will be a mostly spoiler-free review.
It is the one and only directing credit for fairly well-known actor (he’s one of those guys whose face you know, and whose name escapes you. He’s been in Rob Roy; From Hell; Snatch; Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and many others, including Benjamin Button) Jason Flemyng. And as a director, sorry to say, he’s a pretty fair actor. (Which is to say that this movie is very uneven. The pacing is abysmal; and the film, while trying to be a horror-comedy, can’t decide which elements should dominate. When it does decide to go all out as a comedy-horror (instead of the inverse), it works much better.
The storyline is simple: England (or perhaps the whole U.K.) is divided up into territories by eight vampires, and has been since time immemorial. Of course we cattle don’t know anything about this, but that’s okay. The little clique meets every fifty years to talk about stuff—like who is doing things they shouldn’t, and whose territory ought, by rights, to belong to someone else—but they’re all equals, and only the council as a whole can decide on territory, rights, and punishment. This year being a fifty, the council is meeting in an isolated farmhouse belonging to the Thatchers. (There’s a quick Thatcher joke later in the film. It’s not much, but it’s a hint this might be—or want to be—a comedy.)
Sebastian (Billy Cook), hoping for a liaison with Vanessa (Eve Myles), has come to the meeting unaware that he is going to be nominated for a position in the council… he thinks Vanessa is just an older woman looking for a quick romance. Already at the meeting are Henry (Charlie Cox); The Duke (Vincent Regan); Angel (Freema Agyeman—another Torchwood/Doctor Who alumna); Thomas (Jordan Long); Peter Boniface (Tony Curran); and Alice (Annette Crosbie); Chen (Lukaz Leong, wearing sunglasses and looking like a fugitive from The Matrix) is patrolling outside. (You will probably recognize Henry—Charlie Cox—from the TV series Daredevil as well as Marvel’s The Defenders.) What none of them knows is that there is a gang of soldiers outside led by Larousse, played by Mackenzie Crook (the wooden-eyed pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean), who are aching to capture a vampire alive for testing and to kill the rest. Larousse is in favour of killing ‘em all, as they are an offense to God and he’s quite religious.
You see, due to modern Britain’s array of surveillance cameras and other intrusive electronic gear, it’s necessary for vampires to keep a lower profile than before; and one of their number has taken and eaten a pair of children. That has caused a massive media problem, and this kind of greed can no longer be supported, so the council has decreed that he should be “dusted.” Sebastian is there to be his replacement, but Peter doesn’t like him for reasons he refuses to tell. The nomination has to be unanimous, so six out of seven just doesn’t cut it. Reluctantly, Vanessa agrees that Sebastian will become dinner for the group. He’s tied up and locked in a room with the Thatchers—who have a secret of their own—to await the bloodletting.
So the vamps are, as yet, unaware that the soldiers are out there; the soldiers are unaware of just how many vamps are in the Thatchers’ farmhouse. The soldiers have special night glasses that show whether a figure is warm-blooded or not (presumably, vamps are not); however, they have yet to see all the players in this game. So when Sebastian aids Mrs. Thatcher in escaping through the coal chute and is caught by Peter out in the farmyard, all the soldiers know is that there is a warm-blood and a cold-blood. Sebastian is taken back inside, and several soldiers, intent on capturing the vampire, follow him inside.
This proves to be their undoing, as the vamps wipe them out; but now the remaining soldiers know how many vamps there are (for some reason they can now see all the residents of the house on their scopes) and the vamps know they’re surrounded.
From this point, the comedy elements of the film start showing up more and more; there are also filmic nods to other successful movies—if you know famous movie themes you’ll get one. Also, Sebastian realizes that his chances of survival are better if he aids the vamps in getting away from the soldiers, so he asks them if any of them have seen the movie Zulu (Michael Caine); if you have, you’ll recognize a bit from that movie.
There are a few overtly comedic bits, but the movie does waver back and forth between comedy and horror a lot. With the exception of Peter (and maybe Angel and Alice), the viewer does end up rooting for a few of the vamps, notably Vanessa (well, maybe I did because she’s Eve Myles) and Henry, because he has refused to drink from humans for six hundred years, preferring to use cows to slake his hunger/thirst. So he’s a sympathetic vamp.
Scoring this one on the flibbet scale is kind of hard; I actually finished watching with a good feeling about it, as uneven as it was. I would have liked to give it four, but in the end, I felt I could only award three, so: ¤¤¤. (Maybe after I think about it more I’ll give it that plus.)
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