Back in 1997 Full Moon Productions had found that filming in Romania saved money as well as taking advantage of truly amazing scenery. Towards this end, they made a trilogy of vampire films called Subspecies. Later, director Ted Nicolaou created a little gem of a film that fit into the same universe. He called it Vampire Journals.
The result was cheese. Delicious, rich, tasty cheese. Shot mostly in the basement of an opera house in Budapest (a magnificent setting–rococo rooms off from a huge spiral staircase amid chandeliers and columns) the film told a stunningly simple story. One that has its antecedents and successors.
Zachary (David Gunn) is a guilt-ridden vampire out to destroy all of his kind. Over a century ago, he was the victim of seduction and damnation. Now, armed with the mystical Sword of Laertes–they never explain what that is, exactly–he seeks the rest of his bloodline. Not easy. Young vampires are no more difficult to kill for Zachary than anyone else, but the Masters–they are far too powerful, too cunning, too swift to easily fall. Now he hunts Ash (Jonathan Morris), a Master who runs a whole coven of such creatures. They have a club, one that caters to the wealthy and degenerate, and Ash’s get fit right in. But now Ash has become distracted by a beautiful young pianist named Sofia (Kirsten Cerre) whom he intends to make undead like himself. That distraction gives Ash his chance…but possibly only at the price of an innocent’s life. Or soul.
Amid all this the schemes and treacheries of the vampires abound. Cassandra (Ilinca Goya) is a wonderful student of cruelty and depravity, Ash’s favorite until now. Iris (Starr Andreef–veteran of several other vampire films) is the human manager of the club, besotted with Ash but more coldly ruthless than any of them. Dimitri (Mihai Dinvale), an effeminate sadist with pretensions to humanity. Meanwhile, a harem of girls (and boys) serve the vampires and their clients, subject to slavery and decadence in equal measure. Such is the world into which Sofia is to be initiated, but where Zachary must somehow successfully invade. Nor does it help that vampires older than he have a wonderful array of powers, the most impressive of which (albeit probably not at all difficult to pull off) is the ability to become a shadow and thus move with great speed.
Almost everything about this film is over the top. Melodramatic lines. Artsy camera work. The whole plot feels like an episode of Fright Night or Angel taking itself far too seriously. Yet it works.
Not for everyone of course. The deadly seriousness with which the cast says things like “Take me out into the great Night, Master! I crave the hunt… ” or “I am the world’s most wretched creature” will not appeal to all. One has to go in expecting or at able to appreciate the intense semi-poetry of it all. Back when I was regularly playing Vampire: The Masquerade I kept recommending this film to anyone wanting to understand how Toreadors (the effete, artistic vampires) run things. Evil elegance, crushed velvet, lace handkerchiefs dabbed with perfume to hide the stench of death, amid beautiful architecture where the Elite gather to savor new kinds of humiliation. Heady stuff! Pitted against this hive of sublime lust–an earnest warrior seeking redemption for what he has become, and a girl ensnared because a human-shaped monster adored her musical talent (and was perhaps bored).
If this sort of thing appeals, I recommend it highly.