Friday, May 15, 2015

Monster Serial: SUBSPECIES


The scene that cements SUBSPECIES’ Radu Vladislas as the sleaziest, most “metal” cinematic vampire plays out as follows:

Radu, having infected the “folklore student” Lillian through a scratch on the arm, sneaks into her bedroom for a bite.  As he’s supping on her Type O, he extends one grotesquely elongated finger ... and bares her nipple from underneath her gown. 

Yep ... Radu is an ancient vampire prince — immortal, powerful — but he can’t resist the True Power of Female Nekkidness.

SUBSPECIES tells the story of three college students (“We’re brighter than we look!”), Mara, Michelle, and Lillian, who arrive in Romania to study the folklore of the small town of Prejmer. At their fortress/hostel, they meet Stefan, a student studying nocturnal animals (Yoink!). Nearby, they discover the ruins of Castle Vladislas and become embroiled in a power struggle between vampire half-brothers Stefan (studier of nocturnal animals and Handsome, Good Guy, Human-lovin’ vampire) and Radu (whose mother was a witch. Is he evil? Yes he is.) to gain control over the Bloodstone (a relic that is said to drip the blood of the saints).

Radu dispatches his father, then turns Mara and Lillian into vampires. Stefan and Michelle then side with Wise Villager Karl in an effort to find and kill Radu.  Stefan is captured and chained, and Radu bites Michelle (Raduquote: “It will be such a sweeeeeeet pleasure to desecrate her before your self-righteous eyes!”) before his brother can break free and kill him.  Radu is subsequently beheaded after a sword fight, and Stefan is forced to to imbue Michelle with his own ‘80’s vampness to keep her from becoming a leering bad-ass vampire like Radu.

What, you want more sleaze metal attitude? Okay, fine.  In the first scene of the film, Radu is caged by his father, the vampire king (played in Amadeus-style frightwig by PHANTASM’s Tall Man, Angus Scrimm).  To escape, Radu BREAKS OFF THE TIPS OF HIS OWN FINGERS, which then morph into tiny stop-motion demons (who, inexplicably, are the titular Subspecies, although their role is minor) and free Radu from the cage.  At this point, Angus’ contract must have expired, as Radu dispatches him with a dagger, then licks his father’s blood from the blade.

Future “General Hospital” regular Anders Hove plays Radu with a leering, grimacing intensity that belies the low-budget Full Moon production and acting around him.  He spits out his dialogue in an unholy rasp that probably necessitated a Saliva Wrangler on set.  He teases his more “humanized” half-brother Stefan (played with “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” eighties-ness by Michael Watson) about trying to be “one of them” and falling in love with the three College Girl Folklorists.  (“Is there one you like more than the others?,” Radu taunts. “I’ll make sure to treat her with SPECIAL CARE!!”  I don’t think he’s referring to a comlimentary mani/pedi.)  He drools blood like a toothless baby, whether drinking from the Bloodstone or from a hapless victim.

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Lest I give you the wrong impression, I don’t mean to denigrate the film because of its budget.  SUBSPECIES was the first American motion picture to be filmed in Bucharest, Romania; the Eastern European backdrop lends a feeling of authenticity and otherworldly atmosphere.  And some of the visual effects are classy, in particular the use of Radu’s shadow to convey menace and ethereal movement. 

But this is Hove’s show.  The rest of the cast (excluding Scrimm’s cameo) are second rate soap opera quality at best (Michael Watson aka Stefan, also played on GENERAL HOSPITAL, as well as THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL and MELROSE PLACE).  They’re just Fang Fodder, anyway.  You don’t come to the show for the opening act, you come for the kick-arse headliner, and Radu is the one in the center stage spotlight.

SUBSPECIES would spawn three more sequels, not addressed here but highly recommended. “Michelle” would change actresses (from the adequate Laura Tate in the original to the delicious and more convincing Denise Duff in the remainder of the series).  Stefan meets a bloody, sloppy fate.  A Spawn of Shatner enters the picture. 

And through it all, Radu is the drunken, drug-addled lead guitarist of the Cinematic Vampire Band, dead set on crashing the kinder, gentler Human party; on leering and gnawing and desecrating the half-naked bimbos; on flying you the bird with one of those crazy Nosferatu fingers; on ending up a drooling, bloody mess on the floor.

REID BRITT lives in Scenic Western North Carolina with his wife Alison and his daughter Lily.  He has been a Monster Kid from a young age ("There ARE Sasquatches down in the woods, Mom!") and still believes in the Power of Rock n' Roll.  When he's not watching horror movies, he likes to paint, and you can check out his paint slinging at, on Instagram as Reiddrorings, or on Facebook as Spookywolffe.

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