Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sundown (1990)

Part vampire, western, comedy, oh my!

"Martin" managed to reinvent the vampire in the latter portion of the '70s by bringing a simpler approach and giving the genre an offbeat spark after some films started to lose their bite with the same theatrics. Thirteen lucky years later and "Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat" is a full blown movie that rearranges conventions but also includes its very own uniqueness. It's pushing a little more away from straight horror with an off-the-wall tale with comedic overtones, though it's still just as enriched with the mythology that we've grown to love despite being done in a much more fun and less shadowy way. Enter the town of Purgatory where vampires have evolved to live peacefully out west. During the day they dab on sunscreen, wear UV glasses and cover up with stylish dress, including overblown hats that have brims just shy of umbrellas on their heads. There are rules and consequences in place, such as not killing humans, which right from the getgo is broken when one of them loses his temper.

A human named David Harrison (Jim Metzler) is coming to town to work on a malfunction at the Hemotechnics plant that produces synthetic blood, along with his wife Sarah (Morgan Brittany) and two girls to make a family adventure out of it. Easy said, easy done, though David has a past rivalry with a vampire named Shane (Maxwell Caulfied) who runs the plant and has an eye on his family. Soon enough the Harrisons encounter some odd occurances from bats to secret passageways that lead to a man sleeping in a coffin named Jozek Mardulak (David Carradine) who so happens to own Purgatory and be the one with the main vision for its inception. Except some of the town's people don't want to live a quaint life, instead of enjoying a warm meal of the real stuff directly from the source. A revolution is on the rise with the Quaker looking Mr. Jefferson (John Ireland) on one side with his posse of special gun-totting recruits, and on the other with most of the town's original inhabitants behind Mardulak.

"Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat" has a flair for the theatrical either with its bombastic music, built up camera shots to its performances and dress. It's a one of a kind film off in its own little world with eccentric and memorable characters. It has a strange atmosphere in that every other person feels from a different time period or location, from 19th century on up to '80s/'90s trends. There's the three hillbilly pals each with white beards at the gas station, a Jamaican cop who runs the jail and even an old German couple at the general store. Bruce Campbell plays Robert: a bumbling professor looking type with a recognizable family name. His car broke down and he uses the excuse to search out Jozek Mardulak with the help of a bombshell waitress, Sandy (Deborah Foreman), that's got her heart more than her teeth set on him.

The movie is more a series of events that leads up to a somewhat overdrawn vampire vs vampire gunslinging battle for the latter half just like the wild west except with high powered weaponry. Apart from a decapitation and some gun shot wounds, this isn't over-the-top gory as the violence falls more in context to the story. The movie's strength is its whimsical charm, not necessarily an intricate storyline. Events happen to further its personality rather than being layered or complex, which makes it all around easy. It almost feels like a family friendly rated R film, as there's no nudity and situations aren't as crude as others with the tag. Since there's a share of characters to show their varied personalities, the pacing often moves somewhat moderately compared to other films. It takes on one unveiling at a time until closer to the end. It keeps up the mystery but doesn't make this a freight train of revelations, though still diverting and loads of fun in the meantime to the point of wishing you were part of the gang. Like director Anthony Hickox's "Waxwork," this is another ambitious film with a little bit of slapstick and a sense for the cinematic experience rather than going for realism. You'll recognize Deborah Foreman and Dana Ashbrook with some roles here too. Likewise, "Sundown" creates an enveloping environment that isn't anything but pure escapism.

Rating: 7.5/10

Director: Anthony Hickox (Waxwork)
Stars: Jim Metzler, Morgan Brittany, Maxwell Caulfield, David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, Deborah Foreman
Link: IMDB


"I can't believe this. I just can't believe this. No one is gonna believe us! I wouldn't believe us! Who is gonna believe that some relic with a sombrero knocked off Tom's head with a backhand?"

"Your parents must be very romantic."
"They're very horny."

"Well, it could be your big night tonight."
"I'll be up as soon as I'm finished."
"You promise?"

"There's only two things that can happen to you in Purgatory. They can kill you, or they can turn you into a vampire."

"We feed on humans."
"Like a hundred other parasites. Like tapeworms, like fungus. That's how special vampires are."

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