release date: june 1st, 2007
production budget: ?
u.s. gross: $114,306
foreign: $2.7 million
produced by sam raimi’s ghost house pictures, a company that releases mostly direct-to-video horror movies unless they are directed by sam raimi, rise: blood hunter somehow got a theatrical release during the summer of 2007. despite its ceremonial, and probably contractual limited (it was in theatres for two to three weeks in less than 65 screens) theatrical release and miniscule box office, it’s a surprisingly effective vampire thriller.
the fact that it can be categorized as a thriller (there is no i.o.a.s.) is precisely why the film works as well as it does. unlike most vampire movies, and perhaps without the constriction of a major studio or a big budget, the vampires here are not simply one dimensional villains, gothic love fest, nor poetically beautiful statues. it’s neither a gorefest nor cgi digitalized action spectacle. though there are short bursts of action scenes, it’s more interested in the physical and psychological aspect of someone being turned into a vampire. it’s more in the vein of the great vampire’s kiss, or the more pretentious nadja or the addiction.
seriously, go watch vampire’s kiss right now.
lucy liu plays a l.a. weekly reporter named sarah blake, who just got her first cover story, about an underground cult which she aptly described as dungeons and dragons with nipple rings. turns out this underground cult is a clan of vampires. i forgot to pay attention to the nipples, and the nude scenes flash quickly, so i can’t verify if said nipples are indeed pierced.
a girl named tricia (margo harshman from tv’s even steven, fired up, the 2009 sorority row remake) she had tried to interview for the story becomes one of the first victims in the movie. while investigating the death of tricia, and with the help of a hilariously efficient co-worker/hacker, blake becomes a target herself and is kidnapped and turned into a vampire by the clan. thankfully, tricia’s dad is a cop played by michael chiklis from tv’s the shield and the 4antastic marvel’s the thing. though he’s not in very many scenes, he’s doing his john mcclane-est in trying to avenge his daughter’s murderers.
the lead villain is played by james d’arcy. his name is simply called bishop, which is not as cool sounding as deacon frost but d’arcy does his dorff-est. and of course, he’s british. blake’s whistler is arturo played by julio oscar mechoso, who only appears in flashbacks and montages. it seems like there’s going to be more about this character and his motivation but maybe only in the longer unrated version. the veteran asian actor mako has a small part as part of the vampire clan. he even has a short fight scene with blake. i didn’t realize simon rex and nick lachey are in the movie, which i am pretty proud of. i did know that marilyn manson has a small part in the movie as a bartender. without his usual makeup, he looks kind of like maynard james keenan and nic cage in kiss of death.
adding to the wtf quotient in the cameo department is the opening scene with oscar nominated robert forster, who continues to do cameos in movies like gus van sant’s psycho remake, charlie’s angels 2, dragon wars: d-wars, and lucky number slevin. or maybe it’s not that weird, since he was on the tv show karen sisco, which mechoso was also a part of, and gugino played the title role. gugino’s boyfriend is sebastian gutierrez, who wrote and directed rise: blood hunter, and they worked together in judas kiss, women in trouble and its sequel elektra luxx, in which gugino plays a porn star. you may also recognize her from sin city, watchmen, sucker punch, pauly shore’s son in law, the spy kids movies, and with nic cage in brian de palma’s snake eyes.
there won’t be much in the way of surprises as to how the story unravels, especially to fans of b/direct-to-video genre movies. it may seem slow at first considering liu’s character doesn’t turn into a vampire until a half hour into the movie but the setup pays off surprisingly well. the character-driven and realistic approach make you care about the characters and explores the psychological and physical aspect of someone having a fulfilling life cut short by having to live as a vampire. it’s also rare to see family being a major factor in a movie, especially in this genre. there are nudity and gore in the movie (as fans of the genre come to expect) but rarely are they so masterfully controlled that they feel more narratively driven than excessive exploitative. it’s also nice to see liu playing an actual character with some vulnerabilities, instead of the stereotypical fantasy roles of action heroine or dominatrix dreamt up by white nerds with asian fetish (charlie’s angels, payback, tv’s ally mcbeal, ballistic: ecks vs. sever). rise: blood hunter may not break any new grounds, but it’s a solid effort for what they set out to do.
p.s. i could only find the shorter theatrical version. there is an unrated director’s cut on the dvd that is about 25 minutes longer.
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