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Saturday, September 5, 2009

LIVE EVIL -- movie review by porfle

If talent, inventiveness, and boundless enthusiasm mean more to you than big-budget gloss, then LIVE EVIL (2009) should be somewhere on your "vampire movies to see" list. Director Jay Woelfel and producer Mark Terry really know how to stretch a buck, filling this shot-on-16mm schlockfest with wall-to-wall blood, gore, babes, stunts, shock value, and a cast that includes B-movie superstars Tim Thomerson, Ken Foree, and Tiffany Shepis.

Tim stars as The Priest, a hardcase holy man who's a one-man vampire killing machine. Wielding a samurai sword, he slices and dices his way through hordes of bloodsuckers, but his sights are set on a particular group of four vampires--two guys and two lovely ladies--for reasons that don't become clear until the end (but aren't that hard to figure out if you've seen a few "vampire hunter" movies). Along the way he acquires a sassy accomplice, Roxy (Kimberly Sanders), who's properly aghast at the carnage she witnesses with their every blood-splattered encounter with the undead.

The vampires include Benedict, the leader (Mark Hengst), his girlfriend Sydney (Osa Wallander), Baxter (Gregory Lee Kenyon), and Yeal (Eva Derrek). Starving for blood that hasn't been tainted by drugs, alcohol, nicotine, AIDS, and other pollutants, they must compete for "pure blood" victims against other species of vampires while struggling to stay one step ahead of The Priest. This results in one of the movie's most ghastly sequences, in which they invade a home and help themselves to the blood of a couple of babies (shades of Bram Stoker's "Dracula"), who then, of course, turn into mewling vampire babies. After dispensing with one of the little bloodsuckers, The Priest keeps the other one sealed in a plastic drum to be used against one of the vampires later on in a particularly bizarre manner.

The opening scene made me all giddy from the git-go. Four redneck truckers are hanging out in a diner when in walks gorgeous blonde Sydney looking for some nourishment that isn't on the menu. Osa Wallander makes an awesome vampiress and wreaks havoc as she feasts on trucker blood and then power-barfs the impure stuff all over the linoleum. Now that's entertainment!

Soon after, Yeal gets her chance to shine as she seduces a pudgy dweeb with a delightful striptease. As she starts to put the bite on him he suddenly blurts out his entire history of STDs, rendering him totally unfit for vampiric consumption, and the livid Yeal rips his throat out with one angry swipe of her claws.

Before we've had a chance to say "WTF?", the vamps are being chased through the desert as The Priest's muscular black Camaro bears down on their wimpy little compact. What you don't see very often in low-budget films is kickass vehicular chases, and LIVE EVIL has two of them, each ending in a spectacular crash stunt. The direction, camerawork, and stunt driving during these sequences are first-rate, easily on the same high-octane level as DEATH PROOF.

The redoubtable Ken Foree (DAWN OF THE DEAD, FROM BEYOND) enters the picture as Max, a genial blood-pusher who steals the good stuff from blood banks and sells it to vampires. Benedict's gang attends a party at Max's house, where they meet scream queen Tiffany Shepis and a bunch of fake vampires who are about to come between two seperate species of the real thing. Another encounter with "other" vampires on a dusty highway has a RABID-era Cronenberg feel, with pointy-fanged chompers emerging from unlikely bodily areas.

The finale takes place in an abandoned church in the desert, with more slice 'n' dice action and other gory goodness before we get to find out how The Priest plans to use Baby-in-a-Drum. The not-so-surprise ending is followed by another surprise ending, and by the time this blood-drenched opus fades out I'm one satisfied horror geek.

Make no mistake, this is low-budget filmmaking and it looks it. The gore effects range from good to really fake, but they're outrageous and plentiful. Limbs severed, hearts ripped out, heads lopped off or backed over by minivans, gallons of gore--just about all the bases are covered here. What the filmmakers lack in resources they make up for with lots of ingenuity and imagination. The acting is generally above-average--with Thomerson, Wallander, Sanders, and Foree the stand-outs--and the musical score by Austin Wintory is another plus.

I saw a rough screener so I can't comment on audio-visual quality or any bonus features that may be found on the final DVD release. What I can say is that, as rough-hewn and low-rent as it may be, LIVE EVIL is a whole lot of jaw-droppin', popcorn-munchin' fun to watch.


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