Stars: Angus Scrimm, Anders Hove, Irina Movila, Laura Mae Tate, Michelle McBride, Ivan J. Rado | Written by Charles Band, Jackson Barr, David Pabian | Directed by Ted Nicolaou
After being banished from his home town, villainous vampire Radu Vladislas (Hove) returns and murders his father in order to claim a powerful bloodstone. Then, in an attempt to harm his good-hearted brother Stefan (Watson), he sets his sights on turning his sibling’s friends, Michelle (Tate), Mara (Movila) and Lillian (McBride), into vampires. Can Stefan stop Radu before it is too late?
The first in what turned out to be a five-part vampire saga, Subspecies was one of Full Moon Entertainment’s flagship franchises and like it’s Charles Band-produced brethren the film was a staple of video stores across the country. More interestingly, this movie was one of the first American productions to film in a post-Communism Romania, using the landscapes and historic castles to great effect (it doesn’t hurt that the country has a mythological folklore all its own), giving the film an authentic, traditional edge – a tradition which translates to Radu himself, who looks very much like the the original movie vampire, Nosferatu; and the superb Harryhausen-esque stop motion demons borne of the broken fingers of the vampirific leading man.
The authenticity of the setting also is carried through the casting. The three female leads aren’t you’re typical “horror bimbo” types which proliferated many DTV films of this era. The trio of Irina Movila, Laura Mae Tate and Michelle McBride come across more as actual students than actresses playing them. Whether that’s great acting or just amateur actresses we’ll never know – lead actress Laura Mae Tate was replaced for the sequel by the more experienced Denise Duff, a decision which irked many a fan of this original film…
There have been a number of reviews of this Blu-ray release of Subspecies which mention the poor quality of the high definition transfer. Yes this doesn’t look as good as 88 Films Puppet Master discs, but personally I have no qualms with the PQ (considering the quality of some of the films in Full Moons archives this is top notch!) and I’m just glad we get to see the film make it to a HD format. Special features on the Blu-ray include a commentary track from Full Moon’s Charles Band; cast and crew interviews, featuring director Ted Nicolaou; the usual trailers and an archival episode of the Full Moon video magazine, Videozone.
With a charm not found in many modern DTV horror flicks, which belies the low-budget nature of the film, Subspecies is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from 88 Films.