Written and Directed By: Phil Messerer
Staring: Devon Bailey, Eilis Cahill, Jo Jo Hristova, Michael Strelow, Myles Angus MacVane, Evan Lucas, Peter Morr, Anthony Morelli, Samantha Phillips, and Chase Gilbertson
Mom, you have to stop treating me like a child. I just turned 16. Palestinian girls blow themselves up at my age. -Lara Baxter
I was just reading a conversation on “The Film Reel” the other day about how modern commercial horror films pretty much fail and the only way to see good horror is to venture into the Indie or “B” movie club for a low budget production. Last night I sat down and had a viewing of “Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part I”, and being the first Indie horror flick I’ve seen in a long time I find myself agreeing with the comments left on “The Film Reel”. I so often find myself disappointed in the big budget horror genre these days that I almost never go to the theatre to see one anymore, and rarely feel compelled to pick one up at the video store. It’s always the same story of gruesome kill shots, the same banal characters, no real story, and if a plot ever actually exists my head may implode from the shock. Thicker Than Water proved to me that horror can still be inventive , funny, and moreover entertaining. Everything that was right about this movie was everything that is wrong with the blockbuster horror shot.
There is no question the vampire genre has been overwhelmed in the last decade with an overflow of films interpreting their idea on what a vampire is or isn’t. Most have resulted in an overproduced gore fest with multiple sequels that do nothing to further the mythology of vampires, and obviously seldom offer any new ideas or concepts. Taking big production away “Thicker Than Water” is left relying heavily on dialogue, script, character depiction, and plot, which it had no problem being both clever and terrifying in. It asks real questions about morality and what people would forsake for love. In this tale, vampires aren’t a higher being, they are simply a different race, that happens to view humans as a meal rather than equals.
From the first scene where Lara Baxter is at her alter worshiping a photo of Anne Rice (a revered author of vampire and witch novellas) it was clear this film was heading in the direction of intellect over “BOO!” factor. The dark haired Gothic looking sister named Lara narrates the story while her blond haired vegetarian cheerleader twin bursts in the room mocking her sisters attraction to darkness. While Lara is comfortable with her exclusion from the mainstream, her sisters perfection is still maddening. An older brother named Raymond an aspiring scientist, who is hiding his own dark secrets, plays an observer of the uncomfortable family dynamic. Though they look typical from the outside, it’s clear much is going on under the surface. When the father leaves and the beautiful seemingly perfect sister Helen becomes ill after a ritual done by Lara, things take a turn from typical to odd very quickly.
I was surprised to find myself laughing and gasping just as often as one another. There was even a moment that made me jump, and I’m not easily spooked. The balance of dark comedy and thriller is matched with an equally riveting dose of reality. The film is set in a world that is very much so realistic even though fantastical things are happening makes the events palpable. The revelations of the ending tying the mystery together while not exactly unveiling all the answers is the perfect closure to a film that asks a lot of questions.
The acting was spot on as well. It never felt uncomfortable or awkward. The two sisters played by Devon Bailey and Eilis Cahill play so naturally off each other it only furthers the realism of the melodrama. The sisters are grounded by their mother, a role played by Jo Jo Hristova, who makes the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter. Though the leads were solid, a supporting role by Myles Angus MacVane was particularly captivating. The owner of an alternative store in a very cookie cutter town, Max the bald headed python wearing owner, gives off the simplistic danger that Ricardo Montalbán does as Khan (Star Trek) while reciting the Marquis De Sade.
In a nutshell this was a good movie that entertained on multiple levels. With a group of fleshed out characters, a curious subject of conflict, this is not your typical vampire tale. Mixed with it’s own history and own creative force, this is a movie for vampire lovers, horror film fans, but I think it has the draw to go beyond that. Complemented by an intense metal soundtrack but also a classical playground of music only adds to the ambiance of a story that is thick with it’s own style and theme. Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part I was a success for me. I’m ready for the sequels.