Thursday 5 March 2015

Blood Relative

Director: Miles Richardson
Writer: Rob Tizzard
Producer: Rob Tizzard
Cast: Thom Hutchinson, Rachel Powell, James Daniel Noble
Country: UK
Year of release: 2014
Reviewed from: YouTube (see link at end of review)

Everything turns up eventually. Everything. This amateur vampire feature was shot in 2004 and for the past 10 years has sat on my list of ‘unreleased British horror films.’ In March 2015, I came across an online version, posted onto YouTube in October 2014. I ticked it off my list. Well, to be accurate, I moved it from that list to the British Horror Revival master-list. The effect is the same.

This online version has been cut down to 60 minutes from the original 80 and carries a dual 2004/2014 copyright date, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. It was the only directorial credit for actor Miles ‘Son of Sir Ian’ Richardson, who provides the voice of a ‘vampire god’ portrayed as a shadow.

Just because something turns up after a decade, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was worth the wait. I was interested in watching this because I’m a BHR completist. If you’re a vampire film completist, you may also want to take a gander. For anyone else, it’s probably not worth your time. Sorry.

Our central trio of teenagers are Luke (Thom Hutchinson), his sister Deanna (Rachel Powell) and his best mate Ben (James Daniel Noble) who is enamoured of Deanna but stuck in what would later become known as the friend zone. Luke works at a cellar bar called The Dark Artery run by blousy Rebecca (assistant producer Jennie Rich); scenes of people smoking inside date the film instantly.

Ben purchases some drugs from a dealer who then injects him for some reason. This turns out to be vampire blood, which turns Ben sufficiently that he attacks a girl on the way home but the assault is interrupted pre-bite by a priest (Richard Foxon). Wearing a ‘dog collar’ which looks more like a white turtle neck sweater, Father Frosti injects Ben with some sort of antidote and explains what has happened.

Meanwhile, Luke is taken by Rebecca to the secret science lab she keeps at the back of her establishment, a set dressed with ‘equipment’ that looks like it came from a box labelled ‘My First Chemistry Set’. She injects Luke with vampire blood so now Ben is okay but Luke is a vampire. Or something.

The protagonist behind all this is a vampire named Matthew (writer/producer Rob Tizzard) who kidnaps Deanna at one point but then lets her go. Father Frosti then narrates a lengthy flashback about some weird ceremony 40 years earlier which involved him and Rebecca (they both have some sort of anti-ageing faculty somehow) plus Matthew and his love Leanne. This was Deanna and Luke’s grandmother, and a dead ringer for the former (hence also played by Powell). It all ends with some sort of ceremony at the same location (an old ruin which is surprisingly well lit) but I would be lying through my teeth if I suggested it is possible to work out what the jiminy heck is actually going on.

As happens depressingly often, an indie film-maker has created their own mythology and expected the audience to pick it up as we go along, which instead leaves us scratching our head. What's a 'vampire god'? What does Rebecca do in her secret lab? Why are people injecting other people with vampire blood? Damdifino. It’s possible that the excision of 20 minutes doesn’t help matters: possible but unlikely. Frankly Blood Relative is an absolute chore to sit through and another 20 minutes would only make it even worse.

Tizzard’s script is, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody awful: full of stilted dialogue that does not have any contractions within it. It is perhaps intended to sound portentous but in truth it is more pretentious. A situation which is not helped by a largely amateur cast whose thespian talents range from agonisingly bad all the way up to mediocre. Most never troubled the IMDB again (or beforehand).

Probably the best actor here is Gordon Ridout who has a small role as a homeless guy. It’s clear he can act and in fact he is a proper ac-tor with a bunch of theatre credits plus the title role(s) in a 2009 audio version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Felicity Duncan as Ben’s mum is also easily identifiable as a real actor; she now does voices for kiddie cartoons like Florrie’s Dragons and The Small Giant. Finally there is Christian Serrtiello, who has a couple of lines as a punter in the cellar bar and has since had a busy career in assorted stuff I have mostly never heard of.

Tizzard is now a Document Controller (whatever that is?) at Crossrail, though he keeps his hand in, filming local theatre shows. As for Richardson, he started out as a child actor with the RSC and made his screen debut in a 1981 telecast of Benjamin Britten’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream then built up credits in episodes of Bulman, ‘Allo ‘Allo and (bizarrely) Highlander: The Raven. TV work since Blood Relative has included The Colour of Magic and Dirk Gently. Mostly though he’s a stage actor with an impressive roll-call of West End and rep credits. In fact, when he made this nonsense he was actually a serving member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in All’s Well That Ends Well with Judi Dench!

To genre fans, or at least hardcore Whovians, Miles Richardson will be a familiar name (and voice) as he was in some of those unofficial DTV spin-offs that people made in the 1990s and was also in some of the Big Finish audio dramas. Blood Relative is described on YouTube as a "follow on project to a Doctor Who acting Workshop Holiday by Next Stage Drama" which I'm not sure exactly what it means but there's some sort of Who connection there for those who bother about such things.

Joe Sowrey composed and produced the score, and is part of a band called Black Orchid who perform a number halfway through the film. As ‘Joseph Sowrey’ he’s still composing and you can find his stuff on SoundCloud, iTunes etc. Tizzard (whose brother plays a mugger) is additionally credited with ‘editing, sound design and fx’. The four executive producers are Richardson, his wife Beverley Cressman, Sarah Jane Olsen (who plays a fortune teller) and Robin Prichard. But the most interesting name is the cinematographer. It was Neil Oseman, shortly before he directed Soul Searcher! He does a good job considering the limitations, but the limitations are that this is a micro-budget production made in 2004 so it looks pretty flat, despite valiant use of coloured gels.

On the one hand, I'm delighted to finally add this lost movie to not just my list of released BHR films but also my list of BHR films I've actually seen. I can't in all honest say it was any good, but hey, why not judge for yourself:

MJS rating: C+

No comments:

Post a Comment