MAY 24, 2010
I really don’t know what to make of Life Blood (aka Pearblossom, aka Murder World), as it’s got a bit more going on than I’m accustomed to with DTV Lionsgate pickups: a fairly respectable cast for this sort of thing (and by that I mean I’ve heard of them), a very atypical sequence of events, and a fair share of plain ol’ personality that I was happily surprised to discover. It’s not that great of a movie by any means, but the ambition and “outside the box” approach was admirable enough for me to give it a free pass.
I cannot condone the box art, however, which made it sound like Scout Taylor-Compton was joining Sophie Monk as a lesbian vampire, instead of Anya Lahiri. Scout only appears in about 90 seconds of the movie as a very insignificant character, so her name above the title billing on the cover is a cheap move IMO. Sure, she’s a bigger name than Lahiri, but it’s still misleading, and even somewhat insulting to Lahiri, whose name doesn’t appear anywhere on the DVD box (even the credit box) despite more or less being the co-lead along with Monk. And selling it as a lesbian vampire movie at ALL is a bit misleading, because the two ladies have zero chemistry together as a couple, and their lesbianism consists of maybe 20 seconds’ worth of quick shots of the two of them awkwardly pecking each other on the lips (no tongue). Not that I was looking for softcore porn, but it’s the equivalent of selling Titanic as a movie about poker players.
Anyway, the movie is about two “vampire lesbians” that are awoken after 40 years (2nd “vampire wakes up” movie in a row!) and almost instantly decide to hole up inside a gas station (which is called Murder World, like the former title - what the hell kind of gas station is named Murder World? You got a problem with “Sunoco”?)... and that’s about it. I mean, obviously there are complications - cops show up, the vampires begin fighting each other over what to do, plus there’s the ever looming threat of the sun, so it becomes sort of a Desperate Hours With Vampires type thing, but it never really feels like it was intended to be a siege type movie - they don’t even arrive at the gas station until about the 40 minute mark, and they leave with 15 minutes to go; it’s only the “main location” in the film by default. I can’t help but wonder if the script was originally more complex and varied, and budgetary limitations whittled it down into a shell of itself - still interesting and not what I was expecting, but sort of pointless too.
It also feels very disjointed at times, with characters constantly being introduced and written out or killed moments later. We are meeting new people right up to the final moments in the film, and only Patrick Renna (as the gas station employee) seems to have more than 5 minutes of screentime. As a result, I never really felt a connection to anyone in the film, because no one was ever primed to become a major character. Even Scout is obviously not going to be around much, because her big scene takes place in 1969 and she is not a vampire, so the only way to use her in the present day would be to put her in old age makeup or something (and they do, on a TV show, briefly enough to prove that it was a bad idea). And that wouldn’t as much of a problem if the battle between Monk and Lahiri felt epic, with these other folks inadvertently caught in the crossfire, but their beef with each other is essentially a lover’s quarrel, one no one else seems to give a shit about anyway as they are equally scared of both of them. It could have been a cool female vampire version of Warlock, with the bad one racing against the good one to find some artifact or whatever, dragging others along for the ride to up the ante, but there is no ante to up, so to speak. And neither character has much of an arc - Lahiri starts the movie off not wanting to hurt any humans, and ends the movie that way, with Monk consistently in the “bad girl” role.
On the other hand, it’s loaded with oddball moments, such as the sheriff watching a hilariously stupid TV show called Chicks Chasing Chickens, in which hot girls in skimpy clothing chase chickens around and say things like “I grabbed the cock” or whatever. And his main officer is a little person (Seinfeld’s Danny Woodburn) who loves singing in the car, and they stumble across a trucker who sounds like a woman.... the characters may not be three dimensional, but they’re entertaining all the same. Also, at times it seems like the more absurdist moments of Natural Born Killers may have been an influence (the soundtrack certainly seems to be), because writer/director Ron Carlson treats the two like tragic figures in a romantic film at a few key moments, even with blood and corpses around them. There’s also a hilarious bit early on where the New Year is rung in, and the strings of "Auld Lang Syne" play out over shots of folks blowing party favors and such, cut back and forth with Monk stabbing the shit out of a guy in the next room.
Also, God is in the movie. As another lesbian. No idea.
It also features a brief appearance by entertainment reporter Tava Smiley (playing herself), whom I had never heard of and thought she given the name of Tavis Smiley, who has an entertainment talk show. How is it that there can be two folks with such odd and similar names doing almost the same job? I am pretty certain that they’re not closely related. Weird.
Some of the writing is a bit... shall we say, terrible? Maybe it’s supposed to be funny that the two women argue about running over a possum, and comparing it to the guy they just killed, but it’s not - it just sounds ridiculous. And Sophie Monk isn’t the best actress in the world as it is, but Meryl Streep herself couldn’t pull off a howler like “I wish I could take the top down and let the warm desert air cleanse my body”.
The DVD has some bonus features, which is also pretty rare for an LG indie pickup. Carlson and Monk provide a pretty candid commentary track, where he admits some of his directing mistakes and hints at certain tensions that arose on set. He also praises the lighting about 50 more times than is necessary, and Monk never offers even the slightest bit of interesting insight (though she refers to Scout as a “he” for some reason), so it’s sort of a mixed bag. But if nothing else, it certainly explains some of the film’s shortcomings, such as the incredibly weak “fight” between the two at the end of the film (no time to shoot the planned fight scene). There are also a handful of deleted and alternate scenes, such as a more graphically sexual opening credits sequence (why cut that?), which I wish had commentary to explain why they were changed/cut, and about half of them are just not-very-alternate takes of existing scenes, but alas, better than nothing. And a lot of them include the crew wandering around and setting things up before action is called, so it sort of doubles as behind the scenes footage too.
Life Blood is not a good horror movie. I don’t want to give that impression, and if I did I apologize. But I see at least one of these pickups a week from the Gate, and its very rare that I can remember a damn thing about them by the time I write the review, because they’re usually so generic and bad. Life Blood, on the other hand, actually seems to have some ambition and original ideas, and I’d always rather see an inspired failure than a by the numbers bore. And I’m sort of oddly charmed by the fact that I rented a movie primarily on the promise of lesbian vampires and found it to be the least enticing thing about it. Hurrah, I’m not 12 anymore!
What say you?