DECEMBER 27, 2012
Before I begin reviewing The Thompsons, I just want to apologize for my earliest reviews from 2007. Not only are they way too snarky, they're pointlessly vague, so when I realize I can't remember much about (Thompsons' predecessor) The Hamiltons and decide to look at my own review to help, I find it useless. If I had the time I'd re-review them all and write em up properly, but alas... (I wish I had a picture of all my Xbox games here to put in, but take my word for it - there are a lot of them still in shrinkwrap).
Anyway, what I CAN garner from that review is that I felt the movie was "meh" (writing!) and that it foolishly attempted to build a twist out of what was kind of obviously going on with the youngest member of the family. Luckily, now that we know what they are (pseudo "vampires" that need human blood to survive and grow teeth/red eyes when enraged but otherwise share no traits with the traditional vampire), there's no silly twist or reason to hide anything from the audience. Instead, this time The Butcher Brothers (yep, they're sticking with that, for some reason) opt for a convoluted, non-chronological first half, which starts with one of the Hamiltons (now the Thompsons) trapped in a coffin, and narrates to us how he got in there.
However, this includes at least two occasions where he more or less says "Oh wait, let me back up a little more and tell you this other thing first", rendering it more confusing than it needed to be. I thought maybe they were going for an "unreliable narrator" sort of thing, where we'd learn that part of his story was made up, or maybe there'd be a twist to how everything really went down (like Memento where he goes back far enough to reveal the truth behind why he killed Teddy), but no - there's not much of a payoff for it. And if I'm piecing it all together in order in my head correctly, they can't even claim there would be a pacing issue - the first thing that would happen would be a pretty fun scene at a diner in the desert, and it wouldn't be long before there was another action scene at a pub. I don't get it.
Otherwise, it's an entertaining followup, and better than "Meh" which means it's probably better than the original (don't hold me to that though - I used Wikipedia to help me remember more about its narrative but I'm still a bit hazy). Again, they don't need to hide anything this time, so there's a lot more action, though once again he youngest member (Lenny) is sidelined for the bulk of the film. Whereas before he was chained in the basement, this time he's seriously injured and the other members spend the movie trying to find a way to cure him. This leads them to England, where they discover another family of "vampires" who they think can help. Things don't work out, of course, and there's a fun war between the two clans. Sure, it'd be nice if all the bloodshed was practical (yep, more odd floaty digital blood on display here), but it's fun to see vamps go at it in the name of family, especially when you consider that they don't have regenerative powers or whatever.
Plus I quite liked the whole thing about family sticking together - it's not something you see too often in a vampire movie, and despite the long gap between the two films, the primary actors return (Lenny is different, but since he's barely in either of them it doesn't matter much). And that's something that's rare in horror in general - how often CAN a sequel bring back more than 1 or 2 people anyway? So it's interesting to see them all come back, a bit older and with the actors clearly enjoying their return to this world. It also gives Francis (the one who was filming everything in the first movie) a lot more to do - he's almost the guy in charge this time, as David's role is mostly limited to watching over Lenny until the final reel. It's another issue with the strange structure of the first half - it's a while before we see them all together, but if they had put the movie in order we'd see it right away, which is sort of the thing you'd want in a long-awaited sequel.
It's not a long movie (82 minutes), but the DVD/Blu (available as a combo - I love this approach, by the way) doubles your value with behind the scenes material that takes almost as long to watch. The presentation is a bit curious - there are six featurettes that run an average of 13 minutes each, and each of those is broken into chapters. But there's no rhyme or reason to any of it; you'd expect one to be about the genesis, one about casting, one about post, etc, but all topics are just sort of scattered around - the 5th piece still has stuff that you'd think would have been covered in the first one. But they cover a TON of ground, and explore areas not often seen in horror docs, like the fight coordinating and production design. They also spend a curious amount of time on financing and how to secure producers, so if that's your thing - enjoy! The trailer for this and some other releases from XLRator are also included, though with Bigfoot: Lost Coast Tapes and Gangsters, Guns & Zombies among them, the latter isn't much of a bonus.
The True Blood influence is apparent, but if the popularity of that (and Twilight) helped get this sequel made after six years, so be it. I can't exactly say I was dying for a followup, but I'm sure many were, and I think they delivered a stronger film in the process. Hopefully if they do the 3rd one (discussed in the bonus features) they stop with the attempts at twists and trying to be clever and just focus on the characters and story, and thus really knock it out of the park.
What say you?