Director - Ted Nicolau
Cast - Anders Hove, Laura Tate
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 1
MSRP - $20.00
Distributor - Full Moon
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (3.5/5)
When I was a kid getting into horror the Subspecies series* was the epitome of vampire badassery, so a few months ago when I finally got Netflix instant and found it on there I decided it would be a good time to revisit. During that viewing I didn't make it more than 5 minutes in, the picture quality was simply atrocious, and made the film appear badly dated. I was convinced that this was the case.
And then Full Moon announced the Blu-ray, and like a junkie searching out his next hit, I took the bait. After seeing the excellent job Full Moon did restoring the first Puppet Master last year, I had to see what they could do to their other flagship franchise. I am very glad I did, my assessment of a few months past was very very wrong. Not only does Subspecies hold up quite well, it still stands as one of the finest vampire offerings of the 90's.
For those of you who are not familiar with Subspecies. The film tells the story of 2 American students Michelle and Lillian, and their Romanian friend Mara who while visiting Transylvania while studying for their Medieval History Ph.D.. get caught in the feud between vampire brothers Stefan (Good) and Radu (EEEVIIIILLL). The brothers are struggling for control of the Bloodstone, a Catholic artifact that drips the blood of Saints. That was to be passed down to Stefan from his Father the king Vladislav (Phantasm's Angus Scrimm), but was stolen by Radu, and his subspecies (little devil like minions that he controls). It is up to Stefan, Michelle, and local historian Karl to stop Radu before he can gain absolute control of the bloodstone, and the Vladislav line.
Subspecies is a film that is dripping with a wonderful gothic atmosphere. Not to mention it benefits well from the Romanian location shooting from the gorgeous landscape shots, to the effective use of actual castle and villages in the film. This is a film that oozes the mythology it's bringing to life.
What helps is the excellent writing and direction by the series main man Ted Nicolau. Who seemingly reinvented the vampire film for the 90's, and while admittedly there are definitely cheesy, and cliched elements at play here such as the romance between Stefan and Michelle, and the morality of the vampire being passed to his victims. Overall, this a great story anchored by one of the greatest villainous vampires in recent memory.
The performances in the film do vary from decent to very good for the most part, with most of the attention going to Anders Hove as the Nosferatu like Radu. Personally, I have always preferred the more vile version of vampires to grace the screen like Max Schreck as Nosferatu or ummm Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu, and so it was good to see a vampire not trying to be suave and sexy, but just sheer ugly and evil, and you can tell that Anders simply reviled in this role, and made it his own.
The direction from Nicolau is solid, and the film has an excellent flow to it, never for a moment feeling boring. The score is every bit as memorable as I remember it, and works as a great accompaniment to the events on screen. Overall, Subspecies is an excellent little horror romp that is every bit as good now as it was in the early 90's when I discovered it at my local Video Library.
If you a long-time fan of Subspecies fan such as I, then these upgrades are simply a must. Full Moon has restored Subspecies to it's never-before-seen glory and it's original widescreen 16x9 aspect ration in a gorgeous 1080p transfer. The colors pop, the level of detail is fantastic, flesh colors are accurate, and black levels are quite deep. The Romanian landscapes especially evening, and night landscape shots look particularly beautiful.
That being said this transfer is not without fault. There are still a good deal of scratches and print damage throughout the film, most notably in the early portion. This is most apparent during the opening credit sequence. The transfer is weakest during bright external shots, such as the sunny afternoon shots around the beginning of the film. I would, however, chalk this up to the original production, and not the restoration process.
The audio is presented in a solid 2.0 stereo mix. The sound is quite good, but once again this is not demo material. The audio is quite audible throughout, and mixed well with the sound effects and score. There were a few moments where I found myself toggling the volume know to hear what was said, but this was not too often, and did not take away from the quality of the remix. I also did not hear any aural irregularities of any note.
Not much is here, and nothing is here that you haven't seen before if you are a fan of the film. The films main extra is the original Subspecies - Videozone found on the original VHS tape, and while it was great to take a trek down memory lane with this one, it would have been nice to have some more extras, maybe revisitations with the cast 20 years down the line, etc. If you can count it as an extra there are also a handful of Full Moon trailers.
The greatest low budget vampire film of the 90's is finally restored to its original, and unseen glory. If you are a long time fan of the series this disc is a must buy for the restoration alone. If you are a first time fan, then you are in for quite the gothic horror treat. I will admit severe disappointment in the extras department, but my mind was blown enough by the transfer to let that one go. Alright Full Moon BRING ON THE SEQUELS! Highly Recommended!
*I do not count Vampire Journals as part of the Subspecies series. I hated that film, and really have no desire to ever revisit it.