Written and Directed by: : Jay Burleson
Starring: Bob Dellaposta, Joseph Ray, Aly Sutton, and Kevin Wright
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“Did you feel the sexual vampiric tension?”
When you’re dealing with independent movies (and especially independent horror), enthusiasm and a vision can go a long way. Though you might not be blessed with money or experienced talent and crews, but if you have a guy (or gal) behind the camera that knows what he wants to do and wants to have fun doing it, they’ll find a way to entertain you. I was recently nudged in the direction of Jay Burleson, whose debut feature Feast of the Vampires shows all the hallmarks of a guy having fun with a genre he loves.
Scotty Hamman (Joseph Ray) spends most of his time on the computer or focusing on his music; one day, his friend Zaine (Burleson) convinces him to ride into town, but little do they know that it’s become infested with vampires. They spend the night at a house that’s inhabited by a farmer and his beautiful daughter Autumn (Aly Sutton). Zaine ends up disappearing the next day, leaving Scotty and Autumn to enlist the help of local wacko Professor Corman; together, the trio dares to enter the plantation home of Duke Wolfgang Moonlight, who just happens to be preparing a feast that night…
There are obvious constraints to be found here--the budget is definitely small, and the actors are all pretty inexperienced. However, Burleson works well within these constraints and still manages to carry out his vision of a wacky time. This is a fun little quirky picture with some interesting characters that cover up for a pretty standard plot. I wouldn’t even say that the acting is all that poor for the most part, as the actors get to really step into to the shoes of some exaggerated caricatures, so they play it up appropriately with thick accents and silly line deliveries. I guess our lead character is sort of the weak link because he’s pretty much a normal guy among a bunch of kooks; I also suspect that his heavy southern drawl isn’t exaggerated. But Aly Sutton as his love interest provides a bright counterpart who brings some life to it all; for one thing, she’s really cute and sweet (always helpful), but she also handles her lines well too. The little romance that develops between the two actually becomes the main storyline, and it’s always cool to see a lovable loser do well.
Burleson also manages to create quite a stylish film; his use of lighting and interesting camera angles make this more than a simple point and shoot affair. It’s pretty atmospheric stuff at times, particularly when our heroes make their way to Count Moonlight’s plantation. The score is also a nice, moody throwback to the synth-driven affairs of years past, which is something Burleson is obviously interested in evoking (more on that in a bit). There’s also some interesting quirks thrown in, such as the use of a narrator and some humorous inter-titles that move the action along; it’s a little weird at first because the narrator essentially gives you all the exposition you need in about three minutes. But then you sort of realize that this just gets you to the good stuff all the more quickly, so it works.
Feast of the Vampires really separates itself with its overall presentation. Before it begins, we’re told that the film has been recovered from a dumpster and pieced back together; not only that, but this is intended to be a version of the film that was presented as part of a TV show. So the whole thing is book-ended with these segments that feature a bad public-access TV host who introduces it as “Jay Burleson’s 1971 classic” and gives us some fictional history and trivia. Not only that, but the film’s look has been made to look like an old beat-up VHS, so it’s grainy and full of fake artifacts. It’s an obvious take-off of the Grindhouse aesthetic, but it works; if that generation was raised on the hisses, pops, and cigarette burns of worn out prints, then the one after it was raised on faded colors and tracking issues. It’s a really cool effect, and, with an exception of a few things that date the film, it actually feels like something you would have found in a video store 20 years ago.
I suspect that was Burleson’s chief aim: to create a throwback piece that captures a bygone era. If that’s true, then he succeeded. The film itself might have a few lulls and some moments where it gets a little too silly, but it’s still a lot of fun for film fans, who will also find references to stuff like The Fearless Vampire Killers and Back to the Future. I enjoy this kind of stuff because I like to see enthusiasm shine through; it does here in spades. To check out the film, you can visit its official website to buy the DVD, which features an audio commentary, a blooper reel, a cast retrospective, on set footage, audition footage, and another short film from Jay Burleson. However, you can also check it out on Count Gore De Vol’s Creature Feature, where it’s streaming for free. This version also adds some bumpers that are hosted by Count De Vol, who is dismayed to discover the flick already has its own host. This version just adds more retro fun to the whole thing, and it’s definitely worth a look. Check it out. Rent it!
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