March 27, 2013

The Thompsons (2012)

Directed by The Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores). Starring Cory Knauf ("Francis"), Samuel Child ("David"), Joseph McKelheer ("Wendell"), and Mackenzie Firgens ("Darlene"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Xlrator/Arc)
Running time: 01:22:11
Country: USA, UK

When I watched a bunch of the After Dark Horrorfest movies a few years ago, one of the standouts was THE HAMILTONS, which, at the time, was one of those movies you couldn't really talk about or classify into a genre without ruining the plot twist. But, seeing as THE THOMPSONS is its sequel and it's advertised as a Vampire movie, the element of surprise behind THE HAMILTONS has been completely eliminated, which kinda sucks (no pun intended) since the twist is what made that film special in the first place. Oh well. If you haven't seen THE HAMILTONS, it's a film that basically introduces a family of vampires that you initially think are just serial killers. This time around, the family of bloodsuckers are on the run (hence the name change) and taking up residence in Europe, where they encounter another family of vampires that prove to be far more sadistic and twisted than they are.

The thing about THE HAMILTONS was that, if I remember correctly, the vampires were basically the bad guys, and it was a fairly dark film. In THE THOMPSONS, their feet are inherently still planted on the dark side, but they're more or less presented as a tight-knit group of drifters who kill when necessary and abide by a certain set of rules. They're kinda like Lance Henriksen's crew in NEAR DARK, except prettier and more human. So, basically, not as cool. As far as the characters, we have the eldest of the siblings, David, who's basically the glue that holds them together. We also have the youngest, Lenny, who played a big part in the revealing climax of THE HAMILTONS, Francis, who's pretty much the lead character of both films, and twins Wendell and Darlene. One thing that does carry over from the previous film is the relationship between the twins, who still may or may not partake in incestuous activities and are the most blood-thirsty of the family. As Francis (also the film's narrator) tells us: "They do everything together."

What happens is that Francis is in England looking for someone on behalf of his family. Who he's looking for isn't really revealed at first, and it actually isn't until the people he's looking for make their presence known that we get an idea of what's going on. It should also be said that the film isn't presented in a linear narrative, so it tends to jump around a lot. For example, the movie actually opens with a boyfriend and a girlfriend in a park being humiliated and eventually brutalized by two guys who are wearing Leatherface-style masks made of human skin, but their involvement in the story isn't revealed until later. Long story short, the Thompsons unite in England and get the tables turned on them when they find themselves in a situation similar to their victims in the first movie.

My first observations were: 1) that THE THOMPSONS has a very cheap Digital Video look, and 2) that there's a surprising amount of nudity and gore right off the bat. The cheap look either goes away after the opening minutes or you get used to it. Most of it seemed to come from the opening credits, since it appears the filmmakers used stock footage for some of the landmark and city shots that didn't really match up with the rest of the movie in terms of quality. As you can see by the screenshots, the movie actually looks quite good. The nudity and gore was a nice surprise though. THE THOMPSONS isn't a consistently nasty film, but there are a few moments here and there that are of questionable taste, which is a good thing in my book.

You could probably go into this not having seen THE HAMILTONS and not be totally confused, especially since they're both different in tone and the fact that this kinda takes liberties with what was set up in the previous film and does its own thing. To be fair, it's been a few years since HAMILTONS, the actors are older, and the filmmakers are... well, the filmmakers are still The Butcher Brothers, I guess (which isn't a bad thing to me), so it's only natural that they'd take the characters in a fresh direction as opposed to doing the same thing over again. One of the reasons you could go into this without having seen HAMILTONS is that the characters are basically introduced all over again, although the previous film does add a little bit of context to the roles that everyone plays. Speaking of introductions, both Wendell and Darlene get introduced twice. As in the "freeze frame/narrator explaining who they are" treatment. Not sure if it was an oversight on the filmmakers' part or not, but I didn't see the point in them having to remind us who they are more than once and not even twenty minutes apart each time.

I'm not sure how I feel about more and more Vampire movies gradually taking liberties with the mythology. Here, for whatever reason, the vampires aren't bothered by sunlight, crosses, or holy water, and they can easily be killed by conventional weapons. Francis, as the narrator, explains that the only thing that sets them apart from everyone else is that they have an addiction to blood, but yet they can sprout fangs in the blink of an eyes and seem to have superhuman strength. To me, straying from the mythology is kind of a cheat, but at the end of the day I could care less, as long as no one sparkles in the sunlight.

THE THOMPSONS starts out well enough, setting up a cool confrontation between two vampire clans and clearly not holding back in terms of delivering boobs and (mostly CG) blood and Dubstep. (Wait... what?) Unfortunately the back end of the movie goes in some predictable directions, and the end result is fairly underwhelming. Whereas THE HAMILTONS was a decent movie that was elevated by a great twist, this is a decent movie that's kinda dragged down by a mediocre and dull climax. Because of the non-linear storytelling, you do get some reveals and twists throughout the movie, but that comes with the territory when you take this type of storytelling into consideration. I also had issues with a character named Riley, who's the love interest of Francis and one of the main characters in the film. I felt she was written kind of poorly and some of her actions defied logic. Overall, this isn't a terrible movie. It's a quick watch and it's perfectly fine as a vampire movie, but as a whole it just seems kinda pointless, and perhaps the talented group of people involved - respectfully - should have done something else instead of going back to the well.

Score: 6

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