Directed by: Bob Freville
Drama/Horror, 83 min
Distributed by: Troma
Vampire movies have never really been my cup of tea. In some way I find them to be something of a starting ground and an area that rarely adds anything new to its age-old formula.
For some reason they just don’t do anything for me. They are like elevator music and I’m more a punk rock, black metal kind of guy. I like it gritty and harsh. I don’t want horror fluffy and gentle and pansy. So when it comes to vampires I want the cool kind, the kind that portrays the vampires as outcasts, rejects, victims of their own state. But the modern vampire totally sucks in my opinion. The modern vampire in the way that it’s been made completely pathetic by mainstream fare such as Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer have made them loose all their potency and fastened in a stagnant format that nobody wants to change.
I prefer the dark brooding vampire kind of films like Nosferatu, The Hunger, Stakeland, Nadja, Near Dark… those kind of films, and the Hammer flicks. If I want erotic vampires… Well you know that I’d go watch Larraz Vampyres, a Jean Rollin flick, or some other delicious Euro Trash. In no way can I bare wasting valuable video time on mainstream bogus.
So choosing to sit down with a vampire movie released through Troma could have been considered a bold choice, but it only took me a few minutes to find myself hooked on Hemo, a movie that starts with a THE END sign! Two people come walking down a desolate road, he stares aimlessly into the distant, she hobbles along on a pair of crutches. He blames her for biting someone earlier, she replies. Yeah, I know, but he tasted sweet and I still need a fix… The two suit up and rob a blood bank only to end up in a gore drenched feeding frenzy.
Hemo tells the story of Calvin [Kevin Petroff] and Felicia [Pamela Price], two struggling vampires who get their kicks from drinking blood and shagging. Their regular method of obtaining the valuable blood is through regularly hitting blood banks and storing their loot in their refrigerator. But this pretty safe routine becomes an obstacle when the blood banks up their security. If the couple are going to continue living as vampires they are forced to act as vampires too, and this means hunting and killing their prey.
At the end of the day, Hemo is a decent indie horror. You know what you are going get, and that’s what you get. Not until the vampire couple start offing victims does the narrative get really interesting as the killing for food drives a wedge into the blood drinking couples relationship. It becomes a question of morale for the couple, and murdering for food rubs them both the wrong way (Note the Vegan t-shirt on Felicia, and the killing for food ideology becomes even more apparent) The disturbance in their bond drags their relationship into difficult times and puts them both to the test.
This is where the value of Hemo lies, as Freville creates dimension within his characters. Early on, Felicia reads in the newspaper about child found murdered with more than forty plus puncture-wounds to its little corpse. This disturbs her immensely and she asks what kind of a sick world they are living in. Which comes back to haunt her when they start murdering for food, hence creating the paradox of survival over morale.
Freville brings something of a new “old” angle back to the vampire grime, and kudos should be given for staying away from classic tedious convention holes. The addiction to blood angle plays just as if the characters where addicted to drugs, which means that when they can’t get blood, then suffer from withdrawal. I could say stuff like Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula or even Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, because that’s the kind of suffering and mental torment that Felicia and Calvin’s distress from lack of their “fix” is. Torturous and painful physical and mental torment pushing them to go beyond their own morale grounds, and forcing them to make hard decisions on how to continue.
Also there’s a possibility that Freville's characters aren’t vampires at all… there’s no fangs, no shape shifting, and they walk around in day light as most of the film takes place in sunlight. Perhaps they are not vampires at all, but two very confused people trapped up in their obsession with being children of the night.
Yes Hemo is low budget, Yes Hemo has a few flaws, Yes Hemo may be more urban drama than horror, but when it all comes around, Freville at least tries to make something different instead of going the same path that so many other vampire films have gone! It would have been way to easy to tell a vampire story like all the rest, but luckily Freville goes for pragmatism, harsh reality and an almost documentary feeling to his film. I like that the story is non-linear and plays around with classic narrative structures as starting with THE END brings a natural interest of what lead the characters there. Stick with the film until the end credits have played out, and keep track of small details painted on their humble apartments wall… it’s quite possible that those symbols and the end credit snippet add up to mean exactly that the symbols on the wall depict. Hemo is a film well worth checking out if you prefer low-key down to earth vampire lore to frilly shirts and sparkles.
I’m gonna give you the speech about supporting independence again, and I will again suggest you to support Troma and the films they release. Because if you know your genre cinema, you will know that a lot of current filmmakers got their start within the walls of the Troma building. So support independence, support Bob Freville, and support Troma.