Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994)
And so, the story of vampire bloodlust and creatures of the night lurking in shadowy Romanian locales from Full Moon Features continue! As with all the sequels in this franchise, this film picks up exactly where the second one ended, and was designed that way with both the second and third films being shot back-to-back. Bloodlust: Subspecies III continues to build upon its characters and arcs with fantastic success. Where the second film had essentially all the setup, this film has a lot of pay-off, but does feel a little lacking since it is focused more on resolution than development. Yet, it would not be the final sequel.
Radu (Anders Hove) has been destroyed, and Michelle (Denice Duff) has been captured by Radu’s vile mother, Mummy. Mummy uses sorcery to bring Radu back to life, then magically transports them back to Castle Vladislas to escape their mortal pursuers: Michelle’s sister Rebecca (Melanie Shatner), Mel Thompson of the US Embassy (Kevin Blair), and Lt. Marin of the Bucharest police (Ion Haiduc). Radu’s obsession with Michelle undermines his power over her. She manipulates him into teaching her the secrets of vampire existence and how to harness her vampire powers. Once she learns to survive on her own, she intends to destroy him, but Michelle’s plan is put into jeopardy when Rebecca and her allies plan to storm the castle to rescue her from Radu’s clutches.
This film definitely amps up the horror factor a little in interesting ways. It mainly stems from Michelle’s further seduction to her vampire bloodlust which is beautifully orchestrated by Radu. She begins to embrace being a vampire, but is unable to fully sever her humanity. She feasts on the blood of the innocent, but cannot condemn her own sister to a similar gruesome fate. Denice Duff beautifully portrays the painful inner turmoil of Michelle as her emotions are ripped and pulled in so many directions. She looks gorgeous, sexy, and seductive as this femme fatale vampiress, but it’s that vulnerability which seeps through that makes her compelling and heartbreakingly sympathetic. While she does seem like an inconsistent character going back and forth from subservient to adversarial, it sort of works with all that confusion and inner turmoil she’s dealing with.
Unexpectedly, the film gives us this peculiar moment of depth between Michelle and Radu. Near the break of dawn, she wants to see the sunrise, and she inquires about what can kill a vampire. She does so because she wants to die. Radu then offers his creepy, undying love to her, but she scorns him with her eternal hatred. She hates what he did to him, but there remains a constant struggle within her. She hunts and quenches her thirst for blood, but she loathes what she has become. Some of this sounds kind of odd because Radu is the furthest thing from a romanticized vampire. That role was more akin to his now dead brother Stefan, but in the context of the film and series, this is a surprisingly ambitious moment. The film could exist without such a scene, but it adds extra layers of depth and emotion to both characters that I really admire.
And Anders Hove is given even more depth and material to expand Radu with. There’s this almost tragic quality to him by now in what he’s done to his entire family, and Michelle is now all that he has left to claim as his own. Yet, Hove still delivers the ghastly horror and nightmarish creep factor superbly. I just love how he continually tempts Michelle with indulging her vampire urges and desires. Despite showing more emotional qualities, he is still a ferocious, bonafide evil vampire which is the core of his appeal.
I think Kevin Blair gets a little stronger material to work with this time out. He gets to be more physically involved in the action, and be more assertive and proactive in the plot. It’s still not a great performance by any means, but Mel becomes a more purposeful character in this film than the last one. And of course, Melanie Shatner continues on in a nicely solid performance as Rebecca Morgan. She was such a strong and enjoyable part of these two films that it is a terrible shame that both hers and Kevin Blair’s characters were unceremoniously written out of the fourth film.
However, in this film, I really came to enjoy Lieutenant Marin. Regardless of any ADR work done on him, Ion Haiduc does a very entertaining and quirky job with the police investigator. He’s got some light-hearted chemistry with Blair and Shatner. Marin is a bit of a pesky detective keeping a tight watch on Becky and Mel throughout the film, and having some lightly humorous interactions. It’s not one of those performances that takes you out of the seriousness of the film. Marin isn’t quite convinced that vampires are prowling Romania, and so, he has a bit of a preposterous perspective on the events that are unfolding. Yet, he is persistent in his investigation if only due to the peculiar nature of everything that’s occurring.
Now, with these two sequels being shot back-to-back we get a very consistent technical quality with make-up effects, cinematography, and production values overall. So, it would be a little redundant to discuss them here, but in short, it’s all very solid stuff. This sequel seems to be even visually darker with more heavy shadows, and fewer daylight scenes. That is further enhanced by the great remastering job on the new DVD and Blu Ray releases. And in the effects department, we are treated to the most elaborate and pleasing “demise” of Radu yet as our heroes attempt an escape at dawn, but of course, a resurrection is hinted at before the end with the appearance of the Subspecies themselves.
Writer and director Ted Nicolaou did a very fine job helming this franchise and steering it into a fascinating and entertaining direction. These could’ve easily just been dry, low grade fare, but genuine effort was put into these films to make them enjoyable, creepy, and interesting. The crux of it all really is the evolving dynamic between Michelle and Radu. It is what drives the stories forward, and the actors in both roles put their all into it. While the supporting cast is not all as great as Duff and Hove, there’s still decent qualities in the stories and characters to keep the movie entertaining. Full Moon really loved their franchises, and were always leaving enough of a door open for another direct-to-video sequel. Michelle’s story is not fully resolved in this film, but it would take a few extra years before we were treated to another sequel.
Watching these films again makes me realize that while there is bloodletting and ghoulish, artistic visuals, the Subspecies movies aren’t designed for high fright factor, but more for entertainment value and atmospheric, moody creepiness. They are fun vampire films with some well executed emotional depth and interesting vampire lore that are beautifully shot and set in the heart of Romania. The addition of a slightly humorous CIA specialist helping Becky and Mel storm the castle ended up being less than important to the plot, and more of a facilitating element to get Mel inside Castle Vladislas as Radu’s captive. So, it has throwaway elements here and there, but in general, Bloodlust: Subspecies III really pays off everything pertinent that the series has built up at this point. I will get around to a review of Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm, but that is quite an unusual film with peculiar quirks to it.