Subspecies V: Blood Rise (Movie Review)

Back in the early ’90s direct-to-video Horror films were plentiful. Some were godawful, others perfect for group viewings to share in a good laugh, and others a decent enough quality to build a fanbase. Among the better of this grouping of Horror films was the Subspecies series. First launching in 1991 as a production by Full Moon Studios and Castel Film Studios, the original Subspecies was interesting enough to led the way for 1993’s Bloodstone: Subspecies II, 1994’s Bloodlust: Subspecies III, 1997’s spin-off Vampire Journals, and 1998’s Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm. In truth, some of these films were more memorable than others, but all were extremely fun for fans of vampires, medieval settings, and gothic romance. Then, times changed, the video store sadly became obsolete, and it seemed the vampire Radu had finally descended into his crypt for eternity. 

Subspecies V: Blood Rise / Full Moon Features (2023)

What seemed to be the end of an era, thankfully Full Moon Productions found a way to survive the storm of industry changes; successfully launching a streaming service and still steadily creating original content through the early 2000s. A testament to the vision and perseverance of Founder Charles Band, to the surprise of many, Subspecies returns in 2023 with a brand-new feature film. Entitled Subspecies V: Blood Rise, it marks the sixth overall film in the franchise and the first in twenty-five years.

A long time coming, fortunately original Subspecies Creator Ted Nicolaou returns to write/direct Subspecies V: Blood Rise, plus main series stars Anders Hove (as the ancient vampire Radu Vladislas) and Denice Duff (this time as Helena, instead of as Michelle) are back on screen together. 

Additionally, the new film is the first of the Subspecies to receive a limited theatrical premiere; taking place on Monday, May 15, 2023 at twenty-six Alamo Drafthouse locations across the USA. A rather special feat for Full Moon Features, for those who missed the theatrical run, Subspecies V: Blood Rise will co-premiere on Full Moon and Screambox streaming services on Friday, June 2nd, prior to receiving a Blu-Ray/DVD release on Tuesday, July 11th. These details in mind, the real question is, what exactly does Subspecies V: Blood Rise have to offer to the overall film series?

Subspecies V: Blood Rise / Full Moon Features (2023)

Well, the biggest and most important aspect is that Subspecies V: Blood Rise absolutely stays true to the first five films. What does this mean? It means there are no cheap settings, no modern stories, and no political agendas somehow intertwined in. Historically, Subspecies films were shot in Romania, however this latest film was shot in Siberia; which is aesthetically fine, because you still have the same medieval feeling with real locations. Factors that can ease the mind of sceptics, the next question is, where does the story go? A vital factor, this new plot is a prequel, picking up thousands of years earlier than the original Subspecies

Now, in some respects prequels can be failures, because they either lose the origins of the original story, or simply kill the atmosphere. Interestingly enough, neither is the case with Subspecies V: Blood Rise, because this prequel is actually quite interesting and adds something to the lore of Radu. Anyone who has followed Radu through this series looks at him as an insidious vampire, but most of all, a rather tragic figure. Subspecies V: Blood Rise not only solidifies Radu as a character, but it adds more depth and understanding of his tragic destiny. Furthermore, the interjection of Denice Duff this time as a new character, is not at all silly, but perfectly matched, showing Anders Hove and Denice Duff are great on-screen companions. In fact, while it is up to your imagination, dare we say it is not far-fetched to link the bloodline of Helena in Subspecies V: Blood Rise with that of Michelle’s a lifetime later. 

Subspecies V: Blood Rise / Full Moon Features (2023)

All in all, Subspecies V: Blood Rise is not a lame attempt to capitalize on the success of the original films, because it is really well done. Chalked with a compelling storyline, beautiful settings, and a wonderful gothic vibe, Subspecies V: Blood Rise is the perfect new entry to the franchise. Bringing back memories of staying up to catch the original Subspecies films late at night on either Cinemax or Showtime back in the ’90s, Cryptic Rock gives Subspecies V: Blood Rise 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Subspecies V: Blood Rise / Full Moon Features (2023)

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  • Looking forward to seeing it! Waiting for the Blu-ray. Got a question. Since Ash’s outcome is well defined in Vampire Journals, Shouldn’t VJ be the very last film to watch in the series? Kinda still confuses me. Great review. Thanks!

  • Been a fan of the series since the early 90s. I was pretty excited when I found out this was coming out. Watched it last night and I gotta say, it was bad. Like bad bad. Not good bad like the others in the series. It was awesome seeing Denise Duff and Anders Hove again. But damn this story is so rushed! It’s a short film and 80 mins simply is not enough time to cover all that it attempts to do. I love subspecies 1,2, and 3. Anders Hove has some really great moments in this movie though and he is definitely enough reason to see it. But subspecies fans should expect to have a few unanswered questions in the end. I’d give it 3 out 5 stars

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