June 6, 2018 Vampariah (Movie Review)
Due out on DVD and Blu-Ray as of Tuesday, June 12, 2018 through Video Music Inc., Vampariah promises to be a Vamparody. It is, but what sets it apart from any and every other vampire film? Audiences have seen vampires be good with such series as The Originals series, bad, as with most versions of Dracula, and somewhere in-between, with 1998’s Blade 1998. What does Vampariah bring to the blood-soaked table?
Written and directed by Matthew Abaya (Prophecy of Eve 2014, Misunderstood Sadie 2018), the plot is familiar enough. Mahal (Kelly Lou Dennis: Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice 2014) and her squad are responsible for protecting society from vampires and other supernatural monsters. Although, she may have met her match when a different kind of vampiric creature arises. Most cultures have a bloodsucker somewhere in their folklore, and this film introduces audiences to one from the Philippines; the Aswang.
Like traditional vampires, they drink blood and can shapeshift. But instead of biting with fangs, it has a proboscis-like tongue to drain its victims. There is more to them, but some things are best seen on screen than explained through text. Is Vampariah the best go-to film on Aswangs? Or should audiences see something else instead? After all, there is a 21-minute short from 2004 called Bampinay, which is also about a vampire hunter called Mahal hunting down an aswang. In fact, the aswang in Vampariah is also called Bampinay (Aureen Almario: Accident 2014)- a combination of the Tagalog terms for vampire (bampira) and woman (pinay.)
Like 2017’s Mercy Christmas, Vampariah is a long-awaited expansion on an older short. It just has a punnier title, and a few awards like Best Visual Effects from both the VC Filmfest and the San Luis Obispo Film Festival in 2016 as well as 2017 respectively. For the film’s budget, they do look rather impressive. The holographic interfaces, ghosts and glowing eyes are especially eye-catching, even if they are not going to challenge their big blockbuster buddies. That said, their cheapness does occasionally show through, be it the glowing, bullet impacts or the so-so intro and opening credits.
The ADR would be best overlooked too, as it gets a touch too obvious in places. Then some of the action scenes suffer from rough-looking, fast edits that come off as confusing. Mahal narrates some scenes, which essentially act as exposition dumps. The way they are written makes the film feel like a 1990’s comic book, as our dudette with attitudette tells the audience the premise, introduces them to her squad (and which one is not her type), and her opinion on TV cryptozoologists. Dennis tries well, bringing plenty of drive, but it does not result in a convincing performance. She hits the notes but cannot quite hold them. That said, she does get some interesting lines (“Why don’t you find yourself a Chupacabra to fuck?!”).
So overall, it is a cheesy film with corny dialogue that tries too hard. Its effects do their best and come off well, even if the rest of the film is not as technically sound. The performances overall are average, but it has more than its fair share of duff delivery. It even gets a little too on-the-nose at points, like its Fox News parody with ‘Michele Kilman’ (get it? Kilman. Malkin.) But does this make it a bad film? Not necessarily. For one, its Asian influence – from the story to the cast and crew – help it stand out from the sea of films based on European vampires. For all its flaws, it at least has some originality going for it.
It also has charm in its cheesiness. Corny Action films may not be to everyone’s taste, but they come together effectively enough here for fans to enjoy it. That is not to say it is some Philippine Sharknado. The film takes itself a little too seriously for that. It has some dramatic twists and turns that give the film some more meat on its bones. They are a little too typical and familiar, so they do not quite hit the mark. Although, they are not awful either. The ideas behind them are solid, and they provide some sustenance for the brain, even if it is not exactly cinematic filet mignon.
It is more like a cinematic cheeseburger, or something from Mang Inasal. It is simple, does not test the diner’s palate, and it has many problems with it over finer dining. On the other hand, it is cheap, filling, unique, and rather tasty. People looking for something more enriching are not going to find it here. For those looking for a new kind of quick thrill, and are not fussy about the details, they should find it in Vampariah. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives this film 3 out of 5 stars.