The story focuses on a group of 6 beautiful women called Thralls, referred to as "the white trash of vampires;" effectively a lower species of vampire. They don't kill people, they don't have the ability to turn their victims into vampires and they can't fly. These Thralls are under the control of Mr. Jones, the vampire who sired them, and whom they are trying desperately to escape. To do this they must complete a blood ritual which will turn them into full-blown vampires. Their plans hit a snag when Ashley, the younger sister of one of the Thralls, comes to visit. Ashley has no idea what her sister has been up to since moving to the big city nor what she has become...Written by
Mr. Jones (Lorenzo Lamas) is a vampire living an upper class life in Iowa, of all places, in this Ron Oliver-directed film. He has a Renfield-like acolyte named Rennie (Richard Ian Cox), and most importantly, he's keeping six really hot "half-vampire" slave babes chained up, dressed in sexy white lingerie, in his strangely white "attic". These slaves, or thralls ("thrall" was the Scandinavian word for "slave" during the Viking age), are the focus of the film. At the end of the opening sequence, they manage to escape. Shortly after we see them running a rave club (still in Iowa, amusingly enough). A major subplot involves Ashley (Siri Baruc), a sister of one of the thralls, who has runaway from an abusive situation with her father. But has she run into something even more frightening?
I like most films, especially most horror, and I start watching any movie with very few preconceptions and a high score in mind. For Blood Angels, repeatedly I would be cruising along thinking it deserved a high rating, then it would do something awkward or too corny for its own good, and I'd feel compelled to give it a lower mark. But then it would turn around and make up for the problems with another move, and so on. The final verdict, obviously, was a 7. However, for much of the film it sustained an 8 for me.
Among the minor problems are that the fight/attack scenes tend to be cut too quickly, there is a strange section of repeated footage in the middle (it's ostensibly a dream/hallucination) that seems like padding, and the bulk of the film is set in a club that just looks like a big warehouse. Sometimes such a limited setting works, but here it tends to become monotonous. It feels transparently like a budget-saving device.
In interviews about the film, the cast and crew have made much of the supposed vampire mythology extensions in the film. They were exaggerating, at least slightly. While the thrall idea is unique for the film world, at least in its details, the influences for this "extension" were probably a combination of the mythology of role-playing games such as Vampire: The Masquerade and the "gay vampire" novel by author Michael Schiefelbein entitled Vampire Thrall (interestingly, early reports had Blood Angels' plot as an erotic gay vampire flick--that turned out to be wrong (or it was changed); whether that's disappointing or not probably depends on your gender and orientation, especially when we consider that the protagonists are beautiful women clad in skimpy clothing).
Of course, if we look at it from an even less fine-grained perspective, Blood Angels is basically a Dracula story centered on his brides, where the brides have been merged with the popular idea of the vampire acolyte, but where they are not quite willing to be underlings--they're just partial vampires instead. The thralls' feeding methods are unusual, but certainly not unprecedented--similar ideas have appeared in a number of other vampire films, including Les Avaleuses (1973), Spermula (1976) and the more well-known and mainstream Once Bitten (1985). Blood Angels may be unprecedented in featuring a protagonist (Ashley) partially modeled on The Wizard of Oz' (1939) Dorothy, and also for featuring an odd bit part for an actor dressed up as Hunter S. Thompson.
Other elements, such as a subplot involving the Necronomicon and raising demons from other dimensions are relative horror clichés by this point, although such things did not tend to be combined very often with vampire lore until "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997). Also like Buffy, Blood Angels mixes its modern Gothic atmosphere and liberal tongue-in-cheek humor with martial arts. Part of becoming a vampire, or even a thrall, is that you suddenly turn into a kick-ass kung fu expert. Combining vampires and martial arts is an idea that extends at least back to The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974).
Of course, post-Buffy, at least, having strong, intelligent and resourceful modern women as protagonists in a horror film isn't unique, but it is still relatively unusual, and it is certainly welcomed. Some feminists might cringe at the eye candy factor, which is very high throughout the film, but more enlightened feminists realize that being beautiful and proud of it isn't akin to playing a subordinate role. Also on the positive but unusual side is that the film is set in Iowa (though unfortunately not shot there, but surely that would have proved to be too much for the film's budget). It's at least nice to see writers and directors try to be a bit more creative with their locales.
I was surprised that Blood Angels had as much humor as it does. There is a very funny comic relief character known as Doughboy (Kevin Ohtsji), an Asian youth trying to be "rap hip", somewhat reminiscent of Nadir (Saïd Serrari), the comic relief wannabe rapper Algerian in Samouraïs (2002) (Although it's a bit bizarre--but I like bizarreness--that the last five minutes of the film before the final credits run are a rap/hip-hop promotional video). And Rennie is also funny as a continually suffering zombie, reminiscent of Gabriel's (Christopher Walken) zombie assistants in the Prophecy (1979) films, or, without the "slave" aspect, Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) in An American Werewolf in London (1981) or Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) in Idle Hands (1999). Another positive aspect is that the special effects are good for a low-budget film. For the other roles, the performances are fine; nothing exceptional, but not problematic, either, even if Lamas starts to show off his scenery-chewing chops by the end.
Overall, Blood Angels is above average, especially if you're a big horror fan and you enjoy watching attractive women. It's not likely to be remembered as a groundbreaker, but it's more than sufficient entertainment for 90 minutes. It also leaves room for a sequel, which would be welcomed.
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