Fred (Scott Phlanz) is a foul mouthed, angry young man who has caught the attention of Frank (Michael W.Mahoney), a vampire who likes to play with his food. After coming across Frank and his son Dean (Gregory Nunn) as they feed on a victim Fred vows to kill them, ranting nonstop to his chain smoking souse of a mother who doesn't appear to hear a word he's saying unless it concerns cigarettes or alcohol. A game of torment begins as Frank begins to stalk and gleefully taunt Fred in hideous fashion, Fred's saga plays out and the film starts to branch off into the perspective of the vampire family who not only have to contend with their adamant pursuer but also have to deal with domestic turmoil. Dean is in love with a woman called Sara (Rebeka Grella) who wishes to become one of them, much to the annoyance of Frank who himself begins to suffer from recurring nightmares when he loses a supposedly dead victim, Lori (Lisa Ann Frisone) who may be the key to ending Frank's reign of terror.
Made independently in 1997, it's aesthetic goes along with it's budget and it's decade, shot on 16MM which has a tendency to make films look as home made as they come. As someone who grew up (rather unhealthily for a preteen) on a diet of straight to TV erotic thrillers and exploitation cinema the look of the film holds a lot of charm for me, granted that is a niche taste but if you happen to share it then this film gains instant appeal. The story is ultimately rather rough around the edges, often feeling somewhat out of control which can lead to moments of apathy as a viewer but for the majority of it's running time it held my interest and had me entertained. It's script is basic but prone to flashes of good humour in the dialogue and sudden moments of satisfying slapstick during action scenes, it also has a nice little habit of being playful with vampire mythology, for example they are clearly not affected in any way by sunlight. The performances are up and down as they often are when it comes to micro-budget Indies, it's hard not to notice the entirety of the male cast's heads of which you could gather up a collection of screen-shots and make a slide show of the worst haircuts of the 90's. Performance wise the finest of the bunch is probably Rebeka Grella who really makes something of what could have been a rather weak character with a good performance. It would be remiss of me not to mention Michael Kodan as Lori's brother who appears to be doing a brilliant Jeff Goldblum impersonation that I found incredibly entertaining and Michael W. Mahoney is clearly having a tonne of fun as the sadistic Frank.
Straight to video fair I tend to come across has devolved into something else nowadays, most often it takes a soulless and cynical form of companies like The Asylum, just rattling off run of the mill micro-budget fodder to make a quick buck and that's where The Dying trumps your average DTV film of today. The Dying doesn't even have the budget of The Asylum's movies but it clearly has heart, it genuinely feels like people have poured their life and soul into it and that alone lends the film a charm and a commendable edge over the current competition. If you like your indie horrors with a subtly playful edge and you appreciate homemade aesthetic then I'd say give The Dying a look, I thought it was good fun and it's lovely to see proper independent movie again after a bit of a drought.
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