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Subspecies - 3/31 Days of Halloween

Greetings, my children of the night. Oh, man! This one takes me back. It's been a while since I've sat down and watched a good ol' campy vampire flick, and Full Moon definitely delivers. I came across this series in reverse order, starting with the 1997 spin-off Vampire Journals, and it was clear that I was missing some crucial backstory. A few years ago, I was able to catch up on the rest of the series, bingeing all four movies in a single day. When I happened upon today's movie this morning, I knew I had to share it with you. Let's sink our teeth into 1991's straight-to-video horror classic, Subspecies.

The movie opens with the aging vampire King Vladislas (played by horror legend Angus Scrimm) sitting in his castle, drinking drops of blood from a strange stone. This relic is the bloodstone, a holy relic that drips the blood of saints. The king's son, the hideous Radu, enters and confronts his father, angry over having been exiled and robbed of his birthright by his half-brother Stefan. The king traps Radu, intending to destroy him, but Radu conjures a number of tiny, demonic minions to release him and retrieve the bloodstone from its hiding place. Free of his cage, Radu murders the king and takes his place as the new lord of Vladislas Castle.

In the nearby village of Prejmer, three young women arrive to study the local folklore. They receive a cold welcome from the old fortress' caretaker, Karl, who gives them a tour and teaches them some of the history of the village, how centuries ago it was saved from pillaging Turks by vampires. The women find themselves drawn to the ruins of Castle Vladislas, but they are warned away by the locals who fear the foreigners will awaken evil. Evil has already awoken, however, and Radu begins stalking the girls. They narrowly escape his clutches when they are met by Radu's brother Stefan. After seeing the girls to safety, Stefan confronts Radu and learns of his father's murder. Their ancient blood feud is rekindled, and Radu stalks the young women in order to torment his virtuous brother.

Subspecies is an odd duck of a movie. On one hand, you have a classic vampire tale with many of the beloved vampire lore and tropes included. Hell, the film even takes place in Transylvania! But then there's Radu's minions, the subspecies themselves, the weird, little, red boogers that don't really serve much of a purpose except to fetch things for Radu. While the sculpts for the creatures are really neat, the actual effect is pretty laughable. When you see them moving on screen, particularly in their first appearance, you can tell they're essentially copied and pasted onto the scenery, almost seeming to hover above the ground they're supposed to be walking on. It's odd that the film and subsequent sequels were named for them considering what a small role they play in this movie. To be fair, though, it's been a few years since I've seen the sequels, so perhaps their role is expanded in the sequels. I may have to rewatch them and find out.

And of course there's the obligatory love story. Having just met and knowing absolutely nothing about each other, of course Michelle and Stefan fall madly in love with one another. I mean, duh! That's just how it works, right? I started to get annoyed around the fifth time Stefan said, "I told you to leave" to Michelle. Well how is she supposed to play the damsel in distress if you keep telling her to leave town, dummy? We've got a movie to make here!

Aside from some silly costume and hair choices (looking at you, Scrimm), Subspecies is a pretty solid vampire story. The bloodstone is a cool MacGuffin for the characters to fight over, even if it does kinda look like one of those fake blood Halloween props at times. Radu is sufficiently menacing, although how he manages to wield knives and swords with those ridiculous crab legs he calls fingers is beyond me. The overall look of the character is great, but when it comes to the hands, it's almost as if the filmmakers watched Nosferatu and said, "Hold my beer!"

Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Radu's a fun character, and it's good to see him go on to terrorize the living in three sequels. If you like classic vampire flicks with spooky old castles and superstitious old women, then give this one a watch. All four movies, along with the spin-off, are streaming on Tubi, so why not just make a night of it and binge the entire series?

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