Original release: 4 May 2010
Written and directed by- Rob Fitz
Starring- Dharma Lim, Ben Wang, Evan Lim, Morris Chung
Available now on DVD from Safecracker Pictures
Independently made horror is a fantastic thing. While moments of brilliance can be found among the glossy and safe mainstream horror cinema, its independent films that consistently provide audiences with unique and interesting scares year after year. The genre showcases what can be done by passionate and inventive filmmakers with a fraction of the budgets enjoyed by studio directors.
While it’s not without its own problems the realm of independent horror has brought us some of the genres most beloved titles and will hopefully continue to do so for a long time. One film that serves as a prime example of the best and worst of what independent horror cinema has to offer is the 2010 release God of Vampires. A novel and gory romp that almost manages to get a few things right, and does get a lot of things wrong.
Written and directed by Rob Fitz God of Vampires tells the story of contract killer Frank ‘Frankenstein’ Ng (Lim) who, after a hit goes awry, finds himself the target of an ancient Chinese vampire. This isn’t your run of the mill Chinese vampire either it’s a Kiang-Shi, God of vampires, capable of raising an army of undead (and unintentionally hilarious) minions.
The inclusion of eastern monster myths into a horror setting provides God of vampires with some unique and interesting story elements however the whole “badass assassin versus vampire lord” main plotline gives the whole film an unshakable Blade homage atmosphere. In fact there are a number of times during God of vampires’ two hour running time that I felt Fitz was treading dangerously close to rip off territory.
For the most part however the Chinese vampire concept is refreshing, allowing for some novel and gory as hell scenes that steer clear of the contemporary portrayal of everyone’s favorite bloodsuckers.
The plot is far from the worst thing about God of Vampires, in fact there’s so many areas in which the film fails that most viewers won’t even realise there’s a pretty solid narrative occurring. As soon as the title credits end the low budget nature of the film comes into focus. God of Vampires is plagued with awful film quality, bad dialogue and audio mixing so poor that at many pivotal moments in the movie it’s almost impossible to hear what is being said. Although independent cinema is of course going to have lower production values than mainstream movies, and indeed the low quality D.I.Y nature of many indie horror films is what makes them so enjoyable, God of Vampires is poorly made to the point where it actually hurts any kind of entertainment or artistic value it could have had.
Although the film isn’t a foreign language film that has been dubbed, the audio mixing of God of Vampires is so bad that it’s actually better enjoyed if you think it has. Actor’s lip movements don’t match up to the audio, sometimes the background music is mixed so loud it’s impossible to tell what’s being said and there’s even few occasions where it can’t be heard at all over the wail of badly played grindcore. While the audio for many of the scenes if atrocious, the actual dialogue is delivered well by most of the cast and is well written enough in spots to even be humorous. It’s a shame that the audio is so badly handled in God of Vampires and it’s something that I usually wouldn’t focus that much on in a review, however in this instance it really is that bad.
There’s a few directorial choices made during God of Vampires that really hurt the film, something that considering the poor production values really detracts from its’ overall quality. Indie horror films for the most part live and die by their ability to tell engaging and terrifying stories, however God of Vampires seems more concerned with trying to be cool than trying to be a good movie. Now don’t get me wrong I love a good, silly gory horror action movie as much as any horror fan, the problem with God of Vampires is that the action and attempts at being “cool” feel so stupid and juvenile that it all comes across as shallow and unlikeable. Every cringe worthy one liner or ridiculous plot device feels like something a bunch of twelve year olds dreamed up one rainy afternoon.
For example, early on in the film Frank loses a close family member. This kind of event is treated as dramatic and as a reason for the hero to go out and kick some ass even in the cheesiest of action films, however in God of Vampires Frank is completely fine in the next scene and never again mentions his horribly slaughtered kin.
On its own this kind of filmmaking slip up could have been forgiven however God of Vampires is riddled with so many boring, badly thought out or borderline embarrassing scenes that it all combines into a barely watchable package. One last criticism that I have on this aspect of the film is a particular scene where after a shootout the band of vampire hunters Ng has assembled all stand in a line, and gun down an unarmed woman that is clearly depicted as surrendering. Usually I can appreciate a filmmaker’s right to depict whatever they like on film, but the whole scene is shot in this kind of z list Matrix style that tries to make shooting a person that has clearly surrendered, as cool. It had no narrative purpose, no artistic value and it really spoiled the entire movie for me as a viewer.
On paper God of Vampires seems like a brilliant premise, a novel take on a silly action horror movie concept that should probably be good for some laughs and a few hours of light entertainment. In reality it’s a shoddily made, crass and completely juvenile attempt at film making. There are some positive elements to God of Vampires and it is indeed entertaining in some places. The gore is well made and plentiful, the skilfully choreographed fight scenes are cool to watch and there are some admirable performances throughout. However none of these factors can change the fact that God of Vampires is a bad film. The shoe string budget isn’t enough of an excuse either when you realise that the original Paranormal Activity was made on a similar budget to this movie.
If you’re after some bloody good vampire slaying fun you can do a hell of a lot better than God of Vampires. verdict 3/10
About Ryan Peters
Gorehound and general horror fanatic Ryan has recently completed a degree in journalism, which he hopes one day will turn into a career. When he's not writing Ryan spends his time in productive ways like playing video games, listening to large amounts of thrash metal and enjoying pretentious whisky. He also blogs constantly over at Diary of a Horror Fan.