Death, decay, Gothic architecture, long white gowns with plunging necklines, beautiful and ornate centuries old mausoleums, crumbling castles surrounded by green lush forests and swirling mist...and of course: blood. Those are the things I think of when I sit down to watch a vampire movie.
Above photo is the poster for the original "Subspecies" film from 1991
In 1991 a film called, "Subspecies" was released direct to video (the entire series was released that way) from Full Moon Features. The film was directed by a man by the name of Ted Nicolaou. What was so unique with this film and the others in this series that followed was the fact they were filmed on location in Romania and Transylvania- in my opinion, the absolute perfect place to film just about any vampire flick! In addition, the musical score for this film was wonderful! The Aman Folk Orchestra (now called the Aman Folk Ensemble) performed all the tracks for the first film. The music is at times intense, lustful, and very atmospheric- very appropriate sound for Romania. Unfortunately, the less than ideal budget for the film was probably strained even more with the cost of filming in Europe, but in the end I think it paid off. I would personally describe this film as one of those "B" horror films, which I am a sucker for!
Without giving too much of the plot away, there is a king, who reigns over the castle of Vladislas, and has two sons: Radu and Stefan. Radu (played by the brilliant Anders Hove) is evil and cruel and craves power, while Stefan has more humanity in him and refuses to succumb to killing mortals in order to satiate his lust for blood. While Stefan is handsome, Radu is grotesque, almost that of a ghoul, and he is always drooling blood out of his mouth that after awhile I was looking away because it was grossing me out so much! The first time I saw the film I noticed Radu's fingers where very long and thin. I know that whoever decided on how Radu was to look was a fan of the original silent film, "Nosferatu." Max Schreck had the same long fingers with long and sharp fingernails. Another thing that hit me right away was the name Radu. I have been fascinated by vampires and lore for as long as I can remember and wrote a report on vampires in high school. I recalled that the real Dracula, Prince Vlad "the impaler" had a brother named: Radu or as he is written in history, "Radu the Handsome." So I thought it was cool that the writers thought of the name Radu and making another historical figure into a vampire legend. So basically the story is pretty basic- you have 2 American college students who study abroad in Romania, where they join another girl who is a local, and study the culture and lore of the country. Like most vampire films, there is swirling mist, lots of blood, and bare chested girls who are bitten and turn into vampires. While the film IS cliche in some aspects, the way they intertwined a historical figure and actually filmed ON location, that was really epic in my book. The evil vampire Radu is after the Bloodstone which is an ancient relic that has the blood of the ancient vampires in it and if another vampire drinks it, they become more powerful. According to Radu, the bloodstone is his birthright, which obviously means he will do whatever he has to to claim it. Radu has his little helpers which are tiny creatures who serve their master when Radu is in need of help. Obviously the character of Radu falls in love, or takes a sort of vampire bride (fledgling as he calls her), wanting to be with her for eternity. However, the woman (Michelle Morgan) will not bow down to Radu and refuses to fully change into what he is. She still has enough memory of being a mortal that the transformation is something she fights. The character of Michelle (played by actress Laura Tate)is your standard "damsel in distress" in the first one. She also falls in love with Radu's handsome and kind brother Stefan, but then finds out he is also the un-dead. At the end, Stefan bites her and turns her into a vampire. Michelle is in the second, third, and fourth films as well and her character evolves which I really enjoyed seeing. I don't want to give the film away, but if any of you like a good "B" film and if you like vampires, I would give it a try. Plus it's nice that it's a series so if you DO like the first film, the story doesn't just end there!
Here is the original trailer for "Subspecies"
The first three films from the "Subspecies" story were meant to be filmed back to back. Each story would end and the next would begin where the last left off. In 1993, "Bloodstone Subspecies II" picks up right where the first ended. Radu's little minions, the subspecies, are able to bring him back to life. Radu comes upon Stefan asleep in his coffin and also Michelle asleep in another coffin as well. Radu kills Stefan but is not able to kill Michelle- most likely because she is beautiful, and Radu refers to her as, "the pretty one." Daylight approaches so Radu is forced to seek shelter. Later that night Michelle awakens and finds her love Stefan dead with the alluring bloodstone in his hands. She takes the relic and flees before Radu wakes up. Michelle heads into Bucharest so she can call her sister, Becky. Michelle tells her to hurry and fly to Bucharest. Becky arrives and immediately searches for her sister. Meanwhile, Radu visits his mother who he calls, "mummy" and she helps him find Michelle and the bloodstone. Without going into a complete description of the entire film, basically the story is pretty much about Radu going after Michelle and the bloodstone. Michelle at this point is starting to have cravings for blood because her body is changing into a complete vampire. I will have to say that the actress who portrays Michelle (Denice Duff) did an excellent job of coming across vulnerable but yet starting to succumb to becoming a vampire. Of course at the end you think Radu is destroyed, but obviously he's not! His character sometimes reminds me of Michael Meyers from "Halloween"- the bad guy seems to always come back!
Below is a photo of the poster for the second film, "Bloodstone Subspecies II"
And here is the trailer for the second film:
"Bloodlust Subspecies III" from 1994, picks up where the second films ends. Michelle is caught in the catacombs with Radu and "Mummy" and they all return back to Castle Vladislas. Michelle asks for Radu to take her under his wing and teach her about the hunt for blood. Meanwhile, Michelle's sister Becky is still trying to figure out what is totally happening and where Michelle is. At the climax of the film, Michelle ends up shooting Radu with silver bullets, knowing it will kill him. Of course it doesn't and Radu quickly attempts to get the bloodstone from the sisters. He ends up being caught outside while the sun is rising and bursts into flames and then falls off the balcony of the castle, landing in a tree. I feel like I've already ruined the end for the other two films, so I am going to leave it as a cliffhanger and tell you to watch the film!
Below is the poster for "Bloodlust Subspecies III"
PS: I love the tagline for this, "Love bleeds"
Here is the official trailer for the third film:
Fast forward to 1997. A spin off film was made called, "Vampire Journals." It featured two vampire characters: Ash and Zachary. Ash was an evil vampire, while Zachary still had empathy for humans. He has traveled to Romania in search of the bloodline of the original vampire who turned him into a vampire, plus wanting retribution for the vampire who killed the woman he loved many, many years ago. Zachary has an enchanted sword that can destroy a vampire. Meanwhile, an American woman named Sophia is there because she is a pianist who plays for the symphony. Ash is a great lover of music and when he first hears Sophia play, he is mesmerized and decides to turn her so he will always be able to enjoy her music for eternity. Sophia is tricked into performing for Ash and his "friends" and it is then that Ash bites her. While he keeps her prisoner, Zachary comes to her aid. Unfortunately, he is too late and Sophia ends up tasting Ash's blood which is the final step in turning into a vampire. And that's all your gonna get outta me, so watch it on Hulu or YouTube! The visuals are beautiful because again, it was filmed in Europe, plus the score to the film features haunting and beautiful piano music.
Below is the poster for "Vampire Journals"
And the trailer for the film:
Below is a quote that Zachary recites~
"I am God’s most desolate creature….a vampire with a mortal’s heart. I destroyed the one who spawned me and I have sworn to destroy his entire bloodline….the ones who stole me from the warmth of the sun. For centuries I have traveled the Earth, hunting the undead, but the most vicious, most powerful vampire master of all time…ASH, remains. Ash is only vulnerable when he gives into his passions - his love of music and women. He has found both in SOFIA, a beautiful concert pianist. My one chance to strike him down approaches, but must I sacrifice the girl to do it? The pain of my quest intensifies with every breath. My hunger for blood is as strong as my hope for salvation. I can never forget that I too, am a vampire."-quote from the film, "Vampire Journals"
Last but not least, "Bloodstorm Subspecies 4" came out in 1998, and featured the characters of Michelle, Radu, and Ash.
Above is the poster for the film
You guessed it, Radu didn't die and is back with a vengeance! Now at the end of the third film, Michelle, her sister and another traveling companion leave in a car. At the beginning of the fourth film, a woman driving along a country road sees a car that has been in an awful accident. The woman, who is a doctor, gets out and finds that two people in the car are deceased. Then she sees a body bag laying on the ground- I should explain that at the end of the third film, they flee but put Michelle in a body bag because she cannot be out in the sunlight. So this woman starts to unzip the bag and out pops Michelle! Putting the near fatal heart attack aside, the woman decides to help Michelle and takes her back to the hospital she works at. A fellow doctor examines Michelle and states she has been bitten by a vampire. Once Michelle wakes up, this doctor claims he can cure her of being a vampire. Ana, the woman who found Michelle, informs her of the car crash, and that her sister did not survive the accident. The other doctor, Dr. Nicolescu, asks Michelle who bit her and she tells him Radu and that he was still after her because she is his "fledgling" or protege, and is still in possession of the bloodstone. Meanwhile, Radu is on the hunt for Michelle and the ancient relic he craves so greatly. He seeks refuge in a huge family crypt and stumbles upon Ash, a man who he had bitten centuries ago. Radu is Ash's "master" and is shocked to see him. Now, there are two things that confused me: first, how could Ash make an appearance in this film because he is destroyed in the spin off, "Vampire Journals", plus the man who plays Dr. Nicolescu is the SAME person who is in "Vampire Journals" and is one of the vampires who lives in Ash's lair. I can't answer why Ash would be in the last film, but maybe it was a plot hole that afterwards, they just decided to leave. The actor who played a vampire named Dimitri in "Vampire Journals" actually played a completely different character in the fourth film. Chalk it up to the fact perhaps the director or producers liked him and wanted him to be in the fourth film as well.
That is all you are getting from me with the last film because again, I don't want to ruin it for those of you who haven't seen it.
The trailer for "Bloodstorm Subspecies 4":
So make some popcorn, turn on Hulu or YouTube, or rent the films if possible and settle back to watch this awesome "b" vampire series. It is amazing that there are so many who are die hard fans of these movies! That's actually the reason why they kept coming out with the sequels. There was talk a few years ago, of making a 5th film. Anders Hove (Radu) and Denice Duff (Michelle Morgan) were on board, wanting to step back into their roles. Right now, this is up in the air, but I sure hope that another one is made in the near future!
An extra tidbit: Like many films, this series also had toys or dolls produced. I actually found a Radu doll/figurine at a hobby store a couple years ago and bought it. I still have it brand new in package. Here are pictures of my Radu doll-