Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bayou vampires reign, as Buz Alexander's NOCTURNA hits Blu-ray/DVD/VOD and EEST

Oh, boy, a new vampire movie! We haven't seen too many of this genre lately, perhaps because HBO's True Blood cornered the market on the fang-mouths, and then (as often happens when a series overstays its welcome) bled it dry. So, we should not be too hard on NOCTURNA, the newest entry into eternal life mode, which makes its straight-to-home-video debut next Tuesday. If this film breaks no genuine "new ground," at least it rings a few changes on stuff we've seen plenty of already.

Novice writer/director (he was also one of the executive-producers on the film) Buz Alexander -- shown, left, and photographed within a closed coffin. Try as we might, we could not find a photo of this guy -- has cobbled together in pretty professional fashion many of the standard tropes of the genre, then given them a tidy and interesting plot on which to hang. The result is a movie that holds your interest, provides some excitement (if not a lot of suspense) and offers enough gore and special effects to induce a few scares.

We're in New Orleans (though the film was actually shot in Baton Rouge and St. Francisville), in a broken-down shack on what looks like a bayou. The tenant hears a noise, the source of which then terrorizes and hypnotizes him into a suicide of sorts (above) -- all because of a missing young girl (below).

We soon learn that New Orleans has quite a number of vampires, all living (whoops: that's not quite the right word) under the nose and even the protection of the local police -- especially the higher-ups, who turn a blind eye to the blood-letting.

There is also on display a mix of really-bad vampires and not-so-bad vampires. The former drink the blood of innocent children, while the latter only drain murderers, child molesters and other of society's dregs. Oh, yes -- and they all use guard dogs (above) as protectors,

Into this mix arrives a new young cop (played with a rather charming sense of incredulity by Danny Agha) , untutored in the ways of the not-quite-dead, who is taken under the wing of an older cop (Mike Doyle, above), who himself lost a wife to the bloodsuckers some time back. Ex-pretty-boy Johnathon Schaech (below) plays the lead vampire. The film's best scene takes place in a hospital, and might just recall some of the glories -- the shock and violence -- found in one of, if not the best of the vampire movies, Near Dark.

The movie's reinvention of certain cliches includes using the usual Christian cross (here seen as a tattoo!) as a way to resist a vampire's hypnotic powers, and "voice recognition" as a new skill among the undead. This is the plus side. On the negative are some very poorly-staged action sequences, and the complete omission of any closure regarding our two heroes' "quest" -- to locate the place where those really-bad vampires sleep by day. This seems to have fallen off the filmmaker's agenda.  Or maybe he's saving it for the sequel. (That's Estella Warren, below, as the "romance connection" among the good vampire group.)

Overall, Nocturna is at least good enough to sate the appetite of those who must have a vampire movie in their diet every now and again. It's reasonably entertaining, lasts only 95 minutes, and offers a surprise or two up its well-worn sleeve.

From Alchemy, the distributor that seems to be releasing every second movie these days, Nocturna hits the street this coming Tuesday, October 6, on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and EEST (that's Early Electronic Sell-Through, for those of you -- like me -- untutored in the new technology). If you want to learn just about everything regarding EEST, click here to read an eye-opening article from Variety

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