Subspecies: Definitely Not “Sparkly” Vampires

Subspecies posterThe first time I came across one of the Subspecies franchise movies was while channel surfing one evening in a hotel. I was on vacation and looking for something to keep me occupied in those just before sleep hours when I accidentally ran across Bloodstone: Subspecies II. It was the most horrible wonderful thing I had seen in years! Since then I have watched all of the movies at one time or another (some more often than others), and this year I ran across a used copy of the Subspecies box collection while Christmas shopping. I resisted the impulse to buy then, but when I went back to the store after the holidays, it was still there, so Merry Christmas to me! The Subspecies the Epic Collection includes: Subspecies, Bloodstone: Subspecies II, Bloodlust: Subspecies III, Bloodstorm: Subspecies IV, and Vampire Journals (which is actually an offshoot of the series).

The basic gist of the storyline is a feud between vampire brothers over the legendary bloodstone. This stone drips the blood of the saints and allows a vampire to exist without the need for human blood, and it apparently has extra vitamins and stuff. Stephan, the

5 videos in the Subspecies box setmore human looking vampire brother, has stuck around the family castle after his more monstrous brother, Radu, was banished. Radu turns back up, though, and kills their father (played by Angus Scrimm) in order to get the bloodstone and keep it for himself. Enter a few clueless archaeologists who are just hanging out in Budapest wanting to research old abandoned creepy ruins.  There are three girls in the group, and Stephan tries to save them while Radu would prefer to snack on them. Hilarity, ahem, horror ensues.

Most of the greatness of these movies surrounds Radu. While many horror movies over the years have worked to humanize vampires, the Subspecies franchise has gone the opposite direction. Radu is a monster vampire without any redeeming qualities. He is horrific with a pale, deformed face showing signs of previous stabbings and violence. He has lank and strawlike hair, and is often – like, really often – slobbering blood. His hoarse, high voice is designed to cause anxiety and contribute to the overall disgust of his appearance. I am hard pressed to think of another vampire portrayed in the movies that is at this level of decrepitude. He is, however, a survivor! He has mad skills where speed and stealth are concerned, and he has the help of his mother’s blood (a witch) when it comes to manifesting demonic minions and casting a sentient shadow.

Radu Radu and Michelle

These movies are also interesting since the story line from the first to the fourth simply continues: where one movie ends, the next picks right back up. You could, theoretically, watch them all back-to-back like one long movie. And, while Vampire Journals is not really part of the series, it does contain a sort of backstory for a character that shows up in the third movie. (Vampire Journals is famous with me for being so forgettable. I am sure that I have watched it at least three times, but I still cannot for the life of me remember what it is about.)

There are so many fun things about the Subspecies series! While watching them again this year I managed to come up with a list. Here are a few of my favorite Subspecies things:

  • “Vampire” names in the credits – since these were actually filmed in Budapest, many of the people in the credits have suitable names. For example, cinematography is by Vlad Paunescu and Production Design is by Radu  Corciova.
  • Radu’s awesomely creepy fingers – not only are they several inches longer than normal human fingers, but he can break those puppies off and the broken pieces turn into mini demon minions.
  • Radu’s creepy, high voice – well done Anders Hove.
  • The part where Radu is able to sprout lengthened blood vessels that reach out from his body to his Radu and Mommydecapitated head and pull it back onto his body. A skill that I’m guessing all vampires would enjoy possessing.
  • The part where after stabbing his brother in the heart – which then gushes a fountain of blood – Radu proceeds to drink from the blood, just like you would from a water fountain.
  • The creepy decrepit mommy of Radu – I’m guessing that she is possibly the sister of the Crypt Keeper – who works voodoo and can fly around the room.
  • The Radu shadows. These are great when played up against the architecture of the Budapest streets, showing a huge, looming vampiric shadow that moves on its own.

If you are looking for some fun with horror – where the vampires are more monstrous and less model pretty – I highly recommend this series!

The Shuddering: Ania Ahlborn Writes Like a Horror Movie

The cover of The ShudderingOne of my favorite new horror writers is Ania Ahlborn. One of her latest books is The Shuddering, in which a skiing trip goes badly awry for five friends. This book has all of the best horror elements – a cabin in the middle of nowhere, young people with relationship complications, and a forest full of monsters. Ryan Adler and his twin sister Jane take a last trip to the cabin that has been put up for sale following the break up of their parents marriage. The inclusion of Jane’s ex complicates matters, especially since he brings his new girlfriend. This situation works as a distractor from the fact that there is something weird living in the trees. Dark, humanoid, vicious monsters that are smart enough to figure out how to get into houses and seem to be interested in killing and eating all the humans around. Soon, Ryan and his friends are trapped in the cabin, surrounded by these horrifying creatures.

Ahlborn does a great job of pacing in this book – it reads very much like a horror movie, which makes this a hard book to put down. Her characters have a bit more depth than what we see on the big screen, which makes the backstory engaging. And, her monsters are different and very scary. I tend to want to describe them as demon-like, but in reality there is more a feeling of a dark fey element. They are like something ageless and amoral, just woken from a long sleep, and very, very hungry. Best of all, she leaves just enough questions unanswered to haunt you long after the book is done.

I first came across Ahlborn’s work when I found her book Seed at the library. This bookThe cover of Seed has a similar dark, haunting, and almost mythical creature at it’s center, but this monster is particularly targeting Jack Winter. Jack was haunted – and hunted – by this creature as a boy, and after fleeing his home town years ago and thinking that he escaped it, his memories faded and he managed to convince himself that the creature wasn’t real. Now, he is returning to his hometown and something begins to menace his family. I think what impressed me most about this book was the sense of foreign evil – something never heard of before that was so focused and intent on one person, seemingly just picking them at random and then relentlessly pursuing them. The southern setting of this story enhances the atmosphere, and Ahlborn does a great job of pulling in the feeling of a small town. I enjoyed this book enough to make me keep a lookout for more of Ahlborn’s work, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

There are two more books by Ahlborn that are currently available: The Neighbors and The Bird Eater (her latest). I enjoyed The Neighbors, but it was definitely more of a psychological thriller. I am currently reading The Bird Eater, and am enjoying it. It contains the small, southern town elements that I felt worked well in Seed, and has an interesting take on a family focused haunting. Ahlborn definitely delivers in her work and I continue to look forward to what she will do next!