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Review: Vampire Virus (2020)

Shot as After Dark, Vampire Virus is Charlie Steeds’ (The Barge People, Death Ranch) latest film. Steeds, as you’re probably aware, is one of several prolific producers of British horror films. The difference between him and the likes of Andrew Jones (Werewolves of the Third Reich, The Haunting Of Margam Castle) is simple, Charlie Steeds tends to make good movies.

It’s Friday after work and Jennifer (Natalie Martins, Poltergeist Activity, Solar Impact), is out with the girls. She’s happy being single and living with her roommate Jack (Peter Lofsgard, The Mummy). And yes, he is just a roommate, he’s seeing Freddie (Derek Nelson, The Jonestown Haunting, Pandamonium), a cop who’s still in the closet.

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She goes out and does indeed hook up with someone, Izabella (Jéssica Alonso, An English Haunting, A Werewolf in England). While she has a good time, she wakes up with a nasty wound on her abdomen and an inability to see her reflection. As if this isn’t bad enough, Freddie is part of a task force tracking down a serial killer who leaves their victims drained of blood.

Opening with a prologue set “Somewhere in Romania” before moving to “Somewhere in America”, Vampire Virus channels the 80s with a vengeance. There are neon-lit, lingerie-clad sex scenes set to an incredible synth score. There’s also a subtext about gays and the spread of HIV via clubs and sex. Indeed, as you may have gathered from the plot summary, LGBTQ themes run rather strongly through the film. Thankfully, they’re better handled here than they tended to be in 80s genre films.

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Steeds co-wrote Vampire Virus with Sam Ashurst (A Little More Flesh, It Came from Below) from a story by Jerome Reygner-Kalfon and Sebastien Semon. Showing what a small world indie filmmaking is, the latter two have worked with Oklahoma based Ryan Bellgardt (The Jurassic Games, Army of Frankensteins) on a couple of projects. Between the four of them, they’ve come up with a film that mixes elements of The Hunger, Vamp, Fright Night and even a touch of Rabid (the late 70s but close enough) along with a bit of police/conspiracy thriller. Both threads are nicely developed before being brought together for the last act.

Steeds was his own cinematographer on Vampire Virus, and he’s delivered the kind of look that would have had him in demand by every band making videos in the 80s. Considering that stylish was not a word I would have used in any of his previous films, the results here are a pleasant surprise. The score matches the films’ look. It’s available on Spotify if you’re curious.

Natalie Martins does a nice job of portraying Jennifer as shy and mousey at the beginning of the film, scared and confused as she begins to transform and finally bold and confident as she realizes her powers. The rest of the cast do a good job, but their characters don’t give them nearly as much to work with. Regular viewers of Steeds’ films will notice several familiar faces among the supporting cast.

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Vampire Virus marks the first time Steeds has been a director for hire, rather than filming one of his own projects. It’s nice to see his reputation is spreading and attracting offers. On the other hand, that meant he had to set the film in the US. He does a fairly good job of hiding the fact it wasn’t shot there, but some of the cast’s accents let him down. Given how irrelevant it is to the plot, they should have just set it in London and just not mentioned where they were. Fortunately, his upcoming Death Ranch was actually shot in the US so that won’t be an issue.

Fast-paced, frequently beautiful to look at, and lots of fun, Vampire Virus made its debut at this year’s Sohome Pride Film Festival. It’s available to stream on Amazon Prime in the UK via Ace Entertainment. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more info.

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