Love of the Dead: A 'Subspecies' Retrospective

In a remote part of Romania, an ancient relic has been passed down for centuries that grants eternal
life. The Bloodstone is the birthright to a family of vampires, the most notorious of whom seeks to keep this treasure for himself, no matter what the cost. Subspecies is one of Full Moon Entertainment's most successful series, both in fan reception and in the overall quality of the films. While the 90s were predominantly filled with Teen Slashers and water-down thrillers that were aimed at mass-consumption, director Ted Nicolaou brought Gothic Horror back to the small screen in a big way. Take a journey back into the misty courtyards of modern Romania in Love of the Dead: A 'Subspecies' Retrospective!

Subspecies (1991)

The vile vampire prince Radu usurps his father's throne in order to claim his birthright, the Bloodstone, an ancient relic that contains the blood of the saints. Radu's half-brother Stefan is the only one who can stop him, but when three American students become trapped in their struggle, Stefan will be forced to choose between saving the woman he loves and avenging his father! SUBSPECIES returns the vampire film to its classic Gothic traditions, creating an epic Horror fantasy that is draped in Harlequin Romance. Ted Nicolaou draws heavily from F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU in both style and form, using simple light and shadow to create his most frightful effects. The misty Romanian locales and ancient castle ruins create a mystical aura that surrounds the film. Anders Hove plays Radu perfectly over the top, a Max Schreck for the Modern Age. With long talons, a menacing scowl, and jet black eyes staring out from his pale complexion, Radu is a indeed a terrifying villain. Save for a few struggles with the pace and some of the weaker side performances, SUBSPECIES proves to be one of Full Moon's greatest achievements. The series would spawn three sequels that continue to expand on the relationship between Radu and his fledgling Michelle.

Rating: 7/10.

Subspecies 2 (1993)

Full Moon's Gothic vampire saga continues with BLOODSTONE: SUBSPECIES 2! Michele awakens to find herself a slave to the vampire blood that is now coursing through her veins. She quickly grabs the Bloodstone before escaping from Castle Vladislas and trying to find her way home. Meanwhile, the dark prince Radu has been restored to life by his evil minions, and he sets out to reclaim his birthright from his fleeing fledgling. SUBSPECIES 2 is an excellent follow-up that often succeeds over the original. Director Ted Nicolaou includes more of the light and shadow play that add an eerie sense of dread to the misty streets of Bucarest. The results are even more effective than before, but still use the simplest means necessary to accomplish the each of the frightening scenes. Anders Hove returns with another venomous performance as Radu, but he is unexpectedly upstaged by newcomer Denise Duff standing in for Laura Tate as Michele. Duff is a classic beauty, with an overwhelming sadness and strength that have been brought on by her new powers. It is her performance that counterbalances Radu's evil and carries their epic struggle through the second and third films. With a stronger story, superior special effects, and better overall acting, SUBSPECIES 2 is easily the highlight of the series.

Rating: 7/10.

Subspecies 3 (1994)

Fledgeling vampire Michele has given in to her bloodlust to join Radu in an unholy alliance, but Michele's sister Becky will not allow her to cross over without a fight! BLOODLUST continues the SUBSPECIES vampire saga at its own leisurely pace, retracing many of the same plot points from the previous films but with far less success. It isn't without its moments, however. Michele's first attempt to lure her prey using her new-found powers is highly atmospheric and brilliantly shot using only the most basic editing techniques as effectively as possible. The contrast between Denise Duff's pale beauty and Anders Hove's sinister, rat-like appearance set against their dark surroundings also makes for a number of striking images. Their sexual tension continues to grow as they push and pull away from one another in a game of cat and mouse. Although it takes a step down from the second film, fans of the series are still sure to enjoy this third entry.

Rating: 6/10.

Subspecies 4 (1998)

After a fatal car accident kills her sister and prevents her escape from Romania, the struggling vampire Michele is taken in by a deranged doctor and his assistant, who claim that they can cure her. Her master, the evil Radu, is brought back to life once again by the Bloodstone, returning to his former coven to track down the woman who scorned him. Although it was made just a few years after the earlier entries, SUBSPECIES 4 feels like an entirely different film. The ugly opening gives an immediate sense of cheapness to the production, which is continues with the inferior make-up effects and Z-movie plot. SUBSPECIES has always been built on the growing sexual tension between Radu and Michele, yet here they share very little screen time. Only in the final moments are the two brought back together at last in one of the series' most powerful moments. Anders Hove and Denise Duff are subpar compared to before, but Dan Astileanu's obsessive and over-the-top professor drags the picture down. Regardless of its flaws, SUBSPECIES fans are sure to sink their teeth into this final entry, although it is easily the weakest in the series.

Rating: 5/10.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite series. I grew up watching these. I remember renting the VHS's every time they came out. A pivotal part of my movie loving childhood.