NIGHT JUNKIESMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
At some point, writer, director, and producer of NIGHT JUNKIES, Lawrence Pearce may have very well said, "Hi there, I'd like to make a vampire movie. However, I only have about £408,000 (about $800,000 in U.S. dollars). So I can't afford decent looking fangs or having the face change like they did from BLACULA on up. I can't afford anyone turning into a bat or burning in the sunlight or any cool make-up or cgi effects really, outside of just fake blood. But I wrote a really good script and I know I could pull this one off if you'll just believe in me."
Well let me tell you about NIGHT JUNKIES, and believe me when I say that this is coming from someone who has seen far more than his or anyone else's share of micro-budget horror movies - particularly with vampires or zombies.
NIGHT JUNKIES rocked my freakin' world.
Lemme tell you what didn't do it for me first.
Giles Anderson (A DYING BREED) played one of two main characters in this movie. Giles is Vincent Manwell, but you may recognize him as Narrator aka Exposition Boy. He has to tell you all of the details that a film this short and this cheap can't possibly take the time to show.
Giles doesn't do it very well. In fact he does it badly. Yet when he isn't going on with his inner monologue, when he's interacting with another actor, he comes across well. That said, his inner monologue makes sense more than most because Vincent is a junkie. His inner narcissist is narrating his life to himself.
If there is one thing chemical addicts and junkies have in common its their need to tell their own story in their heads every waking individual second of their lives (or to you if you can't get away from them quick enough). If they are sitting down taking a dump they are telling themselves how they feel and what they are going through as they do it.
In the multudinous chatter of their minds there is almost never a moment of zen - that is - until their needs are met.
Then, for just a few seconds or few hours (depending on the drug of choice), there is the silence of the high where time and all it contains slows down or speeds up (again, depending on the drug of choice) beyond the point of comprehension or care or even control and one can just fall or float in the wonderous fugue abyss of euphoria.
The moment, the VERY moment, the euphoria bleeds away, the chatter begins. Nattering little chitinous termites spill out of the dark, spreading across your awakening conciousness. The chattering chews away at your sanity; bores tunnels through your mind and memories until their presence overwhelms everything you think. All you can do to keep them at bay is to yammer away to yourself, inside your head, staving off their hideous invasion until you can get another fix.
This is Vincent's life, and as NIGHT JUNKIES opens, we see him emptying his bank account into an overlong phone conversation with someone who gets paid by the minute to listen to his blather until his credit drains to zero. Phone call over, Vincent drives through the city, narrating his life for us, explaining more facets and details than we need to know. Vincent is a junkie all right, but his fix is human blood. And not just a little. Vincent needs to drain all the life from his victim.
Now understand that the average human body (five feet six inches) contains about 5.6 liters of blood, so that's just a smidgen under 1.5 gallons. Me? I'd be pissing before I finished drinking! Understand that in this movie, vampires are really just people - with a fixation. They aren't particularly stronger or anything else - they just have this THING for blood!
Meanwhile, there is a psycho stalking the streets of London. 13 professional women ('Ookers') have been killed by this maniac. It's entirely possible that the psycho is none other than Vincent, who kills every night to satisfy his addiciton. All Max (Jonathan Coyne: LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, DARK CORNERS) the pimp knows is that the maniac is killing off his business.
Max is no two-bit street pimp. Max runs a successful strip club with a "little extra" in the back rooms with the private dancers. Some of the dead girls worked for him and he's having to turn to the strippers in his club to replace the hookers in the back room. And that's where Ruby Stone (Katia Winter: STORM) comes in.
Ruby is his best, most hard working dancer and Max wants her to become a whore for his business. For Ruby, dancing naked for men is one thing, being a whore is entirely another. Ruby isn't alone in her reluctance.
One of Max's thugs, a nameless character (television actor René Zagger) who works for Max and haunts the bar, also haunts Ruby.
He has this thing about referring to people as objects, not actual people. This sociopathic hubris hovers over Ruby as he finds himself attracted to her, jealous of the attention of other men around her, and doesn't want Ruby to be a whore. "It's not in you," he says. But for Ruby its very clear that the thug isn't seeking Ruby's love, he just wants sex from her. He desperately needs sex from someone who will do it with him because they want to - not because he paid them. But desperation, mercurial temperament, possessive jealousy, and neediness is more of a stench than any level headed person can take and Ruby is no exception.
Meanwhile Vincent is out on the town, looking for the next fix, and comes across a pair of cannibals eating their human victim, like dogs in the street. Oh, what is this world coming to when cannibals are forced to eat like dogs in the street?
One of the earmarks of being human is to bring one's food UP to ones face, not bring one's face DOWN to one's food! If this is supposed to be the movie's way of showing us a near dystopian future, then I hope I never live to see the day when a cannibal has to eat like an animal in the street!
Ruby leaves the club, soon finds herself being pursued by a twitchy crep ("Creps! I pity the devil the day you guys show up in bunches!"), and loses him in a cafe by claiming, oh I don't know, THAT guy, is my boyfriend.
Of course the guy she just happened to choose is none other than Vincent. The creep leaves, Vincent and Ruby strike up a conversation, and sparks fly.
Before you know it, Ruby is... ahem... turned.
Of course, Ruby doesn't realize it at first. The junkie sickness for blood takes the form of a fever and results in Ruby passing out at a moment when she is trying to turn her first trick. This is her second strike and Max is furious, leaving her in the care of his psycho thug. Ruby kicks his ass, takes to the street, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know we have a love story.
Everyone who was given the chance to turn in a great performance does so with excellence to spare, though Rene Zagger steals the show whenever he's on the screen. There are many dangerous people in NIGHT JUNKIES, but none more than Rene's character of a nameless thug/psycho who convincingly switch flips from pathetic to dangerous, fragile to deadly. The dialog is harsh - even gutteral - but humorous; revealing more than characters, but through their words and interactions, revealing the depths of a life many of us hope we will never have to know.
Too bad this movie gets an -
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
There are a few coy referenes to Tarantino movies as well as the film, NEAR DARK, but writer/director Pearce didn't need them. Pearce has created one hell of a strong picture. The fact that I've read or watched every damn permutation of a vampire story there is - including ones like this where the vampire is a blood-drugged-up junkie (there were at least ten of these tales in the anthology, 100 VICIOUS LITTLE VAMPIRE STORIES), only makes Pearce and crew's achieivement more amazing, as he actually kept me entertained, interested, and thinking about it days later. The kick-ass soundtrack helped too!
Four Shriek Girls.
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