Sometimes the sad state of things is that movies, no matter how deserving or undeserving, fall through the cracks never to see the light of day. I see it all the time. Whether screwed over by studio politics, bad timing or simply by the film not being seen by an audience that understands it, many good or quirky films have met the same fate and end: oblivion. Some of them sit on shelves forever, never to have their cast or director go on to do anything of note in the system. Others, however, find themselves discovered in an era ready to accept them, with a cast that has become much beloved by the audience ready to rediscover such an artifact as it is resurrected from the grave a generation later.
Such is the case of the peculiar little cult horror-western-vampire flick Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, now available on a "Special Edition" DVD from Lionsgate. Shot sometime in the late '80s (and listed as being finished in 1990) this unknown little film never saw release. While playing a few festivals, it apparently got caught up in the last days of Vestron -- a company whose Vestron Video logo is close to the hearts and etched into the brains of every cult horror-loving dork like myself. A lot of film companies went the way of the Dodo in the financial mess of the late '80s and Vestron was no different. Never seeing the light of day, this was one of those long-sought-after gems by cult movie-loving fans. Why?
How about Bruce Campbell starring as the great-great grandson of Van Helsing? And Dracula? Well, he's played by David Carradine. Throw in roles by the great M. Emmet Walsh, the late, great John Ireland, the always-campy and ever-lovable Maxwell Caulfield, Twin Peaks rebel Dana Ashbrook, and the Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman, and you have a recipe for delicious camp.
There's all that even before you know the plot of the movie. Somewhere in the desert, a town of vampires has arisen where the residents are trying to synthesize fake blood and live normal, "human" lives. Unfortunately for them, there are traitors in their midst, dead-set on turning back to their blood-drinking, human-hunting ways. Unfortunately for a scientist and his family, all this begins to go down while he is called in to repair his own blood-making technology. And then a vampire-hunting Bruce Campbell (fresh off of Evil Dead 2) shows up...
Yeah. You get the picture. This is campy, goofy fun that never for a moment tries to be deliberately scary. Directed by direct-to-video veteran Anthony Hickox, this relic was clearly a comical romp acting as a palate cleanser between his film Waxwork and his sequel period, which included Waxwork 2, Hellraiser 3, and Warlock 2. Yeah. You could say the guy was a BIG part of my teenage years. Seriously.
But this film? It isn't what I'd call ... good. It's camp, deliberate camp -- this is a word you can't possibly use enough when talking about this film -- and is marred by a lot of bad acting by child actors and the unknown supporting cast, as well as very stiff writing. Top it off with some very dated attire and sunglasses and the result is giggle inducing, sometimes laugh-out-loud inducing sequences that are both intentionally and unintentionally funny.
But the icing on the DVD cake is three interviews, each between 12 and 15 minutes long, with stars Carradine, Campbell and Walsh. Each actor reminisces about different aspects of the film and what it was like to work with one another. Carradine tells a fascinating story about commuting by plane back and forth for another film, only to find himself trapped in the desert and lost. Campbell is his usual self-effacing self, making jokes about the other actors and the film, while lovingly telling stories he shouldn't about what it was really like to work on the film -- all while being amusing as hell. And Walsh is just fun to watch because the guy is a legend in the character-actor community. He's one of those guys you're wondering why I'm talking about only to recognize him the moment you see his face.
No, this isn't a film you should race out and buy. Unless of course you're the type of person who can see the Vestron Video logo in your head when I mention it or you're a lifelong fan of any of the names I've listed. This movie has a look and feel that are very much of its time. And it is one you haven't seen yet. So if you'd like to go back 10 years, to before the turn of the century, when video was king and drive-ins were still around (barely), then this is the ticket for you.