Directed by Todor Chapkanov [Other horror films: Copperhead (2008), Ghost Town (2009), Monsterwolf (2010), Asylum (2014)]
For a Syfy Daybreakers clone, True Bloodthirst (better known as Vampyre Nation) is actually okay. I can’t tell you how surprised I am exactly to be saying that, but it’s true. While there are big problems, such as horrible special effects and moderately forgettable characters, the story itself was unique enough to give the film a bit more heart than I’d have first expected.
From the get-go, the plot is interesting. In a world where the existence of vampires has been found out by the general human population, vampires live in segmented sections of the cities, treated generally as second-class citizens, and due to a synthetic blood, there’s theoretically no need for hostilities between them and the humans.
Of course, that alone might make for an interesting drama, but naturally they threw something into the mix, being tainted synthetic blood that causes the vampires to regress to a much more primal, unsophisticated killing machine, which goes after both humans and vampires. A detective, with the help of both a group of vampire hunters and vampires themselves, tries to figure out what’s going on in order to save human and vampire alike.
Generally, I don’t think I’d like most movies with the plot description above, but this made it work. Admittedly, from a political perspective, I did find it interesting to see how the confirmed existence of vampires would theoretically play out among the human populations on Earth, and the creation of a synthetic blood seems logical in order to keep both sides feeling relatively safe. Of course, one can easily see the vampires as substitutes for either racial or religious minorities, bringing an actual element of contemporary politics into the mix, which I personally found welcomed.
I think the reason that I found myself engaged with the movie’s story, other than that it was pretty intriguing, was that it seemed somewhat well thought out. Elements could have been better fleshed out, of course, but overall, I got the sense of semi-realism. It’d be a legitimate concern of humans that more and more people would chose to transform into vampires (given a much longer life-span), and of course what with not having almost any power, vampires, just by being in the spotlight, are at high risk of danger themselves, especially since humans in powerful positions are more likely to back up vampire hunters than attempt to protect the weaker class (vampires), which all brings a lot of pretty solid points to the forefront.
I didn’t love Neil Jackson as the main character, but I eventually got used to him. More enjoyable was Ben Lambert, playing a vampire, and Heida Reed, who was a bit weak at times, but her character was both fun and had an interesting story. Most everyone else was a bit run-of-the-mill, such as Andrew Lee Potts (playing Harker, one of the vampire hunters, he was a bit over-the-top), Roark Critchlow, and Jonathon Hargreaves (which is a shame, as this is his sole role on IMDb). Bordering pointless, we have Claudia Bassols, who had a generic role with a pretty unnecessary character, so she didn’t really have much of a chance.
Like I said, the special effects were pretty awful. The primal state of a vampire seemed to be a blob with wings, not too dissimilar from a rather strong-looking gargoyle. The blood didn’t do it for me, and aspects of the vampire’s abilities, such as occasional bursts of super-speed, just looked ridiculous. I don’t fault the movie too much for this, given it’s budget limitations, but even so, from a technical standpoint, it was rather amateur.
I’m not overly familiar with director Todor Chapkanov’s other output; I have seen both Copperhead (2008) and Ghost Town (2009). Copperhead was actually a rather enjoyable film, from what I recall, while Ghost Town was more in the forgettable vein (until I rewatch both of these, though, my final judgment will have to wait). He’s behind other horror films of which I’ve seen, but based on what I have, Chapkanov at least seems a competent director with the budget he has. Since most of his work is on Syfy originals, though, it may be worth his while to branch out a bit at some point.
Vampyre Nation (which is the title I saw the film under) definitely had problems, but since I went into it with very low expectations, the fact that it felt as good as it did really skewed with my perceptions. It’s not a great movie, nor is it a good movie, but I could easily see myself watching it sometime in the future, so while it’s below average, Vampyre Nation isn’t disastrously bad, and may perhaps be worth a shot.