Monday, June 27, 2011

Bloody Nightmares #37: Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank (2006)

When pondering these Bloody Nightmares films, I often start to wonder about the motivations that led to them coming into existence. It takes a lot of passion, sweat and teamwork to make a film - not to mention generally (hopefully?) a modicum of talent - so when I see so much obvious work go into something so terrible, it makes me truly curious about the thought process behind it. I know well how the development of a movie can change from the initial writing to the actual production (and post-production), and how you're often at the mercy of factors beyond your control. These issues are amplified when dealing with low (or no) budgets and inexperienced actors and crew. In the end you simply want something you can be proud of, something that hopefully can provide status for everyone involved, and maybe, just maybe, make a little money off of the proceedings. Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank seems to have fairly modest goals - blood and boobs with a few laughs thrown in is a time-tested tradition - but somewhere between conception to birth something clearly went off the rails.

I mentioned some of the issues regarding working with low budgets, and here it appears the filmmakers had to deal with a nightmare situation: a lead actor leaving the production before it was finished. I'm only guessing on this as I haven't read anything confirming it, but when a seemingly major character dies half way through the movie in a scene which makes little sense in context - and the director just happens to hide her face throughout - it's not difficult to work out what occurred. I'll give director Kirk Bowman credit for at least trying to piece things together - another character is quickly introduced and given lines almost certainly meant for the original actress - but it makes an already shaky production nearly incoherent. Even worse, it makes it look unprofessional. It would be neglectful to not mention that the "replacement" actress also bares her breasts, which may have been a contributing factor.

For a film with such seemingly simplistic motivations, the actual plot is baffling, which isn't helped by the massive number of characters introduced at the beginning. We start with the lovely Samantha (Heidi Brucker, who acquits herself well and really deserves better), an archaeology student who finds herself joining a team searching for an ancient jewel-box in the mountains of Burbank. Supposedly the jewels are cursed - a theory quickly confirmed when two of the students wander off before almost literally tripping over them. The gal opens up the box which leads her to immediately strip down to her underwear, rubbing the jewels all over herself and growing some (really terribly looking) plastic fangs. She eats her male companion, while the rest of the party ignores their disappearance and head home.

However, Samantha's dickish boyfriend Gary (Danny Kitz) has (somehow) smuggled the jewels back in the hopes of trading them for some heavy petting. Samantha - offended - runs off in a huff, leading Gary to go to a competing archaeology group who are only too happy to accept the artifact, which rapidly leads two of them to turn into the titular bloodsucking babes. They strip down and eat the gardener, which is displayed in some jaw-droppingly awful special FX. Seriously. Check out this screen shot.

But that's not all! During all of this Chelsea (Christina Caporale), the head of the first archaeology group, is accosted by mountain man Zack (Danilo Mancinelli) - who had been spying on the group and knows how quickly the awful curse can spread. Discovering that Gary has the jewels, the two try to track him down but their efforts are quickly thwarted when - wait for it - Chelsea (or someone that looks an awful lot like her) is randomly stabbed to death in a parking lot. All seems lost, until Zack's friend Felicity shows up and somehow fills exactly the role that Chelsea's death left empty. What luck!

Samantha, searching for Gary, wanders in on the competing group chowing down on their gardener and attempts to call Chelsea for help. But Chelsea is really, really dead (are there no police in Burbank?) so she reaches Zack and fake Chelsea instead, who come to her rescue and explain to her that the jewels (and curse) can only be destroyed by throwing them into the ocean. This bit of exposition comes with the three characters just hanging out at the beach, even though they KNOW that Gary has the jewels. Somehow, a few random characters also dig up a few of the jewels out of the sand - this part is particularly confusing -  which leads to a few more rubber body parts being spread around.

After that there's some exposition, and Gary shows up at a bar with the jewel box leading to MORE people getting eaten. Thankfully, Samantha tracks him down and - after Zack and Felicity have a shag session - the whole bunch get together and toss the jewels into the ocean. But wait! Before all that we get a cameo from the director as someone from the "archaeological society", who proves to actually be an actor hired by the competing archaeological group in an attempt to steal the jewel box. Bowman actually does really well in his brief role before being chased off when our intrepid heroes discover his true motivation. Foes vanquished, the box gets tossed into the ocean - making use of the worst hammer throw ever caught on film - and everyone lives happily ever after.

Actually, there's an eye rolling "trick" ending before all is said and done. Let's never speak of it again.

Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank wants to be something that it's not - namely, a legitimately funny and gory thrill-ride with smatterings of cheesecake nudity. Unfortunately the comedy is almost wholly unsuccessful, and the gore is generally pathetic with a few notably awful "special effects" scenes which look to have been assembled in MS Paint. There are lots of indistinguishable women prancing around in their underwear (and gamely nibbling at rubbery limbs), but there's nothing titillating about the amount of needless padding and confusing exposition shoe-horned into many scenes. There are also some obvious continuity issues - once scene has a character come out of a shower only to have dry hair as she rounds a corner - and sound recording issues plague many scenes, making the whole production seem rough and unfinished.

It's not a total waste, however. While the acting is inconsistent, at least most of the cast give a strong effort, with Heidi Brucker (as Samantha) and Danilo Mancinelli (as Zack) doing an excellent job under the circumstances. The music seems to be a mix of original material (by a number of different artists) and library material, but it's introduced well and punctuates a few scenes impressively. It's also shot in a number of attractive locations throughout Burbank, and the choice to film most scenes in the daytime at least helps avoid many of the lighting issues which affect many low-budget productions.

Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank is presented in its original 1.78 : 1 aspect ratio, though the transfer is surprisingly rough considering it's a comparatively recent film. Obviously shot on digital video, there is constant haloing throughout and the usual glitches and skipped frames that have appeared in a number of these productions. It's important to remember that by attempting to fit four films on a single DVD, the Bloody Nightmares collection doesn't present most of them at near optimum image quality. It's watchable, but unimpressive. There are some significant sound issues in a few scenes with background noise and poor recording making dialogue difficult to hear, but if you've watched up to that point it's unlikely to be the thing that tips you over the edge to stop actually watching.

It's part of the Bloody Nightmares collection, so don't go expecting chapter stops or bonus features. Would actually be quite interested to hear some behind-the-scenes dirt on this one. Guess I'll just have to stalk Kirk Bowman on Twitter instead.

An ambitious, though unsuccessful, attempt at horror comedy, Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank wears its intentions on its sleeve, but is neither funny enough - nor scary enough - to be anything but a confusing mish-mash of genres. While rarely boring, production issues are distracting enough to keep most audience members away, and the story is confusing and rarely engaging. While there are flickers of talent from the cast and director, this one is best left dead and buried. 


Matt Dunn said...

That trailer has some serious porno vibe going on.

I'll pass.

Doug Tilley said...

That is a very wise decision.

Danilo Mancinelli said...

That is a very honest review. We appreciate the time you took to write this. This movie had a single release on DVD on 5/2008, and has been released several times in multi-packs like Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares, Bloody Nightmares, and Blood Suckers. It also has appeared on cable through Gravitas VOD. It has had a hell of a run; but yes, we had some flakey actors, yes, Chelsea was a nightmare to work with and just walked halfway, we had some noisy locations, etc..Had I directed this, I would have had the guys fight back when they were being attacked(instead of just sitting there), or made some emphasis that men get paralyzed when the Babes were under the spell, etc.. yes, some FX, and the fangs were killing me softly(LOL), but, Babes has really done well in sales on Netflix, and all these releases, etc.. Anyway, thanks again for the review!!

~Danilo Mancinelli