The early 90s weren't exactly the golden years for horror movies. The popular slashers were fizzling out, and the studios didn't seem too interested in the horror audience. Full Moon filled a gap, delivering imaginative fare to the fans during the lull that lasted from end of the 80s until Scream in the late 90s.

That's not to say Full Moon always delivered quality films. Often limited by budget or the skill levels of the filmmakers involved, many of Full Moon's best efforts are sprinkled with a light layer of cinematic cheese. Faring better than most is Ted Nicolaou's Subspecies -- this week's pick for the Horror Squad Movie Club.

In Friday's post, I posed some basic questions about Subspecies (I'd never seen the film before this weekend), and although my synopsis was a little off (Radu loves the Bloodstone; he's not really concerned about Michelle at all), the questions are still worth exploring...

How does Radu stack up against other movie vampires like Dracula, Lestat, or even Edward Cullen?

Surprisingly, Radu feels unique amongst screen vampires. He's got really long Nosferatu-inspired fingers, which Ted Nicolaou loves shooting in silhouette, but other than that, doesn't feel as derivative as I expected him to. He's not particularly sexy or romantic, and is portrayed by Anders Hove almost like a drug addict. Radu is only motivated by the Bloodstone, a mystical vampire artifact, from which he continually slurps, and his jealousy of his more handsome, more benevolent vampire brother Stefan. Radu stays away from pithy one-liners, but there's still something oddly youthful about him, despite his not-so-youthful appearance.

Nicolaou and Hove have created a character strong enough to support his own series, without borrowing too obviously from other sources.

Does the film's low budget hinder it in any significant, noticeable way?

There are some off-putting special effects in Subspecies, such as the demon minions of Radu, which either look unconvincingly goofy or like outtakes from The Gate. The good news is that the demons aren't given much screentime and have little to do with the overall plot. Where Subspecies falters is due to a bland screenplay, not to any budgetary concerns. For a straight-to-video horror film, the Romanian locales, Radu's effective make-up, and Nicolaou's no-frills direction add a level of professionalism that many Full Moon productions lack. It's a shame then that Subspecies drags along with talky exposition and scenes meant to create suspense or atmosphere that end up feeling like nothing much is happening. It's not a long film, but it feels long.

Concerning the vampire trend, was Full Moon ahead of the curve or stuck in the past?

I'd have to say Subspecies was ahead of the curve. Stefan's romance with Michelle does feel like a Twilight prototype in many ways (including actor Michael Watson's poofy hair and thick eyebrows), and Radu's hideous vampire make-up reminded me quite a bit of the vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even though I found the movie a little too dry, I admire the fact that Nicoloau and company were trying to create a new, serious vampire mythos during the early 90s horror wasteland.

Curious, I jumped right into Bloodstone: Subspecies II. While I found it to further the storyline along in interesting ways, with ickier special effects, it suffers from the same odd stiffness as the first film. As Full Moon films go, you could do a lot worse than the Subspecies series, but punchier scripts could've helped these films out quite a bit.

What do you think?
CATEGORIES Features, Horror