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RUNNING TIME 83 minutes
• Relocating the Family
• Scribed in Blood
• Humans to Monsters
• Awakening the Project
• The Ringlestone Inn
A family of vampire criminals dodge shoddy CGI in this sequel to 2006’s The Hamiltons.
Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens, The Butcher Brothers
When an encounter in the Mojave Desert causes one of their own to be mortally wounded, a vampire family travels to England to find some relatives who could save their brother’s life.
Low-budget filmmaking has advanced leaps and bounds in the past six years. Back in 2006 when The Hamiltons came out, The Butcher Brothers had to shoot on crummy HD video, with ugly lighting and a budget that would make Ed Wood sweat. In a mere six years, HD cameras have advanced a great deal, and so have the ambitions of low-budget filmmakers like The Butcher Brothers. Because of these advances, The Thompsons looks like a whole new animal. It’s a much sexier, more ambitious film.
The film’s sense of scale is vast compared to The Hamiltons, which took place mostly in one house. Our family of vampires is on the move again, and it feels liberating, thanks to a larger budget. The production shot on location in England, but there’s also a robbery sequence in the Mojave desert. The Butcher Brothers have delivered a sequel that is shockingly different from the original, yet still feels strongly connected to its roots.
But with this expanded budget and fancy technology comes a really bad thing: the use of CGI as a crutch. No, The Thompsons doesn’t feature giant blue aliens or Gollum, but it uses CGI to fill in the shortcomings of production. The desire to shoot quickly was too strong, and CG was improperly used to lazily throw in things that easily could’ve been accomplished on set. Blood splatters, sharp teeth, red eyes, a security camera, the smoke coming from a broken-down car… all these elements are digitally pasted into the film to make up for the shortcomings of lazy filmmaking.
I completely understand the desire to skip splashing practical blood all over your sets. If you need another take, you’re fucked. It takes hours to reset, and suddenly you’ve lost a day of your shooting schedule. Of course it’s easier to skip the blood on set, and just throw some red pixels on the screen during postproduction. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t look good. So you hired an actor who won’t pop a huge set monster teeth in his mouth? Don’t paint awful-looking CGI teeth in his flapping cake-hole.
I know it might sound harsh, but this kinda stuff is holding The Thompsons back from being a better film. It’s right on the cusp of being decent. Horror directors should know better than to shoot lazily, because horror fans know the difference.
Despite this severe hindrance, The Thompsons does improve upon its predecessor in several ways. When compared to the dreary, confined Hamiltons, it’s a much more fun, gory ride. It’s part road movie, part British gangster vampire drama.
The performances from the returning cast are all better, especially from Cory Knauf. Nobody’s delivering award-winning stuff, but most of the acting is perfectly passable. The sore thumb of the cast, however, is English actor Daniel O’Meara. He plays the Big Bad of the film. Not only is the character poorly written, but his performance becomes increasingly wooden as the story progresses.
I know that The Thompsons will find its crowd, but my heart tells me that with a little more script work, some recasting, and more practical effects, it could have developed a true cult following. Near Dark this ain’t. Hell, it’s not even 30 Days of Night. Is it even better than The Hamiltons? Perhaps not. But it’s certainly bigger.
This flick was shot on RED cameras, so the Blu-Ray image is super clean and fairly sharp. The DVD that comes packaged with the set looks like crap, though, so stick with the Blu-Ray. The lossless DTS-HD MA surround audio is pretty nice. There’s not a ton of action in the rear channels, but it’s enough to make things interesting. All the music sounds good, and the dialogue is crisp.
The disc isn’t short on extras, which is a welcome surprise. There’s a series of documentaries and featurettes, most of which are fairly informative. There’s a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews of the cast and crew. These are the kind of features usually reserved for better films. I’d advise renting this one unless you’re a die-hard fan.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars