[Cross-posted at Comicsbulletin.com as part of its San Diego Comic Con coverage]
While at Comic Con my friend Alex and I got to talking about the review process. Alex asked how I sometimes arrive at some of my reviews and I in turn explained that that I typically came to my final score one of two ways: first, through a qualitative review, breaking down the craft and professional elements of the movie. At other, rarer times, I would end up with a mostly emotive review of the movie at hand - these would be often irrational (and usually positive) reviews of movies that might otherwise not meet the rubric for a good movie. So, for instance, I might find Kubrick's The Killing a masterwork in suspenseful crime fiction while at the same time feel that the singularly off-putting Aqua Teen... movie remains, for me and not much of anyone else, a brilliant comedy, warts and all.
The current installment of the resurrection of the Lost Boys franchise represents a collision between the qualitative and the emotive. The conditions under which the movie was made and the obvious passion of those involved create one set of feelings about a production whose actual craftsmanship (mediocre to bad), acting (bad), and screenplay (awful) pull my opinion in another direction. Simply put: my heart wants to like this movie but I can't in fairness recommend it to anyone save the direst victims of nostalgia.
From its IMDB synopsis, it sounds like The Thirst is a direct-ish continuation of the 2008 DTV movie, The Tribe. But whereas The Tribe reads like a straight take on the material, The Thirst plays everything with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Edgar and Allen Frog (Feldman and Newlander - I'm only 20 years late to getting the Edgar/Allen joke) are semi-renowned vampire hunters at the start of the film before events in the prologue cause the partnership to dissolve. Flash forward a few months and Edgar is miserable, selling his classic comics for cash, and generally lonely - so it's easy to see why he takes a job from famed vampire novelist Gwen Lieber (Phoenix) to find her missing brother. From the way Phoenix plays Lieber it'll come as no surprise that she's keeping something from Edgar within a plot that involves vampire drugs, cave-based raves, and nascent vampire armies.
Shot in South Africa by Daria Piana, the script nonetheless returns the action to Santa Carla, where vampires tend to congregate and make lives for the Frogs miserable (or livable depending on how you want to look at it). The locations in the movie move around a little, from Washington D.C. to a medieval forest, and the S.A. makes an adequate stand-in. Piana is able to stretch the obviously low budget for some good to very good effects involving flying vampires and most importantly, exploding vampires. To give credit where credit is due, the movie often looks professional.
There's also an effort to play catch up with the last few years of vampire fiction with callbacks (intentional or otherwise) to True Blood, Blade, and even some very pointed digs at the Twilight series. This has the potential drawback of reminding viewers of more successful or more polished properties. Still, it's good that the story has a certain element of recent film literacy.
Sadly it's everywhere else that the movie falls apart, most pointedly in the acting department where the performances could be described at best as emphatic. As the person front and center in nearly every scene, Feldman is the worst offender, playing Edgar with a low growl and a Rorschach-like "urm." His character is supposed to get across a certain broken down misery but (and I feel weird saying this) Feldman's excellent health, well-being, and charisma make this element of the plot a hard sell.
And this is the most difficult part of reviewing The Thirst: the enthusiasm on display by Feldman, Newlander, and just about every member of the cast is palpable. They throw themselves into the action of each scene but each scene feels like a first or second take from a first or second pass of the script.
Feldman and Newlander see this as a step towards a Frog and Frog franchise with the tough-talking brothers fighting other supernatural threats. Based on the quality of The Thirst I can't see this happening. Still, I want Feldman and Newlander to be successful. I see from the credits that the script was written as a teleplay - I think the small screen would be a great place for the duo's weekly adventures. Because right now as a major-minor production it's not working.
[Note: There doesn't appear to be any kind of web presence for the movie and the only copy of the cover art available is for the forthcoming DVD/Blu Ray release.]
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of Charles Webb's work at his blog, Monster In Your Veins.