The box for Bloodsucking Cinema suggests it covers “The origin and evolution of the vampire movie.” Given that quote, I expected a discussion that would start with the first vampire movies, and follow through with a chronological look that would focus on how horror’s most popular cinematic creature had changed over the years. What I got instead was a poorly thought out, schizophrenic failure that brushes over the beginnings and holds neither to chronology nor evolution.
The first problem is the running time. At a scant 56 minutes and 39 seconds, the film couldn’t possibly hope to cover nearly 80 years and hundreds of films based on vampires. Given that short time, I would’ve expected it to focus on a select number of truly important vampire films, giving prominence to Tod Browning’s Dracula and F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Instead, director Barry Gray chose to include a select number of minor entries, many of which are appallingly bad. Ask yourself this: if you were making a list of vampire movies to show your non-horror fan friend, would you choose Van Helsing or Bloodrayne? I can hear the “Hell no!” from here. Yet Gray spends such large chunks of time discussing those films that I have to question if he’s even a horror fan. His inclusion of Stuart Townsend would indicate to me that he’s not.
Even when he leans on more trusted names than Uwe Bolle, I’m left perplexed. Masters of Horror directors John Carpenter and John Landis are supposed to add some weight and authority to the proceedings, but let’s face it: Vampires and Innocent Blood are hardly bloodsucker classics (and on a side note, Carpenter apparently was too lazy to shave for his segment). When Gray goes outside the filmmaking community to the critics, he engages Leonard Maltin, which is good. I don’t always agree with Maltin’s views on movies (neither does Joe Dante, for those Gremlins 2 fans), but he always backs up his points intelligently. Unfortunately, in what appears an attempt at street cred, Gray also calls upon Harry Knowles, who is not nearly as well spoken or informed about film as is Maltin. If Gray had wanted to make his film everything that quote on the box suggested, he would’ve sought out film historian and horror critic David Skal, whose inclusion on many of the Univeral classic horror movie extras vastly enhanced the movies. Even adding Frank Langella, who did a classy job in the 1978 Universal update of Dracula, would’ve bolstered Bloodsucking Cinema’s effectiveness. I don’t know if either Skal or Langella were available, but I certainly wouldn’t have slotted in Uwe Boll in their place.
As for evolution, the film covers flicks in non-sequential order. So even with a two minute segment on the historical Vlad Dracula, and brief commentary on Dracula and Nosferatu, there’s no timeline that establishes how vampire movies have evolved. The vampires from the chosen films are all over the map, so there’s not even the slightest suggestion of how the creatures have developed. Even with his poor selection of films, had Gray put them in chronological order he could’ve had some semblance of evolution. As it stands, there’s not so much as a whiff of it.
Bloodsucking Cinema should’ve served two purposes: to take non-vampire fans and show them what they’re missing; and to take hardcore vampire fans and give them a piece that respects and appreciates them. This weak entry does neither, leaving me to wonder exactly what purpose it does serve. Whether you enjoy your horror with some fangs or not, you can skip this muddled mess and know that you’re not missing anything.