I think we can all agree that Netflix is just a tiny little bit the best thing ever, yes? You make a list of movies, they send you stuff, it's swell. My queue is an unwieldy beast; I've had titles on there for well over a year that I've yet to see. I'll do an event week or some such that'll require stacking up the top of the list and thus older movies linger at the bottom, wondering when they'll get a chance to spend some time with me. Every once in a while, a movie shows up in my mailbox that makes me think that perhaps someone has hacked into my account; I'll open the envelope, read the title, and think "Hmm. Funny. I don't recall...why the hell did I add this to my queue? Why in God's name did I suddenly take an interest in the works of Nora Ephron? Who's done this to meeeeeee?" I scratch my head and ponder a bit, and maybe I'll remember. "Oh yeah, that was the time I was hopped up on Vicodin and peanut brittle and watching an Andie Macdowell movie seemed like a good idea. *shudder*" Sometimes, no matter how much pondering takes place, I honestly have no clue as to why I added a film to my queue- all I know is, I have the DVD now and them's the breaks. Such is the case with Rise: Blood Hunter, the 2007 Lucy Liu OMG she's a vampire AND a vampire hunter vehicle. Why did I want to see this? I'm not especially into vampires. Am I especially into Lucy Liu? I don't remember. Who can say? It's all just another mystery lost to the sands of time. And like those sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
At any rate, I watched the movie and surprisingly enough it didn't make me want to kill myself.
Lucy Liu is Sadie Blake, a plucky reporter for the LA Weekly who gets in a bit over her head when she investigates a cult of young vampire-wannabes. She soon finds more than a mere group of goth "Dungeons & Dragons with nipple rings" kids- she finds...real live vampires! Before you can say "OMG this is kinda just like that Hellraiser movie with Kari Wuhrer where she plays a plucky reporter investigating a cult of weirdos who gets totally over her head and there's Pinhead and stuff...I loved that movie! No wait, that movie kinda sucked.", Sadie is rolling around with Bishop (James D'Arcy) and Eve (Carla Gugino) and there's biting, boinking, and blood...ing.
Sadie wakes up in a drawer at the morgue, totally dead but not at all dead, for she...is...A VAMPIRE! Unfortunately, she hates being a vampire so she decides to seek revenge on Bishop and Eve. Accompanied by a drunk-n-maverick plays-by-his-own-rules grizzled detective (Michael Chiklis), Sadie sets out with her trusty crossbow for a little good ol' fashioned revengening.
Yes, I said "her trusty crossbow".
That's a cheeky little plot summary that's a hell of a lot more straightforward than the film itself. The narrative zips back and forth throughout time as Sadie's story is pieced together, and I found myself spending a bit of time going "Wait, are there two Sadies? Why does her hair keep changing? What happened to that guy? Lawd a'mighty, where did she get that crossbow and how did she get so damn tough?" before it all made sense. By the time Rise was over, I'd experienced a wild and magical rainbow tapestry of feelings and emotions: by the half-hour mark, I was disappointed; by the hour mark, I was into it; by 1:15, I was really into it; at 90 minutes I was coming down; by the time it was over- clocking in at about two frickin' hours- I felt as if I'd just completed a tour of duty, finally finishing a movie I'd started watching when I was 12.
Writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez attempts a different approach to The Vampire with this film and it's a hit-and-miss operation. There are no fangs to be found- rather, the bloodsuckers slash throats and...uh, suck blood. There's no silly hissing, super jumping, or weird contact lenses...in fact, I don't think anyone even uses the word "vampire" during Rise. On the one hand, it's like, well, if I don't end up wearing a sweet cape and a bitchin' medallion and I can't turn into a bat, then what's the point of being a vampire? On the other hand, it was completely and totally refreshing to find storytelling unencumbered by mythos.
Unfortunately, the result is a bit, well, dull. Rise is ultimately short on action and long on...long on...umm...I don't remember! A large amount of time is spent meandering from one plot point to the next, and it ends up feeling a bit bloated. Not that it had to be all action, certainly; the ten minutes or so spent with Sadie when she first "turned" comprised, in my opinion, the best ten minutes of the film. She was confused, remorseful, and desperate as she engaged in her first kill to quell her growing hunger and contacted her family one last time. Had this sort of character development continued throughout the movie (Sadie evolves into a tough killing machine without much onscreen evolution), Gutierrez really would've knocked it out of the park. Liu does the best she can with what's given, but she's not always given much.
There's lots of talk about sex during Rise, and I think the whole "turning" deal is supposed to be super duper wicked erotic, but...it's not. Not really. It's fairly brief and quite bloody, and most of the nudity in the film is of the disturbing "OMG that meat locker is full of human meat!" variety. Vampires and eroticism tend to go hand in hand, but Rise seems to be more about telling than about doing.
Overall, I think I enjoyed Rise: Blood Hunter. The DVD running time is wayyyy too long, and as I said I was a bit exhausted by the time it was over...but it really wasn't bad. Then again, take my hesitant recommendation with a grain of salt. You see, I'm one of those people who dig a movie if there's some little nugget or idea in there that strikes me; the movie as a whole might stink, but then I find myself saying "Yeah, but that one part was cool!" which leads to "Rise was awesome" which leads to "Wait, I love Lucy Liu and I need to go add all her movies to my Netflix queue!"
*GASP* I think I'm on to something here...