The Celluloid Vampire: Eternity (2010) – Movie Reviews by Val

2010_EternityA few years ago, South Africa released a vampire movie – probably the very first South African vampire movie offering, and being a curious Vampyre who enjoys movies and series about vampires, I went to see it. I even took a close friend (also a Vampyre) with me. We were horribly disappointed. Since I hadn’t done a movie review for SAVN before, I thought I’d start off by giving this one another chance.

I was rather harsh in my original blog post about this movie (originally posted on January 5, 2011) so I decided to try watching it again. I say “try” because this movie reminds me of the book reviewer who said “Once I put this book down, I simply could not pick it up again.” I started watching it, but the memories of the previous – and only other time I’d ever watched it, came flooding back and the more it went on, the worse I felt. It got to the point where I just shut it off and considered hitting delete and watching something more adult, like the Teletubbies. After some gut-wrenching introspection, I decided to revisit and rewrite a previous article about it instead, with a vengeance, and with having had more time to stew over it, here it is: Eternity.

This is a South African vampire movie – the first. And if you were expecting something of the same caliber as District 9, forget it. It was abysmal.

I wonder how I missed the release of this title, seeing as vampires are a firm favorite of mine (duh) but I think this might be because this movie wasn’t released – it was unleashed. Or leaked accidentally. I’m still not sure which. In retrospect however, perhaps it was a social experiment working on the premise of “let’s see how many suckers people will pay to watch this” based on a mediocre trailer and a flashy poster featuring supermodel Christina Storm.

eternity

“Some things are worse than dying” …indeed.

There were scant trailer appearances in just the first few days of the release of this movie, before it was hurriedly hushed up as though it never existed. Even the website advertising has vanished since and the only place it is advertised is on the website belonging to Train Bridge Films. I still wonder how much money they really lost on this unmitigated train smash box-office failure, if the producers still have shirts to wear, and if the actors ever fully recovered from the embarrassment.

On the night we went to see it, my companion and I suffered through nearly 45 minutes of commercials (much longer than the usual 20-30 min) even before the movie started, followed by nearly two hours in which this awful presentation lived up to it’s title. The movie made me long for the commercials. It seemed an Eternity of brutal torture in which I alternated between staring at the ceiling, rolling my eyes at every gaffe or blatant screw-up, or half-witted attempt at delivering a line that often didn’t make any sense. I frequently looked at my companion for a sign – any sign – that he had given up and wanted to leave. I looked longingly at the exit. Surely even watching paint dry was more interesting?

Memories flooded back of the cinema staff we chatted to while standing in the cue waiting to go in, that “it’s not worth it, man – it’s really bad”… and oddly enough, when we came out, the life-size card-board cutout display for Eternity had mysteriously vanished – and I got the impression of some marketing person making emergency phone calls to cinema’s around the country ordering them to take the posters and promotional material down and dispose of it all discreetly. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t taken by a fan, as many such displays eventually are – but more than likely by someone looking for something to try his new paintball gun on.

What’s the story about? I don’t know really. (Two years later, I still don’t.) The characters do things that make no sense, and people react in ways no normal person (human or vampire) would. A lot of time is spent watching vampires you don’t see too clearly “hissing” at each other in the dark, or making ridiculously florid speeches in Souf Efrikin accents ‘what’ make Wikus van der Merwe in “District 9” sound suave and sophisticated like Sean Connery by comparison. The delivery of dialogue sounds posed and contrived, as though the actors were expecting someone on the sound desk to clear it all up in the editing suite later – which clearly never happened. There was some disturbingly second-rate acting from some very experienced local actors who should be (and probably still are) ashamed to be associated with this title. Almost nothing flows in this movie – aside from the grey matter dripping out the ears of the audience with frustration.
Eternity
“You eyeballing me, punk?”

The story starts off with the male lead running around and doing some interesting acrobatics in the dark with another well-muscled vampire, across the rooftops of Johannesburg. Fun. Okay, so that’s new. I think. Innovative camera use scores a few points there. That’s probably the only nice thing I can say about the movie in toto. The sound of foot-pads, running, landing and other sound effects that should be echoing from all directions come across as disappointingly flat and betray this production as being done on the cheap. No bass, no multi-layer sound treatment, no bells, no whistles. No kiss-kiss, no bang-bang. Anyway, so then it cuts to some lab where a scientist is working on a new drug and clearly experimenting on a captive who turns out to be a vampire. He escapes, is pursued by a couple of corny-sounding military types in full riot gear complete with gas masks. You can’t hear a word they’re saying, and can’t help but notice that they can’t shoot worth a damn either. Somewhere there is probably an elephant laughing it’s trunk off at their marksmanship. The escapee reaches the roof and spontaneously combusts in the sunlight as we now expect fictional vampires to do, like the good little stereotype they are.

Cue the bad guys, meeting in secret in near-darkness – always good when the audience can see almost nothing on the screen (a similar concept used by dodgy restaurants that offer dim lighting so you can’t tell your steak from the potatoes, or one waiter from another). In serious movies, professional movies, they deliver scenes scripted in actual darkness with slightly increased lighting so the viewer can actually see what the hell is going on, and they still manage to convey the impression that it’s meant to be dark. This didn’t happen in this case, and I probably wasn’t the only one in the theater squinting at an almost totally black screen half the time.

So these fellas start discussing a fancy drug that can allow vampires to be immune to sunlight and walk the day (sound familiar?). Not much effort is made to explain to the audience who they are, and why they are meeting – and you don’t see them again anyway, because the same dudes in military gear from earlier pop up and start shooting everybody on the set for no particular reason. Why? How do they connect with each other? Why do they want them dead? How did they get there? But it’s all cool, because after the way they dropped references to “clans”, “bloodlines” and other things found in LARPs and other (better) movies and TV series based on them, I wanted to shoot them myself. The less said about how they delivered their lines the better, I think – but needless to say, as vampires, they suck – and not in a good way. In some movies, in good movies, the bad guys are people you love to hate, you watch their every move, you even admire them. This movie just left me wanting to round them all up – supposed good guys included – and feed them garlic and holy water just to see what will happen.

There are more references to V:tM role-playing terminology throughout the movie, awful imitation Blade special effects, lousy continuity, shocking scripting, disjointed scenes, awful lines, long painful brooding lulls in the action, confusing action scenes where you only see the “good guys” racing through an abandoned building while dodging bullets, firing automatic weapons at the bad guys – who you don’t see at all till the very end of the scene. A lot of the time I spent wondering why anything that was happening was happening. That, and also what was happening.

The main character is a quite good-looking vampire who could be described as a match for Stefan Salvatore or Edward Cullen (pick one) – and probably that was the idea they were going for. He and his “tag-buddy” meet this chick in a bar, and he buys her and her friend drinks (which they don’t accept) and flaunts a metal hip-flask containing “something stronger” which he hints contains human blood. Ok, fine. He’s a vamp, so what’s new? But then he gets distracted by an old girlfriend, ditches her – and they go to the dance floor – and he leaves the hip flask containing the blood lying on the bar. We never see him recover it. Clever.

Aside from that, in retrospect, we never see him actually feed, and we don’t know where he gets his blood from. And he has a mentor who lives in a ramshackle loft in what seems to be a deserted factory, and who spends a painfully long depressing scene staring out the huge windows philosophizing about the joys of being an immortal vampire cursed with – well, eternity. Having survived it, I can empathize.

The lead and this girl drive around a while in his fancy Edward look-alike car, and then he spends some time running around, “playing tag” with his vampire buddy “Jackie”, performing some admittedly good stunts and acrobatics. Relevance? Point? Then he drops this girl at home in his fancy new Aston Martin, walks her to the door and gets all romantic before leaving. She goes inside and is attacked by a bunch of feral-looking street vampires who demand to know where her father (the alleged scientist developing the cure) is, and kill her mother. Right, so then Mr Hero comes in and kills a few of them, helping the damsel in distress to escape in the parent’s BMW. (Aaargh! Nothing annoys me more than helpless female stereotypes! In my experience a lot of “chicks” in Jozi will pull out a razor to cut any attackers, or just break a bar stool over them! Helpless? Really?) Where is his car? Left in front of the house for the cops to find the next morning, of course! (No, they would never bother to trace the owner of a car left at a murder scene!) Surprisingly enough, the cops do run the plates – and yet somehow that little detail is never followed up in the story again! However, the very next night, this dude is happily driving her around in his Aston Martin again, with no follow-up on how he got it back, or reference to the coppers tracing the license plate. U-huh. That part almost had me lying down in the aisle, kicking and screaming! And since when do silver bullets get fired using silver casings? What? Did the writer even have a clue about guns, bullets and forensics?

Add to that, speaking of pathetic lack of attention to detail and lousy continuity, from one scene to the next this main character appears first with goth make-up, and then without, and then with make-up again, and then without – all in the space of a few minutes.

The usual references were made to try and set the vampires apart from the mundane – heightened strength, super-speed (except when it really made any sense for the hero to actually use it) and a heightened sense of smell. That’s right. So when they’re not brooding like Stefan in Vampire Diaries, or arguing about embracing their nature, the characters are talking about the nuances of smelling fear, love, sorrow and so on. I have to say that, as a Vampyre, all the way through, I could smell something alright – and it was none of the above.

The main villain was played by an experienced and respected local actor who I suppose tried his best with the sheer crap handed to him by the scriptwriter, probably on a stable boy’s shovel – but try as he might, he just couldn’t salvage it. This ship sank like a stone all the way to the bottom and stayed there, unlike similar material that usually bobs to the surface or, as the saying goes, floats. There is no point in breaking the rest of the so-called plot down, it just sort of disintegrated on it’s own.

billboard-art

False advertising? Well no, it certainly felt like “eternity”…

Despite the local setting and SA props and characters (with strange foreign-sounding names) there is a complete absence of local culture, not one single word of Afrikaans, not one word of another indigenous language, not even in passing, or heard in the background. Aside from the story being set in Johannesburg and the rubbish accents which at times sound part South African, and at other times like fake American or even British accents, there is nothing whatever to connect the story to a South African setting at all. Not a damned thing!

Probably the worst part about Eternity is the ending. After all that, you would hope for a good and satisfying ending. The bad guy gets killed and the good guy gets the girl and they ride off into the sunset. Nope. At the end of the movie, everybody is dead. Everybody, including the bad guy, his minions, the good guy’s vindictive ex girlfriend, and even his current love interest, the annoying little damsel in distress who comes across as too timid to cross a busy Jozi street in rush-hour traffic to survive anyway. The only one left is Billy, who sits there eating his little vampire heart out. Shampies.

The story line and presentation are so fake and staged with all the cliche’s and “borrowed” plot devices – it feels like a re-run of every cop and vampire TV show you could think of – only all scrambled together so as to not make an iota of sense. I felt like screaming. I wanted to leave, except I would have to wake my now dozing friend to do so. I felt, surrealistically, like I was living through an episode of “Robot Chicken” for real, myself being the unfortunate mechanized fowl in question, strapped into my seat and forced to watch this heinous affront to the vampire genre, with my brain melting out through my ears.

Befok

Pictures really can be worth a thousand words.

I collect vamp flicks, y’know – and I said at the time that I wouldn’t bother to add this crap to my collection – but had I not stumbled across a divx rip on a friend’s hard drive, I would have quite happily given it a skip. I wouldn’t say it is worth the effort for pirates to even bother ripping, counterfeiting and selling this junk on the streets of Johannesburg (they might even be risking their own lives in the process when people come back looking for them wielding weapons of mass destruction, wanting a refund). I’m not often driven to profanity in text – but in plain South African terms, this was kak! That was without exception the BIGGEST load of shit I’ve ever watched and paid money to watch, and I’ve seen some pretty memorable shit in my time. In my collection I have many B-movies in black and white from the 1950’s and 1970’s that make more sense and are way more professionally made than this! I can’t believe this made it to a national movie circuit in the 21st century – it’s like an amateur movie student’s project gone mad – only I’m sure amateurs could do better with a production studio set up on a 486 in their parent’s garage. I think the director, editor, producer and scriptwriters for this crap deserve to be chained down with silver, and staked at sunrise. Come back Twilight – all is forgiven. So what if those vamps don’t have fangs and sparkle?

As we were leaving the theater complex, my friend and I compared notes – and he pointed out, unhappily, that while I was waiting for him to give me a sign he wanted to quit and leave, he was waiting for the same from me! Oh, the unnecessary agony! Bearing in mind that we had watched this movie shortly after the latest Twilight episode of the same year, we were both greatly disappointed. We really wanted a local vamp movie to work. It probably goes without saying, but I will say it again anyway: I really, really hate this movie. My friend and I went home from there, suppressing powerful desires to throw rocks at something.

In the same year this movie came out (2011), there was talk of another in Afrikaans called “Suiers”, which basically means “Suckers” – and which STILL has not made an appearance, despite promises and one or two cheesy previews showing up on YouTube at the time. We can only hope that “Suiers” doesn’t – well, suck. Sadly, Eternity still remains the only South African vampire movie made so far.

Still, on the positive side, it WAS the first ever SA vampire movie – if they ever make another one (they haven’t yet as far as I know) I hope it will be better. I really, really do. I hope they do, otherwise Eternity will be a dreadful legacy for SA’s movie industry, as the first – and worst – South African vampire movie ever made.

My rating: On my scale of 1-10, minus 3 million. Make that 5.

[This movie is listed on the SAVCC movie database, The Celluloid Vampire]

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About Octarine Valur

Octarine Valur - Founder: House Valur, South African Vampyre Community, South African Vampi(y)re Alliance (SAVA), SA Vampyre news (SAVN). View all posts by Octarine Valur

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