Continuing after the events of the first film, a woman who has just become a vampire tries to escape the evil vampire, Radu, who seeks her as his love interest. But she has taken the vampire family’s bloodstone, and now Radu must find her to get it back. Her sister comes to Romania to save her soul, but it might be too late.
For my money, 1991’s Subspecies is the best title ever released by Charles Band’s Full Moon Features (then known as Full Moon Entertainment). Puppet Master is their big moneymaker, and they have plenty of other noteworthy efforts, but I’ll take Subspecies any day of the week. On top of that, Radu Vladislas, the franchise’s antagonist, is among the coolest and scariest-looking vampires in cinema. I’d rank him up there with such iconic roles as Max Schreck’s Nosferatu (to whom he bears a resemblance), Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Christopher Lee’s Dracula.
Even better, Subspecies is not a one hit wonder. It spawned three sequels and a spin-off, all of which are worth watching. The first follow-up, 1993’s Bloodstone: Subspecies II, is the best of the sequels. It picks up after the events of the first and ends with a tease to the third installment. With the assistance of his (otherwise unseen) tiny minions, Radu (Anders Hove) literally pulls himself back together before retreating into the darkness.
Michelle Moran (now portrayed by Denice Duff), recently bitten by the wicked vampire, comes to shortly after. She finds the bloodstone – a mythical relic from the original film (although it received a superior redesign between productions) – and escapes to the capital city, Bucharest. In addition to fleeing from Radu, Michelle must adjust to her rapidly-changing lifestyle, which includes a newfound thirst for blood, aversion to sunlight and desire to sleep in a coffin.
Unsure of what to do, Michelle calls on her sister, Rebecca (Melanie Shatner, daughter of William), who comes to her aid in Romania from America. Michelle proves to be difficult to track down, so Rebecca teams up with Mel Thompson (Kevin Spirtas, Friday the 13th Part VII) of the U.S. embassy and an elderly professor, Popescu (Michael Denish), to locate her. Radu, meanwhile, is also on Michelle’s (and, later, Rebecca’s) trail. He’s on the hunt for the invaluable bloodstone under the guidance of his mother (Pamela Gordon), a ghoulish sorceress who looks like the offspring of the Crypt Keeper and a CHUD.
Although produced in the early ’90s (it was filmed back-to-back with Bloodlust: Subspecies III), the low budget effort feels like a product of the ’80s. Coming from a big fan of that time period, that’s a compliment. Bloodlust features some seriously cool practical effects work from Wayne Toth (Halloween remake) and Norman Cabrera (Kill Bill: Vol. 1), both of whom make a cameo as a members of a rock band. It’s also a bit bloodier than its predecessor.
Despite being released straight to video after the original went to theaters, Bloodstone doesn’t feel cheap. Far from it, in fact; the film has excellent production value. This can be attributed to the setting, filmed on location in genuine, extravagant castles. In addition to Hove’s memorable portrayal of Radu, a great deal of the franchise’s success is due to the keen eye of Ted Nicolaou. The director behind all five films, he knows how to craft a haunting scene (the shadow play is nothing short of fantastic) and make the most of a modest budget.
The beautiful, gothic imagery particularly shines in high definition. While Full Moon’s 20th anniversary Blu-ray release of the first Subspecies was sadly lacking new special features, Bloodstone has plenty of extras. In addition to the original VideoZone behind-the-scenes featurette, Nicolaou, Hove and Duff participate in both a commentary track and an interview segment recollecting their time on the films. It’s great to see that they have remained friendly and reflect on their time together fondly. Even better, they’re all interested in making another film. Hopefully the Blu-ray sales of this and Bloodlust (released simultaneously) are good enough to encourage Full Moon to make it a reality.
Bloodstone: Subspecies II is a worthy successor to the cult classic original. It’s actually superior to Subspecies in some ways; acting and effects are the first aspects that come to mind, and even Nicolaou’s script is a bit more compelling. Bloodstone is easily the best of the Subspecies sequels, and Full Moon’s new Blu-ray release is likely the best it will ever look.
Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993)