1977. A family is murdered in cold blood. The case goes unsolved for decades and remains a mystery. Enter the present day, detective Lee Southward is sent on assignment to infiltrate an illegal underground fighting tournament and bring in the organizers. Lee battles his way to the top of the tournaments in attempts to get closer to the organizers. As Lee draws closer and begins to piece clues together he is brought back to the case closed decades ago. However there is a problem: The organizers are of the undead and crave human blood! Lee must fight his way through all the sex, drugs, and violence of the underground while trying to piece together evidence with the help of an undercover officer and find a way to stop the undead!
Fist of the Vampire is about about a DEA agent who goes undercover to infiltrate an underground fighting ring. Instead of sticking to the plan of posing as a high priced gambler looking to bet money on some illegal fights, he signs up to be a fighter. He either figures it’s the best way to infiltrate the operation, or he likes being punched in the face a lot. Either way, he soon makes a name for himself taking down the ring’s best fighters, getting closer to the inner circle that runs the events. However, he soon comes to believe that the folks in charge are vampires that are responsible for some murders that took place 30 years before. I should point out that no vampires were fisted in this movie, nor did they fist anyone else. However, there was a lot of punching and kicking.
Fist of the Vampire is a no budget film written and directed by Len Kabasinski, a man who’s been making his own movies independently for over ten years now. It’s a micro-budget film, so there’s a lot of slack that you have to cut on some movies like this. I’ve seen Kabasinski interviewed, and he comes across as being a good sport and a pretty decent dude who understands that he’s not making the best films out there. He’s realistic about what’s he’s putting out there, and like anyone else he’s working at getting better. The fact that he’s a likeable guy makes it hard to tear into his flick, but I’m going to have to. As is common with most micro budget films, the direction isn’t exactly high quality. Kabasinski would use questionable visual effects and camera angles that served only to muddy the action at times. For instance, Kabasinski seemed to use CGI to blur the movements of characters, and effect that made things look worse. Little things like that served only to make you wonder what Kabasinski was thinking. He would also use camera angles or block a scene that didn’t always best serve the action taking place. Editing seemed a bit abrupt at times and almost jarring. This is not to say that Kabasinski is completely incompetent as a director, but he does need work.
The movie also struggles with its story, mainly because it barely has one. When people aren’t getting the crap kicked out of them or getting slaughtered in a gunfight, there isn’t much going on. It’s just filled with cliches where things are barely explained and characters makes connections without any logic involved in how or why they were able to “connect the dots”. None of said characters are particularly developed, nor do any of them show any growth throughout the movies. The bad guys are bad because they just are. The good guys are good only because we need heroes. We’re never given any insight into anyone’s motivations so we can better understand why the do what they do.We’re really not given much reason to really care what happens to them, either. Don’t go looking to understand which versions of the vampire myth are being adhered to since the movie tends to pick and choose as it goes along without clarifying anything for the audience. Why does one of the vampires actually struggles in a fist fight with a normal human? Aren’t they supposed to be stronger and faster than us? You’ll never know.
As expected, this movie is not one you’re going to see a lot of decent acting in. Almost every single member of the cast, including Kabasinski himself, are absolutely terrible. Calling most of the performances wooden would be an insult to trees. I will say that Brian Heffron, who pro wrestling fans might know better as the Blue Meanie, at least showed a bit of emotional range and came across as being more natural on camera. Meaning he actually moved and talked like a normal human being. With the bar set so low here, that’s better than nothing.
Special effects are another low point for the film. While there were some decent gore effects, the movie relied on the cheapest of CGI. Not a single bit of it looked realistic or smooth, and it was blatantly obvious when green screen was being used. Granted, Kabasinski had practically nothing for a budget and is doing the best he can with what he has. He probably aspires to having the same kind of resources that directors like b-movie stalwarts like Rolfe Kanefsky or Jim Wynorski get to use (which ain’t much). However, I’ve seen my fair share of movies with similar resources as this one actually do better. I can’t help but think if Kabasinski relied on practical effects more things would have turned out better.
The main draw for the film would be the action. While there were one or two scenes where the combatants moved with the urgency and fluidity of doped up whales, the rest were fairly well done. Len Kabasinski is actually a pretty decent fight choreographer. He himself is a martial artist, and he’s able to use that experience to craft some enjoyable fight.. It’s a shame, then, that the camerawork doesn’t always do the action any favors.
While I can get pretty harsh in my reviews sometimes, the truth of the matter is that I actually respect anyone that has the grit to go out there to make a movie and get it distributed. However, as much as I may admire what they’re doing, it doesn’t mean I can turn the blind eye to all the flaws in their work. The Fist of the Vampire has a few entertaining action sequences, but they sadly weren’t enough to overcome Kabasinski’s failings. The crappy CGI, poor writing, shoddy camera work, and Kabasinki’s own inadequacies as a director hurts the finished product too much. It’s another one of those movies where it might be better to have some friends with you to help you poke fun at it.