On the run with the law on their trail, America’s most anguished vampire family heads to England to find an ancient vampire clan. What they find instead could tear their family, and their throats, apart forever.
I should preface this review by saying that I missed the first movie in this series – THE HAMILTONS (2006) – so I’m not in a position to comment on how well this sequel matches up. However, what I can say is that judged as a standalone movie, THE THOMPSONS is a disappointment. The film opens with central character Francis (Cory Knauf) awaking to find himself buried alive in a wooden box. He explains in a voice over that how he came to be there is something of a long story and that we need to back up in time to understand. So we flash back to him setting out from London headed for the small market town of Ludlow, where he hopes to track down a contact who he believes will be able to offer the fugitive family some help.
Once in Ludlow, Francis heads for – where else – the village pub to see if anyone has heard of the person he’s looking for. Within minutes he has killed the local policeman and is holding all the staff and customers at gunpoint. At this point the picture freezes as Francis explains that maybe we need to go even further back in time to shed some light on all these strange goings on. The film cuts to the Mojave Desert where Francis and his four siblings – David (Samuel Child), the nominal father figure; twins Wendell (Joseph McKelheer) and Darlene (Mackenzie Firgens), who are wild, impulsive and more than slightly twisted; and baby brother Lenny (Ryan Hartwig) – are making their way to nowhere in particular, having recently lost both of their parents. Stopping at a gas station they inadvertently get mixed up in an armed robbery, a situation which allows the film to reveal that (as if we didn’t know) these people are vampires.
They’re not ordinary, Christopher Lee-type vampires, oh no. On the plus side, they can operate in sunlight and don’t have a problem with crucifixes but they aren’t immortal or physically invulnerable. They do have fangs though and superhuman strength (which seems to come and go, dictated by the demands of the story) and, of course, a requirement for a regular supply of human blood. Stocking up on blood at the, ahem, filling station they soon find that their handiwork has made the headlines and that if they want to avoid capture they need to lie low, preferably overseas. Now you might think that these sounds incredibly convoluted, perhaps even unnecessarily so and you’d be right because I suspect all the jumps forward and backward in time and all the explanatory voice overs are there to distract you from the fact that there isn’t much of a plot here. Essentially this film is about two vampire families battling it out to see who becomes top dog. And that’s it. There a couple of sub-plots about whether two lovers from opposing families will end up together and whether Lenny will recover from a wound sustained in the gas station robbery but that’s your lot. Other canny diversionary tactics include lashings of kinky sex, incest, bondage, torture, rape and of course buckets of the red stuff.
The problem is that none of this is sufficient to draw your attention away from the gaping hole right at the heart of the movie where the script and acting should be. The dialogue never rises above the banal and the film often comes to a juddering halt (literally so on a couple of freeze frame occasions) in order for one or more of the characters to explain what’s going on. To give them their due, the cast are given precious little to work with so most of them compensate by overacting wildly or, in one or two cases, barely acting at all.
To say a few things in the film’s favour it does look good – the photography is crisp and sharp – and there’s always something going on throughout the 77 minutes running time but somehow it’s not quite enough. Ultimately none of the characters is particularly likeable so by the time the final showdown comes around it’s difficult to care who triumphs. Personally I was hoping James Woods would show up with a crossbow and drag them all to hell. Horror movies have long been populated by obnoxious teenagers and that’s fine so long as their primary function is to die messily but as soon as we’re invited to root for them the film-makers, in this case the Butcher Brothers (not their real names), are required to make them three dimensional and I’m sorry to say that just hasn’t happened here.
The Thompsons (2012) is now available on blu-ray per Xlrator Media
The Thompsons (2012)