A Life he never asked for, A Curse he didn’t want. When a Civil War soldier is left to die after being attacked by a Vampire, he’s given a choice, turn or die. Now, after decades of being undead, Joe finally has something to live for when he crosses paths with a beautiful woman who is fascinated with his life. But when an old foe returns, will Joe be able to protect the one he loves, or watch as he looses all he’s grown to care about, again.
Along the vein of old style action exploitation films Joe Vampire is a 2012 independent film in which a man struggles with being a bachelor vampire or fighting his fellow vampires so he can fall in love.
Presented by The Sleaze Box, the unofficial name for Icon Film Studios who brought us Let Them Die Sleazy, and produced by Gatorblade Films, the hour seventeen minute long film manages to squeeze out a decent story but stops short at the end. Spoilers follow.
The film starts us in American Civil War reenactment b-roll as the Union forces decimate a Southern regiment and the one survivor finds himself being attacked by a man with a mouth filled with cherry syrup. This is clearly a vampire and the man survives because of this to become our protagonist.
Flash forward to 2012 and we see Joe, portrayed by Mike Christopher, whom looks like James Maynard Keenan from the band Tool if his music career never went anywhere. Joe’s landlord, played by Joel Wynkoop, comes by to wake him up and curse with some poor acting behind him to demand the rent.
Not particularly fabulous himself, Joe promises his rent and then prepares for a night on the town after messily squeezing some blood out of the strangest blood bags you could imagine into a cup and downing it.
The film is shot by the same camera the whole time, a somewhat decent digital home camera by the quality of the footage but the cinematography in any scene where the view isn’t fixed shows the cameraman not knowing how to frame the shot or follow the point of focus properly. This is best displayed in any travel scene featuring Joe.
Here the film slows down as a long bar scene plays out between Joe, some of the bar patrons and a woman named Melissa, played by Erin Cline, who walks around the bar while being gawked at, pampered by the bartender and hit on by Joe. This goes as well as expected as Joe is not the looker most vampires in fiction tend to be, but of course the man cat calling her throughout the scene follows her out to rape her so Joe steps in to help. Melissa, that is.
The two scuffle, Joe gets his glasses knocked off, then he bites the guy while losing more of that cherry syrup from before and leaves him for dead once Melissa catches on that Joe isn’t exactly normal. Without a pair of Aviators, Joe looks like Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit after a bender.
Melissa follows and forces Joe to open up and for the next six minutes we are given the best reaction to a vampire opening up in film, with Melissa mostly calling bullshit and pushing him to defend himself to the point where he almost scares her to the ground then catches her quickly the after from the other side.
This of course instantly proves his point and simultaneously makes Melissa fall for Joe and wish to be a vampire because one scene of a sane reaction to the supernatural is enough for one film. Joe then tells Melissa to give it a day before he turns her.
The next few scenes are Joe at home and Melissa trying to set her affairs in order. This is clear padding as the drama and tension between Melissa and her choice to leave her life behind is less tension and more dull diffusion of intent on Melissa’s part.
The next night Joe and Melissa meet but are distracted by Drake Devasco, played by Mike Duffau, who appears to both be the main antagonist and is clearly having more fun with the film than any of the other actors. After Joe pushes Melissa away Drake leads Joe to a barber to talk about the past in which Drake killed some past lover in Paris of Joe’s as villains are wont to do and Joe demands Drake stay away from him and Melissa before he leaves.
The following scene is Drake talking to his boss, being warned off Joe but Drake believes Joe to be their vampire messiah so the boss gives in and Drake goes to see Melissa to both encourage Joe to work with Drake and to promise Melissa to turn her if Joe refuses.
Shenanigans follow as Melissa finds Joe, tells him about Drake’s advice, the Joe goes to see Drake who demands Joe do one last job for his peace. Joe agrees and the two show up to a trade off for a human girl stolen earlier in the film. Joe shows disdain and as Drake walks off with his business associate one of the vampire goons shanks Joe and leaves him for dead.
Melissa finds Joe, plops him in her bathtub and feeds him her blood until he comes to. Joe says that Drake is responsible and for Melissa to stay away while he takes care of things, which clearly resolves in her going to meet Drake regardless while Joe goes on his killing spree.
Joe goes through some minor kill scenes and when he gets to the villa of the villains he finds Drake and the vampire from the start of the film who is revealed as Kristof, played by Slake Counts, who delivers the final conflict in a passive but hammed up tone, telling Joe to join the fold and that at the behest of Drake Melissa was turned by Drake as a gift to Joe. Then the film ends with Kristof showing a random woman in a suburban neighborhood a wooden box with something awful inside and proceeds to bite her for that cherry syrup everyone seems to be crazy for.
This film, for better or worse, has entertaining moments and could be something worth a watch if the end didn’t just dive off a cliff with no explanation. The film seems to be the start of a series but the ending is so bizarre that nothing gives any hint of that besides the cliffhanger that felt less like an end to the film and more like someone lost the rest of the film in post.
Based on a little known series of books, Joe Vampire might be worth watching if the series of films can keep the old style camp coming with tighter writing in future films. The budget is a sign of the film’s quality, coming in at an estimated 3,500 dollars but even with that budget the blood could have been improved upon and the Vampire teeth went unmentioned only because they looked almost store bought and not worth the commentary.
Possibly worth your time, if you like this kind of action exploitation horror fusion and if other films answer what the point of the strange ending was about.
Thanks for the honest and insightful review. The cast and I did our best under the circumstances only to have the Producer; Sean Donahue drive it off a cliff in post. You failed to mention the soundtrack most likely because it was unmentionable. This is what I had on mind for the soundtrack but Donahue decided he could do better cutting 20 out 20 minutes of footage and sleazing the final result up at every turn especially the ridiculous ending which was never part of the original script.
It is a remix … I added foley, shortened the bar scene so Shade and I can use this version as a demo and composed the musical score. This version is quite different than the featurette Joe Vampire DVD released.
I will be adding more soon so keep up tp date at my Mike Christopher Music page on fb.