Let’s face it – how many of you guys have ever heard of Umbrage: The First Vampire? You were probably of the understanding that Dracula or Nosferatu held that title so to realise that he exists, much like this movie, must come as somewhat of a surprise.
This little-known film created by even lesser known newcomer director, Drew Cullingham presents as very enigmatic – a quality I feel does it no favours. Did I bump my head somewhere or did I just watch what I think I watched?
Jacob, an antiques dealer, moves himself and his family out to a remote farmhouse where they encounter fatal trouble in the shape of two feuding vampires – Phelan and Lilith. Having been released from another dimension through an ancient obsidian mirror, the pair wreak havoc on the family and a couple of innocent campers who just so happen to have stumbled into the warpath.
Firstly, I can safely say that vampire films have become disgusting gushing fantasies that only serve to parody a myth that was once scary. When was the last time you were frightened by a vampire film? This enters into the same category; it is not scary in the slightest.
In fact, it seemed as if it was not trying to be. What makes it your archetypal horror text is that it apathetically languishes in the grotesque. It is just a blood-drenched, loin-severed gore-athon. Maybe some like that sort of thing but, personally, it was like staring at a bubbling vat of blood. Moreover, a lack of blood there usually signalled a padding of T&A throughout the narrative, enthusiastically displayed by Natalie Celino who plays Lilith.
This film is undoubtedly torture porn – emphasis on the porn. Almost every scene seems sexualised as long as Lilith is around. Celino is never going to win an Oscar but I felt sorry and revolted by the manner in which she was being objectified. If she wasn’t coming on to family man Jacob she was being ravaged by a caveman (an actual scenario from the film). It is so in your face that her character is actually slain during sexual intercourse with the antihero. Cullingham’s moral compass must be pointed at “shame on you!” for thinking that unabashed titillation made for good horror thrills.
I did have to go on the IMDB website to check that this film was indeed listed as a horror – it was. Still, this is not without having disrupted the linearity and convenience of the story by throwing together a mishmash of incongruent elements from several other genres. The list is endless on this fact but, one thing is for sure, they could possibly classify the end result as a satirical comedy too.
The budding relationship between Phelan and Rachel drops from the clear black sky and manifests as some predatorily lustful Twilight-esque fanfare. The pair spent scenes in which they were conversing stood barely half a foot in distance from an ‘adults only’ rating. They were breathing heavily and writhing within each others’ personal space; no kiss, no embrace – just the vulgar acting of an emo girl with no relation established with Jacob or his wife, and a Brokeback Mountain reject with a baffling American-come-Irish accent.
Then there are expository flashbacks; this is obviously necessary to capture some knowledge of the characters’ origins and motives. Vampires from the gun-toting Wild West could have potentially been an interesting formula in itself. Unfortunately, it is never explored thoroughly and the film merely abducts these characters out of a good premise and places them within a less attractive filmic environment. No matter what Americanism you include now, one cannot help but become distracted by how incompatible it all appears. Here is me blatantly identifying with the setting of rural British countryside whilst listening to a sound track fit for The Quick and the Dead. These are only minor wormholes but, ultimately, these annoyances turn the narrative into swiss cheese.
It is pretty sad that I have had to be so derisory about a home grown production but it is my job to be honest.
Honestly, this was made on a miserly budget and it is clearly evident. Honestly, this film only succeeded in mutilating several successful genres in an attempt to be innovative. You cannot just throw several ideas into a tombola and see what you get out of it. That will only be seen as yet another failed attempt to be exploitatively entertaining.