Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Francis dela Torre's "Blood Ransom" - Lingering Melancholy

While Crystal (Anne Curtis) grieves for her parent's death, she finds solace in the dark corners of West Covina, and embraces the lure of the wandering souls who inhabit this underworld, including charismatic Roman (Caleb Hunt) who offers the gift of immortality - as a vampire! The whole process takes 7 days to complete, and within these days, she has to accept by directly feeding and killing her victims. But Crystal is a reluctant predator. Meanwhile, mysterious deaths are happening around the strip joint where Crystal works. Authorities, headed by Fil-Am cop Daniel (Darion Basco), have started their investigations.

When a group of thugs kidnap Crystal, her occasional driver Jeremiah Rose (Alexander Dreymon) comes to the rescue. Trouble is, she doesn't want to return to Roman's fold. Bill (Jamie Harris), Roman's fierce hitman, has been sent to get Crystal and exact punishment on Jeremiah. Crystal is getting weaker for refusing to "feed", but she's constantly battling her thirst for blood. And her new protector is falling fast for the beautiful monster.

Crystal's kidnapping catches the attention of Daniel whose aunt Paz (Suzette Ranillo) raised Jeremiah as a child. To make matters worse, Jeremiah's involvement takes the psychopathic Bill to Tita Paz's doorstep. Will Jeremiah rescue her adoptive mother in time? More importantly, how can they stop Crystal from completing her transformation?

Director Francis dela Torre tweaks the nature of the vampire. In his cinematic macrocosm, vampires don't perish under the sun (they just prefer the night); they're not afraid of crucifixes; and they can't be easily killed by stakes on their hearts - but by special blades on their throats. And if they drink holy water admixed with the blood of the vampire who turned them into one, this shall stop any transformation within seven days.

Despite a promising premise, the story moves with glacial pace; plodding, whispery deliveries and dawdling action. The cinematic palette is filled with clusters of idle moments. To say the least, it is sleep-inducing and requires a certain amount of patience to keep your lids from drooping.

This is a curiosity considering the possibilities of the subject matter. Blood sucking creatures usually parlay dynamism in any narrative - not this one. The atmosphere is one of lingering melancholy; one that would drive suicidal people to eventually end their misery. Gothic stories need not be lethargic in presentation, do they?

The film has unmistakable Pinoy flavor: Tita Paz would play Pilita Corrales' "Dahil Sa Yo" while cooking her delectable longganisa. Her home is a proverbial religious temple. Road signs read "Manila Way". Thugs and laboratory technicians wear their spread out ala nasi. Unfortunately, these don't help move the story. Not even when Bill starts shooting at Jeremiah and Father Mena (Jonjon Briones).

Anne Curtis makes a compelling damsel in distress, although her character feels too passive to be unforgettable. More importantly, she doesn't embarrass herself in her first foreign movie. Unfortunately, some scenes are too guileful to be believed, like when she had to lick the blood splattered on the road. Afterwards, you'd see her walk away with chin all drenched in blood. Was she too dazed to wipe herself up? She reaches a motel looking like she's feasted on roadkill. Wasn't she trying to be discreet? So much for trying not to get noticed. Alexander Dreymon ("American Horror Story", "Christopher and His Kind") has the presence of Channing Tatum. But with a temperament midway between drama and horror - not quite nailing either genre, and a narrative progression that ultimately fails to soar, "Blood Ransom" becomes an inferior vehicle for highlighting their acting chops.

Some lines are either smart or pretentious: "Killing is a funny thing. Most people stay dead," Bill tells Jeremiah. Or when Crystal berates Caleb, "What have you done? It's immoral!" That, coming from a sect who preys on humans as a means of survival. If I have to emphasize the obvious, watching the movie poses one big challenge: How to stay awake!

Caleb Hunt is Roman, Crystal's master.

Sinister Jamie Harris

Alexander Dreymon and Anne Curtis

Anne Curtis

Alexander Dreymon

Alexander Dreymon

Caleb Hunt

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