A half-way decent vampire flick, The Insatiable, comes to DVD from ThinkFilm. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Charlotte Ayanna, and Michael Biehn, The Insatiable frequently achieves a quirky, funny sensibility that proves more consistent when dealing with its Office Space-like sequences, rather than with the more conventional (and prominent) vampire elements of the plot. Combining aspects of The Hunger, Fright Night (and even William Wyler's The Collector for good measure), The Insatiable looks and sounds great, but overstays its welcome with a draggy, increasingly soggy second half.
Harry Balbo (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a dorky, repressed office worker for American Flange, a metalworks company. Berated and belittled at his job by cretinous associate Javier (Jon Huertas), and without a girlfriend in sight, Harry's life is spent either on-line or at convenience store, run by friendly punker Ronnie (Brad Rowe). One evening, when he's buying a hotdog at Ronnie's for a homeless man who hit him up for money, Harry returns to the street to see the homeless man being ravaged by a luscious female vampire, who, when spotted by Harry, immediately rips off the man's head and jumps three stories into an abandoned building. No one believes his story; not Detective Loper (Boyd Kestner) and certainly no Javier (nor, most likely, sympathetic co-worker Chet (Josh Hopkins).
But Harry knows what he saw, and returning to the scene of the crime, he touches the pavement where the homeless man died, and has a vision of the vampiress killing Ronnie. Going to Ronnie's apartment, he spies her indeed attacking Ronnie, but she spots him, and scratches his face before he manages to get away. Terrified that what he saw truly is real, he goes online for help, and is told by a vampire website manager that if his story is true, he can be tracked now by the vampire (because she has his blood scent) all over the world. Coincidentally (or "fatefully"), the paraplegic vampire hunter who runs the website, also lives in Harry's building.
Strickland (Michael Biehn), a Vietnam Vet who had a run-in with a vampire over in 'Nam, gives Harry the info he needs to track down the vampiress to kill her - the only chance Harry has to stay alive. But when Harry does track Tatiana (Charlotte Ayanna) down, he's taken with her beauty, and moved by her pleas for him not to kill her. So he devises a plan to bait Tatiana in order to trap her in a steel cage he's built in his basement. You see, Harry's in love with her. Or lust. And he wants to help change her ways....
I really thought there was something special about The Insatiable during its first half, primarily because it was so charmingly funny and off-kilter in its approach to a fairly standard vampire plot. Flanery, great in a part that doesn't demand a lot of sympathy, was perfect as the office nebbish who you half feel sorry for, and half hate because he's such a willing victim. Directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman have their depiction of Harry's disjointed, meaningless urban lifestyle down pat, and they manage to throw in some very funny comical asides during the proceedings (I particularly liked the hardware store clerk, played by Marcus Sexton, who genially supplies Harry with all his serial killer equipment). Harry's office scenes play so realistically - and hysterically - that to be honest, I was a little bummed when the story kept going back to the more predictable vampire elements.
And once Harry captures the alluring Tatiana, well, things slow down real fast, with repetitive scenes of Tatiana negotiating with Harry for her freedom, and with lots of emotional "truths" about vampires and humans and who is and who isn't a "monster" thrown out, that spoil the good feelings the movie already had generated. Frankly, I don't need a Tennessee Williams version of The Hunger. Poor Michael Biehn is left out in the cold; his character (ridiculously set-up, anyway) promised more than he's given once he's shunted aside during the extended courtship/imprisonment of Tatiana. A last-minute jolt of high-energy comedy supplied by uber-creep Javier (Huertas is hysterical here in a memorable performance as an oily Casanova) can't save The Insatiable's dreary, predictable ending - nor, for that matter, can the sexy, lovely Ayanna (who distressingly stays fully clothed during the entire film). What might have been a smart cross between a take on modern urban lifestyles and the vampire genre, turns into an all too predictable - and facile - discussion of possession, love, lust, and fate in The Insatiable.
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 widescreen image for The Insatiable is quite impressive. The cinematography by Mike Washlesky is a knock-out, and it's perfectly captured here in this compression-free, brightly colored, sharply detailed transfer.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround audio mix has heft to it during some of the action scenes, but honestly, there aren't that many to give it much of a workout.
There's a trailer for The Insatiable included, as well as a trailer gallery for other ThinkFilm releases.
A funny, quirky first half gives way to a protracted, draggy second half as The Insatiable switches from urban office worker spoof to familiar kidnapper-as-collector/vampire-as-insatiable-lover hybrid. There's a lot to like in The Insatiable, particularly some funny throwaway comedy bits and a jacked-up supporting turn by Jon Huertas, but by its predictable denouement, you'll wish The Insatiable had stayed on course. A rental is best before buying.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.