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Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sundown - The Vampire In Retreat takes place in the desert town of Purgatory, a small town populated completely by vampires who have adapted somewhat to life in the sun. By wearing sunglasses, heavy clothes and oodles of sunscreen these vampires are able to maintain a semi-normal existence. The vampire leader, Count Margulak (David Carradine) has dictated that the vampires no longer live off of human blood, instead they use synthetics.
That said, you wouldn't want to be in the town after dark, as that's things can get a little unruly. Unfortunately no one bothered to explain any of this to David Harrison (Jim Metzler), or his wife Sarah (Morgan Brittany) as they've decided to take the kids and go explore this odd little town while David is to be there on business to help fix the factory that, unbeknownst to him, makes the synthetic blood that the vampires live off of. Around the same time that the Harrisons arrive in town, a sect of local vampires lead by Shane (Maxwell Caulfield) decide that they don't want to live off of synthetic blood anymore, they want to go back to the old ways of living off of humans. This puts the Harrisons in a bit of a predicament where they'll need the help of Robert Van Helsing (Bruce Campbell) to get out of town alive
While Sundown attempts to mix horror and comedy, unfortunately most of the comedic elements fall a little flat. That said, the film is still an interesting and worthwhile watch even if it isn't quite the cult classic that some would make it out to be. The premise is an interesting one and the western movie influences give the picture some unique qualities that help to set it apart from the countless other vampire films that have been made over the years.
Despite the fact that Campbell and Carradine are featured prominently on the box cover, both actors really only have supporting roles here. That said, they're both memorable parts and the two actors do enough to make these roles their own that they do stand out. They're not the stars of the picture as the cover would have you believe but their respective screen presences definitely help the picture. The supporting cast are a lot of fun here, particularly John Ireland and M. Emmett Walsh, though sadly Metzler and Brittany are more or less completely disposable in their lead roles.
Despite the mixed bag of performances and the mediocre attempts at comedy, however, Sundown manages to entertain. There are some really great moments in the film and some interesting ideas thrown around. The conflict that arises within the vampire community is amusing and intriguing while Van Helsings efforts to carry on the tradition of his famous relative give Campbell ample opportunity to do what he does best and ham it up in a genuinely amusing manner. The cinematography is very nice and the widescreen camera work does a fine job of capturing the Utah locations that were used for the film. The action scenes that pop up in the later half of the movie are done well even if they're ridiculously over the top and the picture is quite entertaining despite a slow beginning.The DVD
Sundown looks pretty good in this anamorphic 2.35.1 progressive scan transfer. Colors look nice and natural and while there's an obvious sheet of fine grain over top of the image, there isn't much in the way of print damage to complain about. Some minor shimmering is noticeable but there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or obvious edge enhancement. Skin tones look lifelike and natural while the black levels stay reasonably strong. Shadow detail isn't the greatest but there aren't really that many 'dark' scenes in the film so this doesn't hurt things very much at all. For the most part, Lionsgate have done a good job in the video department.Sound:
You've got your choice of enjoying the film by way of the newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, both in English with optional subtitles provided in English and Spanish and closed captioning provided for the feature only in English. The quality of the audio mix is on par with the video, it's quite good. Dialogue stays clean and clear and while the surrounds aren't used quite as frequently as maybe they could have been, there is some nice rear channel action that is noticeable in some of the action scenes.Extras:
First up is an audio commentary track with director Anthony Hickox who is joined by director of photography Levie Isaack and moderator Michael Felsher. Hickox and Isaack note that they haven't seen the movie in about twenty years and then launch into discussing how all of the effects in the film were done optically, rather than digitally, before talking about how the project came to be. They talk about some of the stop motion and blue screen effects, they talk about casting the picture and the various performances that arose from those casting decisions, and what it was like shooting out in the desert. This is a pretty active track with some good stories and interesting information contained in it - well worth listening to despite a couple of quiet spots here and there.
From there, check out three featurettes starting with A Vampire Reformed (13:43) which is a decent interview with David Carradine. Bruce Campbell is up next in Memories Of Moab (12:53). Last but not least, M. Emmet Walsh gets a turn in the spotlight with A True Character (10:59). All three featurettes, courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures, are presented in anamorphic widescreen and allow the three actors to share their memories of what it was like working on the film and what they think of the picture in hindsight (Carradine wants a sequel). They discuss their respective characters and share some interesting memories of what it was like on set and all three are worth watching.
Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, trailers for some other unrelated Lionsgate properties, some animated menus and chapter selection options.Final Thoughts:
Fans have been waiting for this one for quite some time and thankfully Lionsgate have not disappointed with this much anticipated release. The audio and video quality are quite good and the supplements are interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. The film itself is a little long in spots but otherwise it remains an enjoyable horror-comedy-western hybrid and Sundown - The Vampire In Retreat comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.