Monday, 22 June 2009

Against the Dark (2007)

I wonder how many cows had to die to make
Seagal that leather jacket?

Seagal is... Against the Dark. And by "dark" they mean vampires. Yes, that's right: Seagal vs vampires. Kind of sells itself doesn't it? However, it's not the first time Seagal has attempted to dip his feet into the realm of the supernatural. In Attack Force and Submerged Seagal was supposed to be fighting aliens and biological mutants respectively, but whether the result of cold feet or studio meddling they pussed out and switched it over to terrorists at the last minute. This time however, the film promises Seagal versus vampires and it delivers. Sort of.

You see, these vampires are treated more like biological mutants than immortal bloodsuckers. It's more of a 28 Days Later kind of thing where it's a highly contagious virus and while the infected do drink blood they also tear people up and eat their flesh like zombies. Sometimes they are mindless zombies, other times they are smart enough to set traps or string people up and drain their blood (into an "Allergic to Mondays" mug, nice touch). Although it's repeatedly mentioned that it's more dangerous to go out at night they never explain why or even if daylight has any effect on them at all. For all we know they glitter in the sun like Twilight emo vampires. No crosses, no garlic, nothing like that. They get killed by swords and guns just like normal humans. Fuck, I don't know why they are called vampires at all, now that I think about it. They don't even have fangs, they have to file their teeth down manually.

So in this film Seagal plays Tao, leader of a group of bad-ass vampire hunters. They seem to work for the military, but they are rugged individualists so they all wear leather trenchcoats, carry swords, walk in slo-mo, etc. The sort of thing that would have been pretty awesome about ten years ago but now looks pretty cheesy. Seagal kills a few vampires here and there but his role is mainly to slur military orders and occasionally interject with some nonsense like "We're not here to decide who's right or wrong... we're here to decide who lives or dies", which makes even less sense in context. In one scene he rescues a kid who asks who he is and he replies "My name is Tao" and turns away as some rockin' guitars kick in, as if we are supposed to be blown away by his badassery. I don't know man, I don't think you've earned those guitars just yet. Maybe start with a kazoo and work your way up. The rest of his team aren't much more interesting, although there's one beefy guy named Tanoai Reed who is pretty cool. Apparently he's the Rock's stunt double so he's pretty imposing physically and he gets to jump around with some wrist blades and throw vampires around. I reckon he could have pulled off the guitars.

The problem is that we don't see Seagal and his team that much at all. Nintey percent of the time is spent with a large group of survivors who are wandering around in an abandoned hospital. They were all so uninteresting that I couldn't keep their names straight or remember what they were doing or why. Apparently they have to find the hospital exit before the generator runs out and the security doors get locked permanently, but they don't seem to be in any rush to do so. They keep getting separated and splitting up into groups for no reason. When they come across a locked door they just shrug and move on instead of finding something to bash it open. They don't even carry any weapons. Eventually they meet with Seagal and his team, but until then you are stuck watching these dipshits wandering around like a flock of fucking sheep. Protip: If a woman or a child is curled up crying in the corner with their back to you he/she is probably a vampire.

I'm struggling for things to say here because this is one of those shot-in-Romania Sci-Fi-channel-caliber movies that dissolves from your brain immediately after viewing. There was something about an evil scientist who kidnapped one of them to feed to his infected daughter I believe. He says something about her having the capacity for reason and being the next step in evolution but Seagal puts an abrupt end to that plot point by impaling her head with a sword (offscreen unfortunately). They also stuck in a few scattered pieces of I Am Legend style "we are the real monsters" introspection from both the survivors and the monsters, but they didn't go anywhere either. There's a fair bit of blood and gore if you're into that, but nothing special.

The great Keith David and Linden Ashby turn up for a day of shooting as military officers who are trying to get Seagal and his team out before they level the building in an air strike. It's never explained why this air strike is necessary and Seagal never shares screen time or interacts with them in any way so it's largely pointless. They already have a time limitation with the security doors, so all this impending air strike adds is a few minutes of padding and an utterly wasted character actor.

The proceedings are directed with a minimum of flair by first-and-likely-only-time director Richard Crudo, who was cinematographer on Pistol Whipped, Out of Reach and a bunch of other films that don't star Steven Seagal. If I had to say anything good about this film it's that I could usually see everything that was going on even though it was in darkness a lot of the time. You know, cause it's him Against the Dark. Other than that, I can't recommend anything about it. Kind of like Hasselhoff versus giant snakes, this is another one that's much better in theory than execution. I was hoping for vampires in a Seagal film but I got Seagal in a pseudo-vampire film. Oh well. At least he threw a vampire through a window.

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