Tuesday, June 6, 2023


 by Patrick Bromley

The best movie Full Moon has made in years.

I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen, but there's a new Subspecies movie out from Full Moon. It was announced back in 2019 for a February 2020 release -- part of the studio's "Deadly Ten" series of films -- but a global pandemic obviously had other plans. That Full Moon has stuck to their slate and is now producing the rest of their previously-announced Deadly Ten series post-COVID is a miracle. That Subspecies V reunites director Ted Nicolaou -- the filmmaker responsible for the previous four films and maybe the only director in the history of the company to see a franchise all the way through -- with stars Anders Hove and Denice Duff is an even greater miracle. The greatest miracle of all, though, is that Subspecies V: Bloodrise is quite good.
Bloodrise is actually a prequel to the Subspecies series, beginning as it does with the monstrous birth of Radu Vadislas, a baby born to a vampire and a demon who is stolen by the Church and raised as a human. He grows up to be part of an order of monks (played by the returning Anders Hove sans makeup) dedicated to destroying demons and all enemies of the Church, one night arriving at the castle of his father and recovering the sacred Bloodstone. He also finds Helena (Denice Duff), a beautiful woman who is becoming a vampire, and her young son, whose lives Radu chooses to spare against his better judgment. Before long, Helena is seducing and biting Radu, convincing him to drink from the Bloodstone and turning him into the monster he becomes over the next 500 years, which Bloodrise somehow manages to cover in its brief 80-minute running time.

Those coming to Bloodrise for the effects-driven weirdness of (particularly) the first two Subspecies films may want to look elsewhere, because this sequel is much more about plot and character than it is any of the sensational elements that can make Full Moon movies so much fun. This can probably be chalked up to budgetary issues more than anything, as any Full Moon fans paying attention to the last decade or so can testify that the salad days of the '90s Paramount deal have long since passed and that cost of the company's modern features has dwindled to almost nothing. On an effects-heavy movie like, say, Blade: The Iron Cross, that can become a real hindrance. Subspecies has always been more about mood and atmosphere more than gimmickry, though, and director Ted Nicolaou knows how to deliver it at a price. Filming in Serbia standing in for Romania (where previous entries where shot), Nicolaou and cinematographer Vladimir Ilic make the most of their scenery, creating imagery that's gorgeous and haunting while breaking free of the "warehouse in Cleveland" setting that has plagued recent Full Moon efforts.
Confession: I still haven't seen Subspecies 4 or its spinoff film, The Vampire Journals, so feel free to take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I'm speaking on the franchise as a whole without having finished it, so I know how that sounds. But I find the shift in focus from human Michelle (played in the first film by Laura Tate and in subsequent films by Denice Duff) to Radu is one of the more interesting aspects of the franchise in part because it openly acknowledges that the performance of Anders Hove is one of the best things these movies have going for them. Subspecies V continues that tradition, with Radu totally functioning as the protagonist rather than the antagonist he is in previous entries. Hove has aged 30 years since the franchise began and is acting without makeup for what I believe to be the first time, but he hasn't lost a bit of his magnetism or charisma in the role. While I wouldn't have thought I had any interest in learning who Radu was before he became a vampire or how he got that way, Bloodrise manages to prove me wrong by making the character and his arc -- warrior for the Church becomes blood-sucking vermin over the course of five centuries -- compelling and tragic. Hove's performance and Nicolaou's screenplay fills in blanks in the franchise (the origin of the Bloodstone, Radu's magnetic pull towards Denice Duff) without feeling like obnoxious fan service. It's a rare sequel that continues and expands on the story in interesting ways rather than just repeating familiar beats.
Hard to believe it's been 25 years since Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm, the last proper Subspecies film, because Subspecies V: Bloodrise doesn't feel at all like the "remember the good ol' days?" cash-in it easily could have been. This is a real Best Case Scenario, in which the creative team (primarily Hove, Duff, and Nicolaou, who edited the movie as well as writing and directing) has been brought back and approached the sequel with genuine thought and care about what it should look like all these years later. This was the title I was most excited about when it was announced with the Deadly Ten slate and, despite the delay of a few extra years, it was worth the wait. 

Subspecies V: Bloodrise is currently streaming on Full Moon Features and on Screambox.


  1. I wasn't even aware of the existence of a Subspecies franchise, but now you kind of have me sold. Perhaps a project for SMM? That is impressive indeed to return after 25 years and put together a movie that is good, and not just redoing the original for a new audience.

  2. the Subspecies franchise is a pretty big gap for me in the Full Moon portfolio. ive heard Charles Band discuss this feature for a while and im STOKED that it came out and you dug it! maybe time to work my way thru the franchise. woot!!!