Review Date: November 10, 2002
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 10/8/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
A group of young, pretty vampires having fun hanging out at a seaside carnival - sound familiar? If you think this sounds like a certain mid-'80s trendsetting teen vampire flick, you're right on the money. But Cold Hearts
represents what would happen if the Lost Boys
were to grow up, and the resulting trauma, enlightenment, loss and moral development that comes with the territory of adulthood.
Viktoria (Marisa Ryan) is a vampire who lives in a small New Jersey seashore resort, which is home to the lone attraction of a crowded boardwalk and brightly-lit carnival. Viktoria looks the part of the bad girl - tousled hair, leather jacket, cigarette constantly glued to her painted lips. In reality she is smart, independent, sensitive, and tough but sweet. She draws her happiness from her two best friends, Darius and Alicia (Amy Jo Johnson - instantly recognized by yours truly as the pink Power Ranger), who is also a vampire. The trio get along like siblings, and spend most of their time together loitering on the boardwalk or "moon bathing" on the beachfront of Viktoria's charming, nicely decorated home.
The only wrinkle in Viktoria's seemingly carefree life is her ex-boyfriend Charles, or "Chazz" (Christopher Wiehl). Charles is the embodiment of the Lost Boy-type vampire, right down to his Kiefer Sutherland 'do. He and his accompanying "horsemen" are power-hungry, cocky, obnoxious and dangerous. They derive malicious glee from terrorizing their victims - and after Viktoria dumps Charles, their predatory impulses are extended to her little clan.
One night, when Charles strikes Viktoria on the boardwalk, a mysterious stranger comes to her defense whose presence is heralded only by a disembodied voice. This stranger is Seth (Robert Floyd), Viktoria's knight in shining armor who formally introduces himself to her shortly after her altercation with Charles. Seth is the typical tall, dark stranger - benevolent and kind, but obviously hiding something. Although he claims to be in town on vacation with his frat brothers, he has made it his mission to protect Viktoria from Charles - a huge undertaking for one who is unaware of Charles' potential. Is he truly a regular guy who is just visiting and happens to fall for a local girl? Or does he have the power to take on a group of monsters because he is one himself?
is not scary. Nor is it suspenseful. It is not even really bloody. Despite it's R rating, the blood flow in this vampire film in restricted by a PG tourniquet. In fact, our two vampire heroines don't even like to drink blood. But they sure like to talk. Cold Hearts
is very heavy on the dialogue and light on the chills, thrills and gore. But in spite of this, the story and characters strangely managed to hold my interest.
Viktoria and Alicia's ambivalent attitude towards their vamp lifestyle is distinctive. Viktoria has been a vampire for eight years. She has settled into her new "life" and is comfortable with it. At one point, we do see her feed, but her main blood supply comes from the blood bank, courtesy of a couple generous ambulance drivers who exchange bags of blood for money in a sort of sanguine drug deal. Viktoria's vampirism is as clean and sterile as her home. She forsakes the mess of bloody death in favor of an organized, clinical existence.
Alicia is an innocent. A newer vampire, she detests blood and the associated guilt of killing for sustenance. As a result, she is anorexic - her sunken abdomen and cheekbones advertising her reluctance to give in to her inherent hunger. In one scene, Charles and his cronies hypnotize Alicia (one of their vampire powers) and prod her into going on a carnie killing spree with them. When she realizes afterward what she has done, her revulsion is clear and leads to her eventual breakdown.
Viktoria's background story was also mildly compelling. We discover that she became a vampire because it sounded like a neat idea at the time. She sought out an old-school vampire named Uncle Joe (Fred Norris from the Howard Stern Show) to turn her, but realized afterward that being a vampire is not as gothic and glamorous as an "O'Barr comic", as she puts it. (Nice reference to the author of "The Crow"!) I thought it was genuinely interesting that some of the characters in this move fessed up that vampirism really isn't as cool as it is portrayed in the media.
Viktoria also has trouble allowing people to get close to her. Since becoming a vampire, she has lost her beloved boyfriend and mother, as she will soon lose her best friend. Now that she and Seth are quickly becoming friends, she wrestles with the notion of opening herself up to him, despite his willingness to listen. Hence, the title Cold Hearts
. It is Viktoria's vampire sire, Uncle Joe, who convinces her that in order to be truly happy with who she is, she must learn to stay warm.
was written, directed and produced by 24-year old (at the time of release) first time filmmaker Robert A. Masciantonio. Overall, this is not a bad first effort. As I mentioned, the script kept me interested and the valiant acting attempts of the principal cast mostly succeed. This is really nothing more than a drama about the pain of loss and the struggle to allow oneself to love again. The fact that most of the characters are vampires is incidental. Go into this movie knowing that you will get lots of talk with little action. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but consider yourself warned if you are seeking a vampire movie accompanied by the usual buckets of blood.
is presented in barely-there 1.66:1 widescreen. Truthfully, I could hardly notice the letterboxing, but I really don't think I missed anything. This film looks much older than its 1999 release date. The transfer is extremely grainy, with night scenes being especially bad. Color is okay, but bland in certain scenes. The bright lights of the carnival are glaring, robbing scenes of detail. Thankfully, there are few daylight scenes because they are devoid of color and clarity. If this was a videotape from 1985, the poor image quality might be overlooked, but for a 2002 DVD release - low-budget or not - this is unacceptable.
Advertised on the DVD box as 2.0 Dolby Digital, I was pleasantly surprised by the surround effects present. Waves, music and echoes are carved out clearly through the rear speakers. There is also good use of front right-to-left surround. The all-important dialogue is a bit hollow and at one point a conversation is almost totally obscured by the sound of breaking waves, but I attribute that to the film's budget more than inferior technology.
There a quite a few good supplements included on this disc. First up is an audio commentary with writer/director Robert A. Masciantonio. This newcomer's enthusiasm is evident in his voice. Here is a guy who is very thrilled to have made a feature length film. He speaks anecdotally with the assistance of some of his buddies who really had nothing to do with the film at all, lending the commentary the feel of a living room chat in front of the TV with a bunch of beer-swilling guys. There is not a lot of technical info thrown out, but the commentary is all in good fun.
Also included is Maciantonio's short film Jerks, a mildly amusing spoof revolving around a dollar-store clerk, played by the director himself, and some obnoxious teen "customers". And if you were taken by any of Cold Heart's principal actors, check out the audition tapes featuring Amy Jo Johnson, Christian Campbell, Robert Floyd and Jon Huertes (Darius). Fred Norris is conspicuously absent - a bummer for us Howard Stern fans.
Rounding out the offering of supplemental material is the promotional trailer and a still gallery featuring photos of the young cast and crew at their jobs and after the cameras stop rolling.
is a talkative and surprisingly bloodless and scare-free horror movie. It is interesting however, evidenced by my curiosity to see the outcome of the characters' developing relationships. I don't know if a space should be cleared on your shelf to make room for this DVD in your permanent collection, but it is certainly a valiant effort and worthy of viewing.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - D
Sound - B-
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- 18 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital 2.0
- Audio commentary by director Robert A. Masciantonio
- Promotional trailer
- Jerks - an original short film by Robert A. Masciantonio
- Animated still gallery
- Original cast audition tapes