Review Date: October 22, 2007
Released by: Koch
Release date: 2/9/1999
Full Frame 1.33:1
The end of a legacy is near! My first Subspecies
review was posted on June 8, 2003. My review for the last movie in the series (as of this writing) is on October 22, 2007. That's five years in the making. This series is near and dear to my heart, but I was reluctant when I first heard news of a Part IV back in the late 90s. Part III was released in 1994; it wasn't until nearly four years after Part III did Full Moon decide to make another sequel. The Subspecies
fan inside me was disappointed, since III did a fine job wrapping up the story. But the Full Moon fan inside me knew the drill: If it makes money, they're going to make a sequel. This is a common rule in the horror genre, but with Full Moon it's nearly guaranteed. Lets take a look at Subspecies 4
and see how it holds up against the original trilogy.
The story beings where Part III ends. Radu (Anders Hove
) has been destroyed. Michelle (Denice Duff
) and her sister Rebecca managed to escape the castle with the help of U.S. embassy worker Mel Thompson (Kevin Spirtas). As the movie begins, we are shown a car wreck off a mountain road with bodies littered about. Everyone is dead, except Michelle, who is cursed with immortality as a vampire. A passing motorist, Ana Lazar (Ioana Abur
), stops to report the accident and discovers Michelle. Not wanting to wait for an ambulance, Ana brings Michelle to the Vitalis Institute. Nearby, Radu has been revived thanks to the power of the bloodstone. As the sun begins to rise, he returns to his castle for recovery.
Dr. Niculescu (Mihai Dinvale
) is the head doctor at Vitalis. He examines Michelle and with great delight discovers that she is a vampire. The doctor is fascinated with Radu and the bloodstone; he seems to have a great knowledge of the two. He promises to help Michelle if she agrees to stay at the institute. Michelle is reluctant, fearing the return of Radu, but the doctor explains that the institute was once a monastery, and Radu cannot enter sacred ground without first being invited. As night approaches, Radu rises and returns to Bucharest. Once there he meets up with Ash (Jonathon Morris
), a servant of his that runs a casino to generate not only money, but victims.
Dr. Niculescu knows that Radu will come for Michelle. He devises a plan to capture and destroy Radu, allowing him to claim the bloodstone for himself. The trap works, but Michelle proves loyal to Radu and saves him. Ash's protégé, Serena (Floriela Grappini
), tells Dr. Niculescu where Radu sleeps. She wants Ana to travel to Radu's lair and destroy him, allowing Ash and Serena to claim the bloodstone for themselves. As Serena's plan unfolds, the quest to destroy Radu begins to come to fruition. Radu's only hope for survival is Michelle. As she continues to struggle with her transformation into a vampire, Michelle must decide between once again saving Radu or helping to destroy him to save herself.
My complaint with Subspecies III
was that it was merely an extension of Subspecies II
. Subspecies IV
does take the story in a different direction, but not necessarily one that is enjoyable. This fourth chapter crosses stories with another Full Moon and Ted Nicolaou vampire flick, Vampire Journals
, where we are first introduced to the characters of Ash and Serena. While I saw Vampire Journals
several years back, I found it to be mediocre. Sadly, Subspecies IV
is no different. With Full Moon's glory days of the mid-90's long behind them, the budget here was clearly an obstacle. The opening montage, featuring scenes from the first three films, looks like an amateur's attempt at a recap of the original trilogy. The killing off of two critical characters from the third movie is also a clear indication of budgetary constraints. What Full Moon did do right here is return to Romania and bring back actors Anders Hove and Denice Duff. We are again given many countless shots of the beautiful castles and ruins that are found in the country. Location is key and it does help to elevate a vampire movie up a notch. Unfortunately for Subspecies IV
, we can go to the first three to get beautiful imagery PLUS a good story.
fails because of the ridiculous story and mediocre characters we are given. Michelle's struggle with becoming a vampire and Radu's undying love for her is getting old. It was time for her to either give in to her fate or for Radu to simply give up and try destroying her. Seeing the story taken in either of those directions would have been great. Instead we are given a ridiculous tale of revenge and greed involving both the doctor and the two characters from Vampire Journals
. Disappointing to say the least.
Full Moon has hinted at the possibilities of a fifth Subspecies
for a few years now. If done right, it could prove a worthy conclusion. If they decide to give us more of the same, it's time to lay this series to rest.
We are given a full frame 1.33:1 presentation here that looks more like a VHS tape than a DVD. The image is consistently soft and lacking in detail; colors are washed out with the exception of solid blacks in the nighttime scenes. No gain or MPEG artifacts are present, which is about the only highlight to this transfer. Some may argue that I'm ripping this transfer when it's nearly identical to that of the Subspecies III
laserdisc. As a reviewer I have to take into account the fact that the laserdisc was released in 1994 and that this DVD was released in 1999. There's just no excuse for such a poor transfer, even if it was the early days of DVD. I can see the washed out colors being a result of the low budget, but the lack of detail on this DVD is inexcusable.
A Dolby Surround track is included that has a nice range and some decent use of surrounds. There is some action in Subspecies IV
, as well as some thumping in the score. This track does a good job at showcasing them. I'm rating it with a B+.
Besides the standard VideoZone inclusion, we are given two commentary tracks, one from director Ted Nicolaou and one from actor Denice Duff. Ted's track was great; fans are sure to enjoy it. He talks a lot about the story and the various challenges with filming Subspecies IV
. Denise's track was downright painful to listen to, and I'll be first admit I did not listen to the entire thing. Instead I opted to listen to several portions of it. If there was ever a track with someone that didn't know what the hell to say, it was this commentary track with Denise Duff.
As with all Full Moon movies back in the 90s, a VideoZone is included that features various behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. The standard introduction by Full Moon head huncho Charles Band was a bit disappointing this time around. Instead of talking about Subspecies
, he opts to pimp an upcoming movie he was working on, Blood Dolls
. The interviews consisted of Ted Nicolaou and Denise Duff only. Ted give some insight as to why some of the characters from Part III were dropped in this fourth installment.
The rest of the extras are fairly standard - bios for Denice Duff, Anders Hove, Jonathon Morris, and Mihai Dinvale; catalog/toys for Full Moon; trailers, and contact information.
The disc is cheap enough that I can still recommend it as a buy for Subspecies
fans only. I would suggest that you are buying it for Nicolaou's commentary track only. The movie is an abortion, proving that the glory days of Full Moon and the Subspecies
series itself have long since passed. While the extras are decent and the sound is good, the image quality on this DVD leaves a lot to be desired.
Movie - D+
Image Quality - C
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Rated R
- English Dolby Surround
- Chapter Stops
- Commentary track with director Ted Nicolaou
- Commentary track with actress Denice Duff
- Full Moon promotion