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Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries, Part 1 (2008)

DVD Cover (The Sugar Factory)
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5.0
 / 10
1 vote
Genres:
Black Comedy, Family Drama, Horror, Teen Horror, Vampire Film
Director:
Phil Messerer Phil Messerer
Starring:
Devon Dionne Devon Dionne
Eilis Cahill Eilis Cahill
JoJo Hristova JoJo Hristova
Michael Strelow Michael Strelow
Myles MacVane Myles MacVane
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> horror
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Review by Chad
Added: August 17, 2009
I do believe that I've mentioned this a time or two in my reviews on this site, but I generally hate vampire movies. I'm not much of a fan of the creatures themselves, I don't really enjoy the storylines that tend to come along with them, and nine times out of ten, I just can't get into the overall feel of these releases. I think that you could hand me a stack of ten random vampire movies, and I'd downright hate six of them, find myself in the middle on three of them, and walk away from just one of them satisfied. I sort of expected more of the same from Thicker Than Water, the first in a planned trilogy of films, but I was shocked to see that it was one of those rare genre flicks that I enjoyed.

We begin with an introduction to the Baxter family, a quartet consisting of a single mom (JoJo Hristova), a Hot Topic goth girl named Lara (Eilis Cahill), a vegan good girl named Helen (Devon Bailey), and the gay doctor-in-training Raymond (Michael Strelow). They're truly the epitome of normal: Lara has a shrine to Anne Rice in her bedroom and dabbles in Wicca, Helen is the popular girl at school, the two sisters despise one another, and Raymond is content to just kick back with some hash brownies and let them duke it out. Their feud reaches a boiling point when Helen makes the moves on Lara's secret crush, so our social outcast of a heroine decides to cast a spell on her to gain some measure of revenge. The next morning, Helen wakes up with a severe (and I do mean severe) nosebleed, and though the doctors assure this family that it's nothing to worry about, it doesn't take long before the poor girl is dead and Lara is overcome with guilt.

Her guilt doesn't last long, however, as Helen rises from the grave and comes home covered in blood. Fortunately for mother's heart (but unfortunately for the mortician), it's not her blood: apparently, she is now a full-fledged vampire, and she was just a little hungry when she came to on her slab. The family quickly realizes that they will need to find a steady supply of "sacrifices" to cope with their newfound dilemma, but the problem here is that Helen is still a vegan, and besides... killing innocent people doesn't gel with the family's religious beliefs. So begins a bizarre mixture of horror, dark comedy, and family drama.

Mixing together horror and a decidedly dark shade of humor is certainly nothing new, but inserting a nice dosage of genuine drama? Now that is something that you don't see very often, and that is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the film so much. It brings something new to the table, and while that alone is a good thing in a genre that is overflowing with imitators and clones, it's not one of those films that tries something new but fails to deliver on its promises: Thicker Than Water is decent as a horror flick, it's amusing as a dark comedy, and it's great as a drama piece. Those three genres don't mesh together easily, but they seemed perfectly natural here.

Blending together those three genres was certainly interesting, but it's the storyline and the characters that keep us glued to the screen. There is a bit of a wraparound story concerning an ancient vampire that has little relevance to the film proper (I imagine it will pop up later in the trilogy though), but the story surrounding the two sisters and the mother who only wants what is best for both of her children was damned good. There were some pacing issues that did drag the film down in spots and I wasn't too fond of the repeated eighties-throwback montage sequences, but for the most part, the storyline moved along at a brisk pace and stayed fresh.

It certainly helps that all three of these ladies played their roles to perfection once the film got moving; I wasn't too fond of the mother prior to Helen's transformation, but once she got serious, she really became quite enjoyable. Her "daughters" were also on top of their respective games, as I could easily buy the sibling rivalry, the "good girl" act, and yes, even the goth shtick. Extra credit goes to Devon Bailey for making the switch from perky teenager to ferocious vampire look simple.

As far as the cons go, I can really only think of one major thing: the sound. The dialogue is consistently muffled throughout the running time, and although it's never bad enough to prevent us from hearing what is being said, it's definitely something that will be noticed from start to finish. I also wasn't too keen on the majority of the soundtrack, as I'm really not a fan of listening to obnoxious heavy metal while watching a movie: your mileage may vary. There's also bits and pieces of a legitimate score to be found here, and though I had no problems with the music itself, I felt that it drowned out the actual dialogue at times.

Thicker Than Water is an above average film, and with a cleaner audio track and an improved song selection, it could have been a great film - maybe not perfect, but easily recommendable. I was also a bit disappointed that certain pieces of the storyline popped up and then disappeared with no real explanation for their brief presences given, but it's hard to fault the film too much for that; after all, it does say Part 1 right there in the title, and I'm sure that some if not all of this will make sense in the later films. I'm going to go with a 7/10 here, but I'm also going to say that I'm looking forward to future installments of this story.
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