In 2006 a filmmaking duo calling themselves the Butcher Brothers wrote and directed a promising indie vampire flick called The Hamiltons. 6 years later in 2012, the Butcher Brothers released a sequel called The Thompsons.
With the same writer/director team and all of the main actors returning to reprise their roles in the sequel, you’d think both films would rate relatively equal.
Unfortunately you’d be wrong. Which is a damn shame considering how much potential The Hamiltons had.
Continue reading after the jump.
I was a big fan of After Dark’s 8 Films to Die For collections. A few films that first appeared at this fest are true gems, like Frontier(s), Dying Breed, and Hidden. And while it didn’t have quite the same chops as these elite examples, The Hamiltons was nonetheless a worthy addition when it premiered in 2006.
Official Synopsis: The Hamilton’s seem to be an ordinary American family, living in a small town in Northern California and dealing with the problems of everyday life. They’ve also been recently adjusting to the untimely death of their parents, but since have moved on. David Hamilton, the oldest, has taken it upon his shoulders to pick up the responsibility for the orphaned family. Twins, Wendell and Darlene are darker than the other two siblings and have become more conniving in the past few months. The youngest and most sensitive of the family is francis. Francis recently found an old video camera his parents owned, using it to work on a school project about his family. It’s through Francis’s eyes that we soon get to know the Hamilton’s and realize that there are much more disturbing elements lurking below their surface of “ordinary.”
To be frank, The Hamiltons isn’t great, but it’s pretty good (especially for a debut film). It suffers from amateurish mistakes on the technical side; there are no costumes or make-up and the special effects consist of fake blood and almost nothing else; the young actors are a mixed bag.
However, The Hamiltons had heart. The lack of budget and gritty film style somehow made the family’s plight more believable. The Butcher Brothers brought us a conflicted killer in Francis (Cory Knauf), a vampire on the verge of “turning” who has difficulty coming to terms with the monster inside him. Francis calls his condition “a disease” and, while he seeks no sympathy, he offers no apologies either. In this world, vampires are “born, not made”.
The Hamiltons also had balls. The suffering of female victims chained up in the basement was heart-wrenching, bleak, and at time vile. And the mystery surrounding a vicious creature behind a locked door called “Lenny” kept viewers guessing and invested.
So while it wasn’t great, the Hamiltons had tons of potential. It was easy to imagine how, with a bigger budget and more experience, the Butcher Brothers unique vision of a vampire family could be awesome. But, alas, The Thompsons fails to make use of any of its predecessor’s strengths and, in essence, abandons the realistic, ultra-creepy vibe that should have been a franchise core-tenet.
Office Synopsis: “In the sequel, a bloodbath at a gas station in the desert puts the family on the run, eventually seeing them resurface in the U.K. under a new identity as “The Thompsons.” Desperate for protection in this unfamiliar country, the Thompsons seek out the help of a shadowy underground rumored to be sympathetic to vampires.”
The Thompsons bills itself as “Twilight meets Tarantino” which is, quite unfortunately, a very apt description. The Butcher Brothers forego a dark and gritty Horror aesthetic and instead offer us a sleek, overproduced, over-the top action flick. It’s hardly even a Horror movie. It’s comic-bookish, and unbelievable. And, of course, a terrifying vampire saga really has no place for teenage romance. The new vampires we meet in The Thompsons are nothing but the usual stereotypes: Soulless empty shells without a shred of character development.
What could have been an opportunity to do justice for the potential shown in The Hamiltons, was instead a missed opportunity. The Butcher Brothers show none of the indie sensibilities that made them up-and-comers and instead relegate their art to your typical Hollywood cookie-cutter bullshit.