Review: The Thompsons (Blu-ray)

2013/01/07 16:56:41 +00:00 | Derek Botelho

Let’s face it... vampires have been done to death. Whether it’s the hundreds of Dracula films, the Twilight franchise or True Blood and The Vampire Diaries on TV, the fanged ones have had their time in the sun. Back in 2006, the independent feature titled The Hamiltons was released as part of the After Dark Horror Festival.

Having watched almost every entry in the After Dark series up to that point, I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. Now some six years later, directors “The Butcher Brothers” (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) have returned with most of the first film’s cast to give us The Thompsons, the sequel to The Hamiltons.

Picking up after a particularly unpleasant event between the two films (dramatized here for exposition), The Hamiltons have changed their name yet again, to The Thompsons and leave for England fleeing the law. In desperate need of help for the youngest sibling, Francis (Cory Knauf) goes in search of a family who claims they can help. Leaving behind his siblings David (Samuel Child), Wendell (Joseph McKelheer), Darlene (Mackenzie Firgens), and the aforementioned youngest, Lenny (Ryan Hartwig), Francis travels to a remote town where he discovers another family of vampires whose dysfunction makes his situation appear ideal.

One of the biggest complaints leveled at low budget films, and horror in particular, is often how terribly written and acted they are. Not so, with The Thompsons. From its at times serpentine plot to the solid acting, the film delivers constantly. The pathos in the characters is especially poignant with Francis, as he has taken it upon himself to look after everyone, even when the older siblings don’t agree with everything he does. This film’s humanity in relation to its monsters is what really sells the near-Shakespearean narrative. At times the drama is so heavy you expect someone to launch into a monologue from King Lear. I don’t want to give the impression that the film is theatrically overblown in its execution, because it isn’t. It’s merely the unexpected depth of the story that struck me. To reveal anything, but the barest of plot synopsis would spoil the entire film.

Again, Cory Knauf is center stage as Francis as he was in The Hamiltons, and he is fantastic, as are all of the actors in this film. Samuel Child as David has easily the film’s “lesser” role as a member of the family, yet manages to make it just as important as any other. There’s nothing showy about David, he’s the level headed and calming influence in the bunch, yet Child gives him a measured emotional maturity that a lesser actor couldn’t pull off. Kudos must go to the writers and directors that these “monsters” are more human than we are used to seeing and their vulnerabilities are their dramatic strength. With that being said, there is no navel gazing from anyone here, so anyone fearing any Twilight antics need not worry.

This Blu-ray from XLrator Media is impressive visually and aurally. The picture has nice natural warmth, and the detail level is consistent. A horror film that takes place largely in the daylight, the locations, whether the streets of London or a brief piece in the deserts of California, are given their due. It’s not the sharpest looking film, but for a lower budget project, it’s solid looking. The audio is also pleasant; the various accents are easy to understand, and the dialogue is never muddy. Kevin Kerrigan’s score does an admirable job of keeping pace with the action, and sounds great. Bonus features are comprised of six featurettes: Relocating the Family, Scribed in Blood, Humans to Monsters, Awakening the Project, Families, and The Ringlestone Inn. It all adds up to an interesting 75-minute look at the creation of an independent film, and is worth your time.

I had all but given up on seeing another truly original and interesting take on the beloved creatures of the night. Continuing the tale of the “Hamiltons”, its follow-up is every bit as interesting and surprising as its predecessor. Doing what a proper sequel should, The Thompsons expands upon the drama of the family and gives us deeper insight into their world as a familial unit and as members of society at large. Cory Knauf gives another impressive performance in the central role of Francis, and every member of the family gives it all they’ve got with welcome results. From the opening scene onward, The Butcher Brothers have bestowed upon us that rare cinematic gem, a sequel that is actually better than the first. I wonder what the family will call themselves next?

Film Score: 3.5/5 Disc Score: 3.5/5