• Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat (Lionsgate/Vestron Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate/Vestron Video
    Released on: August 17th, 2021.
    Director: Anthony Hickox
    Cast: David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, Morgan Brittany, Maxwell Caulfield, Jim Metzler, M. Emmet Walsh, John Ireland
    Year: 1990
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    Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat – Movie Review:

    Sundown - The Vampire In Retreat takes place in the desert town of Purgatory, a small town populated completely by vampires who have adapted somewhat to life in the sun. By wearing sunglasses, heavy clothes and oodles of sunscreen these vampires are able to maintain a semi-normal existence. The vampire leader, Count Margulak (David Carradine) has dictated that the vampires no longer live off of human blood, instead they use synthetics.

    That said, you wouldn't want to be in the town after dark, as that's things can get a little unruly. Unfortunately no one bothered to explain any of this to David Harrison (Jim Metzler), or his wife Sarah (Morgan Brittany) as they've decided to take the kids and go explore this odd little town while David is to be there on business to help fix the factory that, unbeknownst to him, makes the synthetic blood that the vampires live off of. Around the same time that the Harrisons arrive in town, a sect of local vampires lead by Shane (Maxwell Caulfield) decide that they don't want to live off of synthetic blood anymore, they want to go back to the old ways of living off of humans. This puts the Harrisons in a bit of a predicament where they'll need the help of Robert Van Helsing (Bruce Campbell) to get out of town alive

    While Sundown attempts to mix horror and comedy, unfortunately most of the comedic elements fall a little flat. That said, the film is still an interesting and worthwhile watch even if it isn't quite the cult classic that some would make it out to be. The premise is an interesting one and the western movie influences give the picture some unique qualities that help to set it apart from the countless other vampire films that have been made over the years.

    Despite the fact that Campbell and Carradine are featured prominently on the box cover, both actors really only have supporting roles here. That said, they're both memorable parts and the two actors do enough to make these roles their own that they do stand out. They're not the stars of the picture as the cover would have you believe but their respective screen presences definitely help the picture. The supporting cast is a lot of fun here, particularly John Ireland and M. Emmett Walsh, though sadly Metzler and Brittany are more or less completely disposable in their lead roles.

    Despite the mixed bag of performances and the mediocre attempts at comedy, however, Sundown manages to entertain. There are some really great moments in the film and some interesting ideas thrown around. The conflict that arises within the vampire community is amusing and intriguing while Van Helsings efforts to carry on the tradition of his famous relative give Campbell ample opportunity to do what he does best and ham it up in a genuinely amusing manner. The cinematography is very nice and the widescreen camera work does a fine job of capturing the Utah locations that were used for the film. The action scenes that pop up in the latter half of the movie are done well even if they're ridiculously over the top and the picture is quite entertaining despite a slow beginning.

    Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat – Blu-ray Review:

    Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat arrives on Blu-ray from Vestron Video/Lionsgate in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taking up 23.7GBs of space on the 50GB disc. For the most part, the picture quality here is quite nice, though there are some shots that look a little softer than others due to the original cinematography. Overall, however, the image is crisp, clean, colorful and nicely detailed. Colors look very nice, and black levels are solid. Skin tones look good here as well and the image is free of any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement, though some might spot some minor compression artifacts here and there.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Dialogue is generally always clean and clear and easy to follow and the score sounds quite nice, as do the effects. No problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced here. Optional SDH subtitles are provided in English only while regular subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.

    First up, carried over from the DVD release, is an audio commentary track with director Anthony Hickox who is joined by director of photography Levie Isaacks and moderator Michael Felsher. Hickox and Isaack note that they haven't seen the movie in about twenty years and then launch into discussing how all of the effects in the film were done optically, rather than digitally, before talking about how the project came to be. They talk about some of the stop motion and blue screen effects, they talk about casting the picture and the various performances that arose from those casting decisions, and what it was like shooting out in the desert. This is a pretty active track with some good stories and interesting information contained in it - well worth listening to despite a couple of quiet spots here and there.

    The disc also includes some isolated score selections and audio interview bits with music historian Randall Larson and producer Jefferson Richard. Larson provides a commentary style talk in the stretches where this isn’t a score about the late Richard Stone’s work on the film, comparing his compositions to Morricone and others but still managing to discuss what makes Stone’s work unique, particularly for the time that the film was made. He also talks in a lot of detail about how the music accompanying the different scenes fits those specific scenes and why. Jefferson Richard joins in in the last twenty minutes of the movie where he speaks about how he came to work on the project, working for Vestron Pictures, what was involved in producing the film, shooting the picture in Utah, bringing the different cast and crew members onboard for the picture, how Steven Spielberg was indirectly responsible for one of the key crane shots in the film and how he feels about Stone’s score and the film overall.

    Wild Weird West is an interview with director Anthony Hickox that runs for sixteen minutes. This piece covers some of the same ground as the commentary but also goes over how he got into movies, particularly cowboy films, as a kid which led to his getting into movies at a young age. He talks about working with Vestron's Dan Ireland after having some success with Waxwork, working on the screenplay and rewriting parts of it, his thoughts on working with the different cast members (describing Carradine in particular as 'brilliant'), how certain shots were put together, what was shot in a studio versus on location and more.

    Bloodsuckers From Purgatory is a fourteen minute interview with special makeup effects creator Tony Gardner. In this piece, he goes over how he was quite busy with other work when he was approached to do Sundown, getting along with Hickox who he had met before, what the shooting schedule was like, what was involved in creating the creature effects and the transformation sequence, what was done in camera and what was done in post and how the financial limitations of the production forced him to be more creative.

    From there, check out three archival featurettes, also carried over from the DVD, starting with the thirteen minute A Vampire Reformed which is a decent interview with David Carradine. Bruce Campbell is up next in the thirteen minute Memories Of Moab. Last but not least, M. Emmet Walsh gets a turn in the spotlight with the eleven minute A True Character. All three featurettes, courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures like the rest of the extras on the disc, allow the three actors to share their memories of what it was like working on the film and what they think of the picture in hindsight (Carradine wanted a sequel). They discuss their respective characters and share some interesting memories of what it was like on set and all three are worth watching.

    A still gallery and a theatrical trailer, along with menus and chapter selection options, round out the extras on the disc itself. As far as the packaging goes, Vestron includes a very cool metallic-looking slipcover and, inside the standard-sized Blu-ray keepcase, an insert card with a code that can be redeemed for a digital copy of the movie.

    Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat – The Final Word:

    Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat is a pretty entertaining western-horror-action-comedy hybrid that makes good use of a great cast and offers up a nice mix of laughs and goofy vampire hokum. Lionsgate/Vestron’s Blu-ray release gives the film a very nice high definition presentation and not only carries over all of the extra features from the older DVD release but adds some new ones to the mix as well. All in all, nice package for a fun movie.

    Click on the images below for full-sized The Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat screen caps!