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Phil Messerer’s Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part 1, is realistic stab at the vampire genre that has become the hot item as of late with TV shows, books, and that Twilight fanaticism that seems to permeate from every junior high in America. Yet, Messerer breaks from the traditional way of looking at vampires and integrates his own lore in creating a neat indie film that is running through festivals at a blazing pace bringing in praise and teasing fans with sequels.

The film firmly establishes vampires as a species, similar in the way Underworld established vampires and lycans as offshoots of the same bloodline, but the core values of vampire lore are firmly in place, no sunlight, need blood, have super strength, etc. Everything a life of watching Whedon-created TV shows and Marvel comic books have established as the way things should be is here.

The story focuses on a small town family, the Baxters, who at one time may have lived the perfect life with three kids, a happy little home in a happy little town. Twin sisters are the film’s focus, Helen (Devon Dionne) is the lovable, likable one with guys clamoring over her and generally making fun at her cemetery loving, Anne Rice stalking sister Lara (Eilis Cahill). One morning Helen wakes up profusely bleeding out the nose, after only a few hours she’s dead, and after a few more she’s back at the front door, complete with a body bag and a host of questions on just what the hell is going on.

There’s a lot going on in this little indie especially in the fresh take on vampires in general. While the genre is nothing new, and was nearly killed as the films got more and more aggressive in the way they changed the mythology, Thicker Than Water has a clear direction on where its going, although that sort of tapers off at the end. When Helen initially returns and the remaining, living, family members are debating what to do, the possibility of abducting townsfolk and tourists comes up surprisingly fast and Mom’s (Jo Jo Hristova) explanation of doing what ever it takes not to lose what she’s already lost before is completely ridiculous. It would have been a lot deeper for everyone, even Helen, to take a look at the moral implications and debate what they were doing; instead the family goes from slightly dysfunctional to homicidal in no time flat, Charlie Manson would be instantly impressed.

Still this is a missed opportunity in the script to really dig deeper into the ethics of the family, you have a hard time believing that a deeply religious mother would suddenly be okay with her son coming out of the closet and dismembering a body, all before dinner. There’s also a certain level of absurdity when other vampires finally seek out Helen and show up in eighteenth century blouses and wigs, something tells me that strolling through a New England town, especially a small one, would turn a few heads. But you could attribute this to the movie’s overarching, Army-of-Darkness-like B-movie feel that oozes campiness from every pore start to finish. It’s the take no prisoners, and make no qualms about it attitude by the director that makes these shortcoming feel like an organic part of the picture, like the film would be worse off without its faults.

Messerer takes on a lot, here editing, writing, directing, et al. While the editing is generally tight, there are some overused shots and wonky camera angles that are almost too, “I have a camera, where can I stick it to give me a kick-ass shot.” The use of time-lapse could have probably been cut in half the shots it was used, it’s a great effect in certain cases but it usually wears out its welcome pretty quickly because its breaking you away from the story in a way. Still, the general cinematic direction is excellent and the inter-spliced story of the first vampire escaping and rampaging Mayan civilization is excellent and just as intriguing as the film, especially when you start to think about how its all connected.

There’s a lot to see and take in with Thicker Than Water, and while there are some growing pains for a first time director, its also a learning process, something that should make the sequel even better and hopefully pick up more awards and more notice from the powers that be in the industry and maybe take Thicker Than Water to the next step. Even if that never happens, anyone with the opportunity to see this independent feature at a festival near you should take up the opportunity and enjoy themselves.

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