From the Archive – Hemoglobin (aka Bleeders) (1997)

Hemoglobin

It’s in the blood

Directed by Peter Svatek
Starring Rutger Hauer and Roy Dupuis

Way back when, Eva van Daam (described by the narrator as ‘one of the great narcissists’) screws her own twin brother as its the nearest she can get to screwing herself (as you do), thus getting her entire noble family booted out of Holland. They emigrate to the New World, perhaps hoping to find tolerance for their weird, incestuous ways in Fife, Alabama or something, where the family peters out and vanishes. Henceforth the movie drops any trace of potential which this premise might have held.

Flash forward to the now, and John Strauss (Dupuis) – a weird, pale, photosensitive guy with haemophilia, mismatched eyes and a mysterious trust fund – is travelling to an island to trace his roots, accompanied by his wife, a trained nurse, and presumably his full-time carer. He is dying of a congenital blood defect, and wants to find out if he has any family who know what it is and how to treat it. No one seems to know much about him, until he meets the old nurse on the island. She tells him that his family – the van Daams, natch – went into hiding underground when the islanders burned their house down because they were so very weird, but that they sent him away because he was different; because he was normal. He does however have these odd cravings, but she won’t tell him what for. She is then killed by a legless troll that leaps out of the cupboard and bashes her spine in.

Hi. This is our villain, not some sort of subhuman lackey. If you thought we were in for vampires, I have to disappoint you.

Meanwhile, the local undertaker and entrepreneur has been accused of making substandard coffins, so the entire cemetery is being dug up and shipped to the mainland for reburial, as you do. Almost immediately, people start to disappear, and the islanders – led by Dr Marlowe (Oscar-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Hauer) discover that the van Daams’ freakish, subterranean, hermaphrodite, troll-thing descendants are responsible.

It turns out that the van Daams became so inbred that they were forced to consume the embalmed flesh of the recently buried in order to survive, because of course horrific inbreeding leads inevitably to a terrible formaldehyde dependency. Now there are no more corpses in the graveyard – that’s right; I said formaldehyde dependency – they have turned to the flesh of the living in desperation – no, not blood, not flesh, formaldehyde – hence the disappearances.

As they hate light, Marlowe gets the islanders together in a lighthouse – and also saves Strauss by telling him about the formaldehyde, and giving him a pickled van Daam baby in a jar to eat – but of course the power goes out. A small number of islanders are killed, before the van Dam trolls’ tunnels collapse, leaving Strauss to rejoin his family and cop off with his hermaphrodite twin sister, and his wife to leave the island with their unborn child. She seems very excited about the pregnancy considering she’s likely to give birth to a congenital formaldehyde drinker, but I guess that’s the hormones talking.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for starters, there’s the formaldehyde issue. Then there’s the van Daams themselves. Being a bunch of stunted, hermaphrodite formaldehyde eating weirdoes just isn’t nearly as interesting, or as frightening, or as creepy, as them being inbred, anaemic, haemophiliac vampires, and frankly they look like Yoda’s evil twins most of the time. Most of the time, you wonder why the islanders don’t just kick the across the room, since it doesn’t look like it would be that difficult. They barely even manage to be nasty; John the weirdo is a dozen times creepier, with the unknown urges, and the trying to rape his pregnant wife, and the eating of the foetus in formaldehyde.

The villagers, meanwhile, are such a pack of gripless wasters that you just want more of them to get eaten. Even when they have guns, they just stand around and watch their loved ones get dragged away.

The film ends with no real conclusion or closure, and with no explanation of a) how the trolls apparently continue to survive without the formaldehyde, and b) why the islanders don’t have them gassed like rabbits as soon as the film is over.

And there’s bad movie sex. Twice. Including the touching ‘my husband just ate a baby in formaldehyde and he tried to rape me yesterday, so I must have him’ sex scene.

Also, Rutger Hauer provides the acting highlights. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

On a more technical note, as well as the trolls looking naff, the lighting is rubbish. I suppose it’s meant to be moody, but it’s just dark really. A couple of gratuitous sweeping aerial shots aside (I guess they hired a helicopter and wanted to get their money’s worth, said fellow BMM Reviewer Simon Drake), the direction is pretty lacklustre, and while there’s a competent – if occasionally grating – score, the dialogue is so mumbled that two out of three viewers failed to note at all that the wife was pregnant, and I only picked it up by inference.

What’s right with it?

Nada.

How bad is it really?

This film is an utter and abject turd. There’s a reason that it got its own page on the original site, and that is that not even a Mark Dacascos movie deserves to be on the same page as this stink bomb. I mean, I’ve seen some real tripe in my time, but this film was just stunningly bad. The film is nasty in all the wrong ways, but not even nasty enough to get a decent squirm. It’s also cheaply exploitative, including a gratuitous tit shot on a hanging corpse for crying out loud. There is nothing about this vile piece of celluloid excrement that is done right.

Best bit?

Ba-ha! Bwahahahahahahahaaaaaa! BWAAAAAH-HAHAHAHAAAAA!

BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Hem. Sorry. No; there isn’t a best bit.

What’s up with?

Where to start…? Oh yes:

  • The formaldehyde vampires? Not scary, guys. I mean, come on; how could you think they would be? “We have come for your embalming fluid!” Just doesn’t rate alongside “We come to drink your blood!” It’s just not as scary if it can be conveniently shop bought.
  • The doctor telling the freakish John that he needs to eat embalmed flesh, then giving him a baby van Daam in a jar to eat!? I mean, what’s up with that?
  • The gratuitous sex scene, in the middle of the whole “they’re coming to eat us” panic?
  • The title? Why not call it: Formaldehyde? It’s not about haemoglobin; and it certainly isn’t about bleeders; Strauss is the only haemophilliac in the film.
  • How come John turned out normal? And how come his twin sister looked fairly normal, even if she was actually a hermaphrodite? I mean, they were very normal, given that the rest of the family had been deformed trolls for generations.

Ratings

Production Values – Poor to barely adequate. The lighting is inadequate (no doubt they felt ‘subdued’), the sound balance is for shit, and the direction is poor. Oh, and lest we forget, the van Daam trolls look like Yoda’s evil twin. 17

Dialogue and Performances – Rutger Hauer takes the acting honours (in English), which should tell you how bad everyone else was. There’s bugger all in the way of emoting, and some half-hearted screams. Plus a whole lot of dead frames where the actors stand there and wait for something bad to happen to them, although that’s really the director’s fault, I guess. 19

Plot and Execution – If stunted, hermaphrodite, inbred, formaldehyde-drinking trolls constitute a plot, then my face is red, and this film was down there with the best of them. The execution was still off though, with the pacing being rubbish and the exposition non-existent or nonsensical. 19

Randomness – Inbred, hermaphrodite, formaldehyde-dependent trolls. Lost scions. All the corpses on the island being dug up because they were in substandard coffins. Huh? 19

Waste of Potential – Creepy inbred vampires have a lot of potential in the horror department, but the minute you make them into formaldehyde dependent trolls instead of effete, Byronesque sociopaths, you lose it all, you really do. 19

Overall 93%

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