Dark Craving (2004) Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
Originally known as Heartstopper (a title meant to capitalize on the success of Hellraiser), Dark Craving was directed and written by John A. Russo, who also is (not so well) known for directing low-budget horrors like The Majorettes, Scream Queen Swimsuit Sensations, and Midnight 2: Sex, Death and Videotape. You’ll probably be more impressed with Russo’s screenwriting credits, which include the original Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead. As expected of a former George A. Romero cohort, Mr. Russo filmed this movie entirely in the city of Pittsburgh.
Apparently, Russo pitched an idea to Romero for a followup to Night of the Living Dead, about a group of Revolutionary War-era survivors who inbreed and produce a colony of demented killers. He was later talked out of the idea, and ended up writing a book called “The Awakening” about a 1770’s physician executed for vampirism, which is the basis for Dark Craving.
Kevin Kindlin turns in a good performance as the main character, who is suspected of being a vampire due to his unorthodox experiments with phlebotomy, i.e. drinking the bottled blood (and pus!) of his patients. He is hanged, after which the townspeople pound a stake through his heart (nice bloody scene) and bury him under the sign of the cross. Hundreds of years later (1988), his burial ground is being uprooted by a bulldozer. Since the stake and coffin have rotted away, the manacles have rusted, and his garlic necklace is decomposed, the good doctor is now free to roam Pittsburgh as a vampire.
His first encounter with modern-day humans involves a girl playing in a sandbox (who looks way too old to be doing this, by the way). She cuts herself on a shard of glass, and the vampire follows suit by drinking her blood. His saliva shows up in her autopsy tests as being poisonous, which causes the police (led by Tom Savini!) to search for a vampire killer. Later, he wanders a university campus and watches a military group performing in Revolutionary War-era uniform. Our vampiric friend (who at first has a pony-tailed mullet) then saves a girl from a scuffle with a multi-racial gang, chases one gang member and throws him through a car windshield. Since he still has his leatherbound doctor’s kit, he slashes the tough’s wrist with a scalpel-like tool and drinks hungrily from the wound.
Besides being the co-star, Tom Savini is also credited with the FX for the film. Gorehounds need to realize, though, that with the exception of a couple exceptionally gruesome moments near the beginning involving autopsies, and the stake through the heart scene, we’re not talking buckets of gore here. It’s basically restricted to a few good wrist-slashings until the final scene, which delivers well and even throws in a little stop-motion animation. The DVD cover features some of the goriest scenes, however, so overall it’s a little misleading. Diehards will be pleased, though, especially getting to see Savini have such a prominent role in the film.
One of the things that sets Dark Craving apart from many other vampire movies is the humanistic approach, rather than portraying the doctor as a monster. He falls in love with a girl played by Moon Zappa, Frank’s daughter who was best known for her mallspeak on his song “Valley Girl.” He confesses to a priest who is sympathetic to his plight, and refuses to drink the blood of the innocent, restricting his thirsty desires to the criminal world. Other interesting twists on the vampire legend explored here include the concept of the salivary “poison,” and the way that vampires are created. It seems that the doctor was human before he started his blood experiments, but the fact that he was buried as a vampire combined with the superstitions of those who executed him seemed to help cause the change. Also there’s a historical/political element to the movie: since the doctor was a British-sympathizing Tory, he blames the ills of the 20th century on the results of the Revolutionary War, and maintains that the States should never have evolved past the original 13 colonies.
The only real drawback to horror fans here, besides the fact that it’s perhaps not quite as gory as expected, would be the pace of the film. Russo is a better writer than he is a director, and it shows with scenes that feature two characters talking, many filmed with one static shot. In other words, if you’re not really into the story at that given moment, it can be a little dull and leave you waiting for a scene with more action. Don’t expect the camerawork and editing to blow you away, either, but if you’re used to watching low-budget horror it’s not bad. Dark Craving/Heartstopper was made for about $800,000, so given these limitations Russo did a good job. I guess if you’re really annoyed by 80’s music, especially a particularly sappy love theme, you might want to stay away too. I happened to like the screaming 80’s metal performed during a couple of the action scenes, especially the girl being chased in the park while the singer shrieks “The killer is in the park!, etc.” This part reminded me of other 80’s horror movies such as Demons that also used heavy metal. I’d say if you’re a big horror/gore fan like me you’ll probably be happy with this movie. But if you’re just a casual viewer or someone who prefers big-budget, computer special effects-driven horror like Underworld or Van Helsing, definitely rent before purchasing.
About Dark Craving (2004)
Starring: Kevin Kindlin, Moon Unit Zappa, Tom Savini, John Hall (III), Tommy Lafitte
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: John A. Russo