Director: Anthony Hickox
Writers: John Burgess and Anthony Hickox
Starring: David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, Morgan Brittany, Jim Metzler, Maxwell Caulfield, Deborah Foreman, M. Emmet Walsh, John Ireland, and Dana Ashbrook
There are more vampire stories and films than anyone could ever watch in a lifetime, so many are made each year and it’s no surprise that good ones get looked over all the time. Vestron Collector’s Series is adding Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat to their ever-expanding range of cult classics, and it’s a real treat for vampire fans. It’s a horror/comedy with a dash of western thrown in on top.
Count Jozek Mardulak (David Carradine) has led his vampire colony to seek a peaceful and domesticated life in the remote desert town of Purgatory. They live on artificial blood and the town has a veneer of human life, so any tourists won’t suspect anything. Their artificial blood facility isn’t working the way it should, so they call in the designer, David Harrison (Jim Metzler). At the same time a revolt is starting, with some vampires who want to return to the old ways. David and his family visit the quant town but end up in the middle of an uprising.
Any fan of vampire stories should make this a priority as soon as possible. It’s incredibly funny, with bizarre oddball jokes flying around from the opening moment. Everything about the film is utterly charming. Just the idea that vampires would choose to live in a desert town, where they are forced to wear sunscreen is perfect. There’s a human-style diner where they pretend to eat food, not realising that it’s mouldy.
The characters are all great, especially Robert Van Helsing (Bruce Campbell), a decendent of the legendary Abraham Van Helsing from Dracula. He doesn’t exactly live up to his family’s reputation, but it’s always fun when he’s on screen. David Harrison also has one of the funnier running jokes, where he doesn’t seem to know his youngest daughter, Juliet. He hesitates when he introduces her, as if he’s trying to remember her name, and is surprised to find she is obsessed with horror. Her bedroom at home is filled with horror posters and dolls, but he just hasn’t ever noticed. The joke is taken even further because there’s a chance, he isn’t her real father.
The film’s opening sequences is all set around a gas station in the middle of nowhere, near Purgatory. It’s run by a trio of odd vampires who spend all day sitting on a swing in the shade. It feels like something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but the first person who arrives isn’t warned not to go further, he just gets his head hit off with a clean swing. By the end of the story, the tone has shifted completely into a full-blown western. There’s a massive shoot-out that lasts the whole of the final act, it’s insane and ridiculous in the best way possible. It feels that co-writer and director Anthony Hickox took big inspirations from the classic western films, with the setting, tone and camerawork that captures the vastness and beauty of the desert.
On the new Blu-ray the film looks great. It’s been fully restored and couldn’t look better. There’s also a whole ton of great extras. There’s a commentary track, an interview with Richard Stone, who scored the film. As well as archival interviews with David Carradine and Bruce Campbell. Campbell in particular brings a lot of humour when recalling his memories about the film.
Not enough people talk about Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat. It’s almost been lost to time. Thankfully this new edition will bring it to a whole new legion of vampire fans. It definitely lives up to it’s cult status.
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat are on Blu-ray 15 November from Lionsgate UK
Thanks for reading, and if you liked this review, please subscribe below to never miss a post: