Judge Daryl Loomis misses Dysfunctional Family Feud.
You never really know who your neighbors are.
When we last left this weirdo family in The Hamiltons, a surprisingly successful entry in After Dark's 2007 "8 Films to Die for" collection, they finally revealed why they had such strange tastes. It's a brooding and talkative indie thriller that is also deliberately obtuse in its attempt to hide its twist ending, but that sense of confusion about everything that goes on gave it some suspense and intrigue. Now that we know what the deal is, a sequel would need another route to success, but the Butcher Brothers (co-directors Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) do their best in their follow-up, The Thompsons. They get close enough for a marginal success, but the problems in the original reemerge in the sequel.
Facts of the Case
Following the shocking and bloody events of the first film, the supernatural brood must move once again, but now they're wanted and finding a harder time finding peace than ever. After changing their names, the now-Thompsoons take a piece of old advice and split up heading to Europe with little to go on but an obscure name "Masterson" and a bit of hope. They find what they're looking for at the local pub of a tiny English village, another family with a similar affliction who claim to want to help. They soon find out, however, that the Stuart family, an old clan with a lot of power who will stop at nothing to keep it that way.
The Thompsons could not have a worse presentation for me. Emblazoned on the cover of the Blu-ray is the quote, "Twilight Meets Tarantino!," which is very likely the surest way for me to not want to watch a movie. What I didn't realize was that it was the sequel to a fairly strong movie in The Hamiltons and, on top of it, has very little to do with either of those references. That knowledge would have helped my irritation, but I started with a pretty bad attitude about it.
The movie begins a little bit shaky, with an overlong voiceover from Francis Hamilton (Cory Knauf, Pocahauntus), the teenaged protagonist of the original film. Now that he understands what he really is, most of his angst is gone, for which I am thankful. He is locked in a box, though, which gives him the opportunity to catch everybody up on what been going on with the family. With both a recap of the previous film and extensive new exposition to get people up to speed on why he's in that box make it an overlong, rough start.
It gets going pretty well after that, with the family back together and a more action-heavy clan vs. clan storyline that is very different than the brooding drama of the original. There's probably an equal amount of bloodshed, but it gets delivered in The Thompsons through more fisticuffs and vampire-on-vampire violence, rather than the original's human victims. The Butcher Brothers expand on the mythology, showing vampirism as something that exists in pockets all over the world and, in doing so, allows the story to expand considerably.
The location is the biggest difference between the two movies, though. The first film kept them cooped up in their house almost the entire film, which The Thompsons has a much broader, less moody feeling film. It still has plenty of rumination on what it means to be a vampire in modern society, but that stuff is toned down considerably. The performances, with the family all played by the same actors as the original, have gotten stronger, but they still have that indie horror feel.
The Thompsons isn't a great film at any point, but it's a worthy successor to The Hamiltons that sacrifices mood for action and expands its world considerably. Fans of the original film will certainly want to give The Thompsons a look, but coming into it cold might well leave viewers underwhelmed.
The Thompsons arrives from XLRator in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that is a big improvement over what the original received. The 2.35:1/1080p image isn't perfect, but quite solid in most respects. Shot with the RED system, the picture is very clear with sharp detail, showing off the English locale very nicely. In the brighter scenes, however, there are a few aliasing issues, which is the only thing that mars this otherwise solid hi-def image. The Master Audio surround track doesn't give the workout one might have hoped for, but The Thompsons is very dialog-heavy for a horror film, so while the dialog is perfectly clear, it's not the most dynamic mix. When the surround channels get going, though, they get good and loud, but it doesn't take advantage of it most of the time.
The extras, all short featurettes are pretty good. "Relocating the Family" (12 min.) features the Butcher Brothers and the cast discussing the interest and challenge in shooting their low-budget production in another country and in such old locations. "Scribed in Blood" (12 min.) discusses the inception and writing of the project and how everything changed when they discovered they'd be able to shoot in England. "Humans to Monsters" (13 min.) deals with the makeup, fight choreography, and special effects. "Awakening the Project" (19 min.) is a general, but detailed look at the production as a whole, with good advice for young filmmakers. "Families" (17 min.) has the cast relating how their characters have changed since the first film and the effects of having a new family in the mix. Finally, "The Ringlestone Inn" (3 min.) gives a bit of information on the main English location in the film. Together, they make a very interesting and near feature length look at the making of an independent horror film. The trailer rounds out the disc.
The Thompsons is a small step down from the original film, but the Butcher Brothers make do with a broader scope and more action than its predecessor, but without the mystery surrounding the family, suspense is much harder to come by. Plenty of holes remain in the plotting, and the acting is only marginally improved, but the film is a restrained effort (especially for a pair calling themselves the Butcher Brothers), it's a relatively novel concept for a vampire film and, with a fairly good looking Blu-ray release, The Thompson is definitely worth a rent.
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