The Last Sect

cast: David Carradine, Natalie Brown, Deborah Odell, Julian Richings, and Sebastien Roberts

director: Jonathan Dueck

90 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies

Forget all your preconceptions about vampires. For the purposes of The Last Sect they are beautiful young women who prey on handsome young men not averse to a little bondage. So the victims subsequently become jerky ghouls straight out of a Michael Jackson video? You can’t have everything. Oh, and crucifixes don’t work.

As Dr Abraham Van Helsing (David Carradine), grandson of the original vampire hunter, obligingly informs us: at the turn of the millennium, vampires must regenerate themselves. For one vampire to sleep, all must sleep. And during this hibernation, which lasts up to 25 years, they need a repository for their ‘living energy’: a woman.

When reporter Sydney St James (Natalie Brown) starts researching an article about Artemis, a dating agency website, she has no idea it’s run by vampires. Or that they’re also behind The Vampire Web, current favourite website of photographer colleague Sam Francis (Sebastien Roberts) – as Sam says, “Ravenous vampire sluts. What’s not to like?”

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Van Helsing and his son have made the connection, however, and are convinced they have found a vampire sect last encountered by his grandfather in Madrid in 1906. While Van Helsing and his ruthless henchman Karpov (Julian Richings), whose quirky arsenal includes needles tipped with snake venom, and wooden bullets, prepare to eradicate the sect, Sydney and Sam visit Artemis HQ. There, they meet the glacially beautiful owner and sect matriarch Anna (Deborah Odell), who senses that Sydney is the ‘repository’ she has been seeking. Now all she needs to do is to seduce the unwitting reporter into accepting the role.

There’s a leisurely, almost spacey quality to this crisp, good-looking, Canadian film, which comes with an atmospheric soundtrack of songs by English band The Duke Spirit. Though there’s the obligatory gore, the film’s actually more erotic than scary. It takes quite a while to get going, however, as the constant cutting to Van Helsing’s languid exposition on the subject of vampires slows the development of the more interesting plotline involving Sydney and Anna.

The Last Sect seems undecided, as does Carradine (Kill Bill) himself, whether to take itself seriously or not, witness the scenes when Van Helsing suddenly sings a snatch of opera and his son plays the trombone. And fans of the TV series Kung Fu will spot numerous nods to Caine when Carradine plays the flute, practices tai chi, totes a vast canvas bag around, and dispenses wisdom – all it needs is for someone to address him as ‘grasshopper’, in fact. Whether it was Dueck’s intention or not, this aging, shabby professor in his dusty study, who delegates the killing to a subordinate, failed to engage my sympathies, and I found myself rooting for the vampires.

Fortunately, Brown (Dawn Of The Dead) and Odell (Final Draft) play their roles straight (so to speak) and are much more engaging characters. They’ve gone for the classy approach rather than the tacky – there’s a Catherine Deneuve, ice-blonde quality to Odell – and the tangible sexual frisson between them grabs the attention whenever they’re onstage. Roberts (Lucky Number Slevin) faces an uphill struggle, though, to make Sam not only a sexist pig but also amusing and likeable, and to his credit he largely succeeds. As for Richings (Saw IV), he brings a beaky, heron-like strangeness to Karpov.

DVD extras: there’s a deleted scene, and a 13-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that takes a fly-on-the-wall look at the filming process, from ‘setting up’ to ‘action’ by way of the special effects team. As for the two-minute trailer, it helpfully fillets Van Helsing’s longwinded exposition to provide you with all need to know about these particular vampires.