Ice-T Rules as a Vampire King in BLOODRUNNERS

Bloodrunners (2017)
Written by Michael McFadden
Directed by Dan Lantz
Speakeasy Pictures
95 minutes, not rated

[All images courtesy Dan Lantz]

In the rural New Jersey community of South Hampton, a small and thoroughly corrupt police department spends most of their time before Prohibition ends collecting bribes instead of enforcing the law. As Bloodrunners begins, two of these cops are checking out the newest joint in town, a jazz club called Chesterfield’s.

Jack Malone (Michael McFadden) is the older, alcoholic mentor to younger (but equally corrupt) younger partner Sam (Dan McLaughlin). While the club clearly makes money serving illegal booze, Jack suspects they have a larger operation – which means more money for the police to extort. Unfortunately for Jack, Dan, and every human in South Hampton, these bootleggers are much smarter – and deadlier – than anyone realizes. Whoever’s running Chesterfield’s isn’t just out to separate customers from their money; they aim to literally bleed the town dry.

In my previous article on the release of Bloodrunners, I noted the potential of different elements mixed together in this movie to result in an entertaining popcorn movie for  viewers.

Placing a classic horror movie character type in a historical setting? Worked pretty well for Interview with the Vampire. And pitting an “evil” supernatural character against a group of scummy humans creates an interesting “who do I want to see win” situation (done to perfection in From Dusk Til Dawn).

The look, sound, and feel of Bloodrunners does not reflect a very modest production budget.

Does Bloodrunners successfully mix vamps, jazz, and small town Americana? Surprisingly well. Let’s start with what works.

Dan Lantz didn’t just do triple duty as Director, Production Designer & Cinematographer for Bloodrunners. He’s also credited with the concept and co-creating the original story with writer (and leading man) Michael McFadden. With an estimated production budget of $180,000 (if IMDB is correct), every penny is on the screen.

Lantz has made a very small budget movie that never looks it. Whatever its faults (see below), Bloodrunners transports you to the past, especially during any scene set at Chesterfield’s when the band is playing. The jazzy music throughout the film – credited on IMDB to Bruce Greenwald as arranger/studio musician and Jerome Danoff and F. William White IV as studio musicians – was, for me at least, a key element pulling me into the story. The special effects served the story, instead of the other way around.

 

Yes bandleader/vampire Chesterfield and chanteuse/vampire Alexandra are evil, but they do know how to have fun with immortality.

Another element pulling Bloodrunners together is the performances. Ice-T gets top billing as suave, ruthless vampire boss Chesterfield. But the supporting members of his vampire clan/business model also shine. Slinky singer Alexandra (Julie Ek) loves torturing townsfolk almost as much as singing. Peter Patrikios plays the human (and more importantly in Jim Crow-era America, white) figurehead Victor Renfield with relish. Renfield loves serving his vampire masters – and duping cops too blinded by greed to notice the truth until it’s too late.

Star-crossed lovers Anna (Airen DeLaMater) and Willie (Chris James Boylan) play the two humans in town we actually root for. Cigarette Girl/Betty Boop wannabe Rita (Tina Marie Connell) can’t carry a tune in a bucket but did make me smile.

Victor Renfield – the human servant of vampire boss Chesterfield – takes his last name from one of Dracula’s human flunkies.

What doesn’t work in Bloodrunners? Some aspects of the story that got the most screen time proved not as interesting as bits with much less.

We get to know a lot about why Jack Malone became an alcohol-sodden wreck; WWI and a Vampire medic played a big role. But his story isn’t as interesting as the amount of time the movie devotes to it. Which means less time for things I wanted more of – from the spectacularly creepy Vampire Dungeon below Chesterfield’s to the suave, mysterious and deadly Mr. Washington. The whole concept of a traveling coven of vampires, moving from town to town with a – shall we say – unique business model deserved more screen time than the story of Jack Malone’s Bad War Experience.

One of the most interesting parts of Bloodrunners – a basement “blood farm” draining the town dry.

Bloodrunners may not be greatest vampire movie I’ve ever seen. But it is a fun, entertaining B-movie with performances and production values that belie its small indie budget.

Bloodrunners is available on DVD/BluRay, as well as multiple streaming platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, and Vimeo On Demand.

Check out the official Bloodrunners web page for more trailers like the one below, movie clips, and photos.

 

 

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