Hemo (2010) – By Cary Conley

Hemo is about two vampires, Felicia and Calvin, who survive by making “withdrawals” from the local blood bank in their Long Island neighborhood.  But when the blood bank increases security, the two lovers must find different donors.  This means attacking and killing their victims, something Calvin feels guilty doing, although Felicia apparently isn’t bothered by the murders.  As Felicia revels in the killing, Calvin withdraws further from Felicia.  The relationship spirals downward until it becomes clear that the couple just isn’t going to make it.

This is definitely no-budget filmmaking.  Filmed in desolate Long Island locales, these real locations lend the film an appropriately seedy atmosphere.  Again, like last month’s review of Blood Red Moon, I enjoyed this film’s slight variation on the over-done vampire film.  These vampires are very human, with the ability to eat real food, walk in sunlight, and even sustain injuries in fights.  In fact, sometimes these vampires lose fights with their potential human targets.  And as long as there is a supply of blood that is easily obtainable, these vampires are content leaving humans alone entirely.  It’s only once their blood supply is cut off that they are forced to attack humans, with some reveling in their new found power while others are haunted by the guilt.  I found these new ideas on an old theme refreshing.  In fact, I wouldn’t really classify this as a horror film despite the main characters’ vampirism.  This is more of a love story between two people who happen to have a unique illness.

I also really enjoyed the idea that while these two lovers are indeed monsters, the film really explored the more human themes of love and the breakdown of a romance.  Yes, the main characters are vampires, but they are in a monogamous relationship that begins to deteriorate as they begin to notice definite differences between themselves.  When you break this film down to its nuts and bolts, what we have is a character study and the analysis of the failure of a relationship.  I thought this concept was fairly unique and I liked the whole idea.

The acting isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible, either.  Writer/director Bob Freville also has some good technical directing skills.  His use of interesting angles to keep the viewer off kilter is excellent.  And there are some truly disturbing images such as the scene of a mostly-nude, drugged-out male victim wandering through a dilapidated house with only the wall beams left, giving the impression of a Holocaust victim behind the bars of his prison cell.  We have already seen the victim die, so is this his ghost haunting our vampires, or perhaps a psychic impression of guilt manifesting itself?  We don’t find out, but it doesn’t really matter because the image is more important than the reason behind it.

Unfortunately, the film begins to unravel for several reasons.  First of all, I felt the story line was a bit weak.  Nothing much happens throughout the course of the film.  We are simply treated to scenes of our two vampires wandering the streets or the woods, or sitting at home staring at the walls.  Neither character is very sympathetic.  Felicia is rude, crude and downright cruel while Calvin isn’t very likeable simply because he is such a pushover.  Consequently, the viewer never really cares what happens to either character, although nothing much happens despite an occasional sex or murder scene.

The score is spotty at best.  It is strongest when actual songs are used, ranging from raw punk rock to country-western, and even a big-band tune.  But the sections of actual movie score are irritating at best.  The score consists of two or three musical motifs that are repeated throughout the film and quickly become annoying, especially the motif that reminded me of the children’s song “Rain, Rain Go Away.”

But the most unforgivable failing is the horrendous sound.  Many scenes were filmed directly along busy streets or intersections with dozens of cars, trucks and city buses whizzing by.  This created such a problem that much of the dialogue was drowned out.  In fact, in many scenes subtitles had to be used since the actual dialogue was covered up by street noise.  But instead of complete subtitles, only one character’s lines used subtitles while the other character (apparently the one with the microphone) didn’t have subtitles; however, his dialogue was difficult to hear at best.  This is my biggest pet peeve with indie films:  poor sound.  I found myself cranking the volume on the TV to hear the dialogue only to be blasted out with the musical score in the next scene.

While I think Hemo shows promise—and so does Mr. Freville—there are some technical flaws that, for me, detracted from the film.  For more information, you can contact the production company at intrepidaspirationsllc@gmail.com.