The early and mid-1990s were filled with many nights spent lounging on my couch ingesting as many horror and sci-fi films as I could. When I ran out of mainstream and theatrical movies to watch, my appetite was quickly quenched by any straight-to-video genre entry I could get my hands on. Full Moon Features were at the top of my list when entering Blockbuster or Movie Gallery. You couldn’t go wrong with “Puppetmaster,” “Mandroid,” “Trancers,” or any other number of low-budget B-quality titles Charles Band’s production house was putting out back then. My favorite entries of Full Moon’s roster are now available in a special high-definition set entitled “Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection Volume 1.”
The first three movies in the franchise are included in “Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection Volume 1.” The first entry centers on three students studying the folklore of Transylvania who uncover more than they anticipated. They stumble upon a clan of vampires ruled by the monstrous Radu (Anders Hove). The sadistic vampire becomes obsessed with making them his fledglings and pursues them relentlessly. Wielding the power of the Bloodstone, a relic that drips the blood of the saints, Radu and his subspecies - a pack of small, sinister creatures - give the girls a true understanding of the local mythology.
"Bloodstone,” the second installment of the series, concentrates on Radu's fledgling and love interest, Michelle (Denice Duff). She flees from his castle with the holy relic - the Bloodstone. Meanwhile, as a new vampire, Michelle struggles with her emerging bloodlust. To escape Radu, she hides in the basement of a theater in Bucharest, waiting for her sister (Melanie Shatner) to arrive from the US to help her - before it's too late.
"Bloodlust" brings the third coming of Radu, who captures his fledgling, Michelle, and returns her to the castle he shares with his sorceress mother (Pamela Gordon). Radu teaches Michelle how to master her vampire powers. Meanwhile, Michelle's sister, Becky, plans an armed assault on Radu's stronghold. She is determined to save her sister's soul - and this time she's brought some help.
Each movie in the “Subspecies” franchise gets better and better in quality. The stop-motion in the first film is relatively primitive even for the early 1990s. The little creatures that spring out of Radu’s blood go from looking like pieces of clay smashed on film cells to becoming more and more convincing in Parts One and Two. The practical effects are beautiful to gaze upon as the gore splashes and the body parts are dragged across the screen. What we get to witness here is classic independent horror filmmaking at its best.
One of the things that make the “Subspecies” movies so special to both the horror and the vampire genres is where the movies were shot. Instead of Hollywood stages and typical American locations, they were actually filmed in the land of the undead – Bucharest, Romania. How much more legitimate can you get than that?
The first “Subspecies” movie has a vampire for every type, whether you love “Twilight” or “30 Days of Night.” There’s the attractive undead brother who is willing to spend eternity with the human he has come to love. We also get the detestable monster that resembles Count Orlock in the original “Nosferatu” movie from the 1920s. He has elongated razor-sharp fingers and a pale sunken-in face that you wouldn’t want to encounter in a dark alley.
Each movie in “Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection Volume 1” is rated R or not rated. The original is the 20th Anniversary Edition and unrated. They all feature violence, gore, nudity, and profanity. If you’re familiar with Charles Band’s Full Moon films from the 1980s and 1990s, you know what extent of skin you can expect to see – a lot of boobs and butts.
“Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection Volume 1” includes bonus material for each movie. The original film features the first “Subspecies VideoZone” and six Full Moon trailers. The “Bloodstone: Subspecies II” Special Edition comes with “Making ‘Subspecies:’ The Recollections of Ted Nicolaou, Anders Hove, and Denice Duff,” Audio Commentary by Ted Nicolaou, Anders Hove, and Denice Duff, a Killer “Subspecies” Montage, Original “VideoZones” and Full Moon Trailers. The “Bloodlust: Subspecies III” Special Edition features the same extras as Part II.
The big question on my mind is why Full Moon didn’t go ahead and do special editions for the companion film “The Vampire Journals” and the last sequel, “Bloodstorm: Subspecies IV,” to make one complete Blu-ray set. With this set holding the “Volume 1” title, it’s pretty obvious they plan on doing a second set with the final two. I look forward to it, but would’ve loved to have all the movies in one collection.
Make sure you set aside about five and a half hours when you sit down to put in the first disc of “Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection Volume 1.” Once you get started, you won’t want to stop. Each movie ends on a cliffhanger and flows seamlessly into the next entry. I’ll always hold these movies in high regard as legitimate pieces of gothic horror entertainment.
“Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection Volume 1” is available here.