Director/Screenplay – Don Henry, Producer – Drew Brody, Photography – Pablo Santiago, Music – Dean Harada & Jason Moss, Visual Effects Supervisor – David Troy Smith, Special Effects Supervisor – Richard Miranda, Production Design – Nick Ralbovsky. Production Company – Encantado Films/The Infinite Monkey Project/WindChill Films
Justin Quinn (Luis Diego), Brenda Romero (Maricela), Naim Thomas (Christian Castaneda), Yvonne Rawn (Sarita Padilla), Tori White (Samantha), Natalie J. Horton (Heather), Mike Dusi (Carlos), Annika Svedman (Amy), L. Flint Esquerra (Father Hernandez), Jonathan Deprez (Juan), Josh Adamson (Tommy), Agustin Bunuel (Tomas), Daniel Tarin-Marquez (Flavio), Andrew Welsh (Bobby)
In Tecate, Mexico, an American tourist treasure hunting in the desert uncovers a coffin buried in the ground and removes a cross that covers it. The vampire Luis Diego emerges. He goes to finds his love Sarita Padilla but he has spent 35 years buried in the ground and she is now an old woman. She curses him for the evil thing he has become. Spurned, Luis now decides to devote himself to hate. Meanwhile, in Malibu, Maricela receives news that her aunt Sarita is ill and so travels to Tecate along with two girl friends to be at her side. On the ranch, Luis steps in to save Maricela from being assaulted by two locals. She is charmed and drawn to him at the same time as others try to warn her that Luis is responsible for the spate of vampire killings.
Desert of Blood was the second film for director Don Henry. Henry is listed at the IMDB as having previously made something called Fell’s Redeemer (1997), although no other information exists about it, leading one to expect that it might be unreleased or to have merely been announced and failed to go any further. Henry also wrote the tv movie The Haunting of Lisa (1996) and had previously produced the vampire film Sucker (1998).
Desert of Blood taps the same Tex Mex vampire film idea that Robert Rodriguez did in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and which became an even more prominent focus in the tv series remake of the original with From Dusk Till Dawn (2014– ). Crucially though, Desert of Blood is a Mexican-set vampire that draws on American vampire films tropes as opposed to the tradition of the homegrown South of the Border vampire films that we had with the likes of German Robles’s The Vampire (1958) and The Vampire’s Coffin (1958) and the Nostradamus series of films also with Robles, along with other works of the era like The Living Coffin (1959), The World of the Vampires (1961), The Bloody Vampire (1962), Santo vs the Vampire Women (1962), Bring Me the Vampire (1963), Invasion of the Vampires (1963) and The Empire of Dracula (1967).
The film sits exactly in the dividing line between being mediocre and the promise of a little more than that. Don Henry’s directorial set-ups have a dramatic confidence, even if he is operating with a low budget. On the other hand, you keep waiting for him to do something original but this never comes. Maybe the cutest scene is where Justin Quinn goes to bite a victim’s neck and licks the salt off the back of his hand first just as though he were about to have a margarita. Disappointingly though, nothing much happens in the film. What is crucially lacking is a big fight for the soul of Brenda Romero and the banding together of the vampire hunters to track and kill the vampire. The film could have spun something out here that riffed on the climax of Dracula (1897) where the vampire hunters pursue Dracula across Europe after he abducts Mina, whereas the death of the vampire here is a relatively nondescript affair that is over in hardly any time.
Justin Quinn – who it should be said looks a dead ringer for D.J. Cotrona in tv’s From Dusk Till Dawn – has a handsome and assured presence as the vampire. On the other hand, Brenda Romero as the sweetly innocent heroine of the show fails to project much at all. Here you feel that the film could have had much more potential than it did – it could have pitted the two together romantically, the vampire monster and the innocent he falls for, as we get in some of the more lush versions of Dracula like Dracula (1979) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). She also travels to Mexico with two companions who would normally be pegged as victims but merely sit in the background doing nothing.