Subspecies (1991)


USA. 1991.


Director – Ted Nicolaou, Screenplay – Jackson Barr & David Pabian, Story – Charles Band, Producer – Ion Ionescu, Photography – Vlad Paunescu, Music – Stuart Brotman, Michael Portis, Richard Restinski & John Zeretzke, Visual Effects – David Allen Productions (Supervisor – David Allen), Makeup Effects – Greg Cannom, Art Direction – Lucian Nicolau. Production Company – Full Moon Entertainment


Laura Tate (Michele), Michael Watson (Stefan Belescu), Anders Hove (Radu), Ivan J. Rado (Karl), Michelle McBride (Lillian), Irina Movila (Mara), Angus Scrimm (King Vladislav)


Two American college students, Michele and Lillian, arrive in Rumania to study Mediaeval folklore and are joined by a local friend Mara. Staying at a monastery, they become fascinated with a castle nearby that is not listed in any of the maps or histories and learn that it is the home of the vampire king Vladislav. Vladislav’s son Radu has imprisoned his father and taken the all-important bloodstone that drips with the blood of saints, which has been given as a gift by the people of the region in return for Vladislav sparing them. Radu then preys on Lillian and Mara. Michele is attracted to the zoology student Stefan but then learns that he is Radu’s brother, born of a mortal woman, thus half-vampire, half-human. As Michele tries to rescue her friends, she becomes caught up in the war between the two brothers.

The Band family with their Empire/Full Moon production companies have built up a solid niche throughout the 1980s and 1990s, churning out competent and occasionally modestly enjoyable sf/horror/fantasy video fodder. The Bands’ output includes several entire series of films – the Trancers, Puppetmaster and Ghoulies films.

Subspecies bends the Band formula to the vampire film, one theme it is a surprise to find the Bands had not touched upon before. The film shows some promise with a story that pits one good and one evil vampire brother against the other. There are moments in the film where it seems to be trying to get back to the folklore roots of vampirism – having to cut stakes from the right sort of wood, peasant rituals getting white horses to jump over graves to search for the vampire and the symbolic stabbing of the graves. It is also the first vampire film to go and shoot on location in Rumania (ie. Transylvania) where the Bands shoot most of their films on the cheap, which lends a feel of authenticity to the film over the usual studio-interior created Eastern European netherworlds in vampire films built by people who probably had not even looked at photos of the region.

For all that, Subspecies disappoints. Anders Hove plays the part of Radu entirely in a hoarse whisper, an annoyingly theatrical affectation that subtracts considerably from the character’s threat. Furthermore, the film is not budgeted well enough to be convincing – it seems only a small-scale fight taking place and needs something more epic in size to do the story justice. Regular Band effects man Dave Allen turns out some disappointing stop-motion animated goblin creations.

The Bands and director Ted Nicolaou made three sequels Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993), Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994) and Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998).

Ted Nicolaou’s other genre films as director include:- one of the segments of The Dungeonmaster (1984), TerrorVision (1986), Bad Channels (1992), Remote (1993), Dragonworld (1994), Leapin’ Leprechauns! (1995), Leapin’ Leprechauns! 2/Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns (1996), Magic in the Mirror (1996), Magic in the Mirror: Fowl Play (1996), Vampire Journals (1997), The Shrunken City (1998), Dragonworld: The Legend Continues (1999), Ragdoll (1999), The Horrible Dr Bones (2000), In the Shadow of the Cobra (2004), Puppetmaster vs Demonic Toys (2004), The Etruscan Mask (2007) and Don’t Let Her In (2021).

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