In the wake of COVID-19, annual film festivals have decided to bring the chills, thrills, and gore to your living room in a digital format, and I was lucky enough to check out the aptly named There’s No Such Thing as Vampires, directed by Logan Thomas, written with Aric Cushing, having just made its world premiere at this year’s FrightFest...
...Joshua (Josh Plasse) and Ariel (Emma Holzer) crash into each other in the dead of night and soon find themselves trekking across the desert on the run from a supernatural force with an unquenchable thirst.
Holzer and Plasse carry the film, playing well off of each other and giving us great character moments along the way. Though we encounter Josh first, in a scene reminiscent of Scream 2, it is Ariel, the embodiment of a badass female in the style of Buffy or Alien’s Ripley, who takes the lead on slaying monsters and saving lives. Even with its more common presence in horror, this flip of who takes the role of protector is refreshing to see.
No Such Thing feels like a road trip at times. As we travel alongside Ariel and Josh, we feel like just another passenger watching as they develop a connection of their own. The shifts in tone are effectively handled. Their terror settles into moments of calm, only to be interrupted once more in the third act, thanks in part to great visual effects work by Face Off alum Eric Fox and makeup by Raquel Castaneda and Linda Michaels.
The mix of color and shadow together with a slow-motion filming technique creates something that feels almost like you’re watching two separate movies in one. The slow motion heightens moments of terror in a way where the violence is as quick and agile as the film’s creature in real time but feels as though it’s being prolonged. The titular vampires do like to play with their food, after all.
There are many homages and Easter eggs littered throughout, not just to 80s films like Mad Max or Lost Boys but to the silent era and Universal monster films as well, making repeat viewings all the more fun. Nowhere are these homages made clearer than with Thomas’ synth score and a soundtrack featuring standout songs by Nina and FM-84 to name a few.
There’s No Such Thing as Vampires is a film made with love by horror fans for horror fans that works just as well for fans of interesting story and character development regardless of genre. The film spends no time holding our hands by re-explaining the standard vampire mythos, instead preferring to set up an interesting bit of its own mythology. This fun twist creates a few mysteries and leaves you wanting more by the time the credits roll.
FrightFest has a history of delivering memorable films in its circuit and There’s No Such Thing as Vampires is one of the highlights of its 2020 lineup.
If there are plans for a sequel somewhere down the pipeline, it would be interesting to see Cushing and Thomas take the elements they hinted at in their script and expand upon them more to give us a deeper glimpse into the world they created and the undead immortals that dwell in it.
I encourage you to see the film. You will not regret the one hour and twenty minutes spent on the desert roads of California being chased by an unforgiving and seemingly unstoppable force of nature. Just remember to stop for gas, charge your phone, and have a couple steaks ready on hand. You never know who will be around that next stretch of road or in your rearview mirror.
By Kalani Landgraf