The year was 1973 . . . Justin Thomas Wilson was hunting the fallen with an ax and a shotgun. Sam, his young disciple, documented their adventures with the first 8mm camera ever to record sound.
Written By: Dustin Leighton
Directed By: Dustin Leighton
The premise of "Just The Vampire Hunter" was an interesting one to say the least. A period piece featuring Vampires? What's not to love right? The fact that writer / director Dustin Leighton decided to make a feature, with a vintage vibe was a ballsy one to start with; the fact he decided to style it as an artsy documentary / found footage film was taking a huge leap of faith. The end result, to be fair was a mixed bag. "Just The Vampire Hunter" has some cool moments but also suffers from some unbelievable ones, as well as what I refer to as the run-time blues. As cool as the cool moments are, this film would have fared much better as a short film. Leave the "cool" parts in and remove the bloat. If however, you are a huge fan of art cinema, I feel you'd score this flick a little better than I did. Me however, as a pampered viewer have to simply be honest; as a short I would have enjoyed it much more. By about the 40 minute mark I began feeling like the film should be almost over.
On the technical front, "Just The Vampire Hunter" is a shrine to personal style on the surface. The question becomes how much of an 8mm buff is the viewer? If you are hard-core, you'll probably rate this film a 4+ using our scale. It really comes down to personal taste. With that written however, even using this retro look, it would have been cool to see some more practical effects. The old look easily covers a low budget since instead of actually showing something, you can just jump the film to the after effects. I would have liked to have seen a few more standard shots, even if they were locked off to balance the feature. Adding to the list, there are also a few writing issues that I kept thinking about. The person running the camera (Sam) is brave enough to follow his friend through-out his adventures... yet he would rather say... sit and watch as his friend being drowned, rather than putting the camera down for a second to try and help. It's segments like that one that really pulled me out of the world Dustin Leighton created, more-so than the film style itself. The acting from the main characters varied from really good to sub-par at times. A little frustrating knowing they could have nailed every scene. How do I know? Because parts of the film are golden and very well played. The bottom line with "Just The Vampire Hunter" is that the good parts are really damn good. However, the not-so-good parts make you wonder why they weren't so good, knowing that they were capable and they could be.
Wrapping up this little write-up let's just say that overall this was a decent flick. My biggest complaint is that it was done in the found footage style. Being born into the 70s I grew up watching films that used inferior gear but strived to show how much could be done with it. Now, retro styled films use the "found footage" genre to try and justify an easy production. This movie would have been so much cooler using the 8mm and attempting to make a more standardized film. On some levels "Just The Vampire Hunter" succeeds and on others... not so much. I also still maintain a short film would have served this particular title very well. As you can tell though, this movie isn't a flop by any stretch. There's a lot of good contained within but it's meant more for the hard-core retro lovers. When you can, why not give this one a whirl? It may just be the unique title you've been searching for.
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