Home » ‘Bloodrise: Subspecies V’ Proves That Full Moon Still Shines [Review]

‘Bloodrise: Subspecies V’ Proves That Full Moon Still Shines [Review]

Bloodrise Subspecies V

As a Subspecies fan, I have never had the experience of anticipating a new entry in the franchise until now. I discovered the series the same way I discovered Puppet Master, through an article in a magazine covering Full Moon Toys. After that I was obsessed with seeing any and all of the movies that went along with those figures, but did not see Subspecies until two-years later, when I taped it off the Sci-Fi Channel at 2am and it became an instant favorite. I still absolutely love that movie to death. I opened that toy magazine and was introduced to Radu twenty-five-years ago, the same year that the most recent sequel prior to this one—Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm—was released. By the time I actually saw any of the movies, those four were all there was. I have grown up with Subspecies and yet never grew up with a new one. Of course, being a young fan on the Internet, I was there when the rumors of Subspecies 5 first began. And the story promised way back then was virtually the same as what we now, miraculously, have!

Bloodrise: Subspecies V tells the tale of Radu’s origins, beginning in the dark ages and chronicling his rise and fall throughout the centuries that follow. It is the story of the offspring of a vampire and a witch, who was adopted by the church and raised as a knight with no knowledge of his origin, and the unraveling of his life and identity after he finds out. And as far as I can tell, that’s all it was ever going to be. Out of the many miraculous things about this film—number one being that it exists at all—that is one of the biggest. Not only did this movie get made after twenty-five-years, it got made with its vision intact. Ted Nicolaou still has it. Ted Nicolaou never lost it. And the fact that Ted Nicolaou was given the time and means (well, at least more time and means) to make it correctly is incredible.

It’s a massive understatement to say that this is the most ambitious movie Full Moon has made in a very long time, nor does it really need to be said. One look at it, and that much will be obvious to just about anybody. The biggest strength of the Subspecies franchise has always been in its locations, elevating each movie to look far more expensive than I’m sure it actually was. That is no different in Bloodrise, but here it truly feels like a miracle. I’ve been on record as being impressed with Full Moon’s 2020s output so far, I think the spinoffs were the right angle for the puppet and toy characters, to not spread a large cast of puppets so thin with the time and money the films are currently being made for. Single location, single puppet movies are perfect for the financial realities of modern day Full Moon, and I support it. But Subspecies V is on an entirely different level. 

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This isn’t only a good looking movie for modern day Full Moon, it’s a good looking movie, period. And this isn’t simply a great Subspecies movie for modern day Full Moon, it’s a great Subspecies movie. And it truly is. That is the aspect that surprised me most coming away from this viewing. As a fan, I went in with the hope that it would simply recapture some of that old magic. All I asked of Subspecies V was to rekindle at least some of that feeling I had, watching these movies for the very first time. It does that, and then some. Subspecies V isn’t just a worthy entry in the series, it is absolutely in the running for best Subspecies movie, full stop. 

I’m not sure it tops the original, which in my eyes is a perfect melting pot of Murnau, Herzog, Anne Rice, and Jess Franco, or the fan-favorite first sequel, but it is a contender without a doubt and that is astonishing

I am also comfortable saying that Anders Hove gives his best performance as Radu to date. There are a few spoilers ahead as I get into the performances, so be warned. He is marvelous in this movie. This being an origin story, he’s doing something very different from anything we’ve seen before. The Radu we are introduced to is a righteous, noble man, but one wrestling with an inner darkness. He is eager to hunt vampires and has a passion for violence even if it is committed in God’s name. He is rather easily tempted. Most fascinating of all, he is terrified when Marius, the monk, leaves his company, calling him his “conscience.” It is made clear that Radu is afraid of what he might do when left to his own devices, and that leads him down a road to the truth, which becomes his undoing. Hove’s performance is a gradual transformation into the Radu we know and love, and this is aided by the makeup as well. It’s almost similar to The Fly. As we go through time and meet up with Radu at various stages of his life, he looks worse and worse until he is clearly the grotesque, deliciously evil, yet privately miserable Radu we recognize from the previous films.

Related Post: Why Subspecies is a Perfect Throwback to ’60s Gothic Camp

Denise Duff is the other side of that coin, the Yin to Radu’s Yang as she has always been, though she is not returning as Michelle given that this is a prequel, and in this new character, the roles have been reversed in deeply intriguing ways. Here, Duff plays Helena, the mother of Stefan, Radu’s half-brother. This is a character who was spoken about in the other films, but never actually seen. What’s especially interesting is that she is far from the pure and virtuous character we were initially led to believe she was from the way Stefan spoke of her in the original movie. She is a manipulator, but she’s not simply outright evil. There are many shades of gray to the characters and their relationships here, and that’s one of the best elements of this surprising, wholly refreshing movie. Helena and Radu both believe the other to be their salvation when they first meet, and all they wind up doing is destroying each other. He was meant to be her protector, and he failed to save her from Vladislas (a neat turn by Subspecies 2 & 3′s Kevin Spirtas doing his best Nosferatu) and failed to save her from her own bloodlust. She was meant to be his salvation, but all she did was lead him further and further into the dark. With it being hinted that Michelle, protagonist of the prior films, may be a reincarnation of Helena, there is an absolutely fascinating suggestion that these two are simply doomed to be mutually destructive forces in each other’s lives throughout eternity. 

There is so much more to go into, from the spectacular cinematography by Vladimir Ilic, to the origins of Ash from Vampire Journals and his sister, Ariel, who might be my favorite character in the film. But I want to leave some surprises for the movie itself. See it, especially if you’re a fan of the series. If not, go in understanding that this is a low budget endeavor. But is still more polished than I think some may expect, and might take some new viewers by surprise.

All in all, Bloodrise: Subspecies V is a delight. It is not only everything I wanted from another Subspecies after all this time, it is honestly a great deal more. It shows what Full Moon is still capable of when the time and effort and passion are put into a single project in order to make it great. It has been a long, long wait, but the wait has been worth it. Twenty-five-years later, the night still has fangs and they are as sharp and slobbery as ever.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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