Eternal Damnation

2010_Eternity(Originally posted January 5, 2011) Eternity. This is a South African vampire movie – the first. And if you were expecting something of the same caliber as District 9, forget it. It was abysmal.
I was wondering how I missed the release of this title, seeing as vampires are a firm favorite of mine, but I see now that this movie wasn’t released – it was unleashed.My companion and I suffered through nearly 45 minutes of adverts even before the movie started, followed by nearly two hours in which this awful presentation lived up to it’s title. It seemed an eternity of brutal torture in which I stared at the ceiling, rolling my eyes at every gaffe or blatant screw-up, and looked at my companion for a sign – any sign – that he had given up and wanted to leave. I looked longingly at the exit.

What’s the story about? I don’t know really. The characters do things that make no sense, and people react in ways no normal person (human or vampire) would. A lot of time is spent watching vampires you don’t see too clearly “hissing” at each other in the dark, or making ridiculously florid speeches in accents that make Wikus van der Merwe sound like Sean Connery by comparison. The dialogue sounds posed and contrived. There was some disturbingly second-rate acting from some experienced local actors who should be ashamed to be associated with this title. Almost nothing flows in this movie.

There are references to V:tM role-playing terminology throughout the movie, awful imitation Blade special effects, lousy continuity, shocking scripting, disjointed scenes, awful lines, long painful brooding lulls in the action, confusing action scenes where you only see the “good guys” racing through an abandoned building while dodging bullets, firing automatic weapons at the bad guys – who you don’t see at all till the very end of the scene.

The story starts off with the male lead running around and doing some interesting acrobatics in the dark with another well-muscled vampire, across the rooftops of Johannesburg. Fun. Okay, so that’s new. I think. So immediately the sounds of footpads, running, landing and other sound effects betray this production as being done on the cheap. No bass, no bells, no whistles. No kiss-kiss, bang-bang. Anyway, so then it cuts to some lab where a scientist is working on a new drug and clearly experimenting on a vampire, who escapes, is pursued by a couple of corny-sounding military types in full riot gear complete with gas masks. You can’t hear a word they’re saying, and can’t help but notice that they can’t shoot worth a damn either. The escapee reaches the roof and spontaneously combusts in the sunlight as we now expect fictional vampires to do, like the good little stereotype they are.

Cue the bad guys, meeting in secret in near-darkness – always good when the audience can see almost nothing on the screen (a similar concept used by dodgy restaurants that offer dim lighting so you can’t tell your steak from the potatoes). Now in some movies, in good movies, the bad guys are people you love to hate, you watch their every move, you even admire them. This movie just left me wanting to round them all up and feed them garlic and holy water. So these fellas start discussing a fancy drug that can allow vampires to be immune to sunlight and walk the day (sound familiar?) Not much effort is made to explain to the audience who they are, and you don’t see them again anyway, because the same dudes in military gear start inexplicably shooting everybody on the set. Cool – because after the way they dropped references to “clans”, “bloodlines” and other things you would find in role-playing games and other (better) movies and TV series based on them, I wanted to shoot them myself. The less said about how they delivered their lines the better, I think – but needless to say, as vampires, they suck – and not in a good way.

Cue the main character, a quite good-looking vampire who could be described as a match for Stefan Salvatore or Edward Cullen (pick one). He and his “tag-buddy” meet this chick in a bar, and he buys her and her friend drinks (which they don’t accept) and flaunts a metal hip-flask containing “something stronger” which he hints contains human blood. Ok, fine. He’s a vamp, so what’s new? But then he gets distracted by an old girlfriend, ditches her – and they go to the dance floor – and he leaves the hip flask containing the blood lying on the bar. Clever.

They drive around a while, and then he spends some time running around, “playing tag” with his vampire buddy “Jackie”, performing some admittedly good stunts and acrobatics. Relevance? Then he drops this girl at home in his fancy new Aston Martin, walks her to the door and gets all romantic before leaving. She goes inside and is attacked by a bunch of feral looking vampires who demand to know where her father (the scientist) is, and kill her mother. Right, so then Mr Hero comes in and kills a few of them, helping the damsel in distress (aaargh!) to escape in the parent’s BMW. Where is his car? Left right in the front yard for the cops to find the next morning, of course. The cops run the plates and that is never followed up in the story again. However, the next night, this dude is happily driving her around in his Aston Martin again, with no follow-up on how he got it back, or reference to the coppers. Uhuh. And since when do silver bullets get fired using silver casings? What?

Add to that, from one scene to the next this main character appears first with goth make-up, and then without, and then with make-up again, and then without. Very good production, that.

The usual references were made to try and set the vampires apart from the mundane – heightened strength, super-speed (except when it made sense for the hero to actually use it) and a heightened sense of smell. That’s right. So when they’re not brooding like Stefan in Vampire Diaries, or arguing about embracing their nature, the characters are talking about smelling fear, love, sorrow and so on. I have to say that all the way through, I could smell something alright – and it was none of the above.

The main villain was played by an experienced local actor who I suppose tried his best with the sheer crap handed to him by the scriptwriter – but try as he might, just couldn’t salvage it. This ship sank like a stone all the way to the bottom. There is no point in breaking the rest of the so-called plot down for you, it just sort of disintegrated on it’s own.

Despite the local setting and SA props and characters (with strange foreign-sounding names), there was a complete absence of local culture, not one single word of Afrikaans, not one word of another indigenous language. Aside from the story being set in Johannesburg and the rubbish accents which at times sound part South African, and at other times like fake American or even British accents, there is nothing whatever to connect the story to a South African setting at all.

The storyline and presentation were so fake and staged with all the cliche’s and “borrowed” plot devices – it felt like a re-run of every cop and vampire TV show you could think of – only all scrambled together so as to not make sense. I felt like screaming. I wanted to leave, except I would have to wake my now dozing date to do so. I felt, surrealistically, like I was living out an episode of “Robot Chicken” for real, myself being the unfortunate mechanized fowl in question, strapped into my seat and forced to watch this heinous affront to the vampire genre, with my brain melting out through my ears.

I collect vamp flicks, y’know – but this one I will quite happily skip. I wouldn’t say it is worth it for pirates to even bother ripping, counterfeiting and selling it on the streets of Johannesburg. I’m not often driven to profanity in text – but in plain South African terms, this was kak! That was without exception the BIGGEST load of shit I’ve ever watched – come back twilight – all is forgiven. So what if those vamps sparkle? I can’t believe this movie made it onto a national movie circuit. It’s like an amateur movie student’s project gone mad – only I’m sure amateurs could do better with a production studio set up on a 486 in their parent’s garage. I think the director, editor, producer and scriptwriters for this crap deserve to be chained down with silver, and staked at sunrise.

Still, on the positive side, it WAS the first ever SA vampire movie – if they ever make another one, I hope it will be better.

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