I must say, it's pretty unfortunate that I've yet again chosen a 'Bruce Campbell' title where he's not even that big a part of it. That's odd, considering he takes up 90% of the movie's poster, and is third billed in the cast. However, his role in this is important enough, as in a cast full of vampires, he's playing a descendant of Van Helsing, as well as providing much of the comedy relief.
The film's main focus in on a colony of vampires who reside in a small, seemingly uncharted desert town called Purgatory, armed against the sun with shades, big hats and sunblock. Under the guidance of their ancient leader, Jozek Mardulak (David Carradine - top billed), they seek a peaceful coexistence with humankind. To help with this transition, artificial blood is made to sustain them, but the "blood" is a milky color, and it's not exactly real in comparison to draining actual fresh blood from a human. Sensing trouble, Mardulak brings in the plant designer, David Harrison (Jim Metzler), who brings along his wife, Sarah (Morgan Brittany - second billed) and two morbid young daughters, Gwen and Juliette (Vanessa Pierson and Erin Gourlay, respectively) thinking they're in for a nice summer vacation.
David and his family soon find themselves in the middle of a vampiric civil war between the vampires led by Mardulak, who want peace and prosperity, and vampires led by another elder named Jefferson (John Ireland) who wants to take it back to the old ways. That's the essential plot of the film overall, but Van Helsing's descendant (Campbell) finally does make an appearance, there to hunt and destroy all vampires in town, but he may or may not find himself caught up in this battle through no fault of his own.
So while the film lacks a lot of the Campbell I came to see, I have to admit that as a nifty cult vampire film, on the whole, it's really not bad. It's nothing great, but I can understand its cult following, and it does have the potential to grow on one over time. I thought the concept was pretty interesting, and when it comes to Van Helsing's role in it, it's honestly a very strange breath of fresh air. Campbell isn't your typical bad ass vampire hunting Helsing so much as the complete opposite of what you'd expect. He's awkward, clumsy, and doesn't seem to really know what he's doing. Being that he's not the legendary Van Helsing, but a descendant, it's neat to see who could be the black sheep of the family.
The civil war between the vampires is an interesting one, because it's a case where I can't choose a side, because each side makes such a good point. The "good" vampires are tired from all the war between them and the humans over the centuries, and just wanna find a way to end it and not have to keep threatening each other's lives. Meanwhile, the old school vampires I see as basic carnivores. Imagine loving things like bacon, bugers, chicken, and then having it all substituted with vegan alternatives. To me, it's really the same difference, so siding with the "bad" vampires was actually very easy for me.
The whole thing is capped off with a pretty intense gunfight (it is explained why the guns work, don't worry), and for a film this small a caliber, things are pretty well done. It's fairly tough to come across, so I found it on Amazon to rent for a mere $4.00, and I can honestly say I wasn't altogether disappointed with my purchase. The lack of Campbell ruins nothing. I will say that you have to go into this expecting quite a bit of cheese, and some pretty horrendous acting in parts, but the film does have a certain late 80's charm to it (1989 to be exact) and it works for exactly what it is - a cult comedy vampire film from the late 80's