Radu Vladislas is back!
It’s been 25 years since we’ve last seen Anders Hove’s legendary vampire on screen, and oh boy is it a glorious return. Joining him are franchise stars Denice Duff and Kevin Spirtas, although because this film is a prequel that explores Radu’s origins, they are playing different characters – with the former playing a new character who serves as the catalyst to Radu’s journey, and the latter taking over Angus Scrimm’s role as Radu’s father, Vladislas. The prequel is once again written and directed by Ted Nicolaou.
‘Subspecies V: Blood Rise’ follows Radu through his first few centuries as a Vampire, chronicling his evolving journey from being a warrior of God to creature of the night. Radu, the offspring of the vampire Prince Vladislas and the immortal demon, Circe (Yulia Graut), is stolen by crusaders of the church at birth and is raised to be their warrior to take on the supernatural that lurks among us. That is until his latest mission takes him and fellow knights of the dragon to Castle Vladislas, where he is put onto the path of his fate after discovering the truth of his heritage.
Fans of the Subspecies films get a lot to chew on as the prequel effectively adds and expands upon the established lore. When the film ended, I knew one thing for certain: I will be doing a marathon of the previous four movies and the spin-off with this film in mind to see how much it recontextualizes certain franchise characters and their relationships – specifically Radu, Michelle, Stefan, and Ash – because it sure did feel like an additional layer was peeled away. Because this review is intended to be Spoiler-Free, I cannot elaborate on the reason I feel this way, but I can imagine that many fans will understand the sentiment.
It should come as no surprise that Anders Hove and Denice Duff steal the show, and their interactions are great, but I was hoping for more than we got – although in a way, Duff being absent during the middle section of the movie did make me relate to Radu with missing her. I feel you my dude, I feel you. Also, in my opinion Nicolaou does a great job making the casting of Duff in a new role work in a significant way with the previous movies, and it was fun to see her play a side that is different than her Michelle character – especially in the third act.
Also solid with the cast is Marko Filipovic as the younger version of Ash (previously played by Jonathon Morris in ‘The Vampire Journals’ and ‘Subspecies IV: Blood Storm’), and I particularly liked Stasa Nikolic as Ash’s sister, Ariel. Yulia Graut gives a seamless performance as Circe, the character formerly known as Mummy, and played by Pamela Gordon in ‘Bloodstone: Subspecies II’ and ‘Bloodlust: Subspecies III’, and finally there’s Kevin Spirtas as Prince Vladislas – who was badass in role, despite it being a small one. I really hope to see more of him in future installments.
Other positives for the new film: The score from composer Sean McBride is fantastic, and the classic themes from this series never sounded more epic, and the cinematography is the best this series has seen.
On the mixed side, I don’t quite understand character motivations, especially in the third act, and story seems a little too small scale and without any real conflict that pays off. But those are minor nitpicks and I am certainly not going to complain about getting a brand-new Subspecies film in 2023. As a long-time fan of this series, the pros outweigh the few cons, and this film currently sits as my fourth favorite of the six movies.
‘Subspecies V: Blood Rise’ is a solid chapter that pleases this fan boy, and my fingers are crossed that Ted Nicolaou continues on with a few more films that follow this story and leads directly into the original. You sir, have my full support and enthusiasm.
‘Subspecies V: Blood Rise’ is available to rent on Amazon Prime, or for free with a 7 day trial to Full Moon’s streaming service, and is absolutely worth checking out if you’re a fan.