Ed. note– My dear friend Jeremiah Kipp and Charles Lincoln were kind enough to offer me an assembly cut of their new film THERESA & ALLISON for me to preview on Death Ensemble. Because this was a work print, there are some audio issues, boom mics hanging into frame and other technical glitches. I’m not holding those against the film itself, because I understand they’ll get cleaned up before its release. I do bemoan the beautiful use of a Nine Inch Nails song which Charles assures me won’t make it to the final cut because it would be far too expensive. Based on what I saw, if you’re a horror fan who likes indie horror and vampires, you’re in for a real treat. Kudos to Kipp and Lincoln for a wonderful collaboration. Jeremiah and Charles are working hard on the final cut and hope to have it out before the public as soon as they can.– P.F.
Over the last century or so, there have been all sorts of takes on the vampire mythology. From gothic castles to vampire deconstructions to Nicolas Cage wearing plastic fangs to glittering boys in the Pacific Northwest; the lore has gone just about everywhere it could go. But is it really an exhausted avenue to make a vampire film, or can a talented director and writer still put a spin on an old black cape? Fortunately for horror fans, Jeremiah Kipp and Charles Lincoln have done just that; with a gritty vampire story, about one young lady in Brooklyn who has to work her way through what must be an awful lifestyle change, Lincoln and Kipp impress.
THERESA & ALLISON begins with a brilliant twist: newly turned vampire Theresa is in session with a social worker. The social worker outlines certain rules and dispels silly myths, but this scene’s black humor also tells the audience about the world building Lincoln and Kipp have done. Vampirism has become bureaucracy. So just like every other social issue in the five boroughs of NYC, there’s an agency for it. The scene also tells a lot about our protagonist. Theresa is insecure, and it’s easy to see she was long before she became undead. She is standard bearer for millennials, and vampirism is one more First World Problem, if only of the most dreadful sort.
That doesn’t mean Theresa is unlikable. Arielle Hope does quality work in expressing her confusion and frustrations at adjusting to her new situation. I know there’s that scale of how stressful different life events are to process, but I guarantee becoming a vampire and being forced to drink blood would annihilate that entire list. Hope invests real emotion in Theresa, and the struggle is real. If Theresa doesn’t work, then the rest of the film would collapse, but Hope assures that doesn’t happen.
Theresa’s not alone in her struggle. A number of forces try to align with her along the way, to shape her to their own ideologies throughout, the most important of whom is the other title character, Allison. There’s an obvious attraction between the two, and Allison appears she may be a good guide as she comes across as much more benign than the rest of the vampire world. There’s a long conversation when they first meet in which Allison imparts practical ways of living as a vampire, all the while slowly working on seduction. As Allison, Sarah Schoofs brings a vivacity and sure-handedness that’s welcome, and tries to lend a steadying hand to Theresa’s new existence. But there’s something I never exactly trust there, and later in the film there’s a gleam in her eyes and a savagery in her ways that may belie what she claims to be.
In contrast is Allison’s brother Tony, who is an outright selfish dick. He’s all about taking advantage of his powers and bleeding humanity dry, both literally and figuratively. To Tony, the nighttime world is one huge party, and excess is always on the menu. Kudos to Charles Lincoln, who I’ve met and interviewed and personally like, for selling Tony as a total d-bag. There are also two rival gangs, kind of like vampire Mafioso, working to get Theresa to join their side against the other. And then there’s Paisley, a socialite before death who’s carried her sense of entitlement over to the after death. She’ll step on everyone just for her own pleasure. All these people pick apart Theresa, pulling her in all directions, making her struggle all the more complicated. This all makes for a very human drama, that Lincoln and Kipp handle adeptly.
Kipp does a superb job of filming the night streets of Brooklyn, which seem always empty. That adds an element of danger, as any victim would have no way to escape, nowhere to run, no one to call for help. His talents are on full display in building a world of gritty realism, and haunting loneliness in relation to the story. He also does a great job of keeping characters on the move during lengthy dialogue scenes; the women walk down a street during one, and there’s a beautifully filmed scene in a kid’s park, with Allison on a swing. The movement creates an energy, never allowing things to get boring.
THERESA & ALLISON is anything but boring. Lincoln’s script balances Theresa’s personal drama with a lot of world building, a combination that works to great effect. Here’s a confused young woman afraid to commit to her new world order, a society so rule-bound, and yet the social class is breaking those rules to their whims. The last act of the film takes place at a house party, where vampires parade humans on leashes, victims scream and plead to no avail, and there’s a very gruesome area tucked away in the basement. This highlights the grotesqueries of the undead lifestyle, and Theresa makes a few key decisions I won’t ruin for you, so let’s just say things build to a powerful conclusion.
I should mention it’s not a film for the meek. Blood flows freely in many of Kipp’s frames, covering bodies as it sheds, and as usual he finds a way to take very horrific material and make it beautiful. There’s also a lot of nudity and lesbianism, which never seems gratuitous because Kipp does it so tastefully, and yet it’s still provocative. In an enlightened society we should find this not only acceptable but artistic. But we live in our current society… Anyway, if you’re a prude or faint of heart, this is not the film for you.
I watched this film at just the right time, since I had just watched THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE a week or two before I saw Kipp’s film. So I must’ve been in the mood for bloody lesbian vampires. Which brings me to another point: most female vampire movies go either the way of Elizabeth Bathory or J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Karmilla story. Lincoln’s script strikes off from its own base, and doesn’t owe anything to either outside of the lesbian angle. Kudos to Lincoln for offering up a fresh take.
On the whole, THERESA & ALLISON is a powerful indie horror film that shows off the awesome talents of Kipp and Lincoln. But the workprint I saw is not without a few minor issues. The cut is 2 hours long, and could easily be shaved down by 30 minutes or so, without even losing any scenes; a little tightening here and there would give the film a more electric energy. Also, I understand that the film functions as part of a whole world of interconnected projects that Lincoln is working on; so there are a few scenes that stick out more for those connections than this film as a standalone. One scene with Theresa meeting the leader of a vampire gang has no real payoff within the film, and the film actually ends with a scene that doesn’t involve Theresa, which takes away from the power of her final decision. A little reworking on those small issues and THERESA & ALLISON would be even better.
With THERESA & ALLISON, Jeremiah Kipp and Charles Lincoln have proven that not only are there new wrinkles for the vampire tale, but they can be put to use in a really enjoyable new take. It builds a world that’s unique, which takes time and craft, and which I greatly appreciated. It also forces a confused young woman to open her eyes to the darkness and make choices, and for that I applaud it.