The history part is the fact that it was filmed in Romania. Subspecies was reportedly the first American movie filmed in the former dictatorship after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, and Nicolaou makes the most of the opportunity. As ever, creative use of locations compensates for limited budgets, and the touristy bits help pad the film out to a featurely 83 minutes. Since he was there, the director had no reason not to make a movie thick with folklore and history, even if most of it was made up.
Location, location, location: Romanian landscapes (above) and rituals (below) give Subspecies a traditionally exotic flavor.
The old king tells Radu that Stefan is getting the inheritance, including the Bloodstone. He somehow lures Radu into standing in exactly the spot that will allow him to be trapped in a descending cage. That was easy, except that Radu has an escape plan for occasions like this. The plan is to snap off a few of his hyperextended fingers and throw them on the floor. The fingers commence to bleed, and from the blood puddles spring four little red dudes, homunculi who serve Radu. For your information, these guys, and not the vampires, are the subspecies of the series title. As the king watches and apparently does nothing, these industrious fellows liberate Radu, who promptly kills his strangely unresisting dad.
Subspecies guys are helpful and curious. How could you feel threatened by those adorable little men?
When Wendigo first saw Subspecies, he wasn't all that impressed. He's more impressed now. What makes the difference? The fact that Nicolaou was out to make an honest B-movie instead of a Saturday night joke. On top of that, Subspecies is an interesting, almost ambitious synthesis of true folklore (including the vampire-detecting white horse last seen in John Badham's Dracula) and Nicolaou's own idiosyncratic inventions. There's an inventive intelligence at work instead of a rote repetition of stock genre conventions.
Subspecies is a film of its time, a moment when modern vampire lore was in flux. The Anne Rice influence hadn't yet saturated movie culture, and Subspecies finds the subgenre poised between the oldschool horror/gothic tradition and the more romantic fantasy trend that prevails today. Radu and Stefan embody the film's transitional nature, the master monster and the handsomely brooding antihero. Because "urban fantasy" hasn't been born yet, or at least hasn't spread, we're spared some of the commonplaces of future films like the police investigation angle. Wendigo found the absence of contemporary convention refreshing -- and it's not as if he hates contemporary conventions. He just likes creativity more.
Michelle (Laura Tate) becomes a vampire fighter, while Radu (below) becomes a severed head. But dispatching a vampire isn't as easy as you were told.
Deadman36g uploaded this trailer to YouTube: