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Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat

Directed by Directed by Anthony Hickox

Written by Written by John Burgess, Anthony Hickox

Starring Starring Bruce Campbell, David Carradine, Maxwell Caulfield, M. Emmet Walsh

Produced by Produced by Jefferson Richard

Rated R

105 mins

****

It’s not every day I get to use phrases like “forgotten art form” or “horror western”, so I have to eat a bit of crow here and thank Lions Gate, who often winds up as my whipping boy in pieces like this, for routing me a copy of Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat.

It truly is a horror western—basically, a group of vampires lead by Count Mardulak (remember this name, it’s going to be really important later) moved out west in search of a new life, much like settlers of the American West often did. Sick of murder and bloodsucking, they founded the town of Purgatory and developed Necktarine, a kind of synthetic blood (at least that’s the label I saw on a machine dispensing it) that provides the same nutrients as human blood. Many of the vampires aren’t fond of this beverage, and thus a rebellion is growing in the town. Soon, a human being and his family arrive in town to get the Necktarine plant up and running at full capacity, and thus finds himself in the middle of a vampiric civil war.

I’m already very enthusiastic about it just from the synopsis, and watching it will prove to be an even bigger thrill. The horror western is a forgotten art form—seriously, when’s the last time you saw one?—and actually finding a decent vampire movie is a change so welcome that it can’t help but be good. I’m positively bubbling out here; not only am I getting a good vampire movie for a change, I’m also getting a full-on horror western.

And even better than that, I’m also getting a Bruce Campbell movie! That’s right, this is one of those great sort of “lost movies” that was originally released way back in 1990, but got a full-on DVD release thanks to the folks at Lions Gate. This is back before Bruce Campbell’s career started to turn into a vague mush of Old Spice ads, voiceover work, nonstop cameos and, sadly, Burn Notice. So what you’re looking at here is an almost unheard-of subgenre featuring a horror master at the top of his game, and that all adds up to be an absolutely spectacular movie.

It will prove to be great fun, and will challenge certain parts of the ever-amorphous vampire mythos in directions that will prove just as exciting as the rest of the movie around it.

The ending will manage to be several surprises in one handy package.

The special features include interviews with David Carradine, Bruce Campbell and M. Emmet Walsh, director’s commentary, English and Spanish subtitles, audio and display options, and one trailer, but for The Monster Squad instead of Sundown. This is kind of strange, but I’ll live with it.

All in all, man, what a way to end a year, huh folks? A rare early Campbell that also happens to be a good vampire horror western? I couldn’t have asked for much better.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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