Review: ‘Kicking Blood,’ starring Alanna Bale and Luke Bilyk

April 16, 2022

by Carla Hay

Alanna Bale and Luke Bilyk in “Kicking Blood” (Photo courtesy of XYZ Films)

“Kicking Blood”

Directed by Blaine Thurier

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Canadian city of Sudbury, Ontario, the horror film “Kicking Blood” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one black person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A female vampire becomes romantically involved with an alcoholic man, and she has inner conflicts over whether or not she should continue to hunt humans for their blood.

Culture Audience: “Kicking Blood” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in vampire movies, no matter how dull and misguided the movies are.

Ella Jonas Farlinger and Benjamin Sutherland in “Kicking Blood” (Photo courtesy of XYZ Films)

“Kicking Blood” tries to draw parallels between alcoholism and a vampire’s lust for blood, but this boring horror flick fails miserably as a scary movie and as an intended love story. Everything about “Kicking Blood” is done in such a half-baked and muddled way, it looks like the filmmakers and the cast members were confused about what type of movie they were really trying to do. The movie’s hackneyed screenplay, below-average acting and amateurish editing further sink “Kicking Blood” into the abyss where bad horror movies go and are quickly forgotten by anyone who had the misfortune of watching them.

Blaine Thurier directed “Kicking Blood” from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Leonard Farlinger. Overall, it’s supposed to be a horror movie, but there are no real scares. “Kicking Blood” tries to be a satire, but there’s nothing funny in the movie. It also wants to be a romance, but the central couple in the movie has no real passion or chemistry together. The entire movie plays out like a series of scenes that came from a sloppily conceived screenplay draft.

All of the movie’s characters are drab, with very little charm or appeal. “Kicking Blood” desperately wants viewers to root for the two main characters to get together as a romantic couple, but the entire movie does not answer these questions: “Why should these two egomaniacs be together in a dysfunctional relationship? Why should we care? Why was this movie even made?” The atrocious ending of “Kicking Blood” completely destroys the entire premise of what makes a vampire.

In the Canadian film “Kicking Blood,” a vampire named Anna (played by Alanna Bale) is leading a double life. By day, she’s a mild-mannered librarian in Sudbury, Ontario. By night, she’s a blood-sucking predator who’s always on the lookout for more human victims. Anna isn’t just part of the undead because she’s a vampire. She has a very dead personality too. In addition, viewers find out very little information about her background during the entire movie.

The movie gives a not-very-convincing explanation that Anna is able to function during the day, as long as she avoids sunlight. There’s a couple of scenes where Anna moves away from a window where sunlight is coming in through the window. However, the movie never explains what Anna does when she has to walk outside in the sunlight, which is inevitable since she has a day job and has to go to and from the building at some point. Unless she’s wearing a hazmat suit (which she does not do), some part of her skin is supposed to get burned by the sunlight.

“Kicking Blood” has a completely useless subplot about Anna’s library co-worker Bernice (played by Rosemary Dunsmore), an elderly woman who is Anna’s work friend and has several scenes in the movie. In the beginning of “Kicking Blood,” Anna witnesses a tension-filled conversation between Bernice and another co-worker named Gerry (played by Shaun Austin-Olsen), who’s about the same age as Bernice.

Gerry is giving Bernice a somewhat rude brushoff because he ended their recent fling, and her feelings are hurt. “You told me you loved me!” Bernice wails. Gerry replies haughtily, “It’s an expression, Bernice.” Before she storms off, Bernice then bitterly hisses at Gerry, “Go to hell!”

The next thing you know, Anna has shown up unannounced at Gerry’s home, where he finds her lounging on his living room couch. This movie is so badly written, Gerry doesn’t seem concerned or curious to find out how Anna got into his home without his knowledge. All Gerry seems to care about is that Anna took up his offer to come over to his place for a drink.

Because Anna is a vampire, Gerry finds out the hard way that the drink Anna really wants is blood from his neck. “This is for Bernice,” Anna smirks as she grabs Gerry by the neck to feed on his blood. Throughout the movie, Anna’s targets for bloodsucking are men who behave badly. If it’s supposed to make Anna look like some kind of feminist, “Kicking Blood” pathetically misses the mark.

That’s because the “bad boy” whom Anna spares from becoming her next victim—because the movie has her fall in love with him—is an alcoholic loser who’s awful to almost everyone around him. His name is Robbie (played by Luke Bilyk), who is the epitome of being a toxic train wreck. “Kicking Blood” doesn’t give very many reasons to root for Robbie and Anna to become a couple. Separately and together, Anna and Robbie are just a mess with no charm or redeeming qualities.

Viewers first see Robbie waking up on his sister’s couch after a night of drunken partying. The place is in shambles, with empty liquor bottles everywhere. Robbie has been temporarily living with his sister Angela (played by Telysa Chandler), and he is clearly an inconsiderate house guest. Robbie is woken up by Angela, who is pregnant and furious with Robbie. And it’s not just because of his partying that’s left her home in disarray.

Angela reminds Robbie that at this party, Robbie had a kissing makeout session with Angela’s fiancé, who is not seen in the movie. Robbie was so drunk that he only has a vague recollection of this loathsome betrayal, but he thinks it’s kind of funny. Angela isn’t amused at all, and she tells Robbie he can no longer stay at her place, effective immediately. It’s mentioned in this scene that Robbie has been in rehab before, but he’s obviously relapsed.

Robbie is next seen loitering in an alley at night because he’s now homeless. And guess who just happens to walk right past him? It’s Anna, probably on her way to find her next victim. This is the terribly written “meet cute” moment in the movie: As she walks past Robbie, he yells out to her: “Where do we go when we die?”

Anna stops and replies, “I have no idea.” Robbie then tells Anna, “I think it’s time for me to end it”—as in commit suicide. Anna seems unbothered by this confession and says flippantly, “Do it then.” Then she adds sarcastically, “I absolve you of your sins.”

Because this physically attractive woman is paying attention to him, Robbie suddenly doesn’t have “suicidal thoughts” anymore. He tries to flirt with her and asks Anna, “What are you doing tonight?” Anna says, “I don’t know.” Robbie replies, “Sounds fun. Can I come?” Anna nonchalantly replies, “Up to you.”

And then, Robbie follows her and ends up staying at her place, but they don’t hook up right away. As Anna crudely puts it: “I don’t fuck humans.” This is the kind of junk dialogue that litters the entire movie. There’s nothing funny or interesting about anything these characters have to say to each other, even though it’s obvious that the filmmakers want to bring dark comedy elements to “Kicking Blood.”

Anna quickly finds out that Robbie is an alcoholic when their first date takes place in a bar. Robbie just as quickly finds out that Anna doesn’t drink alcohol. For much of the movie, Anna treats Robbie as a house guest she’s reluctantly allowed to stay at her place. It’s pretty obvious though that she has feelings for him because she never bites him to get his blood. She comes close to sucking the blood out of him, but she changes her mind.

Even though Anna comes right out and tells Robbie that she’s a vampire, he doesn’t quite believe her. He just thinks she’s a wild eccentric who drinks blood and has convinced herself that she’s a vampire. Robbie doesn’t actually think that Anna has vampire characteristics, such as never outwardly aging or never needing to eat food. By the way, “Kicking Blood” doesn’t say how long Anna has been a vampire, which is one of many examples of how the character’s backstory is non-existent.

Anna has two vampire friends who often hunt humans with her. Their names are Boris (played by Benjamin Sutherland) and Nina (played by Ella Jonas Farlinger), who are the very bland “villains” of the story. Boris and Nina can’t understand why Anna hasn’t made Robbie one of her victims. They think that Anna is going “soft” because Boris and Nina have a lot of contempt for humans.

Meanwhile, Robbie has an ex-fling named Vanessa (played by Vinessa Antoine), who has lingering feelings for Robbie and tries not to let it show to him that she’s kind of jealous that he’s met someone new. Robbie has definitely put Vanessa in the “friend zone,” but she keeps dropping hints that she wants to rekindle whatever relationship that they had. When Vanessa finds out that Robbie doesn’t have a permanent home, she goes as far as telling Robbie that he’s welcome to stay at her place. It’s a very weak attempt by “Kicking Blood” to introduce some sort of love triangle.

“Kicking Blood” gets its title from the part of the story where Anna decides that she could stop being a vampire and turn back into a regular human being if she abstains from drinking blood. And it’s around the same time that Robbie decides to kick his addiction to alcohol. There’s an unnecessary plot development where Anna’s library co-worker Bernice announces that she stopped her habit of popping pills, so she’s on this self-rehab journey too.

What does all of this mean for “Kicking Blood”? Nothing except a lot of tedious scenes where Anna is torn between continuing her vampire lifestyle with Boris and Nina, or starting a new life with Robbie as they try to kick their “addictions” together. It’s a fairly good concept, but it’s bungled badly in “Kicking Blood,” which has a ridiculous and horribly edited showdown near the end of the movie. It’s ironic that this shoddily made vampire film sucks all the life out of what could have been an intriguing story.

XYZ Films released “Kicking Blood” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on March 31, 2022. The movie is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on May 17, 2022.

Review: ‘Enhanced’ (2021), starring Alanna Bale, George Tchortov, Chris Mark and Adrian Holmes

April 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

Alanna Bale in “Enhanced” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Enhanced” (2021)

Directed by James Mark

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed Canadian city, the sci-fi action film “Enhanced” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and black people) portraying mutants and humans.

Culture Clash: An elite military squad is tasked with rounding up and imprisoning mutants who have deadly powers, while a “super mutant” is looking for more mutants to absorb their energy so he can take over the world.

Culture Audience: “Enhanced″ will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching derivative and forgettable sci-fi movies.

Patrick Sabongui, George Tchortov and Eric Hicks in “Enhanced” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

The filmmakers of “Enhanced” should have titled this movie “Flimsy X-Men Ripoff” if they wanted more truth in advertising. It’s a formulaic and mindless flick about mutants being hunted by humans. The visual effects are weak, most of the acting is mediocre-to-terrible, and the action scenes are just filler as one scene clumsily lumbers to the next.

Directed by James Mark, “Enhanced” has almost no suspense because it’s obvious which characters will survive in this “humans versus mutants” war that is going on in an unnamed city in Canada. How do viewers know who’s going to survive until the end of the movie? Time and time again, there are two characters in the movie who could easily be killed when they’re cornered by the “enemy,” but these two characters inexplicably are allowed to get away. It’s all so that movie can drag along to its very predictable conclusion.

“Enhanced” (which has the title “Mutant Outcasts” in Germany) was written by “Enhanced” director Mark, Matthew Nayman and Peter Van Horne. And having three writers for this lackluster and unimaginative screenplay just makes “Enhanced” look worse, because three minds were clearly not better than one in this case. There’s almost nothing that’s original in this movie, which recycles ideas from other, much-better movies about persecuted mutants. By the way, the humans in this movie have a very bland name for the mutants: The mutants are called “subjects.”

“Enhanced” begins with an elite military squad hunting down a mutant named Joseph or Joe (played by Patrick Sabongui), who works as a janitor in an office building. Leading this squad into action is George Shepherd (played by George Tchortov), who is the type of generic “alpha male” who’s supposed to be the story’s hero. George’s closest sidekick in the squad is Scott Cromwell (played by Eric Hicks), who is more laid-back than “take charge” George. Scott, George and some other members of the squad ambush Joseph while he’s doing some janitorial work when the office is closed for the night.

This is the type of bad dialogue in the film. George tells Joseph that they know his real name isn’t Joseph, and that Joseph’s number is 78-934BRAVO. Apparently, he’s escaped from a secret prison that the government has for mutants. Joseph, or whatever his name really is, shouts to the squad: “I’m not going back there! I haven’t hurt anyone!”

Joseph’s eyes turn a glowing blue (it’s how the movie shows the mutants unleashing their powers) and replies in desperation, “You don’t understand! They did this to me!” George says, “Joseph, this is your last chance.” Joseph answers, “No, this is your last chance!”

Joseph runs away and ends up using his mutant powers to burst onto the rooftop of the building. But the squad is right behind him, and Joseph is cornered and captured. He’s taken back to the secret prison, which is is shown later on to be just a space with several glass-enclosed rooms. It looks more like a modern office building than a prison.

Usually in movies like this, the mutants would be held captive so that the government can do secret research on them. But no, not in this dimwitted movie. These mutants are just being held captive until the government can figure out what to do with them. Taxpayer money down the drain.

Meanwhile, there’s a mutant named Anna (played by Alanna Bale) in her late teens or early 20s who ends up being one of the hunted. She works as a mechanic in an auto body shop owned by her boss Danny (played by Jeffrey R. Smith), who doesn’t know that she’s a mutant. For example, he doesn’t notice when Anna uses her mutant superpowers to do things like unscrew major auto parts with her bare hands when it would take tools and a lot of human strength to do it.

Danny is targeted for extortion by some local thugs, who gang up and assault him one day at the auto shop while Anna is there too. You know what happens next. Anna uses her mutant superpowers to kill the thugs, but it’s not enough to protect Danny, who has been shot during this brawl. Anna makes a phone call for emergency help. As Danny lies seriously injured on the floor, he asks Anna, “What are you?” She doesn’t give an answer because she’s already out the door as a fugitive on her bicycle.

During her time on the run, Anna meets a guy named Eli (played by Michael Joseph Delaney), who’s a stereotypical nerdy researcher who always seems to be in movies like this one. The researcher fulfills the role of explaining all the “secrets” that they’ve uncovered in their research. When Eli first meets Anna, he already knows that she’s a mutant. However, Anna doesn’t trust Eli at first because she think he’s another human who wants her to be locked up.

Eli has found out that there’s a “super mutant” on the loose who’s been killing other mutants to absorb their energy. This “super mutant” can sense other mutants’ presence and track them down like he’s got some inner mutant GPS system or psychic ability or some other nonsense that’s explained in the movie. And guess who finds out about the secret prison filled with mutants?

This “super mutant” has the very unremarkable name of David (played by Chris Mark), and he’s an extremely dull villain with no personality. Glaring into the camera doesn’t count as having a personality. Chris Mark’s performance as David is so lifeless that you almost wonder if he thought he was playing a zombie, not a mutant. The actor shouldn’t get all the blame because the director didn’t cast this movie very well and should have given better direction to the cast members.

Meanwhile, George clashes with his supervisor Captain Williams (played by Adrian Holmes) over something, so George ends up going “rogue.” It’s not a spoiler to reveal this information, because how else would it explain why George and Anna work together when they inevitably cross each other’s paths? And let’s not forget about Eli, who has to play the role of the “computer/technology expert” so that someone can conveniently tap into secret computer networks when needed.

Bale gives the best performance in the cast, but that’s not saying much when her Anna character, just like everyone else in the movie, is as two-dimensional as a cartoon character. Don’t expect any of this movie’s characters to have interesting stories about their lives. And the fight scenes aren’t very impressive when you consider that certain people could be easily killed during certain fights, but they aren’t killed because the movie obviously wants these characters to survive.

Mutant villain David has the ability to regenerate when he’s wounded, but the movie isn’t consistent in showing this ability in some of David’s fight scenes. This movie is called “Enhanced” because the mutants have enhanced physical powers. But the movie is so woefully lacking in originality that the quality of the movie is diminished to being creatively bankrupt.

Vertical Entertainment released “Enhanced” in the U.S. on digital and VOD on March 26, 2021. The movie was released in Brazil in 2019.

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