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The Independent Critic

Doug Bradley, Rita Ramnani, and Jonnie Hurn
Drew Cullingham
Rated R
90 Mins.
Left Films (UK), Lionsgate (US)


 "Umbrage: The First Vampire" Review 
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Umbrage: The First Vampire is the second DVD I'm reviewing this weekend from U.K.-based distributor Left Films, an independent distributor releasing films in theaters and on DVD in the U.K. and in Ireland. This is also the second film, both from Left Films, that I'm reviewing this week that is setting itself, at least for a bit, within the wild, wild West. The first film, Cowboys & Zombies, was a highly stylized film that may have taken itself a tad too seriously and, thus, ruined part of the film's fun. Umbrage: The First Vampire is a lot more fun, just as horrific and manages to cross multiple genres without ever losing its way.

The film kicks off with a lone cowboy (Jonnie Hurn) strolling into town to take out his target. Instead, a vampiress (Natalie Celino) attacks him and the cowboy is left mauled and bloodied.

Fast forward into a modern day and Jacob (Doug Bradley, Pinhead in the Hellraiser films) has moved out into the country with his wife (Grace Vallorani) and his step-daughter, Rachel (Rita Ramnani). Jacob brings along a priceless mirror that he intends to sell but, you guessed it, strange things start happening when a couple strangers show up at the family's door after one of their friends has been slaughtered. Before long, a mysterious Irish cowboy begins stalking the house and a horrific night of terror follows for everyone involved.

Most of the world knows Doug Bradley from his multiple appearances as Pinhead in the Hellraiser films, but if we can get more folks to see this fine indie vampire flick then maybe that will change. Bradley is terrific here as Jacob, embodying the husband/step-father with a surprising degree of emotional resonance and humanity amidst all of the film's action and violence. Right up there with Bradley is Jonnie Hurn's turn as Phelan, the Irish cowboy who looks like he'd be equally at home in a traditional Western or a Rob Zombie flick. The rest of the supporting cast is fine, as well, and it's a rarity to be able to say that virtually nobody present here screams out as amateur despite the film's modest budget.

The film's dark production design, courtesy of Charlie Falconer, is top notch and adds greatly to the film's consistent sense of menace and dread despite the fact that it's actually a bit less gory than most films in this genre. Original Music by Captain Bliss and Huskie Jack lends the film an almost irreverent tone at times, somewhat bordering on Kubrick (Yes, I know that's a bit of a stretch). D.P. James Friend lenses the film expertly, while Cullingham's script pays attention to character detail and plot with remarkable integrity. Even when the film occasionally slips, Cullingham has painted such solid characters that you'll find yourself wanting to hang around and see how it all ends up.

Umbrage: The First Vampire is coming to home video in the U.K. on October 10th. For more information, visit the Left Films website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic