Following their tropical terror feature Bermuda Island (read our review here) released earlier this year, Mahal Empire now sinks its teeth into post-apocalyptic horror with Bloodthirst. Set in a world with a collapsed society ruled by warring vampire factions, this production team combines multiple genres while adding a touch of the wild wild west.
Opening with quick narration to set the scene, Bloodthirst places us in the middle of a brand new desolate world. With a dwindling human population and few who fight back, The Vampire Queen (Tara Reid: American Pie) and The Master (Robert LaSardo: Wishmaster 2) impose their will and dominance choosing who to turn and from whom to feed. Another fanged force to be feared is the aforementioned blood fiend’s predecessor known simply as The Ultimate Master (Wesley Cannon: Bermuda Island). One man daring to stand up against these blood-sucking tyrants is vampire hunter John Shepard (Costas Mandylor: Saw franchise).
On his mission to bring order and humanity back from the brink, John teams up with a vampire hunter-in-training named Charlie (Johnny Huang: Attack of the Unknown) and a sawed-off shotgun wielding biker badass named Rico (Rich R. Rendon: Bridge of the Doomed). Completing John’s merry band of vamp killers is Elena Thompson (Elissa Dowling: Night of the Tommyknockers – read our review here) and her sister Brooke portrayed by Mahal Empire frequent flyer Sarah French.
In an attempt to build a bigger rebellion, the vamp killers request the assistance of a militia. This leads to manipulative handshakes, power struggles and a burst of bloody chaos.
With so many character appearances, side plots and unnecessary scenes better left on the cutting room floor, Bloodthirst comes dangerously close to losing focus. Several vampire monologues don’t help. Although well acted, they nearly fumble the plot progression, coming across as lengthy Shakespearean soliloquy attempts with cheese-filled lines. The vampire names (i.e. The Master and The Ultimate Master) also suggest an over-the-top comedic angle may have better served this otherwise original blood-sucker feature.
Flaws aside, frequent Mahal Empire collaborator Michael Su keeps Bloodthirst together from the director’s chair while a few strong performances help showcase a uniquely blended post-apocalyptic western vampire story … where else have you seen such a flick? Ponder it. I’ll wait.
Aside from over-dramatic moments of dialogue with a mouthful of blood, LaSardo brings authoritative intensity to his blood-sucking role while Reid fully embraces her fangs with the elegance of royalty. Dominating the screen is Costas with the same calm, cool and collected hard-ass demeanor seen in his Saw franchise character Mark Hoffman. Despite an out-of-character scene where he lowers his firearm without hesitation and jumps into a car full of strangers, Rendon projects likable lone-wolf biker vibes that can turn rough and tumble at the drop of a hat. Other notable performances include French and Dowling letting loose their inner Daisy Duke, driving a rat rod from hell while Bishop Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor 2019, Revealer 2022) nails his role as Torque, a takes-no-crap cigar chomping militia leader with questionable motives.
While Bloodthirst isn’t perfect, it’s a fun low-budged Syfy Channel-esque feature to enjoy with some indie flick loving buddies and your favorite adult beverage of choice. It even teases of a potential sequel. Personally, I would love to see Mahal Empire tackle a second installment in the same way Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell tackled Evil Dead II (1987): intentionally playing up the gore, humor and overall ridiculousness.