Have we not really seen a good vampire film since Near Dark? The Forsaken, nope. Let the Right One In comes very close, but despite that beautiful films merits, when was the last time that we were introduced to an iconic vampire character? (Buffy and Angel maybe, but they are T.V. icons), or more to the point; an Irish cowboy vampire?! The answer to the latter question is never - until now...Drew Cullingham's soon to be released debut indie feature Umbrage, is a very different and unique type of horror film - if that's what you want to call it. Basically, the film tells the tale of a mysterious mirror which causes evil forces to be released into the open and consequently turns the world of an antiques dealer and his family upside down.
Despite screening at last year's Frightfest and Abertoir Horror film festivals, it verges more on being a supernatural/fantasy type of film, featuring plenty of banter and a playing against type performance from the legendary Doug Bradley. Cullingham himself perceives the film as a 'dark fairytale and certainly not just a horror'. He explained that what makes Umbrage different and ambitious from other 'horrors' is that structurally it goes against a lot of the horror genre's conventions, and also a lot of film conventions in general.
You really have to see for yourself just how different this film is. However, it is very love or hate, which works to the films advantage, but for now, back to the sexy icon-to-be cowboy vampire; Phelan. Interestingly, Cullingham explained that Umbrage was never really intended as a vampire film and stresses that neither is the word 'vampire' used anywhere throughout the films duration. He explains that the aim was to take the monster out of the genre and turn this particular type of horror creature into a proper, well developed character. Just because Phelan is Irish doesn't necessarily mean that he's wildly original, as instead what's interesting about him is that he is a well rounded creature who has depth. From the moment that Phelan is introduced to us, it is clear that a lot of aesthetic attention to detail has been paid into making him come across as being a likeable anti-hero.
Jonnie Hurn gives an outstanding, multi-dimensional performance as he makes the character appear incredibly fascinating, entertaining and sexy - all of what was missing from Twilight's Edward Cullen. Compared to Edward, he is not bland, covered in white powder, gormless or fragile looking. Phelan is laid back, funny, charming and has the same kind of Clint Eastwood style presence on screen, (especially since he doesn't speak for the first thirty minutes). Not only does he appeal to the ladies (and maybe the tween audience too if they looked beyond the mainstream) but there's a lot in here that the male audience could find to identify with, as Phelan is, to a degree, a 'realistic' vampire. I'd argue that what gives him that cross-over appeal is because he's 'cool'. Cullingham agrees as he explains that he's 'cool' enough that 'men would want to be a little bit like him and bad enough that women might want a piece of him'. Neither does he look like a stereotypical Brad Pitt/George Clooney hybrid pin up, as he's more sophisticated than that, since he is in no shape or form a vampire cliche.
In addition, narratively, Cullingham doesn't give too much away about him. We get a glimpse of part of his back-story but very little else is revealed, which makes him all the more interesting and mysterious. However, we might get to know more about him, with regard to what happened to him before he became a vampire, since there is talk of a possible sequel on the cards. Phelan has all the makings of what a vampire should feature, of course he has the fangs, but that's not overplayed. Phelan could, in fact, be the key to granting Umbrage a cult following.....For a sneak preview click on the link below to the Umbrage website to catch a glimpse of some exclusive footage of Phelan in action. www.umbragethemovie.co.uk
Review by Rebekah Smith. Special thanks to Drew Cullingham.
Written, Directed and Edited by: Drew Cullingham.
Starring: Doug Bradley, Jonnie Hurn, Scott Thomas, Rita Ramnani, Natalie Celino, James Fisher & Grace Vallorani.