MSRP $19.98
RUNNING TIME 68 minutes
• Interview with Melanie Denholme
• Music Video

The Pitch

The longest sixty-eight minutes of your life.

The Humans

Melanie Denholme, Philip Gardiner

The Nutshell

Eve, a happy young newlywed, is spending the week at home while her husband is away. Her plans for relaxation are interrupted when she is bitten by a snake, and is transformed into a vampire by an ancient evil.

Apple, meet foot.

Apple, meet foot.

The Lowdown

Dear readers, it has been too long since my last confession.

I must confess that Lady of the Dark: Genesis of the Serpent Vampire is the worst film I’ve ever had to review for CHUD, and it will probably get to hold that title for a long time. Writer/Director/Producer/Editor/Composer/Sound Designer Philip Gardiner has made a film so utterly devoid of merit that I simply cannot recommend it to anyone.

The film opens with a lengthy, expository voiceover that reveals all of the information that our character could have discovered throughout the course of the film. But no, this film isn’t about a character gaining any knowledge or perspective. It’s a film about Eve, a woman who wanders around her house, has low-budget music video nightmares, and takes her clothes off a lot.

Philip Gardiner's style of letting objects randomly stick into the frame is baffling.

Philip Gardiner’s style of letting objects randomly stick into the frame is baffling.

Yeah, she totally becomes a vampire, but whoop-de-fuckin-doo. The bottom line is that this is a Philip Gardiner film. To quote Adam Wachtel’s review of Gardiner’s Women in Black: The Dark Watchers, “much of the film is comprised of montages of everyday activities with music playing in the background”. Yeah, that about sums it up. Lady of the Dark features an oppressive and terrible score that just won’t quit, only stopping to let a metal music video blast into your face every few minutes.

The religious metaphor might seem smarter if it weren’t so ham-fisted and obvious. Eve lives in her idyllic home, which she calls a “garden of Eden” in her first droning voiceover. She receives a bite from a snake, which initiates her descent into sin. Eve then munches on a conveniently placed apple. GENESIS of the serpent vampire? Get it? Yeah, I fucking get it already, chief. Move on.

I have no idea what makes Philip Gardiner think this is okay.

I have no idea what makes Philip Gardiner think this is okay.

This is Gardiner’s biggest issue as a filmmaker. He has no clue what to show and what not to show. When Eve is describing her marriage in voiceover, she states, “Things are still… well… you know… exciting… fun. Just can’t seem to get enough of each other.” Stop! I get it! Her sex life is good! We don’t need her to say, “… and I really do enjoy sex!” and we certainly don’t need the fifty second sex montage right after that. Gardiner just doesn’t get that there is a lean economy to storytelling. Get a point across, and just keep moving. Otherwise, you’re just making people look at their watches and sigh.

As a cinematographer, Gardiner is inept, at best. He has no idea how to frame a shot, or how to effectively choreograph action. In wide shots, there are random, out-of-focus objects rudely protruding into the frame. When Eve is bitten by the (unseen) snake, she is meditating in her back yard. Suddenly she jumps up, squealing, and dashes inside. “What the fuck?” I said out loud. I had no idea what had happened. It wasn’t until Eve attempted to suck the venom out of her leg that I figured out she had been bitten.

This is filmmaking 101, folks. There are all sorts of ways to imply the presence of a snake when you don’t have a snake to film. Case in point: the opening scene of Jaws. We all know what is happening, and there’s not a single inch of shark in that scene.

This is the kind of crap this film full of: a scantily clad woman lazily traipsing around her house.

This is the kind of crap this film full of: a scantily clad woman lazily traipsing around her house.

Imagine this, instead: we see the snake’s POV, slithering through the grass. We hear the snake hiss softly. Cut back to a wide shot of Eve sitting in the grass, unaware of the danger. Use an ominous music cue to imply the presence of the snake. Cut back to snake POV. It slithers closer to Eve, until her exposed leg appears through the grass. The snake pauses, raises its head, and strikes. Cut to: Eve’s reaction shot. Cut to: the snake bite on Eve’s leg. A small rivulet of blood oozes from one of the fang marks. Cut to: wide shot of Eve scrambling to get on her feet. Cut to: The snake’s POV. The snake watches Eve run away.

There, I’ve just planned out how to shoot a snake attack without a snake, making sure that the audience sees (and hears) all the necessary information. As a filmmaker you must plan your shots so that you are revealing all the pertinent details of the action. Otherwise, the audience won’t understand the action taking place.

It's maddening.

It’s maddening.

I could keep talking about how poorly made, poorly acted, and repetitive this film is, but let me cut to the chase. Lady of the Dark: Genesis of the Serpent Vampire is a magical time dilation device that makes sixty-eight minutes feel like three hours. Three wasted hours.

The Package

The video transfer on this disc is utter shite, because that’s the best it could be. The film was shot on a cheap, consumer-grade camera, so it’s never gonna look good. Every shot has a digital soft focus effect applied to it, making everything look like a cheap 90’s softcore porn. The audio is marginally better, but on several occasions a deliberate echo effect renders dialogue unintelligible.

"This film is so undercooked it's still got feathers on it, you fucking donkey!!"

“This film is so undercooked it’s still got feathers on it, you fucking donkey!!”

The extras include an interview with actress Melanie Denholme, and a music video that Gardiner directed. The music video features a large, red-haired woman in a black renaissance fair dress singing a metal song in the style of Evanescence. Remember them? Yeah, you do. I bet you wish you didn’t.

The interview is as dull as the film itself, and with such riveting discourse as, “have you ever played a vampire before?” “No.” Brilliant. Readers, I implore you: don’t watch this.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars