"The Kingdom Of Heaven Suffereth Violence, And The Violent Bear It Away" so says the text introduction

Bob checks into a motel with pretty Ava (Dani Englander) one evening, on the pretext of having a one-night-stand. Things turn sour when he pulls a knife and stabs her repeatedly. He then turns to the mirror and begins to clean himself up only for Ava to return to life and take a bite out of his throat.

Shortly afterwards, the vampiric Ava dolls herself up in Goth attire and makes her way to a small Southern town, checking into another local motel as "Mrs Smith". It seems she's there in search of a preacher by the name of Pitt (William Forsythe).

We first meet Pitt in a dingy bar, offering scantily-clad new waitress Starla (Nicole DuPort) money for a private dance in the back room. She agrees to do this, as long as he doesn't touch the goods. Overcome by temptation, Pitt tries to fondle Starla mid-dance and she cries out for help. Enter surly bouncer Fortune (Yul Vazquez), who's spent the last two years drunk since killing his daughter in a road accident.

Fortune throws Pitt out on his ear, ignoring the preacher's promise to have his revenge on the pair. Pitt's nice gets worse when he then retires to his small chapel and prays to God to help him resist pleasures of the flesh, only to have Ava burst in and sink her fangs into his neck. Returning to life a short while later, Pitt returns the favour by stabbing Ava repeatedly until she is undead no more.

Meanwhile Fortune has found another of Ava's victims - club dancer Aurora - dead in the freezer, and the local cops come to question all concerned. Understandably, Starla is beginning to have doubts about her new job. But with a 10-year-old daughter at home, she needs all the money she can get

After helping Starla with car trouble and taking her home one evening, Fortune is told how she has two jobs to make ends meet and worries about leaving her daughter home alone so often with no babysitter. Fortune offers to babysit for free. Starla considers this - a stranger with an intense stare and a drink problem - and agrees (!).

So, Fortune begins to dry out while redeeming himself by rediscovering the joys of parenting by way of Starla's daughter. But in the meantime, Pitt is busy preaching to his congregation at the chapel, telling them how he is "the anointed one", chosen by God to rise again and rid the world of evil. He builds his own version of "God's Army" by vampirising his flock.

And then his killing spree begins. But ultimately, no matter how many small town folk Pitt bites chunks out of, we know which couple he's really got his beef with. And when Starla goes missing, Fortune gets his opportunity to come through for the mother and daughter he used to have

SOUTHERN GOTHIC is slick in look and agreeably paced. The religious elements of the script are intelligently integrated into the horror dramatics, so as to never feel over-emphasised. They add a novel spin to the vampire lore, and are arguably the most interesting part of the film.

Forsythe has fun as the vampiric Pitt, but elsewhere whispers in his cold manner which is starting to come across as self-parody. Vasquez is equally quiet in the heroic lead role, resulting in a flat and often dull performance. Between them, they make what would otherwise be a brisk film seem plodding.

At least DuPort offers a feisty female lead, and Englander makes for a great sexy vamp (she's just not in it enough).

The gore FX are moderate and well-executed, while the set-pieces are frequent enough to keep more indiscriminate horror fans happy.

Colourful, well-shot and lit, and stylishly edited, SOUTHERN GOTHIC can't help but still feel trite. It lacks a decent narrative arc, says little about the characters that populate it, and almost deliberately avoids suspense or tension.

SOUTHERN GOTHIC is technically proficient, but dramatically lacking.

The disc from DNC offers the film uncut in a nice sharp 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Colours and blacks are strong without grain or bleeding, while images are smoothly sharp throughout.

The English 2.0 audio plays without problem.

Static menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 8 chapters.

The only extra on the disc is a 1-minute trailer, presented in non-anamorphic 1.78:1.

One of those films where even the score's dull, SOUTHERN GOTHIC joins an increasing number of post-Millennial American horror films that are adept on all filmmaking fronts but somehow still manage to be instantly forgettable.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Dnc Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review