We open to the image of Francis (Cory Knauf) scraping the hood of a DIY grave, having been buried alive in it. His voiceover promises to tell us how he found himself in this predicament.

Flashing back, we see Francis leave a London flat one morning and get into his car, driving a couple of hours north into the English country in search of a small town by the name of Ludlow. His narration tells us that he and his family, the Hamiltons, are fugitives on the run from their American homeland.

He’s in Ludlow, and in particular its central pub The Ringlestone, to meet someone he’s been told can offer them help: Manderson. On the contrary, all Francis finds is trouble: a chance encounter with the local voluntary police constable results in our narrator holding the pub’s owners and residents at gunpoint.

Planning on taking the landlord’s pretty daughter Riley (Elizabeth Henstridge) hostage as he steals her dad’s car and travels to rendezvous with his crazed twin siblings Wendell (Joseph McKelheer) and Darlene (MacKenzie Firgens), the pace changes when her brothers Ian (Tom Holloway) and Cole (Sean Browne) turn up to knock Francis to the floor.

He awakens in a cage, with the realisation that the family who own the Ringlestone pub are in actual fact vampires … just like him. It turns out the father is Manderson (Daniel O’Meara) and, having established that he can trust Francis, he takes him into his castle home.

Through a flashback that predates these ones, we learn that Francis and his siblings – completed by eldest brother David (Samuel Child) and youngest Lenny (Ryan Hartwig) – were living in quiet anonymity as travelling serial killers before being involved in an altercation in a California motel which made the national news, focusing on their vampiric talents. Hence, they’ve been on the run ever since. Why England? Because their absent parents were said to originate from there. David remembers the Manderson name as a contact, and the family have fled there in the hope of being reunited with mum and dad.

And so, Francis stays a while longer with Riley’s family as he grows closer to her and she helps him regain his strength through feeding, killing and … loving?

Of course, ultimately Francis aims to reconvene with his siblings and find his folks, while saving the life of his seriously injured younger brother Lenny. Will this fellow vampire clan prove to be a help … or a hindrance?

Directed once again by The Butcher Brothers, this sequel to their popular 2006 film THE HAMILTONS expands on the background of that family while throwing the main character into an intriguingly new territory. The British landscapes and architecture are filmed interestingly by the American filmmakers, ensuring THE THOMPSONS is at the very least visually beguiling.

The storyline holds the attention and the performances are mostly of a fair standard. Dialogue isn’t the usual corny vampire fluff, even if some of the ‘kill’ scenes do owe a little too much to the likes of "True Blood".

Thematically, the concept of a family searching for its purpose and lost in its own need to kill is an original, potentially absorbing one. One canny aspect of the screenplay is how the Hamiltons become the ones to root for.

THE THOMPSONS keeps the dark tone and no-nonsense pace of its predecessor going, clocking in at just 77 minutes in length and offering nary an intentional laugh during that time. What it also shares with THE HAMILTONS is a shortfall in terms of achieving something really good; be it due to its low budget or simply a lack of experience on the co-directors’ part, but the action never hits home quite as hard as you feel it’s meant to.

Most jarringly for me, I felt the skipping timeframes set to narration that directly chats to the audience were a little too close to the school of post-Tarantino ‘smart arse’ filmmaking. They took me out of the otherwise decent action on too many occasions. It’s a shame, because the pub and castle settings gave proceedings a real atmosphere of classic British Gothic – but the American indie-style delivery of many linking scenes counteracted it at every turn.

THE THOMPSONS comes to UK in a nice, uncut 16x9 transfer which preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The exterior scenery is served well in a clean, clear and vibrant picture which comes across keenly on this unproblematic DVD presentation.

Audio-wise, the film is treated to a healthy, robust 5.1 surround mix which jolts and stirs in all the right places. Quieter scenes benefit from the lack of hiss or background noise; a fine balance between dialogue and sound design is maintained throughout. Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read.

An animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu, allowing access to THE THOMPSONS via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with a 12-minute featurette entitled "Relocating the Family". This does a good job of explaining the decision to shoot in the UK. Apparently, according to the co-directors and producers, it’s due to a mixture of an admiration of British ancestry – filmic and otherwise – and our Olde Worlde hostelries. A couple of the actors, meanwhile, speak about the challenges of working with different accents and the infamous interchangeable British weather.

"Scribed in Blood" is also 12 minutes long, and focuses on the evolvement of the co-directors’ and Cory Knauf’s screenplay.

"Humans to Monsters" is a 13-minute look into the choreography and FX involved in the making of the film. It’s probably the most engaging, enlightening of the featurettes on offer. There’s some great behind-the-scenes footage to be savoured here.

"Awakening the Project" is the longest bonus feature, clocking in at 19 minutes in length. The directors discuss their reticence to make a straight sequel to THE HAMILTONS, while the producers speak of financing the England shoot and finding the right cast.

"Families" is 17 minutes long and looks more at the characters in the film. This gives the cast more of an opportunity to speak of what it was that attracted them to their respective roles. Knauf is once again the main player in this featurette.

Finally, the 2-minute "Ringlestone Inn" takes a look at the English pub used in the film, with its landlord and landlady - Kevin and Christina – providing a brief history of the place.

The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for THE HAMILTONS, OUTPOST 2: BLACK SUN and THE POSSESSION.

THE THOMPSONS is low budget and a little too schizophrenic in execution to be deemed fully successful. But I admire its intent and fans of THE HAMILTONS will no doubt lap it up.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Lions Gate
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review