I was going to watch I Spit on Your Grave as requested, but the tape wouldn’t play in my VCR. So to make up for it, I rented this uber-low budget gem – Ankle Biters.
I would love to have been sitting in the room when the idea for this film was conceived. Imagine if you will, director/writer/star Adam Minarovich is sitting around with his friends trying to think of a hook for the vampire movie he’s been dreaming of making. Adam says to his buddy Michael, “We need a twist for this vampire movie. Something different. We don’t want to make just another bloodsucker flick.”
Mike says, “Well, we’ve tossed out every idea from vampire fish to vampire bean bag chairs. The only thing we haven’t tried yet is vampire midgets.”
Adam has an epiphany. “That’s it!” He exclaims, “Vampire midgets!”
Thus Ankle Biters is born. Unfortunately, it was not stillborn.
This movie (with the tagline of “Three feet tall. Two inch fangs”) has absolutely NO redeeming qualities. It doesn’t even try to be tongue-in-cheek about the premise. It takes itself seriously. It is so awful, it makes Ishtar look like Casablanca. It makes Battlefield Earth look like Star Trek II. It makes Jaws 4 look like Jaws. You get the idea. The budget is non-existant. The cast seems to be made of of family and friends, since no one shows any hint of real acting ability. The dialogue is horrendous. The fight scenes make professional wrestling believable.
I’m guessing it was set in Texas. I think that’s what one of the characters said a nest of the little buggers were located, but it’s hard to tell since the sound is as awful as the rest of the film and unless the (ahem) “actor” was speaking in the direction of the camcorder mike you couldn’t make out what was said.
So the movie starts – in broad daylight, without even a hint of pretending it’s nighttime – with a dorky looking guy running away from, then being attacked by, a gang of midget vampires. Our Hero (dressed as a cheap Blade knock-off in a wifebeater t-shirt) appears from nowhere with a midget sidekick named T-Bone and fights off the ankle biters. The action is so staged and stiffly performed, they’d have been more effective just showing us pictures of the storyboards. I have a sinking feeling, however, that this production wasn’t organized enough to have storyboards. Or maybe they wanted storyboards but didn’t have the budget for posterboards and a marker.
But I digress. Our Hero saves dork-boy and dork-boy explains the midgets started attacking people at a rave. Dork-boy found out about the rave from a bartender who gave him a flyer. Our Hero is off to track down the bartender.
Next we’re taken to a traintrack bridge. The three midget vampires are getting a special sword from a couple of not-so-nice guys. The vamps refuse to pay for the sword, resulting in some deliciously witty banter – “Fuck you!” “No, fuck you, you sawed-off bastards!” This results in some ankle biting. Literally. The vampires take down the not-so-nice guys by their ankles. One of the guys dies, the other guy gets away. Not that it matters, we don’t see the other guy again. How do bites on your ankle kill you? I dunno. Personally, I don’t find too many things scary if I can hold them off by putting my palm on their forehead and holding them off at arms length. And what’s so special about the sword? We’ll get to that later.
Our Hero is now at the bar, speaking to the aforementioned bartender. Our Hero’s bad attitude sparks another poorly filmed fight scene. He also drops his name to the bartender, but the sound being so bad combined with Our Hero’s poor Dirty Harry impression makes it unintelligible. After whooping the asses of all the customers, Our Hero draws some blood from the bartender into a shotglass and downs it, warning the bartender he’d be back for the main course if the bartender sends anymore people to the midget vamps. So, Our Hero isn’t totally human after all. Maybe the similarity between Our Hero and Blade is more than just the costume.
Cut to a ZZ-Top reject (the beard isn’t quite long enough), who gets a phone call saying there’s a nest of the ankle biters down south and they’d be sure to find “that half-breed” there. So… dressed as Blade, and half-breed like Blade. Draw your own conclusions. And the point of this scene? We dunno yet.
Now, because the sound is terrible, I don’t know what this next scene is about or why it’s in the movie, but Our Hero and T-Bone stop a vampire by using a syringe and injecting something into him. And while they’re killing a bloodsucker, someone steals Our Hero’s motorcycle outside. Again, the point? Who knows?
Back to ZZ-Top. He’s buying weapons from some guy named Edgar. What the hell was that about? Who knows? What I know is that whoever edited the film needs to be slapped around a bit, cuz neither of the above two scenes have jack-all to do with the rest of the movie.
After another smooth transition, we’re in a motorcycle repair shop. Now armed with their magic sword, the ankle biters transform a 6-foot tall, 300 lbs bald biker guy into a vampire. Because although the film is called Ankle Biters and is supposedly about midget vampires, let’s just toss that idea aside first chance we get and put a tall guy in there to be a vampire. It’s like 15 minutes into the film star/director/writer Adam Minarovich had a near moment of lucidity and thought, “What the fuck, am I seriously making a non-comedic film about midget vampires?!”
Our Hero gets a phone call from a cop (and we learn Our Hero’s name is Drexell cuz I can hear the cop in a rare moment of nearly decent sound) tipping him off to a call about a man getting attacked in a bike shop by midgets with a sword. Drexell and T-Bone get there by carjacking some poor innocent schlub. This is our hero? He just beat up and carjacked a totally innocent person! Booooo! Drexell and T-Bone meet up with Baldy Vamp and the Three Little Vamps in the middle of the road. For some unexplained reason, Drexell hands his weapons to T-Bone and decides to take on Baldy Vamp mano-a-mano. And Drexell gets his ass kicked. In the middle of the ass-kicking, ZZ-Top shows up and shoots Baldy with an arrow, causing the vamps to run off. ZZ-Top tries to shoot Drexell, but misses. He shouts “Next time, half-breed” and the scene ends. What’s going on? Who the fuck knows?
Who’s ZZ-Top? What is this half-breed crap? What’s with the sword? Why does Our Hero use a shotgun against vampires? What was that crap about injecting something into a vampire to kill it? Why are all the vampires running around in the middle of the day? There hasn’t been one nighttime vampire scene yet! What the fuck is going on?!
Well, just in time here comes the exposition scene. Drexell and T-Bone meet up with Baldy Vamp’s sister (who had called the cops reporting the attack). Back at Drexell’s hideout, he explains the movie to her. Here’s what we learn:
In 1807, the last “tall vampire” was killed, but not before he put his blood in a jewel and the jewel put in a sword. Dwarf vampires can only make other dwarf vampires unless they have this sword. Huh? What is this horseshit? Like there’s a sign of Count Chocula holding out his hand saying “You must be 48” tall to suck this blood."
But wait… if the last vampire was killed in 1807, how is Our Hero a halfbreed? He says he was born a regular kid, but in his teens, his eyes became sensitive to sunlight, was thin no matter what he ate, and was hospitalized but the doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong. (And you thought your puberty was rough!) Then one day he saw a cart with bags of blood on it and couldn’t control himself. He traced his family tree to Rome and believes he’s a decendent of that last tall vampire. I guess vampirism skips over 10 generations, huh?
So what about all the vamps running around in daylight? The real reason I think is cuz there was no money for lighting at night, but we’re told to forget all the vampire legends we’ve learned from movies and books (they’re all too expensive to film). Vampires’ eyes are sensitive to the sun, but that’s it. No allergies to garlic, crosses don’t affect them, wooden stakes do nothing, and they can’t trun into bats. So what’s the least expensive way to kill a vampire? Vampire blood injected into the vampire’s heart kills vamps. So stock up on fake syringes and make a vampire movie!
So now with “the rules” laid out and some exposition (FINALLY!), the movie starts up again with the arrival of ZZ-Top at Our Hero’s hideout. Turns out ZZ’s name is John Markus, another vampire hunter, who’s been hunting Drexell. But now he wants to work with Drexell to kill Baldy Vamp, since dwarf vampire blood has no affect on him. (Are dwarfs/midgets a different species in this world or what?) Drexell agrees to give some of his blood to stop the big guy, prompting another witty piece of well-written dialogue when ZZ-Top warns, “When this is over, I’m taking you out.” Drexell says, “Taking me out? What are you a fag now?” “Shutup,” sulks ZZ-Top. Oh that wacky Drexell! It’s only too bad that the poor sound quality of this movie didn’t catch all these witty gems, huh?
Drexell and ZZ-Top crash another rave where Baldy and the Ankle Biters are attacking. During this fight scene, other ankle biters attack T-Bone and Baldy’s sister at Drexell’s hideout. T-Bone is bitten and down for the count, and the sister is kidnapped. Our homophobic and carjacking “Hero” returns to find T-Bone is now an ankle biter himself. T-Bone is killed and there is much rejoicing – err, I mean lamenting. Much lamenting.
Now it’s time for the big showdown. Both sides get ready in their own way. The vamps get ready by sending Baldy Vamp to a bar to make more vampires (hey, isn’t this called Ankle Biters? Then why is the Big Bald Guy the main vampire for most of this?) The good guys (relatively speaking) get ready by calling in another hunter who goes by the name Cowboy.
I can’t quite tell where this final showdown takes place, but it’s outside (in the daytime of course) and there’s a lot of wooden pallates around. The showdown begins with the new biker vampire army riding in circles for a minute. Then a close-up of ZZ-Top. Then more riding in circles. Then a close-up of Drexell. Then more riding in circles. Then a shot of a tree (the larch). Then more riding in circles. I guess riding in circles builds tension, but what do I know – I’m not a skilled filmmaker like Adam Minarovich.
After all this circle-riding tension, the hunters make quick work of the biker vampire army. Almost didn’t seem worth the effort of filming the scene of Baldy making all these vampires. Drexell goes mano-a-mano with Baldy again, but wins this time, and somewhere along the way, the Ankle Biters are killed, but it wasn’t filmed well enough to pick up when or how it happened. Maybe it wasn’t filmed, it may have just been too expensive to show it. Cowboy and ZZ-Top, although they have been hunting Drexell for years, let him go, and he rides off on one of the vamps’ motorcycles.
A title card informs us it is nine months later. Drexell and ZZ-Top (now working together apparently) catch up to one of the ankle biters that escaped earlier and kill him. I guess the writer/director/star thought this would be a cooler ending than just killing all of the vamps in the climactic scene and riding off on a motorcycle.
Ed Wood, I think you have some company, and his name is Adam Minarovich.
To sum up, this is the worst one I’ve seen for the Bullet Reviews. It doesn’t have the quirky charm of Hudson Hawk (a film which at least knows not to take itself seriously). It doesn’t have the production value of Battlefield Earth. It doesn’t have the acting chops of Exorcist II: The Heretic. It doesn’t have the eye candy of Brittany Spears in Crossroads. It’s just an all-around BAD movie.
Now, with that said, if you want to have some friends over and drink some beers and do your own Mystery Science Theater 3000 to a film, this would be the one to do. There were times watching this I was wishing there’d be more people around to wisecrack with: It might have actually been fun then. The film takes itself seriously, but thank goodness we don’t have to.