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Thicker Than Water: Vampire Diaries
Starring: Jo Jo Hristova, Eilis Cahill, Devon Bailey and Michael Strelow
Directed by: Phil Messerer



With low budget independent films – those not made independently by the huge studios – you find a few gems in the muck. Thicker than Water: The Vampire Diaries is that.

It has its faults, as all films do. There’s a bizarre Mayan temple start and creepy (but not in the good way) double-intro voice over situation. Then we shoot over to the cool part of the story.

Story goes...a young Goth chic, Lara Baxter (Eilis Cahill), complete with the cheerleader twin sister, Helen (Devon Bailey), live in a tourist shanty on the eastern shores of the United States.

Lara is into black and red and hangs at the local Wicken filled Freakatorium Shoppe of Curiosities. Her sister, a bubble of sunshine, has the local letter-jacketed testosteronies buzzing around her and a Pollyanna look at life.

Mom (Jo Jo Hristova) is an ex-professional skater from a foreign suppressed land close enough to Transylvania to make her immediately suspicious. And brother, Raymond (Michael Strelow) is an uber eccentric scientific loose canon channeling Crispin Glover; but with originality and less spoofing.

The family is very dysfunctional. But when Goth chic tries to give Cheerleader chic acne via some voodoo curse, perhaps Lara was a tad a heavy handed on the toad spit. Because viola! Helen becomes a vampire.


But the seemingly McHateful Clan suddenly really pull together – and pull apart others – to keep their family together. Here TTW:VD becomes unique; women leads, a cool story line, and real emotional relationships.

Underneath all this we are hinted to that there may be more to Helen’s transformation than sis’ ill-thought voodoo curse juvenilely involving a cut up Barbie, some hair strands, and a few cage-free eggs whipped gently with teenage hate and crested with a nice firm cow’s heart.

The family believe (for now) that the spell is what has turned little Ms. DoRight into a creature of the night.

I am ignoring many of the faux pas of the Mayan jolts, and odd back-story of the dad who is instantly out of the film via divorce. Because the cast left behind are wonderful.

The brother, aka Michael Strelow, slips into his big brother badge with the force of a gore-edged Rambo. Watch for this guy.

Mom, aka Jo Jo Hristova, who has that great “Curse of the Werewolf” voice, loves her newly undead daughter as much as she did when Helen was less of a hellion. Now she will show just what a mother will do for her kin. Great acting. I mean Jo Jo not the mom...

Goth chic, aka Eilis Cahill, is perfect as that quiet black eyed nothing-shocks sort you see sucking on Dumdums and secretly TIVO-ing Lost. If Cahill wasn’t as good of an actor as she is it would have been a snore to watch her sulking away.

“Helen,” aka Devon Bailey, gets remarkably better (actor-wise) after she’s allowed to de-stereotype and bring out her inner vamp. You go girl! Who knew such a pretty thing could look that bad; which is good here. Another cast fellow to keep an eye out for.

They are all good frankly. In fact I can not recall an ensemble this good in so cheap a film before. Even the Freakotorium shop that houses the story’s great vampire book (and the item that could have done away with the crappy Mayan cut-ins) is great.

Every small tourist shaped town has this emporium character (here Myles Angus MacVane). He's that town's token citizen that’s ominously tattooed, usually long haired, pet snake toting, full of odd wisdom, and generally into scaring the locals with his weirdness. But he too TIVOs Forensic Files and has a skinless cat show award-winning pussy named Satan that he spoon feeds vanilla frappes from the DQ every Friday night en route to a frozen micro-dinner alone by the rabbit-eared circa 1999 TV set.

The vampire, excuse me, vampiress, here is gross. No sexually thrilling soft-porn thoughts should surface for anyone. A true horror film without that stupid "perfect eyes in the morning" shot. The blood upon Helen’s face is like afterbirth – so be ready. And the family’s kill room, err basement, needs a bucket of warm soapy bleachy water – and soon. ‘Nough said? A+ on creep factor!

Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries is the first in a trilogy by director Phil Messerer (<- say that 5 times fast). He swears that fans who are willing to follow through, and watch the next two films, will understand why he chose to intro with double voice over clips and introduce a Mayan legend - then catapult us to suburbia – and a 1/4 in introduce a great ancient book found in the Freakatorium which also tells of an ancient vampiress’ tale. Huh? We shall see...

Tis the old writer-director-producer curse; every frame is golden. I see edits to be made – chopping and post production redos. But forgive as the rest of the frames are wonderful.

Finally of note is the music. The soundtrack is sublime and helps tell the yarn - like it should. At times however, the sound, the actual speaking sounds, are flooded by the music or whispered from the cast. But that is surely budget issues.

You can buy TTW:VD at Amazon->

For the soundtrack get the 411 here->

Film’s official webby:


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