A noirish take on vampire mythology helps to tweak the usual “I bite your neck” proceedings, but “Rise: Blood Hunter” is defeated by too many punctures in the script department. Helmer-scripter Sebastian Gutierrez (last writing credit: “Snakes on a Plane”) is helped immeasurably by master d.p. John Toll in creating a mood piece, but tale of a newly created bloodsucker out for vengeance cries out for side characterizations more developed than the anemic figures on offer. Early June opening might get an initial rise out of horror fans, but ancillary will provide more accommodating soil.
Constructed like a neo-noir, pic opens with Sadie (Lucy Liu) picking up a whore (Cameron Richardson) and bringing her back to a mansion, where the comely blonde is offered up to the unspecified perversions of Mr. Harrison (Allan Rich). But Sadie’s got another agenda, skewering the old guy after he reveals the location of her nemesis, Bishop.
Flashback six months, and a brighter, looser Sadie is all set to take a break after filing a magazine story on goth culture. Back in investigation mode when Trisha (Margo Harshman) turns up dead, her body sadistically gobbled up, Sadie’s abducted and brought to the aforementioned mansion, where evil English vampire Bishop (James D’Arcy) and cohort Eve (Carla Gugino) proceed to suck the life out of her.
Sadie awakens to discover she’s now one of the undead, too, her blood cravings fighting with her natural revulsion. Suicide ain’t an option, so with crossbow and iron rods in hand she sets out to really kill the dastardly (but oh so sexy) Bishop and his entourage. She makes a pact with Trisha’s father, Det. Rawlins (Michael Chiklis): She’ll get the vampiric bastard, and the cop will help her find peace at the other end of a stake.
Despite attempts to inject new, um, blood into the genre, with the self-loathing Sadie struggling with her menu choices (“Buffy” and “Angel” covered similar ground), too many of the situations are cookie-cutter set pieces. Chiklis’ distraught cop/father is the stuff of standard police shows, textureless and superficial, while a brief side plot about a vampire (Julio Oscar Mechoso) keen to get his own revenge on Bishop is just a screamingly obvious, and clumsy, plot device.
As with Gutierrez’s helming debut “Judas Kiss,” the mediocre dialogue is what really finishes it off. Several times characters comment on Sadie’s attractiveness, as if the point has to be made specific; would such reinforcement be needed if she weren’t Asian?
Liu does her best to make Sadie a real character, and she’s able to get genuine emotional resonance out of a few scenes, particularly when she reluctantly picks up a hitchhiker after her bloodlust overpowers her morality. But she deserves better than this. A few cameo appearances (Robert Forster, Marilyn Manson as a non-goth bartender) perk up interest.
Ace lenser Toll understands that vampire pics and noir have long been close relatives, and he succeeds in creating an underworld of shadows and black holes; however, like other tech credits, the results rarely rise above average.