The Brotherhood (2001)

thebrotherhood_1AKA I’ve Been Watching You

Starring Sam Page, Josh Hammond, Bradley Stryker, Elizabeth Bruderman, Forrest Cochran, Michael Lutz, Donnie Eichar

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


The Brotherhood is a perfect example of a B-Movie that I would have never fully appreciated a few years ago. As a David DeCoteau film, it’s one of his most accomplished, and when seen right alongside the work he did for Full Moon around this time, The Brotherhood stands out as something unique. The films for Charles Band were work for hire, crafting movies for Full Moon as it tried to stay afloat in the changing video market. The Brotherhood was the film that launched DeCoteau’s own Rapid Heart Pictures, and its differing style and focus feels as if DeCoteau was finally making a film for himself (as a producer). This is a subtlety that would’ve remained obscured for me a few years ago, so I’m glad to have come to this pivotal DeCoteau film at just the right time.

In terms of general story, The Brotherhood is a standard tale about an innocent being drawn into the darkness. He is courted and converted as expected, but here it’s more about the specifics than the overall. This is a vampire story, but it replaces almost all the traditional vampire tropes with a brand new, enchanting mythology. Ritual elements figure prominently, and all the afflicted wear a medallion called a taltra (which means Eternal Hunter). It serves as symbol and identifier, as well as a functional purpose in their feeding rituals. Vampire films are fairly stuffy and stale at this point, but The Brotherhood is a wonderfully imaginative take on the classic monster. It’s also constructed in such a way that a great moral lays beneath the vampire angle, telling a tale of finding yourself in college and how falling in with a charismatic leader can define your identity (for good or bad).

thebrotherhood_4The film’s production is also of a higher quality than Full Moon films from the same year. I thoroughly enjoyed Prison of the Dead, but its low budget and quick shooting schedule are apparent through the entire film. It barely cracks 70 minutes, and that’s including both opening and end credit sequences! As much as I liked it, it’s hard not to see a film produced in this manner as more of a cash grab than a real attempt at making a great movie. This kind of methodology is what defines the modern-era Full Moon film, but The Brotherhood is instead made like a “real” movie, in that it spends time building its characters and the world they inhabit, as well as trading in the kind of slow-burn tension rarely seen in Full Moon’s films. This does make for a slower type of movie that’s not as fun as it could be, but it’s hard not to respect The Brotherhood for setting itself apart so definitively from other, trashier B-movie fare.

thebrotherhood_3That’s not to say that The Brotherhood is without its trashier elements, though. Instead of the traditional B-Movie formula of T & A, The Brotherhood leans in a more homoerotic direction. The vampires perform their rituals clad only in tight boxer briefs, and the camera focuses a bit more on the male form than a traditional movie would. But regardless of your sexual preference, there is an undeniable sensuality that runs through the entire film, hitting its height during a scene when the lead vampire Devon (Bradley Stryker) and our “hero” Chris (Sam Page) feed on a very accepting and willing woman. DeCoteau shoots all the participants lovingly, capturing the beauty of both genders with ease. DeCoteau also shoots the film in a 2.35:1 ratio, and the added width of the image helps to photograph the curving lines and moving shapes made by the writhing bodies in ways that taller ratios wouldn’t allow for.

thebrotherhood_5As much as I enjoyed The Brotherhood, I don’t think it’s a movie for everyone. I wish people were all open-minded and willing to watch a movie that doesn’t specifically serve their sexual interests, but the sad case is that a lot of horror fans are dudes, and a lot of dudes don’t want to see homoerotic stuff (but football is great! 😉 ). That being said, this film spawned five sequels and a pseudo-sequel (The Sisterhood), so perhaps people are more open-minded than I’m giving them credit for. In any case, Rapid Heart Pictures is still running strong, so DeCoteau definitely tapped into a thriving, hungry, and underserved audience.

I look forward to checking out the sequels and seeing what direction they take the story/mythology. Unfortunately, my cursory searches indicate that every sequel is unrelated to one another. Hmmm. Oh well, I just hope they’re interesting and original like this one was.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching the 1993 Albert Pyun film Arcade! See ya then!

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