Subhuman (Mark Tuit, 2005)
This one (also known as Shelf Life) actually ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be, which was a nice change from most of what I watched over the past couple of weeks. The same sort of derivative low-budget silliness as something like The Seamstress or Mothman (q.v.), but with a pretty intelligent script that's at least only derivative of one flick I can think of off the top of my head (The Hidden, a 1985 Kyle McLachlan vehicle; MacDonald basically reprises McLachlan's character with a few interesting twists).
Plot: Martin (Slither's Bill MacDonald) hunts vampires. Well, not vampires, really, but reptile-like parasites who turn humans into things that, as he tells his unwitting charges, resemble the vampires of folklore. His charges are Ben (Bryce McLaughlin in his screen debut) and Ben's girlfriend Julie (TV character actress Courtney Kramer, who hasn't appeared in a feature since this one). You see, Martin was in the process of hunting down a particularly nasty vamp-like thing named Tanya (Dark Water's Paralee Cook) when Ben and Julie clip him with their car. Instead of heading for the hospital, Martin insists they take him back to his place. One look at that and they take him to theirs. Bad move, as it turns out, because the vamp-like things now have Ben and Julie on their radar--so they can either fight back or be slaughtered.
You can imagine the shortcomings here, because you've seen them a few times (Ben and Julie take a lot of convincing, even after being attacked a couple of times, that any of this is real, for example), but Tuit, who also wrote the screenplay, brings a black humor to the genre that's surprisingly intelligent (and more than welcome). The principals are all at least decent actors, and MacDonald, who could have played this character for laughs at any time, goes as straight as he can with it. Good move, as it highlights all the black humor around him. Tuit's set design and camerwork is low-budget, but it's grungy low-budget instead of "I'm going to try and make all this stuff look as professional as I can". Another good move, and one shared by a number of other basement-budget flicks I'm really fond of from around the same time (DeadBirds, Lockout, Shallow Ground) that hark back to nothing so much as street-realism dramas from the 1970s (think Taxi Driver here). Not that I'm comparing Tuit to Scorsese by any means, but it's obvious Tuit had a look he was going for here, and in my opinion, he achieved it.
(Side note: yes, if you're thinking about it after reading that review, this would've fit in seamlessly with Mucha Sangre. They'd make a fine double-bill.) It's not Oscar material by any means, but Subhuman will be quite a pleasant surprise if you're not expecting much. ** ½