Vampires are very hot right now -- the bestselling "Twilight" series, the hit TV show "True Blood," and the tragically cancelled "Moonlight."
And one of the better vampire stories to emerge from the crypt is "Blood Ties: The Complete Series," a too-brief show based on Tanya Huff's urban fantasy series. The series has a slightly slow start, but it's a solid action/fantasy series with plenty of sensual romance, gritty crime, and supernatural spookery -- and the trio of main actors are simply brilliant.
On her way back from a date, PI Vicki Nelson (Christina Cox) sees a caped figure attack and kill a young man -- leaving the body drained of blood. The victim's girlfriend hires Vicki to find the culprit. But as Vicki starts prodding around goth clubs and alleyways, she encounters the mysterious Henry Fitzroy (Kyle Schmid) who is doing his own murder investigation on the same case.
Turns out Henry is also a sexy 500-year-old vampire, and the bastard son of Henry VII. Together they have to find a creepy demon-summoner, before something far worse is unleashed. And soon she has to deal with a lot of other supernatural problems, with the help of Henry and her former partner Mike (Dylan Neal), who loathe one another.
Among the problems: voodoo priest and his zombies, time loops, an Incan mummy, a murderous "imaginary friend," a heart-crushing Celtic ghost, a suburban incubi, a man-eating Wendigo, creepy art crimes, a Goth club plagued by supernatural drugs, Egyptian gods, a Medusa, a fertility clinic that produces eerie results, Henry's ex-lover/vampire-mother, and an immortal priest with an unending vendetta against Henry. Worst of all, they must grapple with the creepy demon-summoner and his evil master...
"Blood Ties Season One" fits into the same niche as "Moonlight" and "The Dresden Files" -- a detective series with vampires and spooky things, and a human mired in the supernatural. But it's not entirely the same -- "Blood Ties" has a distinctly dark, grimy feel, with lots of pale light, shadowy urban streets and a unique vampire ("I don't have mojo. I have charm!").
It also has a nice murky mystery in each episode, with monsters ranging from notorious (zombies! mummies!) to obscure (svartalfar! bug demons!), tightly wound action scenes and some very sensual bloodsucking. And the writers spin up some lovely dialogue for Vicki and Henry, usually to each other ("Talismans don't kill people -- people kill people"). And the entire series is given a distinctly dark, grimy feel, with lots of pale light, shadowy urban streets, and a storyline that becomes quite bleak at times. The only real problem is the totally unsatisfying, inconclusive ending (TV movie! We need a TV movie!).
Cox is excellent as Vicki -- tough, strong and capable of handling her own life, but with the vulnerability of a degenerative eye disease and a demon curse. And she's backed by Neal as a skeptical, straight-and-narrow cop who doesn't trust the supernatural, but is forced to put his career in jeopardy to help Vicki, and Gina Holden as a perky Goth who appoints herself Vicki's new secretary/gofer/research assistant.
And Schmid is the perfect good-guy vampire -- he's devastatingly hot, and he mingles impish charm, sensuality, passion, ferocity and down-to-earth quirkiness ("If this book isn't at the printer's by the end of the month, my editor's gonna kill me... again!"). His most brilliant work is the prolonged torture of "Heart of Fire," especially during Henry's heartrending struggle against his bloodthirst.
The finale is unsatisfying, but the rest of "Blood Ties: The Complete Series" is a brilliantly written, well-acted series that stands head and shoulders above your average vampire TV show. It deserved way more than it got.
on April 15, 2011
Tanya Huff pioneered the urban fantasy genre in 1991 with the book "Blood Price". By populating metropolitan Toronto with vampires, werewolves, witches, and mummies, Huff sparked a trend in both literature (authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, etc.) and in television (Forever Knight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.) that is still gaining popularity today. Sadly, even inferior efforts such as the "Twilight" series (slickly marketed as "paranormal romance" instead of "fantasy") are getting more attention than Huff, the originator of the entire genre. Is it perhaps because Huff is Canadian? Whatever the reason, it was satisfying to see the Blood books finally turned into a series, even though it only ran for 22 episodes.
Usually, I am disappointed in film adaptations of my favourite books, but Blood Ties surprised me by surpassing the books with a feat of perfect casting: Cox as Vicki Nelson is completely believable and entirely engaging; Neal as Mike Celucci is even more admirable and adorable than the book version; and Schmid as Henry Fitzroy is utterly mesmerizing as the seductive but still vulnerable and genuinely appealing vampire. The addition of Holden as Coreen is an inspired improvement over the book series, as it provides Nelson with a cheering section while giving the audience someone to relate to.
The arc episodes are exceptional (Blood Price Parts 1 & 2 & Norman & Deep Dark, Heart of Ice & Heart of Fire, Bugged & The Devil You Know). My personal favourite is the "groundhog day from Hell" episode 5:55, and the funniest scenes have to be the ones between Vicki and Mike in "Post Partum". Even though some of the 22 episodes are not as strong story-wise, the characters and relationships grow in an organic and engaging fashion, and the overall story arc of the demon using Nelson to enter the world is both clever and scary. By the end of the 22 episodes, Blood Ties had found its footing and showed great potential to carry on into the next season ... except it was cancelled.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys the urban fantasy genre. And if you want to know how Vicki's story ends, at least you can still read the Blood books to find out!
on August 5, 2015
Excellent show; lousy presentation. The DVD's are presented in a letterboxed 4:3 aspect ratio. One winds up viewing with broad black bars on either side of the screen, and narrow black bars top and bottom. This is of course on a 16 x 9 television. On a 4 x 3 TV you only have the top and bottom black bars (letterbox).
The other complaint is that the 13 episodes of the so called season 1 are actually the 12 episodes which aired in early 2007 (March, April, May), plus the first of the 10 episodes which aired in late 2007 (October, November, December). Season 2 contains the remaining 9 episodes from late 2007.
The Blu-Ray set contains all 22 episodes (no season 1, season 2 hokum). More importantly the discs are properly formatted so the picture uses the entire 16 x 9 screen (no black bars).