‘Blood and Bone China’ is a Gothic horror vampire story, available as a 12 part web series, or a movie on DVD. It follows Newlyn Howell, a young country veterinarian inadequate, who is drawn into a dark mystery when he is informed that his town brother has gone missing. Pursuing the mystery into the city of Stoke-on-Trent he soon encounters Anna Fitzgerald, a confident journalist looking into the disappearances herself to make her name. Together, with Newlyn’s estranged uncle, Alexander Pyre, the three discover a sinister conspiracy at the heart of the town’s pottery industry, and Newlyn discovers a destiny through his uncle–that he is part of a lineage of vampire slayers.
‘Blood and Bone China’ was released in 2012. So, why am I taking about it now? Well, I stumbled across it through a Den of Geek review around that time, and because I was writing ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ at the time and I fancied consuming some Victorian horror instead of creating it. I wasn’t really using my blog to talk about my geek experiences then, and looking through my YouTube watches I rediscovered it and wanted to tell you about it.
It’s an indie film made by the director Chris Stone. I read an interview with him, also on Den of Geek, and found he produced it on a budget of £3000–quite an achievement. The locations, the costumes, the palette, are all quality and give the series a rich feel, and it’s surprising that so much can be achieved on so comparably little. I imagine a lot of favours were called in on talent and locations for this and that it must have been quite a labour of love.
The scale of the story builds well into an uneasy conspiracy surrounding the three protagonists as they investigate, with them plunged right into danger early on. There is some repetition of previous plot points from it’s serial structure which interrupts the pace a little, but otherwise the story flies along and does a lot before it’s finale–which I think did a great job of playing with my expectations of how things would play out before ducking out and delivering something else, and less conventional. In particular there was a nice shift in the understanding of who the real ‘evil’ of the piece was, and it had a brave ending in what could be regarded as the victory of the protagonists. It mostly has a black and white approach to good and evil and then delivers a big shot of grey in the closing ten or twenty minutes which worked really well and elevated the plot for me.
One of the weaknesses I could highlight is that it goes by too quickly and didn’t give me enough time with the main characters for some of the events to have the resonance they could have had–until the end that is. But, that also says a lot about this production, it feels like there is enough characters to develop and enough meat to the plot that it deserved longer epsiodes to really do everything justice.
The visible effect of the vampire’s teeth growing and sharpening into fangs was nicely done. It was probably CGI, but the fact that I don’t know says a lot about the quality of the effects as CGI on a budget doesn’t often look that good. As the vampires were delivered so effectively I think the vampire deaths could have been more pronounced, not the balloon popping jobs of True Blood, but some kind of withering or degenartion to mark their demise would have been good. I’m a Hammer Horror boy and I do like a crumbly or melty vampire death! The opening titles and the thrashing contemporary music are impressive and does a really good job of establishing the quality of the production, it would sit comfortably alongside a TV production title sequence. The music in the episodes themselves is a bit heavy, and perhaps more epic than what is delivered visually, and something softer and creepier and more restrained would have suited the piece more.
The performances of the main cast are strong, Newlyn Howell and Anna Fitgerald are delivered really well. For me, some of the humour could have been a little more nuanced and the threats from the villain a little more menacing. There were some scenes which I think are intentionally tongue in cheek, so the humour does work, and keeps a good balance of having fun but taking the plot seriously. There is a young lad in it and he was great, he had a real cheekiness to him, and although only in it for a few episodes and surrounded by adults he shone out.
The ending epilogue is awesome, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s a complete change of time and location and has a real cinematic feel to it–I would’ve thought much of the budget would’ve gone on that had I not seen what came before. There is also a change in direction with lots of quick cuts to suit the action which plays out. ‘Blood and Bone China’ is enjoyable in and of itself, but it does offer it as the start of something bigger–a series with the protagonists we have been left with. I would like to see that, and hope that one day we will. I really enjoy ‘The Knick’ and ‘Ripper Street’ and would love to see a supernatural series in that period.
Make a cup of tea and go and check it out–it’s well worth your time.