Roving newspaper hack Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu), a specialist in lurid reportage on unusual LA subcultures, stumbles upon a Goth vampire sex cult and quickly begins to regret it when she is kidnapped, raped and finally murdered in an orgiastic sex ritual led by the cult's head honcho, Bishop (James D'Arcy). However, Bishop's co-ritualist, Eve (Carla Gugino) takes rather a shine to miss Blake (while in the midst of having lesbian sex with her expiring body!) and, hours after being found dumped in a trash skip by gruff cop, Harrison (Allan Rich) -- himself grieving the death in similar circumstances of his beloved daughter, Tricia -- finds herself bursting improbably back to life while stark naked in the city morgue. The downside though is that she is now also a blood & sex craving vampire!
There's been a mini mainstream trend over the last few years for sexy Goth-based vampire/werewolf films that, while servicing the particular tastes of the target Goth crowd, also provide the rest of us with a chance to see some of the tastiest A list actresses in borderline lesbian trysts, or, at the very least, some skin-tight black PVC costumes (think Kate Beckinsale in "Underworld"). The elfin Lucy Liu becomes the latest to go down this route in "Rise - The Blood Hunter"; and it turns out to be a surprisingly explicit affair. The film makes no bones about mixing sex and sadism, eroticism and necrophilia at levels which recall the good old days of euro sleaze at its finest. Lucy Liu get naked several times in some brief but faintly disturbing sequences that eroticise murder and torture in a way not usually seen outside of a mid-seventies Jess Franco flick!
Aside from that the plot runs much along the same lines as that of any fairly linear revenge picture, following exactly the same trajectory in fact as Tarantino's "Kill Bill", and like that film (and also the fourth season of "LOST" where it's used to good effect) it relies on a flash back/flash forward structure to provide narrative contrast and variation of tone. The flashback structure gradually reveals that Sadie (note the clue to the film's preoccupations in Lui's character's name), quickly becoming distraught at having to murder vagrants and have sex with hitchhikers in order to feed, eventually attempted to commit suicide by flinging herself from a motorway bridge, but then finds she cannot die by natural means. She is taken in by an order of nuns in a Mexican convent (?!) and nursed back to a fit enough state to enable her to go on the usual revenge-for-what-they've-done-to-me kill spree with the aid of a metal stake-shooting crossbow!
One by one she bumps off the main blood drinkers in the cult who did her wrong, which include sexy lesbian vampire, Eve, and an old Korean priest (whose loyalty to a vampire sex cult is never adequately explained!). Running parallel to this main story-line is that of the pursuing detective Harrison: haunted by nightmares of his murdered daughter, he's hunting Sadie, also, unaware that her aims are much the same as his. Eventually, they meet up for a showdown with Biship -- a rather unexciting villain who sports the usual vaguely east European accent and the, by now, cliqued leather trench coat and dark suit, to boot.
There are a number of odd anomalies and omissions that make me suspect that this movie may have suffered something of a troubled genesis on its way to the screen. For instance why does Robert Forster appear in the very first scene of the film never to be seen or mentioned again? If it's a cameo it's certainly a pointless one (weirdly, the same fate befell Forster in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"). Certain plot points are left hanging in the script, such as: how do the Mexican nuns know all about Bishop and his clan, and who exactly is the old vampire in the wheelchair near the start of the film, who appears to be a senior figure in the cult but who, likewise, is never seen again after this initial scene. Neither is 'the deal' between he and Sadie - which they refer to, here — ever explained or even mentioned again after this opening act. It's one thing to have a flash back/flash forward structure, but that does rather lead to the expectation on the part of the viewer that all the bits will actually join up by the end!
However, overlook these rather glaring deficiencies in plot and structure and this is still actually a hugely welcome return to unashamed horrotica in modern cinema which plays like an adult superhero/horror/revenge flick with lots of blood and breasts. Lucy Liu is always a watchable screen presence and she looks great here in both the action sequences and the witty dialogue exchanges, as well as her teasingly brief, but still usually frank, nude scenes.