[The following is a review of the first three episodes of ‘Firebite’, providing to Screen Realm by AMC as online screeners]
Created by Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher, Firebite is an Australian vampire series streaming in Australia on AMC (via Amazon Prime Video) from 16 December. It’s a unique spin on the vampire myth which takes the creatures out of their traditionally cold, dark environs and places them in the hot, bright Outback sunshine.
Vampires were transported to Australia in the hold of colonial ships, brought over by the British to deal with the Indigenous population. But in the two centuries since, they have been kept at bay by a solitary band of fierce Aboriginal vampire hunters known as Blood Hunters. Tyson (Rob Collins) fights the local vampire population in the small mining town of Opal City. He trained to be a Blood Hunter but was forced to stop before his training was complete. With the help of his adoptive daughter Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan), they keep the numbers under control.
The war has gradually taken its toll on both sides. Under the leadership of the last Vampire King (Callan Mulvey), the vampires retreat to Opal City where they intend to consolidate their power, increase numbers, and make an undead nest in the honeycomb of mining tunnels on the edge of town.
Based on the first three episodes of the series, there’s a fair bit of promise to Firebite as the central idea is solid and visually it’s very impressive. But it‘s a bit of a slow burn to start. Acknowledging that we need to be introduced to the main characters and establish the vampire lore, it does feel like not enough time is spent on the most interesting part – when the vampires came to Australia in the hold of the British ships (an analogy for disease brought by the colonists).
Episode two picks up the pace, however, with the introduction of the Blood Hunter, played by the excellent Kelton Pell, and we have amiable heroes in Rob Collins and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, who share a good familial chemistry. Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black) is also good as bartender Eleona.
There are shades of 30 Days Of Night in the ferocity of the bloodsuckers and the way these vampires don’t disintegrate, but leave an ugly corpse. Kathryn Bigelow’s desert-set Near Dark will also spring to the mind of horror fans, as well as John Carpenter’s not-so-great Vampires.
It’s a safe bet to assume Firebite has a few secrets to reveal as the series progresses. So for now, although it’s a bit unfocused, there’s still plenty of potential in its ideas. Most of all, it’s very cool to see a new horror series with an Aboriginal voice, while also attempting to do something new and interesting with the vampire genre.
‘Firebite’ premiered on Amazon Prime Video on 16 December, with new episodes released each Thursday.