I remember the flutter of excitement I felt when I came across the title Ankle Biters. Vampires with dwarfism! With an IMDB rating sitting at 1.3, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but I just had to check it out.
USA, 2002, Adam Minarovich
“Three feet tall with two inch fangs.” – Ankle Biters, 2002
But you probably already guessed all that. Of course Ankle Biters isn’t going to look or sound great. It’s a no budget, infamously bad film. More importantly, what about the dwarf vampires? On that account, Minarovich delivers. Essentially, Ankle Biters is a rip-off, or perhaps parody (I really couldn’t tell which), of Blade. A plague of dwarf-vampires has descended on the world – and by plague (the film’s words not mine), I mean an insignificant handful. Drexel (Adam Minarovich), a tough talkin’, half-vampire (but not dwarf) cool dude, and his sidekick T-Bone (Michael Moore), a Mexican, Taco-lovin’ cool guy (a dwarf but not a half-vampire), hunt down the tiny bastards. The pint-sized vampires of Ankle Biters don’t adhere to your typical vampire lore. They hang out in the sunlight and stakes don’t kill them. They can turn other little people into vampires, but not regular sized people. (They literally bite their victims on the ankles, by the way. Fucking great.) The only way to stop them is by… uh… injecting them with blood? Or something? Sorry, I sort of tuned out when that was being explained. Anyway, some extra evil little vampire fuckers have procured this ancient sword that they use to turn regular sized men into vampires. They turn a big fucking tough guy into a vampire who becomes their muscle and set off to conquer the world. Oh, and a millionaire vampire hunter (in his opening scene he buys a shit painting at an art gallery, so we know he’s rich) and an angry cowboy vampire hunter also show up at some point.
Ankle Biters derives a certain amount of charm from its cheapness. I’ve always felt that low to no budget films give a fascinating glimpse into their era and setting, almost like historical documents. The thick drawl of the amateurish castmembers and the depressingly barren locations had me strangely hooked as I wondered about the world beyond the film. Talking about amateur performers, to Minarovich’s credit, he casts some great looking biker types. The film’s final ten minutes are almost exciting (but not really) as we see some genuine looking bikers, recently turned into vampires, who roar towards the film’s pathetic heroes on big, awesome bikes. And I’m glad I was able to experience the imagery of three little people sitting in the back of an enormous bike with a huge, bald man in front. That was special.
While Ankle Biters desperately tries to be cool imitating a style that ran rampant in the late 90s and early 2000s, it also attempts to have a sense of humour. I’m a sucker for bad comedy, and the jokes here are some of the worst. Most of the worst (best) stuff comes from Minarovich himself. Minarovich, rather sadly, casts himself as the smooth talking hero and also gives himself all the best (worst) lines, which are, of course, terrible. My favourite would have to be when Minarovich replies to a threat of being “taken out” (as in killed): “You’re taking me out? What are you a fag now?” Wow. Minarovich’s tiny sidekick also gets to deliver some great, awful lines. He yells “Tacos!” a lot, just to remind us he’s Mexican. There were lots of other bad jokes, but luckily I’ve forgotten them all.
Ankle Biters is ambitious. The cast is huge, unnecessarily so, locations are many, and there’s quite a few scenes of (mostly incomprehensible) action. The action hits its strides in a scene where police raid the tiny vampires’ lair. The sound effects are kicked into high gear, with punch sounds crackling repetitively over the soundtrack prefaced by the wild, distorted shouts of the police. It’s fucking hilarious. Some of the actors can’t wipe the smirks off their faces:
Even hardened bad movie viewers will struggle with Ankle Biters. There’s an indefinable boringness to it, almost like watching a family’s home videos. But weirdly enough, I actually felt a little sad when the credits rolled. As dull as it is and as bad as it is, I just can’t hate a film that features bearded little people with vampire teeth dressed in biker gear leering at the camera baring their fake fangs. I mean, that’s what movie watching is all about, right? I also can’t hate its creator Adam Minarovich. I know what it’s like to make a shit movie that everyone hates, so I have to give a tiny tip of the hat to Minarovich for not letting all the hate for this horrible stinker stop him from making more films.
Ankle Biters was available on DVD, but appears to be out of print now. It can be found second hand for pretty cheap though.