Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Short film: Paint the Town Red

Coming in at just the five-minute mark this short film from 2017 was directed by Christopher Andrew Graham and Ariel Hansen and does that thing that short films, when they work, do so well. What do I mean? This is a fine example of producing a story and characters in a short period of time. The characterisation develops through the clever use of stereotypes, acting and dialogue with a side order of broad-brush tropes that relay the story.

If not handled well it can feel cliched or, indeed, just poor. But when handled well (especially with some nice photography) a lot can be packed into a very brief amount of time.

unsolicited tickets
Andie (Allison Klause) and Josephine (Ariel Hansen) are a pair of friends who haven’t seen each other for a little while. They are having a night out together and Josephine reveals that she has tickets to the Club Hobbs Lunar eclipse Party – they came, unsolicited, to her mailbox. Andie asks what Club Hobbs is and Josephine has no idea but is utterly convinced it will be fabulous. When they arrive the doorman (Jesse Inocalla) asks for their names but they are not on the list – all is ok when Josephine reveals the tickets, however.

Once in the club Andie goes to the bar whilst Josephine nips to the Ladies Room. The bartender (Gigi Saul Guerrero) suggests that Andie looks delicious but, any issue she might have had with the strange greeting, melts away as she discovers that the first round is on the house. Meanwhile Josephine is in the bathroom and hears a sucking sound from a stall, she makes a disparaging comment as she leaves but we see blood trickling down one of a pair of legs visible under the stall-door. She walks past three people appearing intimate on a couch, we see two turn round, blood at their mouths, whilst the third has bloody wounds at the neck. Will the girls figure out what is going on?

Well the way to find out is to watch the short, something I’d highly recommend. The imdb page is here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Short Film: Lost in Provence

There is a specific skill involved in capturing something worthwhile in a short film. This particular short from 2019 is 21-minutes long and was directed by Christy Oldham and – though it might just be me – it really didn’t display that specific skill and I was left wondering at the point of it.

Mr Snotty Nose
It starts with an “internet sensation”, Mr Snotty Nose – some fella with a Groucho set of false glasses, with snot beneath – who is doing a video diary touring France. A journalist is sent from the USA to France to interview him. An agent mentions vampires, we get a French new report (without subs) regarding missing tourists and vampires, and then she gets chomped (apparently) by said Mr Snotty Nose. That is all…

post production fangs
A short write up for a short film that featured lots of uninspired hand-cam photography and black and white segueing into colour without an aesthetic point. Oh, and post production fangs. Sorry – this one was genuinely poor.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Vampires of Lore: Traditional Tales and Modern Misconceptions – review

Author: A P Sylvia

First Published: 2019

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Vampire . . . the word immediately conjures up bloodstained fangs, an aversion to sunlight, bats, garlic, and wooden stakes. These undead immortals have haunted our favorite books, television shows, and movies for decades. This exploration of a seemingly supernatural topic delves into past traditions around the world and how those traditions have affected our pop-culture modern-day monster. Explore belief systems as well as origins of various notions we all seem to have about vampires, and unearth the bloody dirt about this mystical creature. Discover differences and similarities between the realm of folklore and what modern media has taught us. Did villagers really use wooden stakes, garlic, and mirrors? What about vampires turning into bats or hypnotizing victims? Did they really cause disease, turn into dogs, and sleep in coffins? Topics are arranged by trait so that the reader can consider each characteristic before believing or dismissing it. So . . . if you're ready, let's hunt some vampires.

The review: There is a trepidation when facing a reference book sometimes. I have looked at them previously – especially ones driven by a desire by a publisher to tap into a pop culture area and where they seem to spend more attention on design (this is a nice hardback volume with fancy, glossy pages) than content – and found myself annoyed. Annoyed by lack of referencing, lack of indexing and, in some of the worst cases, errors by the bucket full.

So, lets cover off what this is about first before looking as to whether it addressed the standard gripes. Sylvia has set a task of examining tropes from the vampire genre (running on a vampire definition in chapter one of a restless corpse, corporeal and blood-drinker, but veering off-piste when there is something of interest to see) and comparing them to extant folklore to see whether those tropes/traits are from original sourcing or a media invention. The working definition established, the book is then split into a further 19 chapters each about a given trait (for example, sunlight has a chapter, as does garlic and mirrors respectively).

The splitting the chapters into trait might have made a lack of index forgivable – except he does index his work, happy days, and each chapter has end-note citations, and there is an overall bibliography. The writing is fairly chatty, but engaging for it, but I would say that the chapters are fairly short and there is certainly scope in some for expansion.

When it comes to accuracy I found (for the most part) that the author had examined relevant sources and was in the right ballpark. There were areas that possibly demanded deeper exploration – so, as a prime example, the conclusion was that a vampire’s ability to fly was from the media vampire and likely a twentieth-century invention (whilst acknowledging a couple of rare folkloric examples, one Russian and one Chinese). However, I would counter argue that flying is referenced in Pepopukin in Corsica (1826) and actively seen in Phantoms (1863). To give the author fair hearing their conclusion is stated to rest around “major vampire-themed works” but Alexandre Dumas père, it can be argued, must be deemed a major source and his Ruthven based stage-play contains stage notes that state, “Lord Ruthven first sits up—then rises completely and having shaken his hair to the wind, he deploys great wings and flies off.” However – having said that (and if the author ever does a 2nd edition I hope they consider the works I have mentioned) this was an incredibly rare moment where I disagreed with the conclusion on an error of fact (or perhaps parameter). For the main this showed a diligence in research exemplified by the marvellous find of a brief reference to the, so-called, Vampire of Snowdon – a tantalising moment from 1890.

So, it is a light volume – it took a day to read – but written in a very readable style and, whilst I believe there was plenty of room for expansion, as a primer for the division between folklore and media this does the job well. 7.5 out of 10.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Accumulator 1 – review

Director: Jan Svěrák

Release date: 1994

Contains spoilers

That the concept of vampirism stretched well beyond that of troublesome corpses with a taste for blood is not only no bad thing but is something we have seen through the media genre from the 19th century onwards. The concept of the energy vampire was a figure clearly seen in early literature forms.

As such this makes this Czech fantasy film, with a romantic comedy heart, most definitely a vampire film but a very unusual vampire at that.

awkward interview
The film starts with surveyors Olda (Petr Forman) and Slezák (Bolek Polívka) on a dam, taking readings and discussing nearby colleague Jitka (Tereza Pergnerová). Slezák wonders if Olda has slept with her yet, and when he says no the other man indicates his intention to do so. They go back to an inn, where they know the TV will show a pop-vox interview with Olda. On TV he is questioned about his thoughts on brothels but struggles to respond or express a view. Slezák takes Jitka to his room.

saved by the emergency services
Olda feels like he has no energy left and, on getting home, vegetates in front of the TV. He actually falls into unconsciousness for three days and is rescued by emergency services who take him to hospital, but the doctors cannot work out what is wrong with him. A man Fišarek (Zdeněk Svěrák) visits his hospital neighbour Mikulík (Jiří Kodet). Olda hears Mikulík suggesting that he doesn’t want to go on and suggests Fišarek visits the young man. Fišarek is a natural healer and infuses Olda with energy – making him come around properly again.

died holding a remote
Fišarek then works with the young man to control his energy as it is at an extreme low, which has caused his condition. He teaches him to draw energy from wood (never from people, especially children, he says – citing the dangers of karma). When Mikulík dies they go to see the body, which Fišarek declares is devoid of any residual energy and seems to be pointing – until they discover he had been holding a TV remote. Mikulík’s daughter Anna (Edita Brychta), arrives just then, and clearly does not like Fišarek – thinking him a charlatan.

the TV Dimension
So, as the film develops Anna, a dentist by trade, and Olda will eventually start a relationship but it is complicated by the danger Olda finds himself in. We discover what that is as the film moves forward. After a scene where Fišarek sends Olda a long-distance energy boost, we see the younger man bouncing around his apartment brimming with energy – until he bounces before the TV set and the glow of the cathode ray touches him and he is immediately drained. Eventually we enter the “TV dimension” and discover what is actually going on (though Olda just knows that the TVs are to blame).

living death
There is a whole world inside the TV and some of it is populated by doppelgangers, including ones of Olda and Mikulík, who seem to live partying through their dimension. The insinuation is that they are created when someone is filmed and fails to fully express themselves (perhaps leaving part of their expression in that dimension, as there is a suggestion later that they truly are a part of the original somehow lost and become independent). They then use TVs to feed from their real-world counterparts. With Mikulík having died, his doppelganger cannot feed and is now becoming energy devoid himself – eventually he is laid to rest (over the side of the Titanic) where he lies, not dead but unmoving (and covered in cobwebs eventually). It is a type of living death.

drained by the cathode ray
In the real world Olda starts having to avoid TVs, carrying a stack of remotes to turn them off (there is a commentary about there not being a universal remote control, probably right for the time this was made) and hording wood to use as an energy source. He is able to see the reach of the cathode ray and manipulate energy enough to energise a lightbulb in his hand or cause a cop to fall asleep. He starts to develop a solution after reading a story to Anna’s daughter about a witch who became younger by forcing a Prince to relinquish his breath (stealing breath can be seen as a euphemism for energy vampirism).

Anna and Olda
This was wonderfully surreal, with a quirky humour running through it. The romance aspect worked well with Petr Forman and Edita Brychta displaying a realistic chemistry – but the romance never overwhelmed the fantasy aspect (or the social commentary about television). The TV dimension had some nice touches, like a cowboy (David Koller) who spoke English and so Czech subtitles appeared in front of him. The film stands out as a fantasy piece but for the genre fan it needs to be tracked down as an unusual energy vampire film that uses a very unusual medium for the energy theft. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Interesting Short: Wild Hunt

A short by Nancy Kilpatrick, this sits in the modern world (starting at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival) and follows L, a partially sighted fortune teller who truly head the Second Sight.

As we meet her, she is packing to leave the festival when Vlad, a vampire of the Ţepeş line, comes in and demands a reading. She has been expecting him, we discover, both because she was visited by one of his vampiric relatives early in the festival and because her Grandmother had predicted it.

Vlad tries to bite her but cannot penetrate her skin for mystical reasons, equally he discovers other sorts of penetration are closed to him. She knows that if she gives herself to him, she'll regain her sight but it is not the time – but her fate is to go with this, often brutal, vampire. As the story is from her viewpoint the story uses a brevity of physical description, which is stylistically interesting and handled with aplomb.

The vampires are playing a fratricidal/patricidal game and their society is mired in misogynistic and violent tradition. I loved the idea of luring a rival around sites associated with historical figures Peter Kürten & Fritz Haarmann simply as a way of mocking a supernatural vampire. This showed a twisted humour that really worked and could be expanded on – the story, however, is marvellously enclosed and eschews the need for follow up (whilst opening a vista that could also legitimately be explored).

On Kindle @ Amazon US

On Kindle @ Amazon UK

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Lake Vampire – review

Director: Carl Zitelmann

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

Hailing from Venezuela, El Vampiro del Lago is a feature directorial debut for Carl Zitelmann and rather impressive it is too. It is part police procedural, which concentrates on a serial killer (or killers) who believes himself to be a vampire… however it straddles that line between supernatural and serial killer with grace and draws the viewer into questioning, along with the characters, whether this is a sick individual or truly a vampire. The film also, through flashback, follows two related storylines and does this confidently.

Miguel Ángel Landa as Morales
The film starts with a radio broadcast about the discovery of a girl’s head and the belief that the murder is part of a satanic ritual. Sat in his home, retired police inspector Jeremias Morales (played older by Miguel Ángel Landa), turns off the radio and retrieves a tape recorder and box of tapes. He plays one and the voice speaks about blood having an exquisite taste and holding a power that even God fears.

book signing
Ernesto Navarro (Sócrates Serrano) tries to get into a house but the key doesn’t work. It is his old home but he is going through a divorce from wife Patricia (Carla Muller). He shouts her, saying he needs his books, and she tosses a box off the balcony. The books are for a bookstore signing but no one is there. Navarro’s book was a cult hit five years before and his agent has strong armed him the signing. A man, obscured in the shot to hide his face, comes in and holds out a copy of the book that Navarro signs.

Maria Antonieta Hidalgo as Zuleima
That night newspaper intern Zuleima (Maria Antonieta Hidalgo) brings back issues of a newspaper to Navarro’s small flat. She is the woman he had an affair with that lead to his divorce and he seems somewhat dismissive of her – if I had a complaint about the film it is that her character seems more a cipher and could have been developed more, though his treatment of her says much about his personality. He is going to write a book about the killer we heard about on the radio - dubbed the Southern Devil.

head in the morgue
Navarro goes to a shoreline where he meets Judge Yolanda Gomez (Julie Restifo). He has been summoned there and it is an active crime scene. The reason for contacting him was the fact that a lot of papers had been burnt there but surviving was his signature from a signed copy of his book (he never pieces that it was from the recent signing, he had signed many copies over the years). This is another Southern Devil attack, with a severed head at the scene but no body. Later, in the morgue, he finds out that the victim must have been exsanguinated prior to beheading. Navarro notices Morales talking to the judge and later goes to the retired policeman’s home.

Eduardo Gulino as Ortega
Morales is reluctant to talk to him but eventually ends up telling him the story of how he caught the Lake Vampire, Zacarias Ortega (Eduardo Gulino), whose crime’s modus operandi was the same as the Southern Devil. The film flips into flashback with a younger Morales (Abilio Torres) capturing the manic, almost wild-man, Ortega. Ortega, apparently, committed suicide after five years in jail but then more crimes occur with the same MO, although a priest (with a large black dog) is blamed. Morales investigation also leads to another blood-drinker from years before - could all three be the same man?

Ortega attacks Morales
There is lore in this – whether it is real or not is irrelevant to some degree. Ortega is described as being inhumanely strong and thoroughly evil. He claims to have discovered the perks of blood drinking by draining himself and drinking his own blood as he did. He also claims to have made a deal with the devil – this deal precludes suicide but, it is claimed, if the vampire is not buried in three days he might come back to life. Navarro’s investigation also leads him to satanic murderous rituals in videos on the darkweb.

at gunpoint
This is a mystery and I don’t want to spoil that – the biggest mystery being, is the new killer the same man and is supernatural agency at work? The film is beautifully shot, with confident scene framing and the flashbacks all feel authentic to their purported period. The acting is excellent throughout but special mention to Miguel Ángel Landa as the older Morales, who is simply superb. Definitely worth seeking out. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

Friday, November 08, 2019

Short Film: Allen + Millie: A Short Romance

Weighing in at just 10 minutes and directed by Markus Redmond, this 2017 short has a twist that kind of telegraphs – hence me spoiling it by featuring the short here is not a particular issue.

Allen (Courtney Gains) is alone in a movie theatre watching classic creature feature “Creature Within” staring forgotten starlet Millie Lane (Brooke Lewis). He is fixed onto the screen and as Millie faces her doom says to the air, “I’d save you”.

A woman enters the theatre and sits by him, remarking about the “picture” – Allen enthuses about it, saying it was *the* creature film of 1934 but then sees her and realises that the woman by his side is the very image of Millie Lane. She is, she tells him, not Millie but her great-grandniece but she has noticed him before, coming to watch her relative’s films. For his part Allen has noticed her antiquated language but is soon lost in his thoughts of his favourite star.

from the Creature Within
They speak about him as well – his life is not going to plan, his career going nowhere and that he might have ended it, if it wasn’t for his fear of death. This leads her to suggest living forever and, on impulse, she kisses him… As we know what she is… perhaps that isn’t the greatest idea, especially when she can type his blood (from the kiss or his scent we are not told)…

The idea of a starlet forever young as a vampire isn’t entirely original. For instance it was a central premise in AHS: Hotel and was done with much panache in Black Kiss but the story of the vampire genre is one of evolution rather than pure originality and this is a well shot little film with a touch of class.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK