Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Short Film: Dracula’s Daughter (2020)


Coming in at 5 minutes this short, directed by Tony Laudati, is a reimagining of the famous scene in Dracula’s Daughter where Countess Zaleska (Ausma Fiame) has Lili (Juliet Picard) pose for her, as a life model.

The location has slipped to LA from London and the characters are notably different with Zaleska showing a hint of world weariness but also enjoying her undead life one feels (where the original Zaleska was a reluctant slave to vampirism and sought to be done with her undead status). Lili in this is nervous, certainly, but doesn’t carry the wide-eyed innocence that Nan Grey brought to the original.

Zaleska and Lili

Not that either performance in this is bad, just different. The set is sumptuous (a paint supply box with the name Alucard engraved was a nice touch – though the use of Alucard would be in the subsequent Son of Dracula rather than Dracula’s Daughter). The film also borrows “I do not drink… wine”. However, it is just a reimagining of a scene from another movie, perhaps useful for a show reel but without much in the way of point. It is spoiled at the end with obviously cgi blood where a practical effect should have been used.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, November 30, 2020

Stakeout – review


Directors: John Otteni and Paul Otteni

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

This is a mockumentary where we follow filmmakers following, in this case, a vampire hunter. As such it has a similar pedigree as films like AS:VS At Stake: Vampire Solutions, though in that the conceit was we were in a world where vampires were known to be both real and a problem.

In this we are in our world, essentially. A world in which there are no such things as vampires and a lone figure tries to prove that wrong and protect us from the creatures of the night… well so he says…

John Otteni as Jon

After a moment of a TV news report about bodies being found, we meet Jon Velmont (John Otteni), who is an indie filmmaker, amongst which is his vampire feature Transfusion. He describes the plot as being about a junky who finds a used needle and contracts vampirism from it. He then describes how he was contacted by someone, Abel Martin (Colin Wessman), who said he liked the film but it wasn’t the real story of vampires, described himself as a vampire hunter and invited him to film his hunts.

Abel's stake

So Jon and his crew go to film Abel. They meet him and he is a tall, intense young man who rents a basement in a house. He talks about a secret cult of vampires and suggests there are pockets of them in every town and city and they are planning something. He has a stake in a case, which he says was the one he used for his first kill at just ten years old. He then suggests that his father and grandfather etc were also vampire hunters.

Welcome to Forks

He scoffs at the idea of reasoning with them and, when talking about misconceptions, scoffs at the idea that they could turn into bats or not reflect in a mirror. When sparkling is mentioned he gets irate, suggesting that the Twilight films have set vampire hunting legitimacy back decades. It is ironic, therefore, that the hunt at the climax of the film is in Forks.

Grant E. McGee as Draven

He introduces the crew to Draven (Grant E. McGee), a self-styled vampire historian (and pizza pockets expert) and also his ex-girlfriend Tawny (Madison Rotolo). He claims he slew many vampires when he was with her – she was kept out of it. He splits his time between pizza delivery (he adds garlic onto pizzas) and his activities. As an ordained minister he bulk makes holy water and spends much time with stakeouts of potential vampires/nests. But as serious as he is, could it be real? The crew starts to doubt – especially when he breaks into an ‘abandoned’ house he thinks is a nest, during daytime, and the very human owner comes home causing them to scarper.

They call me the hunter...

Is he a vampire hunter, delusional or a liar? If option 2 or 3, can a stopped clock be right twice a day? This, by necessity, has to be carried by the two primaries of Jon and Abel and they contrast themselves really well – with Abel portrayed as intense, earnest and more than a little sad, and Jon by turns amused and frustrated by Abel and the lack of evidence he can see. It is a comedy and the hunter is front and centre to that with the comedian actually being the situation and he playing the straight-man to it. It is, however, a tad unoriginal but plays with the concept competently. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Short Film: Taking Shelter


Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF, this is a 2011 short film directed by Jason Gregg and is just over 11 minutes in length.

It begins with a man, William (Jason Gregg, Being Human) lighting candles in his Anderson Shelter as air raid sirens pierce the night – we are, of course, in the Blitz. His wife, Kathleen (Mel Hayward), comes in with their young daughter May (Freya Gillson). There is clearly tension there as she berates him for not waiting. He responds suggesting that he wanted to light the candles but the retort is that May is not scared of the dark.

the family

William walks with a limp and a cane, and later we discover he has a bullet wound, hence not currently conscripted. May is uncomfortable with her gas mask and scared of spiders, as her ear-piercing scream when she sees one is testament to. William believes that May should have been evacuated to the countryside but Kathleen insists she is better off with her parents. However, it is what happens after the air raid that really interests us.

the vampire

There is a knock at the shelter door and, whilst William wants to ignore the visitor, Kathleen invites him in. A man (Tony Banham) enters, wearing an army tunic. He wants to ask them a question – do they want to live through the night. His proposition is simple, he is a vampire and he wants to take May. He infers that he will feed from her, but won’t kill her and after using her as a companion, when she comes of age, he will turn her. Refuse and he will kill them all – as with everything we have seen thus far, husband and wife have very different replies…

in gasmasks

This is really interesting. Putting us in the midst of imminent danger from above (May reminds us how deadly the blitz was by, in a matter of fact tone, mentioning that her friend's house (and her friend) from down the road is no longer there). The pressures of this, and perhaps more, are clearly causing a marital fracturing. Added to the mix, of course, is the supernatural element.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Dead Man Tells His Own Tale – review



Director: Fabián Forte

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers


If it looks like a vampire, and it acts like a vampire, is it a vampire? In this case I’ll say yes even though the film makes a distinction between the creatures and vampires (but also has the attempted use of stakes as they act just like vampires). In this case the creatures are actually Baobhan Sith (also termed in film as bloodsucking fairies from Scottish Mythology and ‘the White Women of the Scottish Highlands’), which feels a somewhat weird choice for an Argentinean film.

fangs

Some choice descriptors from Bane suggests they are, “a type of REVENANT vampiric fay…” that will “lure young men, particularly shepherds who are up in the highlands, to a secluded place and offer to dance with them... …until the man is exhausted, then it will attack, draining him of his blood.” They can shift into the form of a crow.

in the morgue

So, in this we see a body in the morgue. The narration we hear is from the dead man who says he is Angel Barrios (Diego Gentile), when we see his neck it is clearly messed up. After the credits we go back in time and see a little girl, Antonella (Fiorela Duranda), who runs upstairs as we see a shuffling, groaning figure come towards the house. She hides in a closet. The figure paints black under his eyes and ‘gets’ her – It is Angel and Antonella is his daughter. His wife, Lucila (Mariana Anghileri), is working and so he bathes and feeds Antonella. It seems like marital bliss.

Damián Dreizik as Eddie

However, when they talk later, we hear her talking about fulfilling his fantasies by him pointing out a woman and her seducing her – and his negative reaction fuelled by the idea that it might lead to a tryst with another man and his jealousy. He is an advert director and gets a call from his business partner Eddie (Damián Dreizik). Eddie has lined up a casting couch for him but, with Lucila in the room he responds about editing and makes an excuse to go out. It turns out that Angel is a serial cheater.

woman in the bar

The film builds this world of casting couches and misogyny and then we see Eddie sneak an amulet into Angel's jacket. Almost straight afterwards his car breaks down outside a bar. Inside is a beautiful woman, so he goes in and tries to seduce her. The bar is playing the rushes of his advert (which shouldn't be public), the women in the bar whispering Macha (as in the Irish Goddess). He awakens still sat in the car and the bar is shut. At home he finds the amulet in his pocket. He wakes in bed to see a crow perched on the bedstead and goes downstairs… the amulet is glowing green…

feeding

Suddenly he is in a therapist’s office (who is the woman from the bar). She tells him that he has been hypnotised and that he should tell her about the dream. He sees two women flanking her but she says that he is hallucinating them and they can’t hurt him. He says he is scared of their fangs and, as they come close, they rip at his neck with talons and start to feed. The therapist puts out her hand and it has his blood on it and her long tongue flicks out and licks it. The next morning his body is found in a ditch by police and taken to the morgue as a John Doe – where he awakens.

zombie-like men

So, he is dead but not dead, as is Eddie. He can no longer use misogynistic language and Eddie says they get in your head – indeed they will put the enslaved men into trances and draw them to a place to dig a giant hole (to free the goddess). He can’t stomach cooked food any longer (though he can eat raw meat and drink blood) and sunlight is painfully bright. But he, and the other men he meets, are rather zombie like. They decide to try and use stakes against the Baobhan Sith, tipped with iron presumably due to their fae nature – though a suicidal man (zombie) tries one on himself and it fails to kill him. The Fae are looking to resurrect the goddess and bring about a worldwide matriarchy.

tongue

This was great fun. It felt a little like Witching and Bitching (2013) in tone – though the story was different. The anti-misogynistic aspect was perhaps a tad lost by the fact that the fae are portrayed as monsters and the men/zombies as victims – and the fact that Angel was drawn to be likable despite the fact that he was a serial cheat and exploitative. The vampire fae looked good but were, I would say, under-used in the film. Nevertheless, worth a look. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Vamp or Not? I Am Not a Serial Killer



This was a film that had been on my radar and then I lost sight of, that is until Simon Bacon contacted me and asked if I had seen it. He suggested that there might be a vampiric element to this.

Directed by Billy O'Brien, and released in 2016, the film is an Irish/US production, set in the US and clearly on a budget. It is based on a young adult novel by Dan Wells (which I haven’t read) and does some really interesting things during its running length.

John on his bike

Things start on a street; in the distance we can see an ambulance and a cop who walks towards his car (and therefore towards the camera). Once in we hear him say that he has never seen anything like it. In the distance we see a body, covered and on a gurney, being taken to the ambulance. Guts fall off the gurney and onto the floor. The crowd disperses and we see a young lad, John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records), approach the taped off alley on his bike. A passing cop asks for his prognosis and he replies that the victim is dead for sure.

helping in the Mortuary

He rides his bike back to the funeral parlour his family runs and helps his mother (Laura Fraser) and Aunty (Christina Baldwin) prepare a body. When asked if he has made friends in a new school year his response is sarcastic. So let’s look at John a second. Obsessed with serial killers, he is under the care of a therapist (Karl Geary, Nadja) who takes him bird spotting (and tells John’s mother way too much I felt – though I admit I don’t know what the rules would be for confidentiality around a minor).

smile

John recognises that he fits the McDonald Triad – the triad of sociopathy that, should there be two or more traits present, is said to be a predictor of later violent tendencies. John knows he is a sociopath, knows he could develop into a serial killer and has a set of rules to try and avoid the tendencies. For instance, if someone says something that makes him want to hurt them (something that happens as he is bullied) his rule is to smile and say something nice – actor Max Record doing a fine line in fake smiles with a dangerous edge. He also misses emotional clues – such as the interest fellow pupil Brooke (Lucy Lawton) offers him.

attack

So, John shows an interest in the grisly murder – finding a strange oil at the scene and discovering that a kidney was missing. As more murders are committed, with the same oil and other missing organs, John soon discovers the killer’s identity – this is not so much a spoiler as it occurs fairly early into the film. Suspecting the wrong guy, he follows as his suspect goes ice fishing with kindly neighbour Mr Crowley (Christopher Lloyd, The Haunting Hour: Grampires & House of Monsters). What he witnesses causes him to wet himself – Crowley's arm converts into something branch like, he kills the man, rips the victim’s lungs out and then his own and replaces them. His discarded organs dissolve into the black oil.

full form

The film then has John trying to prevent Crowley from murdering others – though given his sociopathic nature one might wonder why – whilst trying to keep his own rules in check. So, what is Crowley. I suspect some kind of fae (Wikipedia suggests that the novel calls him a demon). As Crowley’s limbs/organs fail he is stealing new ones – having stayed in one place due to love. At the end we see him vacate the Crowley body (which the film implies he stole in one whole go) but as he needs to replace failing parts one might suggest that the creature form needs the outer human body (and its organs) working to survive.

John and his mom

The stealing of parts to maintain life could be argued to have a vampiric aspect. He isn’t consuming them, of course, literally stealing them instead. Presumably, if he took a whole body – as we can assume he did with his current form, originally – that he can literally become younger (on the outside). It was also telling, at the end (and this is a spoiler), that his chest is stabbed (by a mortician’s suction tube) and this is almost analogous to staking. His ichor like blood is then drained out of him and his fae body (and the Crowley outer body) rapidly decay into the oil-like substance.

Max Record as John

So, 'vamp?' – it depends, I guess, on how liberal you want to be with the description but what is certain that the film (knowingly or otherwise) played with certain genre tropes. The other thing to mention was that I found this really entertaining. Lloyd is as great as always but it was Max Record who really shone – making us care for a kid who absolutely lacked empathy and was haunted by his own demons, including an absentee father and family strife (his mother and sister (Anna Sundberg) at loggerheads) beyond his fear of himself. It was low budget but it played with character rather than gore/sfx.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Blood from Stone – review


Director: Geoff Ryan

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

Filmed in Laughlin, Nevada, this vampire film feels more a character study than anything else – particularly following two vampires as they try to live very different lives.

It could have also felt a little bit like a Tarantino type of movie… I don’t think it got there in those terms but it was certainly a worthwhile attempt to draw us into a neo-noir that shows two very different takes on eternal life.

Vanja Kapetanovic as Joe/Jure

We start in a bar as a guy in cowboy type gear watches four convention goers enter. As they talk to the barmaid, he introduces himself as Joe Allen (Vanja Kapetanovic) and offers to buy them all a whisky shot. He does this, but doesn’t buy himself one, and then offers them another round. Suspicious, he allays their fears by saying he has drunk enough but had a good day on the gaming tables (and flashes cash). One of them still declines and so, when Joe offers them drugs also, he doesn’t go outside with them.

fangs

Outside we see Joe, actually called Jure Alilovic, has fangs. He attacks the drunk, drugged men. After they have been a while the fourth goes outside and is attacked for his trouble – but he is not drunk enough and so the inebriated Jure cannot get more drunk through his blood. He, we see, stakes the fallen convention goer (it seems we are in a bite and eventual turn film, but I disliked the staking in this, the stakes seemed too flimsy). Jure wanders the streets, inebriated, blood stained and is found passed out by Darya (Gabriella Toth).

Gabriella Toth as Darya

She reluctantly takes him home. Jure turned her and is her ex and has followed her to Laughlin. She has tried to build a life there, has a job in a casino bar and subsists on blood packs she buys from a source at a hospital. Jure insists on hunting and getting drunk/drugged (there was a wonderful line about his mother being all alone in her castle and him needing to call her). However, he goes on a killing spree (and ends up captured on CCTV) – with an interesting sequence of him taking over an uber and killing his drunken passengers.

hunting again

Meanwhile, after a disappointing tryst with a guest at the casino Darya meets a doctor, Raymond (Eric Cotti), with whom she hits it off. However, the feelings he engenders causes her to start hunting again. She has also contacted Jure’s sister Victoria (Nika Khitrova) to try and talk him down from his spree and the police are seeing a connection between her and Jure, even assigning one of her kills to him…

Jure worst for wear

And I liked this. I enjoyed the characters – the idea of the drunken, certainly alcoholic, vampire with a warrior's body and a philosopher’s mind, and a penchant for casual violence was nicely realised and Darya was an interesting character fighting her instincts (and giving in) showing a different form of dependence. You got the idea of a wider vampire society all trying to navigate the modern world (Victoria admits her and her wife like the modern day as they don’t have to hide their love and can live off migrants landing on Greek shores).

sunlight burns

Lore wise we don’t get too much. Sunlight is fatal (as is fire), and a stake through the heart kills or prevents a turn. All in all it is perhaps a tad longer than it needs to be, but overall it’s a worthy entry into the genre. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Friday, November 20, 2020

La Rose de Sang – review


Director: Klaudia Lanka

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF, this feature can be summed up in a single word, melodrama. Not that there is anything wrong with melodrama when done right, and this was certainly a good melodrama. A romance, most definitely, with a fairy-tale heritage.

It also boasted, as we will see, some wonderful sets, the strangest of idiosyncrasies and a central performance which managed to single-handedly bring Jean Rollins’ work to mind.

victim

We see a brooding, Byronic figure in the woods. He is Wladislas (Julien Belon) and a wolf pads up to him. He continues, attending a village ball but staying separate from the villagers. He visualises himself with a woman, Apollina (Jennifer Brigant), a bitter sweet memory. Eventually he drifts off to a gypsy camp, where a group of gypsy women dance. One spins off into the woods and he is by her, she thinks his overture sexual but soon his teeth are in her neck. She struggles but soon is dead. He returns home to his castle and converses with his servant Tobiec (Philippe Bataille), it is clear he is compelled to kill but is deathly tired of his undead existence.

Benjamin Lhommas as Joseph

In the village, the next day, we see a young man named Joseph (Benjamin Lhommas), sneak up on Lucyllia (also Jennifer Brigant), as she washes laundry. They are cousins, with Joseph’s mother (Fran V.) having taken Lucyllia in. It appears that he, perhaps, suffers from learning difficulties, his dialogue appearing much younger than his apparent age. They are called home and are told about the gypsy woman and Lucyllia’s aunt blames the Count in the dreadful castle. She also seems to see the interest that Joseph takes in his cousin, that Lucyllia herself is ignorant of.

Apollina in sunlight

Wladislas goes out and feeds on prostitutes (I’ll come back to them/her). When he returns to the castle, he speaks with Tobiec again, who suggests that he needs to make himself a companion. He cannot though. He remembers Apollina, who allowed herself to be captured, two centuries before (in a commonly remembered purge of vampires), and met the sun. She made him promise not to turn another and Wladilas is the last of their kind. Tobiec remembers a crazy man in the mountains who may know how Wladislas might regain his humanity.

the crazy old man

The crazy old man does indeed. Wladislas must love and inspire love in another, and then consummate that love. All is lost thinks Wladislas, as he always loses control during the sexual act, but the old man suggests that love might prevail (though it didn’t for the vampire, in his books, who previously tried this). Returning to the castle he sees Lucyllia leaving and realises she is the image of Apollonia (it isn’t ever stated that she is the reincarnation of her, but the genre trope this relies on implies so). Tobiec says that she came to look for a job but he sent her away. Angry, Wladislas tells him to find her and give her employment – Tobiec makes him promise he won’t harm her before agreeing.

Julien Belon as Wladislas

So, she gets a job and Wladislas looks to woo her. He is also a bit creepy, with it. Early on he spies on her undressing (I’ll come back to this, too) and she becomes aware she is being watched but doesn’t actually see him. However, he also teaches her to read and they do begin to fall in love. Meanwhile a stranger (Thierry Moralès) has arrived at the village who clearly means Wladislas no good (and yet does little until months have passed). Joseph, of course, is jealous (and seems to miss the magnificent moment of friend zoning he is subjected to). Will love prevail? Indeed will love prevail over the vampire’s base hunger?

idiosyncratic underwear

This is thick with melodrama, but it is really well done. I loved the locations the film was shot in, but there was a massive idiosyncrasy. Whilst the bits of village and castle we see look marvellous, and the costumes fit the pre-industrial setting we seem to be in, the underwear worn by both the prostitute(s) and Lucyllia seemed utterly modern. It just kind of sat out like a saw thumb (and also made you wonder how this peasant girl, newly installed as a maid, could afford posh lingerie). I guess the filmmakers thought it added a sexiness and erotic aspect to the romance, however.

attack

The performances are generally good – Julien Belon is dark and brooding, Jennifer Brigant is bright and pleasant and Philippe Bataille is particularly good as the earnest and sincere servant. It is Belon’s performance that reminds me of the kind of lead you might see in a jean Rollin film, with a generally soft delivery, though that can be underscored with a strong angry outburst where needed. I called him Byronic at the head, but this is more in look than temperament. He is no Heathcliffe, being drawn as a good man fighting his bestial nature. The story itself owes something to Beauty and the Beast, of course.

Philippe Bataille as Tobiec

If you like your melodrama then this is well put together, well shot and worth a look. 

6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.