Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Short Film: The Alley

Released in 2003 this is a very short (under three minute) film directed by Lincoln Kupchak.

It starts with a girl (Crystal Day) walking at night. Unfortunately, the lighting isn’t particularly good and therefore the print is hazy and indistinct. She walks down an alley when two n’er-do-wells (Sik End & Jamisin Matthews) come out of the dark, and Sik End (as credited) grabs her and pushes her to the wall, licking at her face (with the encouragement of his partner in crime).

Of course, she sprouts fangs and deals with them (at under three minutes including titles, did you expect anything else?). We are in a brief munch and die scenario and she ends up with quite a lot of blood on her chin for such a swift repast (with no discernible alley splatter, but the lighting is poor, as I say)

There isn’t much else to say, except that the imdb page is here.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Short Film: Weekend Vampire

Not to be confused with the band with the words of the title reversed as their band name (Google, I’m talking to you) this is a 2016 short film directed by Sophia Cacciola and Allix Mortis, which comes in at the 10-minute mark.

The opening is a neat little animation of a ship with a narration by Agneska Karnstein (Stabatha La Thrills, Blood of the Tribades), who waxes lyrical about how long she has slumbered, an itch she just cannot scratch and at least she is not trapped in an attic…

Agneska awakened
So, David has been sent to the attic to look for miniatures. He cuts his hand on a trunk and his blood falls onto (what he assumes is a Halloween decoration) Agneska, reviving her and lining him up as her first snack of the evening. She leaves the building and follows some Goths (assuming, I think, that they are fellow vampires) into a party. In said party she meets Valeria Orlok (Sake Toomey) a chatty (and rather shallow) millennial.

Valeria and Agneska
Bored with the party, and assuming wrongly that she knows the vampire (believing her to be a maker of hand crafted soaps), Valeria takes her by ‘Grüber’ to another party across town. The vampire has to face the perils of automotive transportation and the even more perilous charms of hipsters at a Speakeasy Party. Will she fit in? Only watching the short will reveal that…

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Vamp or Not? Shark Exorcist

This is a 2015 by the infamous Donald Farmer, who has made a noticeable impact in my Worst 100 Vampire Films. This too, if found to be a vampire film, would end up there.

However, before we examine whether this has a vampire aspect to it, or not, you might be wondering how some of these films end up being looked at by me. In this case author Doug Lamoreux posted about it in the Facebook group Vampire Films, my friend Paul tagged me; Hell, even author Nancy Kilpatrick got involved! I found the film for pence (more than its worth to be fair) and that has led us to the TMtV investigation of the film, which you are reading now.

the shark
So, the film begins with nun Sister Blair (Christy Moritz) – named I guess for Linda Blair – walking through a graveyard. We hear about her being hunted by the authorities for the torture and deaths of 13 children. She gets to the water’s edge (go with it) and starts ranting about the world betraying her and wanting vengeance through Satan (whom she is invoking through the rant). A girl comes up to her calling her a bitch and is stabbed for her trouble (and ends up covered with an inordinate amount of blood for the single stab) and then rolled into the waters; a sacrifice – we see a blazing eye shark.

more blood smear than bite
Cut forward a year and Emily (Channing Dodson), Ali (Angela Kerecz, the Vampire Diaries) and Lauren (Madison Carney) and are going to a lake – though moaning Lauren assumed it was a water park. Lauren and Emily work on their tans as Ali phones Bobby (Michael Ollin Lotten) and gets his voicemail. She goes for a swim and suddenly she is attacked (note that nowhere is it stated that this is a salt water lake, the concept of a great white being in a lake, full stop, isn’t tackled until 38 minutes in – and then barely, and the shark is able to attack in shallows without the viewer or character spotting it, indeed we don’t see a single dorsal stuck out of the water). Lauren finds her and pulls her out of the water. Ali has blood at her mouth and the most unconvincing leg wound (yes she still has her leg).

Emily and Ali
After a stock footage scene of a hospital and the information that Ali's injury is the result of one of several shark attacks in the area, we go to Lauren and Emily talking – Emily having visited Ali at the hospital and discovered that her leg has miraculously healed. Emily realises that Lauren has something going on with Bobby – well that’s gonna come back and bite someone – and we realise that the disinterested performance by Madison Carney is some of the worst acting we have seen. As the film moves on Emily becomes more and more worried about Ali’s odd behaviour and obsession with water.

possessed by the spirit of the lake
There are odd moments in film – more filler than thriller – such as the filming of “Ghost Whackers” where anchor Nancy Chase (Roni Jonah) claims to be possessed by the “spirit of the lake” and then rival sceptic Brianna Bennett (Kirstin Vanhooser) tries to expose her. The entire three-part act is virtually pointless (though it did make me discover the series Hicky the Hillbilly Vampire, which both Jonah and Vanhooser were in and that will feature here in the future) bar one line that suggests the shark eats flesh and devours souls. Then there was an exorcism moment, perhaps a memory of the priest of the film Father Michael (Bobby Kerecz), although it seemed to have nothing to do with him. Even Ali’s attacks make little sense story wise – she lures one guy (Father Michael’s brother?) – and dunks under water – did she turn into the shark or just lure him there? We don’t know, but later there is an attack in a pool and that really should have been mentioned as a logic-less attack by authorities (given it was a pool).

sharp teeth
Staying with the story proper, however, Father Michael is called to say his brother has died and heads to the town, where he finds Emily and they go off to a fair. Lauren and Bobby are there but have a disagreement, leaving Bobby on his own. Ali is hunting him and displays sharp teeth. In what might be, in another film, a telling moment, we see vampires on the side of the fair’s haunted attraction. In this, however, maybe not so much. When she bites Bobby, however, it is a neck bite. She is then captured and taken to be exorcised. Of course, the cross plays a part in this, as you would expect, but the exorcism itself is probably the dampest squib of an exorcism on screen. Props, however, for the line about needing “a bigger cross” (even a film as bad as this can have a redeeming feature).

funfair vampire picture
So, is it Vamp? Well she has sharp teeth and the possession was passed by a bite. We have to assume that the healing of her leg was down to the demonic presence (or the fact that there wasn’t a blooming mark to heal!) There is no evidence that she predates for blood but there is flimsy evidence that the shark itself devours souls – though no conclusive evidence that she and the shark are one and the same. However, the reference to soul eating is just one throwaway line and I am not at all tempted to say 'yes, this is vamp'. Perhaps I am reacting to how shockingly bad the film is – does the genre need another bad film in its filmography? Note that it is only around 60 minutes (some of its reported 71 minutes being a mind numbing post-credit sequence of a girl at a SeaWorld type centre – I assume – playing with plush toy sharks until she has a demonic moment. Probably the best part of the film was its DVD cover art – and that isn’t reflective of the film. NOT VAMP.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Shake Rattle & Roll IV – review

Directors: Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes

Release date: 1992

Contains spoilers

The fourth instalment of the popular anthology series from the Philippines, I actually found this to be a particularly weak entry into the series. Perhaps not helped by the fuzzy video quality of the film (though that also probably helped the manananggal effects look quite good in the section we are interested in.

Before we get there, we should note that the first story is Ang Guro, which was essentially a riff on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on a college campus. The second story (probably the most interesting of the bunch) was Kapitbahay in which a desperate Witawit (Rene Hinojales) starts kidnapping children as it wishes to stop its tree being cut down.

The third story is Ang Madre, and centres around the manananggal myth. The story takes part in a poor area of a city where there is a brothel and where a pair of sisters and the young son, Teks (IC Mendoza, Shake Rattle and Roll 8, Shake Rattle and Roll X & Shake Rattle and Roll XV), of one of them live and scrape a living together. The fear of the manananggal is reflected in the press and, looking closely, you can see it described as half-woman and half-vampire.

on bat wings
This is because the manananggal is one of the types that splits in two, leaving its legs behind as it flies on giant bat wings. In this case, eventually, it becomes apparent that there is a male (Miguel Rodriguez) and female (Aiko Melendez) manananggal. At first, however, an old lady (Lilia Cuntapay, Aswang (1992), Shake Rattle & Roll V & Island of the Living Dead) is blamed for the attacks – and both this and the previous segment do focus on mobs blaming or scapegoating an innocent. It is Teks who realises it is actually a nun from the clinic who is the female vampire.

hot sauce
The lower body is susceptible to attack and we do see Teks use a hot sauce (it might be the chillies, the peppers or the garlic in such sauce that proves effective) and this actually seems to melt the lower body down to nothing. We also see the hot sauce being used as a defensive weapon against the flying manananggal, ultimately sunlight is also an effective weapon – if the torso is still separated. There is little other lore to look at in this one, though as mentioned earlier, for such a low budget effort the sfx around the manananggal is fairly impressive (though the print will hide issues).

the manananggal
As I mentioned right at the beginning, this was a weak entry in the series. This section felt unfocused, the first segment was pretty darn fluff. The middle section worked better and, when this worked it was in aspects like the mob rule that I touched on. The score, as always, is for the vampire section only and this one looked quite good (despite the poor print) and had some worthwhile gore despite inherent weaknesses. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bloom – review

Director: Travis Legge

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Probably the most unusual thing about Bloom is that it is a film that supports a roleplaying game created by the director, also called Bloom. The film however, might fit into that world but doesn’t overtly sell it (as one might expect a Vampire the Masquerade film to do) by displaying a world and community, rather it closely follows a single turnee.

I think what I liked most about this was this concentration and the way in which the filmmakers chose to display her reactions… I’ll explain towards the end of the review.

wake up dead
So, we begin in a motel bathroom that is absolutely covered in blood and has the lifeless body of Lily (Deann Baker) suddenly as we hear a tinnitus sounding buzz we see Lily’s eye twitch and she is suddenly awake but very confused – distressed by the situation. She touches her neck and, as she stands, sees the words ‘forgive me’ painted in blood on the mirror. When she opens the motel door the sunlight is blinding, but she stumbles into it and staggers home – people who see her looking with disdain or ignoring her.

heading home
Once home she retrieves her phone and money from her cleavage but has no key and so finds the spare and lets herself in, dropping the cash and phone and heading to the bathroom. Once cleaned up she tries to call the rape crisis helpline but can’t bring herself to do so. She ignores calls from her friend Sylvia (Danielle Doetsch) and sleeps. Sylvia eventually comes round and wants to know what happened with the hottie Lily went off with (and mentions she was somewhat intimate on the dancefloor with him). Lily can’t remember anything after getting the motel room and wonders if she had been drugged.

eye mojo
So as we follow her trying to come to terms with what is happening we see her unable to eat or drink (all the food smells rotten and she brings it straight back up). She returns to the motel, retrieves her handbag (and gets hit with a clean-up fee) and (without realising what she is doing) uses eye mojo on the desk clerk (Tim Swan). Her hearing becomes incredibly sharp but her temperature is incredibly low. We see her crying blood tears and also see that religious artefacts have no impact. She asks for help from her brother, Keith (Andrew Jacob DeHart), but he gives up when she will not go to the hospital or the police. She decides to go back to the club and asks for Sylvia’s help but she doesn’t answer the call.

amateur vampire hunter
At the club she eventually finds the guy’s name but also gains the attention of a couple of amateur vampire hunters (Terry Bell & Malcom Banks) and that is about where I’ll leave the plot. The majority of the film is entirely focused on Lily and thus Deann Baker has her work cut out for her. Part of me wondered if she were up to the task as she was quite distant in her early performance, however I suspect this was deliberate and it did bring out the numbness and shock of the victim of an attack. As the film moved along we discover that decapitation and burning are the only ways to deal with a vampire.

blood tears
What I liked about this was the way Lily’s attitude and behaviours changed and it wasn’t in the way you might imagine but it was rather satisfying. We are left with a mystery over exactly what happened to her that night as she doesn’t find the attacker (and there are comments to make us wonder if it went down as she assumed). The film is essentially an origin story for Lily and Lily alone, it offers insight into the vampiric condition but not the vampiric lifestyle (if, indeed, the universe has one – though being the basis of a rpg one would assume that world does include such a thing). However, the slow burn of this 70 minute feature might be a tad slow for some. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Short Film: Sam the Vamp

Coming in at the 11 minutes mark, Sam the Vamp is a short film from 2016 that was written by, directed by and stars Saba (Vamperifica). It plays with the idea of a vampire anonymous type of group, something which has been covered before in the vampire genre. My understanding is that the short evolved from a feature script and therefore there is some extraneous aspects that perhaps would have made more sense in a longer film where explanations could have been offered – at this point I’m thinking around a witch type lady, casting incantations, who has a bandaged, hirsute creature with her (either a feral vampire or a werewolf, perhaps).

That said there are some fascinating characters drawn in the very short running time – especially Father Julius Bane (Robert Harrington). He is a be-wigged priest, when dealing with mortals, who is actually a bald-headed vampire.

Sam at the programme
As for Sam, well it is he who is invited to speak at the meeting and despite his very modern look he is an ancient vampire (we don’t discover quite how old but he was around before Christ, in fact he was around before the Mayans had a calendar). However in a modern world with google, cameras, DNA etc he has found the act of feeding has become difficult (and unpleasant due to disease – he mentions Lyme in particular) and he now mostly feeds off dogs and cats. He has not fed properly for so long that he has permanent fangs on display (noting that most of the other 12-steppers) do not.

So, what could go wrong? And what’s with the two guys, one who looks freshly bitten and is lolling? Well for the answers to those questions you’ll have to catch the film.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Aswang – review

Directors: Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes

Release date: 1992

Contains spoilers

We are in the Philippines again for this 1992 outing for the Aswang and the version we see is really that part of the mythology that demonised the female (either for being too pretty or being too old – you really can’t win, sometimes) and looked to scapegoat child mortality and miscarriages.

The film was also called shapeshifter and this aswang really does shift shape – not just human form (old to young and other people) but a variety of animals (pigs, snakes and cats form part of the repertoire) and monsters. Unfortunately, it also throws in a kitchen sink of disjointed plot elements but we’ll come to that.

the ritual
So, we start off in the forest and an old woman (Lilia Cuntapay, Shake Rattle & Roll V & Island of the Living Dead) performs a ritual – at the end of which she becomes young (Alma Moreno). A group of men are having a party at the store. Emil (Joey Marquez, TikTik the Aswang Chronicles) is the subject of the celebration and we hear that his wife, Rosita (Janice de Belen, also TikTik the Aswang Chronicles, Shake rattle and Roll Fourteen: The Invasion & Tiyanak), is pregnant. It is hinted that the guys have bought him a gift and he goes into the forest to relieve himself.

monster form
In the forest he sees the beautiful form of the aswang and goes after her… so, to be fair, he brings his fate down on himself. He follows her for a while and, eventually, we see that she becomes a tusked anthropomorphic creature before becoming a pig. He is eventually attacked – the guys hear a scream and assume it is a woman and then something innocuous (the logic is strange, but hey ho). The attack is brutal, we see him ripped in half, still alive and trying to crawl away.

investigating home invasion
In Manilla, a child, Catlyn (Aiza Seguerra), is with her nanny, Veron (Manilyn Reynes), as the family driver Dudoy (Berting Labra) drives them home. Catlyn isn’t happy to be going home so early, until she is reminded that her father will be calling from a business trip in Tokyo. By the time they get back to the house we get the idea that Catlyn is a practical joker. When they get home the gates are open and a strange van parked there. Dudoy makes them wait in the car as he checks things out and we are soon seeing a scene of blood and the bodies of the maids. Unfortunately Veron follows him in, leaving Catlyn in the car. This is the scene of a robbery (and the security guard is in on it). Both Veron and Dudoy manage to get out again, the nanny witnessing from a vantage spot the murder of Catlyn’s mother. Catlyn also goes in and gets out but ends up confronting the robbers before escape. The three manage to get away.

on the roof
Rather than head to the police, Dudoy runs to his old village, where Catlyn’s father has a large house and where, coincidentally, Dudoy’s nephew Emil has just been killed. Of course the three get embroiled in the aswang malarkey (Catlyn becomes a target as the aswang likes to eat children) and, eventually, the robbers/murderers come after them (and we get a “Home Alone-lite” moment). And this is what I mean by the kitchen sink as the entire bit with the robbers was kind of unnecessary. It is also clear that Dudoy recognises the aswang from when he was young but we hear none of that story.

We do hear an older woman telling a cryptozoologist (Leo Martinez, Vampire Hookers) that the aswang vanished thirty years ago when a church was built but, as the church going population reduced to the point that the priest has left and the church is abandoned, the aswang has returned. We see the aswang both shapeshift and translocate, a video of the aswang as a young woman reveals her old form if played back in slo-mo. She is able to produce a long tongue to attack a pregnancy through a hole in the roof.

the aswang young
We do see a neck bite, during the day, and if the aswang is injured she must go back to her home before sunrise to heal. To prevent her return someone must sit at the top step of her hut holding salt. The salt will injure her if thrown at her. If she doesn’t get into the hut then she dies with the dawn in quite a fierce fire. There is a book that contains a way of warding the aswang, that Dudoy finds, but we don’t get any sense of how it works.

the aswang old
The robber plot could have been expunged from this, Dudoy’s background with the aswang explained and a good 30 minutes shaved off the film. As it is, however, it is overly long but still entertaining. The photography/film stock leaves a lot to be desired and I’m afraid that the fearsome visage of the aswang as the crone isn’t actually that fearsome; she’s just a lady of a certain age. However I was definitely entertained. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.