Friday, May 17, 2024

Protégé Moi – review

Director: Robbie Lopez

Release date:2023

Contains spoilers

It is a bad sign when I have to rewatch a film, that I had been watching for review, because I fell asleep first watch. I mean, I am a man of a certain age but most vampire films, no matter how poor, keep my attention locked and my eyes open. I think, as we'll see, the issue with this film was the lack of cohesive narrative.


After a production credit that borrows the Marvel production music we get a negative silhouette animation telling the story of Ambrigio who goes to Delphi, consults the Oracle, falls in love with Pifia who is beloved of Apollo and ends up cursed (becoming burnt by the sun, because Apollo and then made a vampire by Hades) – she is turned into a monster and forced to stay with him.

Alexandra Faye Sadeghian as Soelene

Now all the above was based on a supposed legend and vampire origin myth, something I have heard people tout as the oldest vampire tale, but research showed it to be a piece of 21st century creative writing. It is interesting that it is creeping into filmic vampire stories, though the original creative writing had the girl named Selene (there is a character in this, later, named Soelene (Alexandra Faye Sadeghian, Ditch Boys)).

Richie Ramone as the King

The vampire king (Richie Ramone) we get in the film, who sometimes takes on a Nosferatu type look, is presumably Ambrigio. Later we get a scene in the throne room with vampire women giving him a lapdance as a cover of Cry Little Sister by Richie Ramone plays. It isn’t a bad cover, all told, but it is unnecessary given we have the original and multiple covers.

hunter tech

Here's where the narrative gets hazy (and that’s polite) we meet Johan (Thomas Smith) who speaks about taking 3 ships and 18 months to get to the shores he is on. He is a vampire hunter. Except… We then see him (in what amounts to a medieval world) with some sort of sci-fi holographic scanner. Then we are told he’s battled their kind many times and we’re sent to Transylvania 1983, but then Egypt in 3100 BC and then the planet Cadavern in 2038… Space traveller? Time Traveller? We just don’t know.

the throne room

Then we meet Soelene properly. She is a vampire and one of the King’s brides/subjects. She has maintained her humanity, eschewing an attack (the king then kills the victim) and looking after her aged mum (who conceived her through the help of a witch and named her after said witch). Mum doesn’t know what she is and the King does punish her for such humanity. Of course, hunter and coven of vampires collide (the locals do not seem to know what a vampire is or who is in the castle (that is CGI rendered like a Cathedral).

papier-mâché head

The entire thing seems to be green screen produced, giving it a graphic novel look and this is meant to be part one. I’ve mentioned narrative issues above but the general story (vampire hunter kills bride, vampires go for revenge, Soelene is caught in the middle looking after mum) has no real depth or nuance to it. Stakes kill. So does sunlight allegedly, but that rule seems to break. Vampires feel it when another is killed. There isn’t much more to say. Some of the effects are truly poor – papier-mâché head I’m looking at you. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

#DRCL midnight children, Vol. 2 – review

Art and story: Shin'ichi Sakamoto

First published: 2024 (UK)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: In this beautiful, evocative, and often surreal retelling of Dracula, a fearsome enemy comes from the east, bringing with it horrors the likes of which have never been seen in the British Empire. Standing opposed are Wilhelmina “Mina” Murray and her stalwart companions, united in a cabal that eclipses gender, nationality, and station until they can achieve victory.

The lines between reality and fiction blur as Count Dracula’s influence grows within the halls of Whitby School. The arrival of the eccentric Professor Abraham Van Helsing offers Mina and the others a chance to learn about the foul condition that afflicts their beloved companion. But will the professor’s knowledge be enough to preserve them in the face of this unspeakable evil, or will their fragile bonds be torn apart by the arrival of the son of the dragon?

The Review
: Vol. 1 was a revelation and I was, as I said in the review, smitten. Vol 2 has done nothing to break that feeling, if anything I am more enamoured by this manga reimagining of Stoker’s Dracula. We are still in an England divided by race, class and gender – Mina, who is the first female student at the school, also has to clean and is unrecognised and almost invisible when she dons her cleaning uniform, there are racial slurs levelled at Quincy by Holmewood. Where the blurb suggests they are “in a cabal that eclipses gender, nationality, and station” that it is not yet apparent (excepting it being referenced in retrospective storytelling by Mina).

The art is still breath-taking. There is a moment where Mina is trying to clean a corruption on a school wall and as the frames move back, we see the mold creating dancers over the walls. Van Helsing appears in this volume, quickly tracing the Count to the boxes of earth currently stored under the school, and we see Dracula in human form. Lucy/Luke codes mostly female in this volume but is also drawn as aged and decrepit after Dracula’s attacks. In one spectacular moment the bats that Dracula has become form into an actual dragon.

This is one that gives and gives, so long as you can accept the overall reimagining. Bring on Vol. 3. 9 out of 10.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

Monday, May 13, 2024

Blood Renegade – review

Author: E.H. Drake

Release date: 2024

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: How does one deal with life after death when death doesn’t seem any different… except the need for blood? As Gabe struggles with his new reality, Lily avoids all her responsibilities to him. But soon, their newest investigation makes confrontation inevitable. They are forced to run from human authorities and the vampire Court, all to protect a new comrade. Can the two resolve their differences and come together for the common good?

The review: This is the sequel to Blood Herring and the second of the trilogy. We meet Lily and Gabe again but Gabe has undergone changes – Lily turned him at the end of the last book as he was dying, despite his fairly anti-vampire viewpoint. Now his ex-partner is leading the Portland Vampire Police Bureaus, Lily seems to be avoiding him and he is having intensive control training. Lily is tying up lose ends in the Cheri Coke case (cocaine mixed with vampire blood) for the Vampire Court and she really has been avoiding seeing Gabe as she doesn’t know how to face the man she turned. There may also be problems, as yet unseen, as there was silver in her bloodstream when she turned him and that might have caused damage in the process.

However, when they end up meeting again she rashly decides to take him on an assignment and, when they find a vampire child, against her better judgement he becomes embroiled when they go on the run, trying to protect the child from the Court who exterminate such ‘abominations’. Olive, the child, is one of many such child vampires, they discover created as child soldiers and infiltrators by Elias – leader of the vampires who want to rule humanity. He, we discover, has more of an interest in Lily than will prove healthy for her.

There isn’t much in the way of additional lore from the first book but we do get a confirmation that the vampire creation myth includes the story of Lilith, who is the progenitor of their race. We also get the creation of more zombie like vampires (remembering that in this destroying the brain is key to killing vampires) through starvation until all reason has gone (starvation will eventually kill them) and the use of these zompires as shock troops. The writing is as crisp as the first, the book becoming a tad less police procedural and a little more action. This is a good addition to the series. 7.5 out of 10.

On Kindle @ Amazon US

On Kindle @ Amazon UK

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Vampire Femmes – review

Director: Tim Sullivan

Release date: 1999

Contains spoilers

A shot on video flick from the late nineties, this is ghosting around on VHS (and had a DVD release at one point) and it is really from the low budget stables. It looks dreadful nowadays but there is a suggestion that the lighting was interesting once-upon-a-time, at the very least, and it has some interesting plot aspects.

It starts with headlights and a sign that suggests an open house viewing but only at night. The car comes to a halt and Frank (Richard Marks, The Malibu Beach Vampires) gets out of the car and knocks at the door. It is opened by a woman, Medea (Roxanne Coyne). She shows him round and asks if he likes games, taking him through the garage to the game room.

Roxanne Coyne as Medea

He sidles past her, through the door and complains that there is no real light. He won’t need it she says. A second woman, Persephone (Popi Ardissone) is in there and Frank clearly thinks his luck is in, until that is they attack – at the neck and wrist. There is a protracted feeding scene, which has some nice imagery even if it is almost lost in the murky VHS print.

at the chop shop

The next day Danny (Larry Richards) drops off Frank’s car at a chop-shop run by Nacho (Tim Sullivan) and Ed (Ron Ford, Addicted to Murder, Rage of the Werewolf & Twilight Vamps) to sell it on. Nacho is suspicious of Danny (which is a tad strange given they know they are trading in stolen cars) and checks the car whilst he is off calling a cab, finding an address. Meanwhile cop Ken (Randall Hunt) goes to a fortune teller (Randal Malone, Blood Legend & Sunset Society), is belligerent but then freaked as the fortune teller hits the mark and also tells him that his wife, Mary (Michelle Bousquet), will leave him.

Michelle Bousquet as Mary

When Ken gets home it is clear that he is a domestic abuser, Mary has a pre-existing bruise and has had enough when he starts in on her and so clocks him with a phone, packs a bag and gets out of there. As she drives down the road a figure seems to come down her windshield from the roof and then vanish. She stops and finds Jezebel (Heather Branch) by the car. Rather than freaked out, she gives her a lift and Jezebel takes her to the house she shares with her roommates (yes, she is the third vampire). Mary is also not particularly freaked out when she finds out they are vampires and offer to turn her. However this is one of the themes that I rather liked. Vampirism is used for female empowerment and it isn’t per se monstrous, indeed the vampires are described as Goddesses.

vampiric imagery

What further points to vampirism not being monstrous is the fact that the male characters are so morally dubious and therefore the actual monsters. Danny is a thief (who also tries to double cross the vampires), Ed and Nacho are dodgy as all heck, and Ken – the primary male character – is the true monster of the piece. Of course, the women are vampires still, but Ken is a piece of work. Now that isn’t to say this is a good film, it is clearly a low budget and pretty amateurish piece but the themes mentioned elevate it somewhat. Lore is basic – stake to the heart to kill and no going in sunlight (hence using Danny to do daylight stuff). 4 out of 10 due to the nice theme level and, if this was ever cleaned up, some of the lighting choices were interesting.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Piranha Women – review

Director: Fred Olen Ray

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers

This one was suggested by my friend Leila but I did already have it on my Tubi watch list. In fairness I can see a fair argument to suggest this is not Vamp. We get flesh eating, but not particularly blood/fluid/essence eating and the transformation might be likened as much to a fish-like lycanthrope as a vampire. But I have decided to accept it, for no other reason that it contains vampiric breasts. Also the director is Fred Olen Ray, who is a stalwart of both low budget horror generally and vampire films specifically and so I suspect any genre merging was conscious.

Shauna and Gary

It starts in a bar, where else, and Gary (Houston Rhines, the Sisterhood) sits at the bar and orders a vodka rocks. A woman, Shauna (Keep Chambers), sits with him and mentions that her car has broken down. Gary is in town for a meeting and offers to drive her home and though she feigns reluctance we do notice that when she phones her friend (to say don’t pick her up) she actually doesn’t call. Cut to a pool and she goes underwater to go down on him, he starts to twist in agony as the water turns red. As she surfaces, she reveals sharp piranha teeth.

Sof Puchley as Lexi

Richard (Bobby Rice) is cooking breakfast when his girlfriend, Lexi (Sof Puchley), comes down. She looks tired and drawn and he explains he didn’t want to wake her. She has, it becomes readily apparent, cancer and is pretty much at end of life. She mentions meeting another cancer patient, Allison (Carrie Overgaard) who is almost cured thanks to experimental treatment. She has arranged an appointment with the Doctor, Sinclair (Shary Nassimi). He makes her promise to talk over what he says before deciding and goes to work. At work he discovers he has been passed over for promotion in favour of Jeff (Nathaniel Moore), who writes 'sexier' reports.

vampiric breasts

Lexi meets Sinclair and decides to go for the treatment – he has shown her an aquarium full of piranha and explained the treatment involves injecting piranha DNA. She calls Richard and says for him not to disturb her and so he goes for drinks with Jeff. Jeff and Richard meet Allison and Shauna. Jeff leaves with Allison, Richard blows Shauna off as he is monogamous. Jeff meets his end, of course, and we see that as well as piranha teeth in her mouth, her breasts also open and have such teeth – attacking with three mouths.

piranha teeth

The next day Lexi seems a million times healthier. At work, Richard gets Jeff’s promotion (as Jeff doesn’t turn up at work and plagiarised his reports), is questioned by the police over Jeff’s mutilated body and discovers Lexi has left him to go and live in a commune with the other piranha treatment women. As the film is just under an hour long the plot lurches from main point to main point with speed. The cops are sceptical and yet don’t fancy Richard for the crime. He knows what’s going on awfully fast. Richard learns from Sinclair himself that piranha’s need heat and can be killed by ethanol glycol (though a bullet sems to do the job just as well.


So, with regards the ethanol glycol – some goes in the pool and a piranha woman in it seems to be being electrocuted until she turns into some kind of swamp thing (and still needs shooting). The other odd bit of lore was the idea that rain water will make a piranha woman transform and then melt – why that happens is anyone’s guess. This is just throwaway silliness but we get vampire like women (they seem to be able to control their transformation unless induced by an outside liquid source), with vampiric boobs and a short, unobtrusive running time lurching to an unsatisfying denouement. Cheese will carry it so far, however, 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On Blu-ray @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Short Film: Junji Ito Collection: Rumors

From the Junji Ito Collection comes this short anime recreation of the manga Rumors This episode first aired in 2018 and, as I mentioned in the look at the manga, the majority of the story follows Soichi making up rumours about himself and spreading them around school.

Part of this involves him pinning up a lipstick advert in the schoolroom that features Miss Fuchi, the unheimlich or even monstrous model who made her first appearance in the manga Fashion Model. The impact on the schoolkids is immediate and creates fertile ground for Soichi to spread rumours that she is in town and terrorising kids.

rumour of attack

The alleged reason for her visit is the nearby swamp, and he spreads further rumours about its properties, suggesting the waters make a bather more beautiful. Unfortunately for Soichi, Miss Fuchi is really in town and is using the swamps to bathe. Soichi has manipulated Midori with the rumours, as he perceives she has slighted him (she actually spotted and exposed his rumours), and she goes to bathe and Miss Fuchi emerges from the waters.

giant sized Miss Fuchi

She is most upset with the idea that he has photographed her – as a model there are to be no unauthorised pictures, but the anime, even more than the manga, gives an idea to the scale of her – making her a veritable giant. Of course, having been very tall but still able to be a car passenger in Fashion Model we are left with the impression that she can supernaturally grow big and Soichi looks tender and tasty…

The imdb page is here.

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon US

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon UK

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Use of Tropes: Ghostkeeper

Now the wendigo (or windigo, in this) is an odd one in that it originates from Native American myth and thus is not the standard, undead, vampire. It is, however, cannibalistic and whilst sometimes drawn as an antlered spirit is also sometimes drawn as a person. It is safe to say it has crossover into the vampire myth/archetypes, especially when drawn by filmmakers, and is worth looking at on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to this 1981 Canadian film, directed by Jim Makichuk it is more difficult as the film is more a slasher than anything else and we see little of the windigo (John MacMillan) and even less of any cannibalistic activity – indeed that is almost implied rather than shown. As such I have decided to look at this as a film that uses a vampiric trope, the supernatural creature who consumes flesh.

arriving on snowmobiles

It starts with a snowmobile pulling up outside a store high in the Rockies. Marty (Murray Ord) and Jenny (Riva Spier, Rabid) dismount and go in the store, the storekeeper (Les Kimber) proves not particularly engaging with them, especially as Marty comes off as an obnoxious entitled prat. He does direct Jenny towards some coffee to warm up. A second snowmobile pulls up and Chrissy (Sheri McFadden) comes in the store.

the lodge

They talk about where they are all staying (its New Years Eve and there is to be a party) and Chrissy speaks about exploring. The storekeeper warns them that a storm is coming in and suggests not exploring but they ignore him. After a ride they come up to what might be a logging road through the trees, with a keep out sign. Despite Jenny’s protests, they ignore the sign and head up it – at the end of the trail is Deer Lodge. Chrissy crashes her snowmobile and they decide to go in, despite it looking abandoned.

Riva Spier as Jenny

Now, just to note that the lodge was, situated in mountain snow as it is, reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in the Shining. This hotel is smaller and is more a location than a character (and is not a vampiric building) but the similarity is there. They force a door open and the hotel does appear abandoned, they discover there hasn’t been a guest for five years but they later realise the heating is on. Exploring Jenny feels like someone is there and we see a face spying on her.

Georgie Collins as the Ghostkeeper

After night has fallen they hunker down next to a fire, with obvious flirting between Chrissy and Marty, He goes to find another bottle of wine and something attacks him in the kitchen. Chrissy and Jenny run in, after hearing his cry of surprise, and he has bested “it”, which turns out to be an old lady (Georgie Collins). She is assumed to be a caretaker (later she mentions that her son, Danny (Bill Grove), is around somewhere) and she reluctantly gives them rooms for the night. She never actually gives her name and is credited as Ghostkeeper.

Bill Grove as Danny

Whilst Chrissy goes for a bath, the couple argue. Jenny knows Marty wants to sleep with Chrissy and just wants him to be honest. For his part, being a prat as noted earlier, he just points out to her that she has no problem spending his money. As the film goes on it is suggested by the old lady that Jenny has the strength of character to take over (I’ll come to what) and Danny holds Chrissy underwater in the bath – not killing her but making her unconscious – and then carries her into an icy area of the hotel (basement area) and slitting her throat leaving her to the creature locked in there.

the book

So, the old lady is the caretaker of a windigo and beyond seeing it be given Chrissy we don’t see much action from it. An intertitle at the opening of the film suggests they are ghosts who live on human flesh to survive, Jenny finds a book on native legends that says that these giants can be kept by certain people, normally woman, who possess an ancient power handed down from one to the next along with a newspaper report on mutilated corpses. This supernatural flesh eating then is the trope, along with a concentration on the "familiar" servant. The film itself has a touch of the slasher (with Danny pursuing Jenny with a chainsaw), Marty quickly loses it and the film piles on lots of uncanny atmosphere.

John MacMillan as the Windigo

It is in producing this atmosphere, where the film is at its best, helped in no uncertain terms by Georgie Collins whose performance offers both strange and sinister in turns. The film itself is quite small, adding to the atmosphere, with a limited cast and feels very much of its time. Indeed, if made today then the intimation of flesh eating would undoubtedly have been more explicit but the focus on atmosphere offers the film more of a charm than it perhaps should have had.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK