Friday, July 20, 2018

Guest Blog: Interesting Shorts: Valeska

We welcome Clark back to the blog as he looks at Valeska, a short from the collection Voices of the Damned.

Author: Barbie Wilde

Published 2015.

Contains spoilers

Horror fans will probably best know Ms Wilde as the female Cenobite in Hellraiser II: Hellbound, but in this anthology collection she proves that she is also as adept at writing as she is portraying a horror icon.

The 11 stories contained include 10 previously published works, including The Cilicium Trilogy which are set within Clive Barker's Hellraiser Mythos.

I would add at this point that the stories are erotically charged horror, and therefore perhaps not suitable for younger horror fans (at least until they get a bit older).

The 11th story is the one of most interest for this blog though, being Valeska, the sole vampire story within the collection. This article will, by necessity, be very spoiler heavy

Ms Wilde has used vampire lore as a starting point and added her own twists.

Valeska, the titular character, is a vampire, but not your usual "run of the mill" vampire. She is of a class of vampires known as Seminals. This class of vampire is only female, for reasons that become apparent through the story. Seminals are considered to be a lower class of vampire by the Sanguine, a far more numerous, albeit weaker, vampire class.

The story starts in the present day as Valeska prepares for a nightly hunt. Upon entering a club, she sees a male who takes her eye. By emanating a special perfume from her sexual organs, she is able to ensnare him. This reminded me a little of how some vampires have used hypnosis as a form of ensnaring their prey. She goes to his home with him and seduces him. The scene set is very sexual in nature but necessarily so as it explains the nature of Seminal vampires. They extract the potency and life force needed to survive by sexual means instead of drinking blood.

As she is going home she senses another vampire, a Sanguine, who distracts her by informing her that the Sanguine have declared war on the Seminal. Whilst distracted another figure appears behind her and knocks her unconscious.

At this point the author takes us back to 1348, enabling her to explain her own vampire creation myth. She explains how famine had forced a family to take the words of Christ literally "This is my blood, drink it; this is my flesh, eat it". Suspicions within the village has forced them to leave one night and head East, naming themselves the Sanguine and continuing their ways without interference.

We move forward to 1692, and meet Patrizia, a Sanguine, who is walking near her village, thinking she is safe as Sanguine are far stronger than humans. She senses a presence and sees a dark clad figure. We learn this figure is called Varazlo, and he is far stronger than Patrizia. Initially against her will, yet later willingly, she is seduced by him. He tells her she is now carrying a child. This child is the first Seminal.

Seminal vampires are only ever female, whereas Sanguine can be either gender. The 2 classes of vampire tend to avoid each other except to mate, and any child born will become Seminal if female, but males will be sent to be raised by Sanguine.

The story returns to the present day and Valeska, who awakens to find herself on a bed. She feels that whilst unconscious she was raped. The perpetrator enters the room and we learn it is Varazlo, who although a vampire, is of a type unknown to both Sanguine and Seminal. He admits that he did indeed rape Valeska while she slept, and that she now carries his son, who is of a new class of vampire, more powerful than any that have come before.

He states he has done this because he is angered by the spats between the 2 vampire classes. As he turns to the door Valeska, who is understandably furious with him, attacks him, knocking him half unconscious when his head hits the door.

Valeska uses the Seminal way of feeding whilst he is coming round, extracting his life force until he dies before stealing his clothing and making her escape.

The story ends with her walking in the rain, pondering whether to keep the child growing within her or not, knowing it will have a huge impact on the vampire races.

Ms Wilde's prose is easy to follow with characters you can empathise with.

I found it a highly enjoyable story, and hope the author will write further about Valeska, as I feel there is more to be told about her and the vampire classes.

I would recommend the book to anybody who likes their horror with a healthy dose of both blood and sex.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dracula in Love – review

Director: Izidore K. Musallam

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

Well, its another Dracula film and the fact that this actually adds another film into the character’s ever-growing résumé is about the only positive that one can offer about this. Beyond that it is truly a terrible film. Set in one location (two if you class the warehouse floor and office as two separate locations) with a limited number of cast, the film would have had to pull something out of the proverbial bag.

It doesn’t, as you will see, but it does give us victims that we can truly feel deserve their fate – which I suppose is a plus. Unfortunately, the acting behind said characters is dreadful – again something we’ll return to.

Eyal Simko as Nash
So, it starts with Uncle Stuart (Alan K. Sapp), who has a hacking cough and asks his nephew, Nash (Eyal Simko), to take his place as night-watchman in the warehouse he has worked in for thirty years. Nash turns up with his guitar in hand and agrees to cover for his Uncle. As soon as Stuart has gone, however, he phones best friend David (Josh Maltin). David is with his girlfriend Nancy (Amy Cruichshank) but with the promise of Stuart’s scotch and Nash’s joints he says they’ll be right over.

the gang
When they arrive, Nash realises they have brought Nancy’s friend Leila (Cailey Muise) and she seems aloof and a little strange. She also starts to say that she feels something “spooky”. The dialogue, it must be said at this point, isn’t brilliant. Anyway, David and Nancy try to get some privacy and, after seeming uninterested, Leila starts to be quite sexually open towards Nash – but then starts wandering off (ending up on top of a stack in the warehouse at one point, with no memory of how she got there).

Uncle Fester... I mean... Dracula
Essentially her presence has awoken Dracula (played old by Youssef Abed-Alnour and young by Andre Luis Oliveira). He has been in a crate for 200 years and he claims to be her love. However, when she sees his hideous visage she is terrified. Ok… so they haven’t made him a looker, but he is hardly terrifying either. Wearing sackcloth and sporting a hunch, he looks more Igor than Dracula and, facially, there is little in the way of menace but a look that seems more a benign Uncle Fester than malign Prince of Darkness.

holding hands
What we get is what seems to be a variant on the resurrected love scenario, though resurrection is not actually mentioned. When Nash attempts to rape her, Leila goes to the crate and the vampire makes her invisible as she holds his hand. David also gets rapey with her and this is what I mean by the (vampire) victims not carrying sympathy. Nancy sleeps with Nash for fun, both male characters try to rape Leila and David gives Nancy such a crack with a piece of wood he kills her.

They are not actually killed by Dracula. He has told Leila that, to restore him, she must kill her friends and feed him their blood and then sleep with him. Other than that, we don’t get a lot of lore. He is strong (even in his weakened state) able to swat one of the young men away (though he doesn’t actually connect). He can make the doors lock and the radio go on and off. One of the guys names him as a vampire after seeing him though he does nothing vampiric and does not look atypically vampiric either.

love blossoms
The director tries to use the camera to instil a sense of Leila’s dream/trance state a couple of times but the scenes drag and the clever technique seems cheap and too obvious. That said the film is slicker than a lot of low grade budget films, when it comes to the filming and this makes the terrible nature of the film actually that little bit worse. The acting is, across the board, atrocious but – as I say – the fact that the victims are not at all sympathetic is a bonus. There isn’t a lot more to say about this one, it simply isn’t very good. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, July 16, 2018

Little Deaths – review

Director: Sean Hogan (segment)

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Little Deaths is an anthology film and by the title (i.e. la petite mort) you can tell that the segments are about sex and death, and there is some wonderful twisted, disturbing stuff in this. The first segment is the one we’re interested in and so I’ll quickly mention that the second segment, mutant tool, is probably my favourite of the three and is a very twisted modern-day story involving a mutant, Nazi experiments and drugs made from its emissions. The last segment Bitch was disturbing, more than anything, as there wasn’t a sympathetic protagonist just the descent into absolute depravity in an incredibly abusive and dysfunctional relationship.

As for House and Home, the first film. Well, I’m not entirely sure there are vampires in it… but there is something and I’ll discuss it at the culmination but, please beware that this means I will entirely spoil the segment.

everyone has appetites
We start with middle class couple Richard (Luke de Lacey) and Victoria (Siubhan Harrison) in bed, he seems to be deep in thought as she reads. He tries it on but is rebuffed and when he subsequently gropes her she bites his hand. He complains but then mentions he saw her, a homeless girl called Sorrow (Holly Lucas) it transpires, again, in the park. Victoria tells him he should be careful and she admits that everyone has appetites, though everyone has different actual tastes.

sorrow and boyfriend
We next see Sorrow and her (unnamed) boyfriend (James Oliver Wheatley) in the park. They are dirty, cold and hungry but clearly in love. She notices that *he* is back – referring to Richard a distance away, in his car and smoking a cigarette. They wonder if he is police or pervert? He drives off. At home he discusses them with Victoria and it is clear that he has followed their movements and worked out that they split up to beg. They agree to do *it* the next day.

Richard approaches Sorrow in the street and puts a high value bank note in her cup. She says she can’t give change but he doesn’t want change, so she says that she isn’t on the game and he replies that he would hope not. He asks whether she knows God and mentions that he and his wife like to give if they can; money, a hot meal, a bath… at the mention of his wife she relaxes a little and goes off with him. Getting to the house she meets Victoria, is shown the bathroom, allowed to have a bath and given a glass of wine.

She comes down for dinner but the other two are not drinking – they only keep drink in for guests they say. Sorrow becomes overcome and their conversation moves from the faux-piousness to quite nasty filth as Sorrow passes out, her head in the food. Victoria tells Richard to get rid of the drugged wine and open a clean bottle. This is the game they like to play, pick up a homeless girl on the pretence of Christian charity, drug them, abuse them and send them away with hush money. When Sorrow awakens she is naked, strapped to a bed with a bit in her mouth.

She is raped and peed on by Richard, who goes to shower as Victoria takes over and then we get the twist (which I’ll have to spoil to justify the review). He hears Victoria scream, getting into the basement he sees her with Sorrow crouched above her lapping at the blood from her neck with a maw of sharp, monstrous teeth. Richard runs for his car but is surrounded by homeless people (including Sorrow’s boyfriend) who have all sprouted said teeth. We then see them ripping at Victoria’s guts, feeding on her, as the still living Richard is pinned to the wall with scissors.

So what are they? Well the teeth appear when necessary and Sorrow laps blood, but they clearly also eat flesh. They intend to keep Richard alive for as long as possible for food and so they are not classic ghouls (corpse eaters) and they seem, to all intents and purposes, vampiric with regards their eating habit and hiding in plain sight (enough for me to go for a review). Part of me did actually think lycanthropy, but they don’t actually transform (bar the teeth), though they make cat like noises. Perhaps the lycanthropy feeling was a class thing as werewolves (which these are not) are often portrayed as working/lower class whilst vampires often enjoy middle/upper class status. Clearly there was a class abuse going on – bored middle classes preying on an underclass of poor.

a living buffet
I did enjoy the segment, however, and thought it a nicely twisted piece. Her going with Richard seemed too easy but then, unbeknown to the audience at that point, she had a definitive ace up her sleeve. There was room to expand on the film, but that would have just been an expansion of the abuse/torture. 7 out of 10 for the segment.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

DVD @ Amazon UK

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Short Film: Nunja

Directed by Autumn Gieb, this is roughly 20 minutes long (excluding end titles) and I couldn’t find a date although the companion piece was copyrighted to 2014.

So, when I mention a companion piece you’ll notice from the movie poster I found that this and another (short feature-length) film entitled the Knight Squad played together and, on the Amazon release, they have been bolted together as Knight Squad with Nunja. The poster also mentions this being ‘Grindhouse’ and certainly they have gone down that tradition with film burn out, scratches and missing reels. However, whilst a Grindhouse aesthetic can be fun it does seem that too many budget filmmakers are using it as an excuse not to do more with less, but just to do less.

meeting the victim
So, we start with a couple, Lucy (C. Jade Diaz) and Jose (Rafael Medina), in a cemetery. She is worried, he is horny and pressuring her. Suddenly they are attacked by vampires but the grainy film quality and incredibly poor lighting conspire to show us very little. The attack is interrupted by a white robed ninja (Indrani Rauth) who kills the vampires. Lucy thanks her for the save but is asked whether she was bitten, she denies this but there is (just about, given film quality) blood and (with an apology) she is staked. The ninja ducks out of shot and reappears in a nun’s habit – hence Nunja… yes this is a nunspolitation.

bad fangs
The nun in question is Sister Maria Michaela and the novice Sister Portala (Evening Star Sciarabba) knocks on her door and enters her room to say that Mother Superior (Kathi-Jane Mahon-Haft) is looking for her as she did not attend morning mass. Maria is going to confession however, taken by Father Ignacio (Robert Senecal), and then to train. Her confession is regards impure thoughts (towards the Father himself) and we discover that he has thoughts about her too – nothing is developed as any storyline regarding this would be on the “missing” reels. Indeed there is little story developed at all.

staked cleavage
The vampire leader, Kael Hathaway (William Zimmerman), is rather upset about his vampires being killed and sends his second, Madra (Marissa Bond), out recruiting more vampires. As for the vampires we get very little. One bite turns, they then develop cheep Halloween plastic fangs (even Madra seems to vacillate between wearing decent looking fangs and the cheap plastic ones). A stake to the heart kills… or in this case an actor holds the very thin and flimsy stake close to their chest whilst playing dead – with the spectacular variant being to push the stake horizontal into the cleavage!

I can’t find an IMDB page at time of writing but you can watch it after Knight Squad on demand:

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Night of Death – review

Director: Raphaël Delpard

Release date: 1980

Contains spoilers

“La Nuit de la Mort!” to give the film its original French title, is a film I stumbled across and it certainly is a vampire film, though not traditionally so – we are in the realm of living vampires here – and those who eat flesh as well as drink blood.

Also, whilst not a detective movie it reminded me of Columbo in that I knew exactly what was going on and was entertained not by the mystery itself but with just when lead character Martine (Isabelle Goguey) would figure it all out herself.

Michel Flavius as Flavien
It does not start with Martine, however, but with her lover Serge (Michel Duchezeau) calling for her as he wakes and walks round his flat. He sees a note in which she suggests that the argument they had should not be taken seriously but she has decided to take the job he found for her in a private nursing home. She arrives by bus as the caretaker, Flavien (Michel Flavius), is looking the iron gates. He suggests there isn’t a job but she retorts that she has a letter from the owner, Madam Hélène (Betty Beckers). She is shown onto the grounds.

Charlotte de Turckheim as Nicole
At first she waits outside but is shown in and Hélène suggests she is a day early and they had not prepared a room. Nevertheless, she can have the job and they’ll put her in the attic room. She is introduced to the other care assistant, Nicole (Charlotte de Turckheim), who thinks that the position has been offered to replace her. Hélène denies this and points out that Nicole had asked for help and orders Nicole to show Martine around. Nicole clearly dislikes the place and the residents – whereas Martine quickly develops a rapport with them. Nicole also explains that Hélène does not let two staff leave the grounds for the first two months – to allow the residents to become acclimatised to the helper.

the residents
Nicole is excited that she will be able to go out soon and be able to see her fiancé. She is going to show a photo of him to Martine but they get interrupted before she gets it out of her case. There is a phone call for Martine and it is Serge and – given that she isn’t actually due to start – Hélène allows her to have one more night with him. This, of course, means she is out of the house when the residents march together, replete with butcher's cleaver, and drag Nicole from her room. She is taken to a butchery room and Hélène drinks a cup of blood from her cut throat before the residents start pulling offal from her opened stomach and feeding on it.

eat your heart out
The next day Martine is told that Nicole left in anger – despite a letter she left Martine suggesting they would be great friends. As the two months go on Martine has to pick up the clues to understand what is happening. Also, outside the home, the serial killer “the golden needle killer” is murdering women by pushing a large needle through the neck and sexually abusing them. This brings in a neck puncturing and vague psychosexual element that is standard trope referential, but what is happening with our cannibalistic residents – who apparently are vegetarians (for their normal meals)?

Martine drinks a suppliment
There are hints through that they are older than they look and, eventually, Martine finds a newspaper clipping about Hélène (including her age) from 1886 and she calculates that would make the woman 118 years old. They prevent further ageing through their cannibalistic repast – a threat of a punishment of no meat for a week has one resident terrified. It is clear that they eat the corpse slowly (it is kept in a meat locker) but it is inferred that the impact of the flesh diminishes over time as they become weaker towards the end of the period.

rapid ageing
There is ritual to the act – Hélène sings a specific song and the murder is carried out on the 28th. If this is necessary we don’t know. They feed a cleansing supplement to Martine through her stay there – whether it does clean the system or somehow prepares the flesh in a way that allows the effect of the feast isn’t explained at all. Indeed the film tells us very little about the mechanics of the act. We do see the impact of missing the feast, however, in a rapid ageing. So, this isn’t a delusion, there is a genuine physical effect. Hélène suggests that without her they would be rotting in their coffins, so she is the original instigator. In a twist of standard tropes we get a mirror moment but it is vampire’s servant Flavien who looks in the mirror, hating what he sees as he deems himself ugly.

twist on the mirror trope
This is all kinds of quirky, vampiric/cannibalistic horror. As I suggested at the head, there are aspects that are all too obvious to the viewer and we are waiting for Martine to twig – be that about what happened to Nicole, the peril Martine is in or the grooming that clearly took place. Even the shock twist at the end was clearly telegraphed a mile off – but that isn’t the point. It works because of all this and not despite it. I really rather enjoyed this. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Short Film: Fine Dining

Coming in at round the 9-minute mark, Fine Dining is a gorgeous short directed by Usher Morgan. At the end of the credits an intertitle actually tells us how the film came to be: “This film is the result of a screenwriting challenge in which the filmmaker was asked to replace the main characters in their favourite dialogue-driven scene with folklore characters and rewrite the dialogue based on the characters they introduced.

In this case the scene chosen was the opening to Pulp Fiction and the characters replaced with the vampires, Vladdy Daddy, or Vlad Dracul, (Joel Bernard) and Lisa Bear, or Jusztina Szilágyi, (Elyse Price). Before I get to the dialogue, however, I want to touch on the look of the short. Done in an animated style the film is simply beautiful to look at and, I understand, each frame was individually painted and processed to give it its distinctive style.

I'll execute every...
As for the dialogue – if you are going to pick a dialogue driven scene then a Tarantino script would be the place to start. However, to pick that and then re-write it, and do it justice… well that is a tough call and, I’m glad to say, this was up to the task. As the scene progressed and Vladdy tried to convince Lisa that drinking from blood bags was something to be abandoned in favour of drinking from source, we hit a cracking line that verbosely rewrites the line from Dracula, “when men believe not even what they see, the doubting of wise men would be his greatest strength.” This becomes “Santa Clause is missing, the Tooth Fairy is in rehab and the Easter Bunny died of diabetes, there is no magic left in this world and if there is, humans are too f*cking cynical to recognize it!” Fantastic.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Dawn in Damnation – review

Author: Clark Casey

First Published: 2017

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Buddy Baker is a dead man. Literally. After gunning down more men than Billy the Kid-and being hung by a rope necktie for his crimes-the jolly, fast-drawing fugitive reckoned he'd earned himself a nonstop ticket to hell. Instead, he finds himself in Damnation: a gun-slinging ghost town located somewhere between heaven and hell.

There are no laws in Damnation. Only two simple rules: If you get shot, you go directly to hell. If you stay alive without shooting anyone for one year, you just might get into heaven.

Hardened outlaws pass the time in the saloon playing poker and wagering on who will get sent to hell next, while trying not to anger the town's reclusive vampire or the quarrelsome werewolves. Buddy winds up in everyone's crosshairs after swearing to protect a pretty gal who arrives in Damnation pregnant. Her child might end up a warm-blooded meal for the supernatural residents, or it could be a demon spawn on a mission to destroy them all.

The review: Is hosted over at Vamped.

In paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK