Monday, September 21, 2020

Short film: Vampire (2017)


Made for Crypt TV at just over 3-minutes I really don’t see how I can avoid spoiling this one. Sorry folks. But it is a neat bit of nonsense, released in 2017 and directed by Joshua Giuliano.

A man (Jacob DeMonte-Finn) sits in a treatment room, there is a sign that says Give Blood and a dead cockroach on the floor. A nurse (Alyssa Tyson) bustles in, stepping on the cockroach, and hands him a clipboard. He (presumably) signs a release, and she straps him to the chair across the chest and at the wrists.

draining

She then fits a canular into his arm and hands him a squeezy toy, which she instructs him to squeeze. He does so as blood is drawn from his body into a bag. She leaves but we see a door behind inch open. The man eventually notices the fact that the tube is moving. He looks to the other side and in his periphery sees…

vampire

Well, of course it is a vampire (Alan Maxson), sucking on the tube. But I love the way the vampire has been visualised. Deathly white, sores across the back and a monstrous visage, he seems animalistic and dangerous. I’d like to see more of these vampires, I’d like to know more about the set up here. As for you, dear reader, if you want to know if he escapes then watch on…

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Short Film: Salem Occultist


Salem Occultist was a 22-minute-long film from 2016, which was directed by Alexander Roman. It is less a story and more an introduction to the character of Anton Bryson (Alexander Roman), which comprises of a prologue background (and post-credit background piece) and two ‘consultations’.

The introduction shows mostly establishing film and graphics as a voiceover from the Salem witch trials condemns the three Bryson sisters to death. The last to die, Cora (Paula Kinch), tells her brother Anton that her spell will protect him from his curse – for a while at least – but he is doomed to be a vampire. However, the spell will ensure he inherits her powers also.

I see a bad moon rising

Forward in time and Anton is now a consulting occultist. The first client we see is Irena (Sarah Biehler), who needs help escaping from an abusive relationship. The second client is Thomas (Alexander Roman), sent to Anton by the mysterious Baroness (Sarah Alvarez). Thomas rarely takes male clients but listens to his story, one of a night of passion with a mysterious Greek man who was gone in the morning but left Thomas bitten and scratched and susceptible to the moon.

How does Anton deal with these clients? You can check that on demand, from Vimeo

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Nirvana Island: The Last 47 Days – review


Director: Takeshi Watanabe

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

The film Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island was flawed but was fun. A high-octane action adventure that took anime styling and recrafted it in live action. It did use cgi, and not all of it worked, but for the most part the film hit more than missed.

This film is a sequel to the Japanese live action series of Higanjima from 2013, rather than the 2009 film. Thus, this is within the same storyline but unconnected to the film we’ve already reviewed, and this, unfortunately, misses more than hits. All the actors (exported from the series) are different and in the main are not as good at their craft, the cgi tends towards poor rather than good and the plot goes from nonsense to nonsensical. It is still, however, high-octane when it comes to the fights.

There's a Hand in my bucket

It starts with an overview of the Higanjima backstory, with wartime experiments and a group of kids going to the island, but the recap probably doesn’t explain much to the uninitiated. We get a brief animated water giant and then we see Kato (Ryû Morioka) washed up on a beach – a victim of the giant. He walks through the island, until exhausted and parched, when he finally comes across a village. He tries to get water from the well, but the bucket has a hand in it.

blood on tap

He enters a building and calls out, he hears someone and, turning around, sees a man in a barrel, his head out and spigots clearly used to tap his blood. Kato looks around the corner and sees two men gnawing on limbs, their fangs obvious. Kato backs away but they have seen him, indeed a stream of vampires come for him. He runs out of the building and finds himself surrounded by the grey clad bloodsuckers (in Higanjima sunlight is not an issue). Suddenly a swordsman leaps in to his rescue.

Akira and Aoyama

After a battle, the swordsman tells Kato to run and they escape the village. Once a safe distance away, Kato recognises the swordsman as Ken (Yûya Endô). He asks about Akira (Shun'ya Shiraishi) and Ken says he is with the vampires (by this meaning fighting them). We cut to a battle where Akira and his sensei, the ‘giant’ Aoyama (Renji Ishibashi), are battling vampires and their mutated versions. These take the form of beaked giants and we get we massively enormous enemies in this. Pulling the strings is the apparently fully immortal vampire Miyabi (Louis Kurihara).

Miyabi and troops

If any of the characters were disappointing compared to the 2010 film then Miyabi is the prime one. Whilst the style is the same, the physical demeanour is all off and the prettiness that displays the blurring of gender lines within an anime, and which was captured in the 2010 film, becomes more of an effeminate campiness here and misses the desired aesthetic. He is powerful, nonetheless and survives being cleaved at one point and regenerates an eye (in bad cgi) in seconds, after losing it to an arrow,

Ken drinks bottled blood

Ken is now a vampire, it is revealed, fighting against Miyabi. Akira’s brother, Atsushi (Ryôhei Suzuki), is revealed to be a vampire living in a village of vampires. It is here that we discover that refusing to feed can cause the mutation into a giant. The film heads towards a confrontation between the two brothers – but why isn’t clear. It has something to do with a serum (a cure I assumed) but that plotline was never broadcast satisfactorily.

CGI foe

As mentioned, the cgi isn’t great, but I could live with that (it would be, and is, a shame compared to the earlier film) and the fights were fun enough. But it was the hack job of a story (and this wasn’t down to the subtitling being a wee bit too literal, the story was just a mess) and the interminable length (about 30 minutes needs expunging) that made this difficult. Also, I have to mention that the film really doesn’t have an ending, it just kind of stops. It isn’t a cliff-hanger; it is just a full halt. I think 3.5 out of 10 reflects fairly the poorness of the story, with a soupçon of bad cgi, tempered by the fun fight bits.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Honourable Mention: Holiday Hell



Holiday Hell is a portmanteau movie released in 2019 and containing, as far as I can tell, bespoke segments. In this honourable mention, however, it is the Jeff Ferrell wraparound that I am looking at, and so apologies for spoiling that.

The wraparound sees Amelia (Meagan Karimi-Naser) enter a store, the Nevertold Casket Co. – a creepy looking establishment, from the window display. At first there doesn’t seem to be anyone around but eventually the proprietor (Jeffrey Combs, Frightmare, Necronomicon: Book of Dead & Dark House) makes himself known, but he was about to shut up shop for the night.

Meagan Karimi-Naser as Amelia

Amelia is in a bit of a pickle, however. It is Christmas Eve’s Eve and she hasn’t got her sister a present – her sibling favouring the dark and macabre. The shopkeeper is reluctant, there are too many time wasters but a flash of cash convinces him to stay open. The items in the shop all have stories (our segments) and it is what the shopkeeper relishes, collecting stories to preserve them with the items, as they go through the tales Amelia seems to not be sure about buying the items – they just don’t seem right.

Jeffrey Combs as the shopkeeper

So, it is the final part of the wraparound that interests us. The last story was told by Amelia about a ring she wears – a ring the shopkeeper must have. He retrieves a knife but Amelia is no longer alone, rather she has been joined by her pagan coven (for pagan read Goth). Amelia came to the shop purposefully and has been stalling. One of the skulls the shopkeeper has is her twin sister Ophelia (also Meagan Karimi-Naser); he killed her to get her identical ring.

back from the dead

They grab the shopkeeper and cut his arm to get blood, which they use to draw a circle around the skull. They chant and the sister is reborn… But Amelia’s mother had warned she would not be the same. The blonde sister is reconstituted naked, but her skin shimmers, her eyes are unnaturally coloured, her nails are talons and her teeth sharp. As the film ends she crawls towards the shopkeeper who screams…

sharp teeth

So, it was the restoration with blood, the sharp teeth and the implication that she was about to chow down on the shopkeeper that gave this an honourable mention. She could, of course, be something other than a vampire but the baseline tropes are there and the visitation is so fleeting it is as well to give the benefit of the doubt. The film itself was fun, with a nice range of stories. Sometimes they seemed to stretch credulity – but these are not designed to ring true – as the shopkeeper says it only matters if the teller of the tale believes it true. Speaking of whom, Combs is as dependable as always.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Exorcism Master – review


Director: Xiang Qiu-Liang

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

A recent Chinese film this is one that carries a central monster that looks a bit more zombie than kyonsi and, in truth, the subtitles I saw use the word zombie all the way through. However I was firmly of the opinion that it fell much more on the vampire side and there are several direct giveaways that I’ll point out in the review.

Beyond this, we have a fantasy fare that could have withstood more character exploration as the good guys, especially, are interesting as is and could have stood for some more development.

Tan Xin-Zer as Tiancai

We start at an archaeological dig (or more properly a tomb raid). One of the first characters we see is a sinisterly giggling old man who seems to be the aid to the stoic Lord Ma. Stood, waiting but uncomfortable, are two men who offer a prayer for forgiveness. As the giggling man questions their prayer, the older one (and experienced tomb hunter who has never seen a tomb like this) decides to run away and is killed for his trouble. The younger man, Tiancai (Tan Xin-Zer), gets to work but, as soon as he approaches a mechanism in the floor, living roots seem to appear, thrusting out and start killing (mostly) guards.

the cavern

Ma’s sorcerer, Jianghzi, casts a spell and makes three figures reveal themselves and names them illusions. Tiancai goes to the mechanism, and fiddles with it. One by one the illusions vanish, though pieces of statues and roots assail Lord Ma’s entourage. Tiancai deactivates the trap and the ground gives way, causing him to fall into a huge cavern, catching a root as he falls. This is the tomb of an ancient general, who sits cocooned in the centre surrounded by his dead, zombified men. Jianghzi has revealed that his (abandoned) order had suppressed the living dead army and the means of controlling the “suppression tower” is a relic contained within the general’s body.

apprentice and master

Tiancai is paid off (the giggling man persuades Lord Ma not to kill him as he may be useful) and they take the cocoon (which has already started to break down, the viewer notices). Before we see Tiancai get home, we see a singing swordsman from Jianghzi’s old order and his apprentice, a whip wielding young lady called Qin Yu (Karena Ng Chin-Yu). She has refused to practice, saying its boring, and instead is preparing smores at the campfire. They get a whiff of putrefaction and he realises that evil spirits are about and says they’ll stay in the area longer.

the wife turned

Tiancai lives by a lake in a house he shares with an older couple called (by the Honorific) Aunt Hua and Uncle Jin, with Uncle a pleasant drunk who is always awaiting the return of his son (and who is building a tunnel system and is convinced enemies are due to attack). Also, there are a group of (orphaned) kids that they look after. Tiancai is an inventor and is drawn as an all-round pleasant guy (his work for Lord Ma is to support his adopted family). Of course, the General awakens and attacks a nearby town. When the family are found dead Tiancai investigates, the victims reanimate and he is rescued by the Master and Qin Yu – but not before he is bitten by one of the restless corpses.

kyonsi general

To cure him, before dying and becoming the living dead, they hunt down the general to get a tooth (to make the cure). They track him to a wedding that he slaughters, but so does Lord ma’s henchmen. So, vampire aspects? Of course, they are the restless dead but, before he is cured Tiancai develops fangs – which was the first definite vampire nod. The second is in reference to the general. When being fought it is caught and wrapped in a string with coins along its length, which seems to burn him – this is out of the kyonsi playbook.

with fangs

Recaptured by Lord Ma, the general is chained and immobilised with similar red string forming a curtain around him and prayer scrolls hanging on the strings (rather than being attached to his forehead as is normal). Jianghzi tells Lord Ma that due to the fact that the general has ingested so much blood and essence (indicating energy vampirism as well as standard and perhaps hinting to blood being the conduit for such transfer) he is now invulnerable. They will force Tiancai to extract the artefact – but will he comply?

Tiancai and Qin Yu

This was fun. There was a good chemistry between Tiancai and Qin Yu, which added a nice layer but the characters were interesting in their own right and we could have done with more. Indeed the film (which is a mainland China produced film) relied on stereotypes that both Western and domestic viewers will recognised having been taken from a long legacy of Hong Kong cinema. Nevertheless, it worked well, looked slick enough and was entertaining. 6 out of 10.

At the time of writing there is no IMDb page.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Short Film: A Prayer for the Undead


This short film was released in 2015 and directed by Ruben Rodriguez, coming in at just under the 13-minute mark.

What I am conscious of trying to do when looking at small films, is give you a taster of what the filmmakers are doing but not so far as to spoil the ending – after all these are much more succinct, by the nature of their length, than a feature. This becomes somewhat difficult to do when the story is very simple and when, as occurs in this film, the opening scene is essentially the ending.

So what we have, as things open, is Jessica (Amy Rutledge) led on the floor looking worse for wear. Blood is at her mouth, her clothes dirtied and we can see she has fangs. Over her is John (Matthew Tarricone), emotion getting the better of him as he looks down. She is begging him to help, her voice almost lost in the blood bubbling up into her mouth, she can’t do it herself. He prays over her as his hand lifts the stake from her chest…

Jessica and John

Cutting backwards in time we see Jessica in a bar. The barman (Ian Kurtz) asks if she is alone and she says she is with her boyfriend; he should be there soon. John comes in and orders a drink, sitting with her and he gives her a St Michael’s pendant that was his grandmothers. It is clear that the relationship is new but they are smitten with each other.

Jenny seems hostile

They do not notice the goth looking girl (Natalie Pitcairn, Theresa and Allison) come in. The bartender goes to her and she seems just a tad hostile. He recognises her as Jenny, a girl that hasn’t been in for a year and whom they thought had gone missing. He mentions a special on Long Island Iced Teas but she clearly has another liquid in mind and as he walks down the bar, she looks at John and Jessica and her eyes flash.

stake

So, I’ll stop there, preserving the mystery of just exactly how Jenny and Jessica will interact and how John comes to be the one holding the stake. Part of that will remain a mystery, even after you’ve watched the short (embedded below) as there is a jump in time frame but the short works, even though some of the narrative process is bypassed.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Road Wars – review


Director: Mark Atkins

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

Now, how on earth did I miss this on its release? Probably due to the fact that it looks for all intents and purposes a mockbuster riding on the tailcoats of Mad Max: Fury Road – and it was. But, beyond that it had a huge slice of I Am Legend. In fact, so much so I’ll give a health warning re the review.

Ok, it might be an Asylum production but it had a rather effective twist in the story – which I will spoil due to its I am Legend credentials. I will give fair warning before that happens.

We start with a car in the desert, a gun turret on top it appears (it’s actually a flame thrower), driven by Kevin (Phillip Andre Botello) with Nakada (Chloe Farnworth, Dead Cert) riding shotgun. She doesn’t understand why he has gone this far out, but there is something he is looking for. There is a conversation about love and a snog, the car slows to a stop and there it is… a gas station.

Chloe Farnworth as Nakada

Nakada goes to use the rest room – Kevin passes her a shotgun – he checks inside. There is a body just inside but it is the body further in that proves Kevin’s undoing. He goes to check it and the 'corpse' awakens and bites his hand – he shoots it. Nakada runs out and Kevin is at the pump getting fuel for the car. His hand is bleeding. He tells her to do it and pulls the business end of the shotgun to his chest. She seems reluctant and eventually we hear the shot off camera, then see her burning the gas station down with the flame thrower.

watching the desert

An armoured vehicle sits in the desert. On top of it are Macon (Nikki Bohm) and Dirk (Kelcey Watson). He’s telling her the story of the last snickers when he spots something. A figure in the desert – I told you so, he says, and it is confirmation of a friend of a friend story about daywalkers. He goes to take a shot at the figure and is told one bullet only. He wings him. They drive out but realise it is actually a man (Cole Parker). When he comes round, he has no memory of the apocalypse. Later we discover he is called Thorn.

graffiti: Kill All Vampires

So, we are in a vampire apocalypse and it turns out that, before the fall of the cities, there were people who were bitten but didn’t turn and those people suffered from amnesia. It is assumed, therefore, that he may have antibodies to fight the infection. Their doctor (Jane Hae Kim) doesn’t have equipment to capitalise on that though. The other issues are the fact that night raids by the vampires are getting worse and they are running out of ammo. However their base is ideal as they have fresh water. There are also rival survivors out there. At this point let us look at the vampires.

infected by night

They liken the virus to rabies – even before fully turning, someone with the virus develops hydrophobia, not even able to drink. Once they turn, they quench their thirst with blood and have a strong reaction to sunlight (Nakada hasn’t killed Kevin and we see it is a typical vampire burning reaction). They live to feed and infect essentially. In some respects they are somewhat more like zompires or, perhaps, the dead vampires in I am Legend

So it is here that we go into the major spoiler of the twist
Look away, if you don’t want to know…

Kevin turned

Towards the end of the film they use Thorn’s blood to make a serum and test it on Kevin. The first test is positive, he has lost his sunlight reaction, he is cogent but has lost his memory like those mentioned and Thorn. However, he is still hydrophobic – something we have not had suggested about Thorn. It turns out that Thorn is still infected (deliberately bitten by a daywalker when he was bitten by a normal infected) and this makes the daywalkers like the new society of vampires in I am Legend. The reaction of the uninfected is to turn on them (his sire has found him by then), mirroring Neville in the novel, and there is talk of a society of daywalkers in the city.

Kelcey Watson as Dirk

This was a really nice twist, so, sorry for spoiling but it made the I am Legend aspect crystal clear. As for the film... It misses the high octane of Mad Max (there are desert cars in a post-apoc style but only a little in the way of the road wars the title promises) and apes the costume style mercilessly. The acting is passable but nothing special, but the dialogue does a remarkably good job of world building. Don’t get me wrong, it ain’t the greatest, but it is rather good fun. A Solid 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK