Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Danger, Dames & Dangerous Games – review

Director: Alexander Salazar

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

At first glance the title looks silly – but don’t worry its purposefully so as Danger, Dames & Dangerous Games is a low budget urban fantasy, with a slice of noir but, more importantly, a comedic heart.

It does carry with it some controversy as I have seen that many have likened it (closely) to a book series entitled Monster Hunters International by Larry Correia. Having not read the books I can’t say and perhaps you’d offer your opinion in the comments section. Nevertheless, I will judge the film on its merits and the merits are good – though there is an issue with the version I watched.

the confrontation
The film starts with main character Marvin (Justin Marshall Elias) monologuing, in a film noir way, facing a window and then… grey screen and an exclamation mark… and we're suddenly in the middle of a confrontation with a vampire, Sherman (Michael D. Anglin), in a warehouse. This is either a broken upload on Amazon Prime or a deliberate digital grindhouse moment. As this misses the exposition of the fact that Marvin is an accountant (not a detective), that the artefact the vampire is looking for (the Aegresco) has chosen Marvin and is now in his blood (and how that happened), and the relationship with the vampire and a co-worker, Kingsley (Susan Gordon), who is dead in the room. Of course, you pick up on these as you go through the film (though not how the artefact chose him) so perhaps this was deliberate but the break is so glaring I suspect not. The technical issue has not impacted my scoring.

awaiting combustion
So, having been beaten by the inhumanly fast vampire, Marvin manages to grab a silver pin and (with a glow in his hand, which turns out to be the Aegresco) he stabs at him and the vampire vanishes. He awakens, wrapped in bandages with a beautiful dame in the room – actually credited as the Dame (Shanna Vincent) – who essentially gives him warnings. He is out again and comes around to two FBI agents in the room, Agents Dwayne (Robin Lee Canode) and Nixon (Christopher Heskey). They tell him that he died for a moment and, if vampire venom has resurrected him, his citizenship will be revoked and he will be killed. They open the curtains and he doesn’t combust.

vampires
Marvin then finds himself thrust into a world of gangsters and fantasy creatures, including articulate zombies, half-trolls and homeless elves. It seems his parents have been kidnapped and everyone wants the Aegresco, especially the vampire who wants to conduct a power ritual and take on the vampire elders. Marvin is hapless and yet bungles his way through, whilst avoiding cats – he fears and hates cats. The film is absolutely filled with holes – it even makes a comment to that effect as a knowing aside – and yet it is such good fun. This is down primarily to the actors.

the Dame and Agent Dwayne
They all sincerely seem to be having fun, with a lot of satisfied looks to camera or the odd lick of a fang adding together to make things great fun. However, it is Justin Marshall Elias who absolutely makes the film. He manages to combine bungler with handsome leading man, his noir voiceover is perfect and his timing impeccable. The film is worth watching for him. It might be derivative of another intellectual property (as I mentioned, I can’t say either way) but it is a satisfying budget flick. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, August 13, 2018

Honourable Moon: Warlock Moon

Despite the movie poster’s vampiric look, I need to begin by saying that this 1973 movie directed by William Herbert is not a vampire movie but it is so much more than the “cannibal movie” it is often described as. Yes there is (partially unwitting) cannibalism in it but there is much more going on, laid out for us to see but never gathered together and certainly not drawn into an explanation at any given point.

It is a low budget, independent movie and it certainly had ideas above its station – which is no bad thing. The film ended up being held up in distributor Hell but was eventually released and we get a film that looks and feels like a product of its time but, in some respects, edgier without really showing too much.

first victim
It starts off with a couple in an old abandoned building, finding their way by candlelight, their faces lost in the dark. They end up in the dark and by the time she (Joan Zerrien) relights her candle he has vanished off and she thinks he intends to jump out at her. There is a noise (like finger cymbals clicking twice, and we’ll come back to this), she searches, horror music rises to a crescendo and an axeman (Steve Solinsky) leaps through a broken door to her.

John in Groucho disguise
We move to a college, and the film shows its age with a lecturer (Michael Herbert) talking about deviant behaviours and listing the top 2 as incest (fair enough) and homosexuality (in a comment that is outrageous now). The lecture ends but in the next one they’ll discuss cannibalism – in quite a forced but naïvely effective piece of foreshadowing. We then see Jenny (Laurie Walters) walking across the campus. She is watched from behind a newspaper (and Groucho disguise) by John (Joe Spano), who then goes after her, making her laugh with a variety of accents until he asks her to go on a picnic. She refuses at first but eventually concedes…

missed the turn
We know this because we see them driving back from the picnic. We realise they didn’t know each other and find out that John works for a newspaper and wants to be a reporter eventually. John suggests they have missed a turn but Jenny refutes the suggestion, conceding they have gone the wrong way when they reach a disused road. Jenny is the one who suggests they see where the road goes and they follow it until they reach an abandoned complex of buildings. The sign on one of them suggesting it is the long-closed Soda Spring Spa. The kids don’t notice but we see the axeman and a second accomplice (Richard Vielle) lurking.

ghostly bride
They become separated and Jenny ends up inside one of the buildings when she is approached by an old lady called Mrs Abercrombi (Edna MacAfee). She takes them to her rooms, tells them a little about the Spa, gives them some tea and offers to show them around. John is keen to take up the offer but Jenny feels dizzy and suggests they go on ahead. The dizziness seems to pass but, before going to catch them up, she spots a syringe and medications in a draw. As she looks for John and Mrs Abercombi she enters a room with a circle marked out on the floor, she walks the circumference slowly and then goes to step in when all the doors slam shut, scaring her. She hears a ghostly voice calling her name and steps onto a balcony to see a figure in a bridal dress (also Laurie Walters) on a balcony opposite. She vanishes around a corner and John and Mrs Abercrombi then step from where she has gone, clearly none the wiser.

Laurie Walters as Jenny
They leave but, some time later, John finds Jenny again and suggests a date. It will have to start, however, at the Spa. Jenny is less than impressed with the idea but John explains that the paper editor has given him a shot by allowing him to write a feature on the abandoned complex. Reluctantly she agrees to meet him at the place (he has to go elsewhere first with another reporter) but she arrives before he does. She is exploring again, perturbed by the fact that the place seems even more abandoned, wrecked even, certainly not in the state of upkeep from before, when a rifle goes off. It is a hunter (Harry Bauer).

an axeman
Jenny and the hunter talk. He has never heard of Mrs Abercrombi and suggests the place was abandoned after an incident allegedly in the 1930s. The owner’s daughter had her wedding and there was a banquet but she never showed up and after the banquet they found, in the kitchen, that dinner had been the girl. The Spa closed, people claim to see the girl (the ghostly figure Jenny saw) and the cook escaped – it is not stated but the likelihood, of course, is that the cook was Mrs Abercrombi. The hunter escorts Jenny back to the front of the building.

playing Dracula's nephew
After they separate there is a cymbal sound again and an axeman gets the hunter. John has arrived and the parts of the buildings that seemed wrecked are back to their previous state and flowers Jenny noticed as dead are now alive. The sound seems to represent a transition between two states, different dimensions perhaps. Anyway, Mrs Abercrombi drugs Jenny and this leads to them having to stay the night. They have a meal that is “hunter stew” (unwitting cannibalism). However, before that there is a scene of John goofing around where, after acting out a couple of characters to make Jenny laugh, he becomes “Dracula’s nephew”, claiming to be “out for a bite” – his acting, at that point, scares her but we get a mention of vampires in passing.

the meat locker
What is interesting is that this is not the simple cannibalism tale the film makes out. Jenny has been selected due to her similarity to the bride (whereas other victims are just meat). The ghost of the bride intervenes but her intervention eventually seems more malevolent than benevolent. The buildings shift between states, almost dimensionally moving. There is mention of others involved, suggesting a cult of some sort. There is the circle and the need for jenny to enter it of her own free will, for it to be marked with her blood and clearly for her to be used as a sacrifice on a certain night and in a certain time frame. However, this occultism is just there, we never discover what purpose it might have? Is it to sustain the cultists or sustain the buildings – the film is silent. Certainly Mrs Abercrombi appears to be of the age where she may have been the cook in the 30s, so there is no suggestion of maintained youth.

Edna MacAfee as Mrs Abercrombi
This is one of those films that deserves a cult status and I’m glad that a mention of Dracula, in passing, has allowed me to bring it to your attention (although, without that, the poster would have allowed me to o a ‘Vamp or Not?’ article). Joe Spano is in turns charming and sinister, and Laurie Walters portrays naïvety very effectively, but it is Edna MacAfee who steals the film with her over-the-top performance as Mrs Abercrombi, which stays just on the right side of camp and can be undercut with some truly ominous looks. The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Takut: Faces of Fear – review

Directors: Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

Those who read this blog regularly will know I have a soft spot for anthology and portmanteau films and so, when I spotted this Indonesian anthology film on Amazon Prime, I didn’t hesitate. I wasn’t watching it for a vampire connection (although its always nice when one comes up).

In this case someone watching it cold would be forgiven for asking why I have tied this into vampires. I am specifically looking at the segment entitled Dara and, if you didn’t know better you’d class it at cannibalism (and perhaps serial killing).

Shareefa Daanish as Dara
However, this anthology pre-dated by a year the feature by the same directors entitled Rumah Dara, also known as Macabre, and the short has the same actress, Shareefa Daanish, as the titular character Dara. When I watched Rumah Dara I decided it was a vampire film and, whilst that vampiric aspect of the film was not captured here, nor were Dara’s wider family, I think its worth tying them in with this as it is a prequel, though may have predated the invention of the more supernatural tropes that the later feature added.

ready for butchering
It starts in the kitchen of a restaurant and a meal being prepared that Dara takes out to a lone diner, Adjie (Mike Lucock), she sits with him as he eats and talks to her. Eventually she invites him to her home so she can cook for him. He knows that it is her restaurant and she is the head chef but doesn’t know her name. He clearly takes her up on her offer – but comes around chained and gagged and ready for butchering.

uninvited suitor
Things go wrong when another suitor, Eko (Dendy Subangil), turns up a day earlier than arranged and she has to entertain him – having left Adjie in the slaughter room. To make matters worse, a third suitor, Rama (Ruly Lubis), also turns up. The short is pitched as a black comedy and, as I say, the more supernatural elements that the feature would introduce are missing. What makes the short, however, is Shareefa Daanish who can say more with a single look than many actresses with a slew of dialogue and has a commanding presence on the screen.

she's a maniac
This is well worth a look – the full anthology being interesting but a bit of a mixed bag. The segment The List is probably the best after this but Dara works as a standalone cannibal short as much as a prequel for those who have seen the feature. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Female Vampires Online – review

Director: G.R. Claveria

Release date: 2011/12*

Contains spoilers

This low budget film started life as a web-serial called FemVamp.com and was cut together from that extant footage. *I have listed the film (which Amazon date to 2015) to the original date of the two seasons of the serial as listed on IMDb.

When I say this is low budget I’m being absolutely serious. This is grainy footage, amateur Hell. It is clearly a comedy but lacks the subtlety needed and yet I couldn’t help but be charmed in places.

in the room
So it starts off on a campus and the Peeping Tom Campus Pervert has been terrifying the college kids. One of the guys goes back to his room to jerk off to some vampire porn from the aforementioned FemVamp.com. The basic premise seems to be female vampire(s) on female victim who then turns at the end. As he watches the vampire, Victoria (Suzie Malone), seems to be beside him and then actually is off the screen and in the room.

intimidation
Detective Valentine (Jay Bingham) is a bit of a dick. He has the deceased porn lover’s roommate, Terry (Sean Enns), in the station and is demanding to know what he knows about the murder and is not above slapping Terry about. Terry says he knows nothing, he had been back at his mother’s the night before and came home to find the body and porn. Valentine doesn’t believe him and also believes him to be the campus pervert.

Erin Ashley Judson as Abigail
At first it seems Valentine might be right. We see Terry delete voyeuristic videos. Then we move to a room where we meet friends Abigail (Erin Ashley Judson) and Alex (Tema Louise Sall). Abigail has a scheme to make some money by going to Las Vegas and auditioning for vampire porn – all she will have to do is take her top off and earn $500. There is a banging at the door and it is Valentine. He’s been hunting the pervert and sees Terry at their window. He chases but, when he catches up, it isn’t Terry but BJ (Tristan Williams).

Tristan Williams as BJ
BJ finds Terry and gives him his coat back. Terry wants to save the girls from the vampires but BJ clearly doesn’t believe in vampires. BJ is also a wildly over the top character/performance and if Williams had dialled it back, just a notch, it might have been impressive. Openly gay, he contrives to have Terry if the vampire theory doesn’t pan out. Terry believes that one of the professors, Wang (G.R. Claveria), is a vampire hunter on the side. Wang is an over the top character with a faux English accent put on but, you know what, I couldn’t help but be charmed by his performance and Claveria was genuinely funny (at least some of the time).

G.R. Claveria as Wang
His vampire hunting gear consists of eyepatch, cape and ten-inch stake. He wears an eyepatch as vampires must be able to see both eyes to eye mojo a victim. His cape is infused with garlic and he also uses love eggs as a weapon as the vibrations disorientate vampires. Only women can be vampires and they have a Queen. One vampire seems to be working against the others.

attack
Story wise things were odd (beyond the ridiculous storyline) as the ending seemed rushed and jumped away from a lot of the events – returning to the aftermath (or even years into the future) without actually showing us what went on. The sfx are mostly restricted to the vampire porn sequences (but don’t get excited, what we see is tame). The performances are all exaggerated and that is the primary source of the comedy. This isn’t brilliant by any stretch but, at 60 minutes, it isn’t too long, Claveria is strangely charming and it was amusing in places (though not as consistently as needed). 3.5 out of 10

The imdb page for the web serial is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Fanged Up – review

Director: Christian James

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

This one almost snuck out but I spotted it just before its UK release. A horror comedy set in a prison (fanged up = banged up, geddit?) with vampires and hailing from the UK it seems to be a vehicle for comedian Daniel O'Reilly who co-wrote the film. Problem is, it just wasn’t that funny.

Now I know comedy is very subjective (I often put that with reviews) but it wasn’t just that the comedy was off (for me) but that they forgot that, at least on a simplistic level, you should make your primary protagonist sympathetic; and this wasn’t sophisticated enough to do anything more radical with that character.

Daniel O'Reilly as Jimmy
It starts with Dr Wallace (Arron Crascall) running for his life, with a set of papers in his arm. He reaches an ambulance, gets in but can’t get it to start and is even more terrified when a figure emerges from the mist. He climbs into the back of the ambulance and tries to call Dr Katie Makepeace (Danielle Harold) as something grabs him. Meanwhile Jimmy Ragsdale (Daniel O'Reilly) is acting larger than life in Club Moist (though most dismiss him), he offers to get a drink for two women, saying it is his club, but he is actually a pot washer and gets himself fired and starts a fight.

Jimmy and Victor
At the police station he is being booked in when one of the coppers notices something and takes over the booking process. Suddenly Jimmy is going to Stokesville Prison for the weekend, on remand, pending seeing the judge Monday. When transported, the thuggish necrophiliac being taken to a different prison pales at the mention of Stokesville and the driver is just as scared. Jimmy is dropped off into the care of Ms Renfield (Lauren Socha) and put in a cell with Russian mafia type Victor (Stu Bennett). As they go through the block to the cell we see a shower having blood mopped away and notice that the chapel is sealed and off limits.

Danielle Harold as Katie
Katie is now working at the prison and she is checking Bob (Ewen MacIntosh) who has a bite that oozes green slime but he can’t recall who bit him. He starts getting physically more poorly right before her eyes but is suddenly dragged away by guards and Katie is summoned to see Governor Payne (Steven Berkoff, Dead Cert). Before she gets there, Ms Renfield spots the cross Katie wears and makes her remove it – under pretence of no jewellery in the workplace. Payne, we notice, has very long nails and enjoys a Bloody Mary. As she leaves, Katie points out to Renfield that a cupboard is glowing.

vampire screw
So, short and long of it. Katie is Jimmy’s ex. The glow came from a stone that glows green at the “time”. What it was time for was not really well explained but involves the head vampire mating with the “chosen” pure one in a ritual that will renew his strength. The stone glows red when next to the chosen and Katie bears an uncanny likeness to the Governor’s long-lost love. All the prisoners are there because they have AB negative blood and no next of kin. Knowing that the ritual is at hand Renfield orders the prison guard vampires to turn the strong and feed on the weak.

after the staking
The vampires (or zombies, Jimmy guesses, and then guesses Draculas – which was meant to be a joke I guess but to me is just another example of Dracula becoming a genus) can be killed by head removal or stake to the heart. Bob reappears in a guard uniform and attacks Katie and Jimmy. Jimmy stakes him in the groin – it is Katie who gets the heart. On staking the vampire explodes showering blood everywhere. Vampires react badly to religious objects, hallowed ground and holy water (which Katie is able to bless for no explained reason, I bet characters in other films wished they knew it was that easy to make holy water). A bite is enough to turn when the individual dies, what the vampires do to prevent the weaker ‘food’ turning isn’t shown.

off limits chapel
My issue with this started with the character of Jimmy, Daniel O'Reilly played him a bit stupid and very annoying and – because the character was *that* annoying – the viewer carried no sympathy for him. Worse, I just didn’t find him funny as a character. Not that every performance was bad, Vas Blackwood (Cryptic) was magnificently understated and nuanced as the really pleasant con Shifty, indeed his was the highlight performance, but there were some genuinely poor ones in there.

Steven Berkoff as Gov. Payne
I don’t have much more to say – you could see a twist coming from ten-miles out but not because they telegraphed it more that it was so clichéd that you feared (rightly) they’d go there. There’s a bucket of blood thrown in but no barrel of laughs – a definite issue for a comedy. However less than 3.5 out of 10 would be churlish I think. The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Short Film: Endless

I do like to bring you a short film on occasion, and this was one I found rather outstanding. It comes in around the seven-and-a-half-minute mark, was directed by Matt Bloom and released in 2011. It starts with an intertitle, a quote by Dr David Eagleman which says “When your death is near, time will seem to slow to a crawl.

Time certainly is crawling as we see Lucy (Jenna Harrison) in the shower, the water like molasses as the camera slows the action through the film. You’ll also notice that all the names have a Dracula connection. The shower curtain is pulled back by Abraham (Chris Geere) who brandishes a knife and stabs, the knife reaching Lucy’s eye but bouncing away.

biting Abraham
Lucy grabs Abraham and bites his neck, taking the opportunity to get out of the shower, grab a slip and pull it on. The action is stretched out, and the beauty of the film is in this drawn-out action. I don’t want to spoil the action blow by blow but do need to mention a daughter, Mina (Katy Gannon), entering the bathroom and being pulled into the action and then a third woman.

the three aspects
At one-point Lucy screams, a black smoke escaping her mouth and, in a nice twist on the standard mirror lore, we see a figure burst out of the mirror. She is Westenra (Martina McClements) and between the three females we have the triple Goddess – maiden, mother and crone (though it is perhaps unfair to call Westenra a crone). The three classical aspects of womanhood standing against the male aggressor. What will happen? Check the embedded film below.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet – review

Authors: Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan

Artists: Reilly Brown, Khary Randolph & Scott Koblish

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: A tale of Boy meets Ghoul – as only the demented writers of Deadpool can tell it!

It’s the twilight of Wade Wilson’s life as a bachelor. But in this vampire love story, the only thing that sparkles is the dialogue.

Dracula has chosen a bride. She’s a succubus queen of the undead, and their union will end eons of conflict and bring the monster world under his rule. Only one problem: He’s hired Deadpool to find her. The stakes are high, middling and painfully low as wascally Wade goes all Indiana Jones in a bid to dig up Drac’s long-buried intended. But as teleporting assassins, Greek legends and the vampire hunter Blade get in his way, it’s clear not everyone’s on board with the unholy matrimony. And when Deadpool finally meets the bride-to-be, even he gets cold feet. If Wade run this gauntlet, Dracula will throw down the gauntlet. And that means sending Werewolf by Night and the most literal frightful four of all time to retrieve his quarry. As an all-out Monster Mash looms, how far is Wade willing to go to stop this wedding?

The review: When I looked at Mrs Deadpool and the Howling Commandos I was disappointed, if anything, by it short length. This volume has the advantage of being a decent length and is, as far as I can tell, core canon. Shiklah is an energy vampire/succubus with a demonic form and the unfortunate habit of draining to death anyone she kisses. Dracula, we assume, will be immune and Deadpool himself is.

Dracula is drawn in the modern Marvel style (though, honestly, I think I prefer his 1970s design) and Blade makes an extended cameo through the story. The joy, however, is the Merc with the mouth and he is absolutely front and centre – rather than a side-lined ghostly narrator as he was in the previously reviewed volume. The artwork is pure comic book, the action non-stop and this comes highly recommended. 8.5 out of 10.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK