Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Short Film: Dracula: The Legend Lives

This is a 7-minute short film, released in 2017 and directed by David Heavener and whilst the title and the IMDb credit gives us the vampire’s name as Dracula, in film the name Drac von Stoller (David Heavener) is used.

It starts with a young girl, Alicia (Emily Knapp), crossing a cemetery and then the memory of her playing Truth or Dare with Mary Beth (Ardena Francis) and Sara Beth (HarmonieRose Heavener). She chooses Dare and picks a dare from a jar full of written dares. The dare is what has sent her to the cemetery.

outside the coffin room
The terms of the dare are read as we follow her. She is to go to find the vampire Drac von Stoller. His lair is in a house located in the cemetery. She must go there before the sun sets at 19:30 (why, oh why, oh why, do they go with 5 minutes left on the clock? Because, of course, there would be precious little horror film left if our protagonists acted sensibly). She must climb the stairs and head for the room at the top of the house where he sleeps, carrying a hammer and stake.

Drac von Stoller
Now, given the brief discussion about names that I offered right at the head of this, we know that the vampire is going to be in residence. The story itself is adapted from a volume of stories called 31 Horrifying Tales of the Dead, one of several books written under the Drac von Stoller Nom de Plume. The main thing to note about the film is the crisp, professional photography that it utilises and the fact that Heavener really looks the part as the vampire.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Space Boobs in Space – review

Director: Andrew N. Shearer

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Given the title, one might be forgiven for wondering whether this offering falls into the (softcore) porn end of the vampire genre. This is a side of the genre I have deliberately left off TMtV although some of the more exploitative titles have rocked up to the borderline between titillation and pornography.

This film, however, does not. It might stray into something akin to burlesque at times (probably because a lot of the stars/writers are burlesque artists and form the Gonzoriffic Artists Collective) and more accurately it is a portmanteau film where the film’s title refers to the first short, claimed in the wraparound as a historical film of first contact. The wraparound is an alien TV broadcast and all the shorts are films by the human director (Andrew N. Shearer).

our protagonists
The segment that interests us is entitled Lapdance at the Gates of Hell. It starts with our two unnamed protagonists who are staring at a house. Apparently, someone inside is starring back – but that doesn’t make them vampires, it is argued. They “sneak” over to their car – which was taken from outside a club – but the keys (and a mobile phone) are not in there. They determine to go to the house.

The plan of action (ultimately flawed as they have no holy water) is to drink holy water and pee on the vampires! They gain entrance when the door is opened by a Renfield like character (Diego Wolf) and are sent to the basement to see the Mistress. There are four vampires down there but they’ll return the phone and keys (they stole the car to escape the rising sun) in return for one of their number getting a lapdance from one of the mortals (Coquette de Jour).

bitten by the vampire ass
Things get out of hand when she bites the lapdancer on the butt. The mortals flee but, in the car, the lapdancer is clearly ill. Suddenly we see her butt cheek has developed fangs, which have sprouted through the flesh, and it strikes into the neck of her friend. And that is all… but we have a vampire ass (and not a donkey) and that has to be a first in the genre (though we have seen vampire boobs before now).

So, was it good? No, of course not but it wasn’t intended to be and the cast are clearly (in the vampire short and the rest of the film) having a blast. It doesn’t make for great viewing necessarily but if you are after Z grade entertainment you might want to give this one a whirl. I am struggling to score it. The very title Space Boobs in Space should get a point just for being what it is. The vampire piece is unique, genuinely funny in places but ultimately Z grade stuff (as I mentioned). I’m wimping out, and not giving this a score – it is poor (in the genre scheme of things) but designed to be so – and in that the Gonzoriffic Artists Collective achieve what they set out to do.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Back to the USSR – review

Director: Jari Halonen

Release date: 1992

Contains spoilers

Glasnost means different things to different folks. However, given the border proximity between Finland and the USSR it certainly would have had specific impacts in that country. This Finnish film from 1992 is based on this period in history and so I was a little disappointed as I wanted to enjoy it more than I actually did.

The reason? Well I’ll get to that shortly.

Jorma Tommila as Reima
However, first we see an image of a man stood in a coffin paddling towards shore. Later we discover he is Vladimir (Taisto Reimaluoto). Meanwhile, in a small café bar Reima (Jorma Tommila) is trying to convince his estranged wife Molla (Ulla Koivuranta) to come back to him. She lists his failures and yells at him to go hang himself as she leaves. There is a fight in the café bar and Reima is kicked out. We see him walk through the town, causing a scene outside her apartment, until his daughter Liisa (Sanna-Maria Salmi) sends him packing as she has an important exam the next day.

Reima is a communist and hates the way the world is going. It is clear that he used to inform to the USSR and seems generally disliked. He is also loud-mouthed and uncouth and this was one of the issues I had with the film. As our primary protagonist he should have been, at least, pitiable, if not likeable. He was neither. After he gets home he activates his ham radio, looking for a way out and decides to follow Molla’s advice and nail his tie to a beam to hang himself, which he successfully does.

Vladimir and Reima
If the act of being hung was successful, the outcome was not and he swings off the floor but very much alive. At this point the man from the coffin enters his house. He is looking for lodgings and helps Reima down. His luggage is the coffin itself, which is taken to an upstairs room. The film then follows the pair’s misadventures. Beginning with a tour of the town in which Reima abuses a young woman from the Salvation Army, in a scene that borders close to rape – once again I repeat they failed to build any form of sympathy for the Reima character.

meeting the Count
After a botched attempt to rob a post office of Welfare payments, Reima accidentally shoots Vladimir who is unaffected by the accident. This leads him to relate his tale. Joseph had sent him to Transylvania on a mission of urgency (Yes Vladimir, it is insinuated, is Lenin and Joseph would have been Stalin). We see imagery of a nightmare castle, vampires feeding and the Count welcoming Vladimir in. He describes, though we don’t see, the Count falling to his death but biting Vladimir during the event.

invisible on TV
Reima decides that Vladimir will be the immortal symbol of his new party and goes on TV to launch the new revolution. Unfortunately the world thinks him mad as he keeps referring to his companion but he is stood alone – though Vladimir’s cap is in shot, floating in the air. Things go downhill from there. So, why was I disappointed?

a vampire feeds
Partly because the primary character was so unlikable, as I have mentioned, but mainly because the humour didn’t work for me. Admittedly there will have been cultural nuance I missed but the reliance on body humour and misogyny for the laughs also irked. I really hoped for something stronger. I hoped the humour would have been inciteful political commentary rather than (as an example) a spray of diarrhoea as someone was pulled from a toilet. That said, the idea of Lenin living on as a vampire was neat. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kickstarter: Vampfest

The folks of Vampfest sent me a press release for the 2018 Vampfest and asked me to share it. The festival has been running a couple of years and takes place in Sighisoara, a beautiful town. I thought the easiest thing to do would be to post the press release in full. As well as selling tickets there is a kickstarter this year to raise funds to make the festival even bigegr. Note that neither I, nor TMtV, are associated with the festival and, as with all kickstarters, the post is presented for information only.

A vampire festival in Transylvania is offering a once-in-a-deathtime opportunity to sleep in a coffin in Dracula’s hometown.

Vampfest takes place in the ancient walled citadel of Sighisoara in Transylvania, which is the hometown (Ed. Birthplaceof the real Vlad Dracula who inspired (Ed. lent his name to) the character of the bloodthirsty vampire count.

Now festival-goers can buy a chance to sleep like the dead and spend the night in a luxury coffin, just like Dracula did in Bram Stoker’s novel (Ed. Dracula slept in crates of earth in the novel), in an otherwise deserted medieval catacomb under the hilltop town.

Festival organiser Craig Hooper said: “It might sound like a bit of a gimmick but sleeping in a coffin down beneath the citadel will actually be quite a scary experience.

“This town is so old you can feel the history seeping from the stones around you, not least the history around it’s most famous and most bloodthirsty son, Vlad Dracula, and the vampire myth that has existed in this part of the world for centuries.

“The coffins will be comfortable but I think you’ve got to be brave – or at least make sure your imagination doesn’t run away with you in those dark hours – otherwise you won’t sleep at all.”

If you think you’ve got what it takes, you can support the festival on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter where you can buy the night in the coffin – alone or with a partner – as a reward for backing the festival.

If you’re too spooked to spend the night in a coffin, the festival is offering other exclusive rewards, including an exclusive after-dark ‘Banquet of Blood’ in Dracula’s castle at Bran (Ed. the castle is marvelous but the association with Dracula is a tourist association and the castle is not connected with the historic or fictional character), in the heart of the Transylvanian mountains.

Craig and colleague Peter Phillips, both from south Wales, have been running the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival – also known as Vampfest – in Transylvania in Romania since 2016.

This year, the pair want to make the festival even bigger, better and bloodier than before. They’re looking to raise £10,000 to make the already well-established festival into the most talked-about horror event of the year.

The four-day-festival runs from June 7th – 10th and includes screenings of original and classic vampire films, trips to Dracula’s fortresses, live bands and lots of vampire themed parties. It also hosts the Vampire Academic Conference, run by US university Seton Hill, where the keynote speaker will be bestselling Buffy The Vampire Slayer author Christopher Golden.

Other special guests include Bram Stoker’s direct descendent Dacre Stoker and Buffy actress Juliet Landau, with more to be announced.

For more information about the festival and how to make a pledge, visit www.vampfest.net or go to Vampfest on Kickstarter.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Monsters Among Men – review

Director: Ryan Blazic

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Coming out of nowhere, straight onto Amazon Prime, I must admit that I wasn’t expecting too much from Blazic’s vampire film. However, I found myself drawn in with some personable performances, some solid cinematography for an indie film and, more importantly, an interesting story to boot.

And, to be fair, that is what can really make or break a film, especially a budget one – story. In this case our initial story comes in sparse scenes over the opening credits – along with a banging soundtrack piece. We see blood being drawn into a mug, it being spit out. More blood being put in a bag and hooked up as a blood bag that is squeezed. There is a dying girl and she is placed next to a prostrate man who asks why it always happens to him.

Reed and Allison
The man is Reed (Jonathan David) and we go back to a nice day in the park. He had arranged to meet girlfriend Allison (Mykaela Hopps) but has sent her to get coffee (even though he dislikes it) whilst he looks for something – he’s dropped the ring he has bought her due to a hole in his suit’s inner pocket. He finds the ring but feels like something is watching him. He asks her to fix the suit – he has an important meeting Friday, a day he promised to take off work for her. He eventually apologises and is about to ask her when…

Jonathan David as Reed
The memory breaks. He comes around in the woods, tied up with two bodies (a man and a woman) either side of him as Clive (Luke Bonczyk) digs a grave. Luckily for Reed, Clive is wearing headphones, even more luckily someone has put a razor blade under a patch of tape on his palm. He cuts himself free, trips over the man (Matthew Wesener), who is still alive and begs for help. Reed pulls away and is hidden by the time Clive hears the man and kills him. He then realises that Reed is gone and chases into the woods to find him.

Allison in chains
Reed stops and checks his pocket. There is an empty syringe and the ring box, he takes some water from a stream but Clive is barrelling through the woods. He eventually reaches a cabin and starts knocking on the door, asking for help, with no response. He is about to smash the glass on the door when it is opened by gun-toting Morgan (Dean Vanderkolk). He lets Reed in, listens to his story about being kidnapped (and his suspicion that Allison is still out there) and gets him some water. Meanwhile we see Allison awaken chained to a wall.

Morgan's vamp face
Morgan keeps the curtains shut and tells Reed that he contracted a disease when serving in Vietnam that has made his eyes very sensitive to light. He offers to call the police. He leaves the room and Reed looks for some aspirin – he finds jars of blood in the fridge and then picks up a call on Morgan’s mobile; it is Clive telling Morgan to keep him there. After a stand-off, Reed shoots Morgan between the eyes (with the man's own gun) but Morgan is soon back on his feet and it is only ripping the curtain open that allows Reed to escape – the light searing Morgan’s eyes.

Jim O'Rear as dane
So, what is essentially happening is that humans are being kidnapped, as main vampire Dane (Jim O'Rear, Vampyre Tales, The Dead Matter) is searching for a rare blood type that doesn’t need to go through the filter of the stomach and can be transfused directly, increasing the vampire’s strength. Allison happens to have that blood type… which turns out to be rhesus negative, which isn’t as rare as intimated, but we’ll give it a pass.

fangs on show
What is interesting is that (and here we do have to spoil a bit) Reed’s blood is poisonous to vampires. Reed happens to be an insulin dependent diabetic and Allison had his insulin. He is rapidly moving to euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis. Now, on the occasions they are mentioned in the genre, diabetics are often singled out as a sweet treat for the vampire. In this case I would posit that it is the ketones in the blood that are the poison but nevertheless I loved the idea.

feral vamp
Other than the sunlight/eyes issue and rapid healing the lore we get suggests that only destroying the heart will kill a vampire. That the vampirism is caused by a parasite and is only passed on through blood transfer. Some of the vampires seem to turn feral (the two we see were turned by exposing them to the parasite after death but it is intimated that this can happen when the parasite is transferred to a living host). Light generally will scare off a feral vampire.

Angela Degarmo as Sadie
I liked the story concepts and felt this did a lot right, despite being a budget piece. The acting was alright but both Jonathan David as Reed and Angela Degarmo as Sadie, another kidnap victim Reed works with, both came across as very personable, which helped carry the film forward. The gore levels were minimal and the effects for vamp face felt a little theatrical. However, I rather enjoyed this offering. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Short Film: Plasma (2017)

Weighing in at just 5 minutes I caught this 2017, Vittoria Citerni di Siena directed film on Amazon Prime but have not been able to find out very much about it. Silent, it is indeed an oddity with a little twist in the tail.

It begins with a guy (Federico Caldarelli) waking to the alarm on his mobile. The phone has a woman on the screensaver but she isn’t in the bed by him. He gets up and we see a cup with what obviously has a residue of blood in it. He looks in the fridge but cannot find what he is looking for.

horse mask
Things take a more surreal turn has he takes a horse head mask from a cupboard and then we see him walking through the streets and into a metro system wearing said mask and novelty gloves. Things become clearer as we see him, still in mask and gloves, handing out leaflets. However, what will happen as night falls?

It’s an interesting little short, which manages within it short running time to raise a question regarding the anima and animus. The horse head brings the nightmare to mind, made famous in Fuseli’s painting peering from behind the curtain as the incubus sits upon the chest of its victim.

At the time of review I could find no IMDb page.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Power Rangers Turbo: Carlos and the Count – review

Director: Lawrence L. Simeone

First aired: 1997

Contains spoilers

So this is a further example of a vampire in long running tokusatsu series Power Rangers. This example is in the Turbo incarnation and was almost a decade before the Mystic Force example.

Of course, Power Rangers is aimed at the kids’ demographic but this one felt (as an episode, I didn’t watch through the whole series as the vampire element was only in this episode) aimed at a much more juvenile audience than Mystic Force, which I felt edged more into the early teen demographic.

dressed as vampires
This can be seen in comedy characters Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Narvy). Bulk is one of the longest running Power Rangers characters (appearing in 10 seasons at time of review, 7 consecutively) and this starts with the pair dressed as vampires as they welcome people to their scary movie night. The film, of course, is a vampire movie and is spied on by series antagonist Divatox (Hilary Shepard). She complains about the human obsession with vampires and flunky Elgar (Kenny Graceson) says *they* should try lunar bats as he tries to swat a particularly crap bat.

vampire hunters
Divatox like the idea and captures the lunar bat with her tongue, mutating it into the monster Count Nocturne (Tom Fahn). The monster goes to Earth and arranges for the attack and capture of Carlos (Roger Velasco), the Green Ranger. He bites Carlos and this is witnessed by Bulk and Skull who become vampire hunters replete with garlic, stakes and a book entitled “How to Track a Bat”. Carlos takes to wearing black and shades, he gains fangs and red glowing cat’s eyes. The only Ranger to become suspicious, at first, is child ranger Justine (Blake Foster).

Carlos turned
Justin’s research leads him to discover that vampires are sensitive to sunlight (hence Carlos’ shades), are warded by garlic and cast no reflection. We also see Carlos turn into a crap bat. In fact, after the rangers capture him (as he tries his luck at a blood drive) he is given an antidote but it is only partial and he regains some measure of reflection in the mirror. However the only way to be entirely free of vampirism is to destroy Count Nocturne.

Count Nocturne
All in all, this was a really fluff episode. Played often for laughs and aimed at a young demographic the vampirism might follow the classic rules but is not particularly imbued with any atmosphere or horror. As such it is likely to leave an adult viewer cold, unless that viewer has a particular soft spot for the Power rangers. I don’t, I’m afraid – 3.5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.