Friday, February 23, 2018

Guest Blog: ‘Vamp or Not?’: Justice League vs Suicide Squad

Today I’d like to welcome Clark back to TMtV. He has written some guest reviews in the past and today has a ‘Vamp or Not?’ look at Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, which has multiple writers and artists listed and was released as a trade paperback in 2017. It is part of the DC Universe Rebirth era.

I'll hazard a guess that readers are aware of who both the Justice League and Suicide Squad are, after all, they have been quite highly publicised in film form recently.

This graphic novel focuses on the JL deciding that Suicide Squad are dangerous, and must not be allowed to operate. They intercept the squad as they undertake a mission (under strict Black Ops guidelines), and, of course, a fight between the 2 takes place. Cut a long story short, the JL are captured by Amanda Waller, head of the Task Force X (Suicide Squad) programme, and taken to Belle Reve prison along with the squad.

This enables a third party, Maxwell Lord, to assemble a motley crew of supervillains in order to steal an object called the Black Diamond. The theft leads to a team up of both the Suicide Squad and Justice League, and the writers had me laughing out loud in places with the interaction between Harley Quinn and her "new bff" Wonder Woman.

Said diamond corrupts all who attempt to control it, and with Lord being a telepath this enables it to corrupt huge swathes of the world (including some members of both the squad and the JL) into creatures filled with rage, who shun sunlight (although any bright light seems to work), drink blood and eat flesh.

Needless to say that Batman, along with others uncorrupted - mainly Killer Frost, manages to fix the problem and restore everyone back to their human/metahuman selves. Not really vampires, and only there towards the end of the graphic novel, but still an interesting premise and a fantastic read.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Short Film: Kiss of the Moon

Directed by Simon Lewis and released in 2009 this was a short film, low on dialogue with (perhaps) a nod towards Jean Rollin and also Bram Stoker. The latter is very much within the character names, as you will see, rather than what occurs.

It begins with a woman, Vivia (Aliese Kellner-Joyce), stood atop a building (probably a car park) looking down at the street whilst she stands beneath a full moon. She watches a man, Harker (Neil Jennings), who is stood on his own smoking a cigarette. Suddenly hands cover his eyes. It is his girlfriend Mina (Anna Charlett) she seems happy, playful but there is a moment of doubt – she has a secret. I should say at this point that although there is some dialogue, it is sparse and deliberately pushed down so that it feels incidental almost within the soundtrack.

Renfield with Vivia
Vivia is grabbed by a man, Renfield (Anthony O'Callaghan), he seems to be pushing something (a pill?) into her mouth and she screams into the night. Harker leaves Mina (to her concern) to chase after the scream, pulls Renfield away (who runs off) and holds Vivia to calm her. She starts to kiss him, suckle at his hand (he cut himself as he ran to the scene) and then seems to vanish away. Harker returns to Mina

Harker and Mina
They go to a club. Mina looks to score drugs (I assume E) and spots Renfield dealing. Harker doesn’t recognise him and is unaware of Vivia watching him. He scores from Renfield, shares with Mina but he becomes physically jealous when she dances with another guy and she runs out. He follows her, tries to talk to her but she’s having none of it. They split apart but he is soon searching for her again, however they are being stalked.

At this point the best way I can describe the film, as it goes on, is hallucinatory. Mina sees Harker, holds him but he becomes Vivia. He sees Mina with Renfield in the same spot. How much is the drugs and how much the vampire (only Vivia would seem to be a vampire) is almost irrelevant as the drugs play a role in the hunt. Indeed, we see her feed from a girl that is insensible and whom Renfield had given drugs to.

the other world
I mentioned a perceived nod to Jean Rollin and there seems to be another world, a world apart and filtered, that is the vampire’s realm. This realm is by the shore (actually Dunraven Bay, South Wales, whilst the main of the film is shot in Bristol) and this otherworld signified by the seashore was very Rollin – though whether this was coincidental or a deliberate nod I don’t know. The film comes across very much as a psychodrama and there is an underlying character story that the film moves towards.

This was a tad style over substance but it cleverly (and successfully) left much to the audience to translate rather than spoon feeding. The imdb page is here and they have the film available to stream.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Short Film: Unbitten

This is a 19-minute film that was directed by Dan Magro and released in 2013 and the blurb states: “Three vegan vampires, one water nymph, two sorcerers, and one lease.” The two sorcerers, I assume being Allistair (Timothy Carmello) and Agatha (Margaret Marshall), answered the question as to why these two didn’t seem sun-impacted, when appearing to be just vampires. We need to note that this took the idea of the vegetarian vampire and stepped it up to vegan.

It begins with a narration by aspiring writer Cole (Dan Magro), this narration becomes the tale of an old lady looking for her cat, Mr Furryocious, who has ended up in the hands of Allistair. He and Agatha demand she tells them who owns the big house on the hill. She says no-one, it is abandoned and, in response, Allistair eats the cat and Agatha breaks the poor woman’s neck.

with the cat
Living in the house are three vampires Lucie: (Angie Schlauch), Callista (Alli Kelly) and Aubrianna (Christina Lanni). Lucie has created a plant based blood substitute and the girls are shipping this to vampires across the globe. There is movement outside the house and, avoiding the sunlight, Lucie grabs a sign that has been put on the door declaring the house condemned. This has been put on by Agatha (hence my comment about sunlight, as we see her and Allistair outside). The two sorcerer/vampires enter the house mocking the girls. Lucie confirms they have to stay there, a prime ingredient of the blood substitute has been cultivated there and might take years to successfully cultivate elsewhere. Callista has the idea of taking the issue to a supernatural tribunal.

water nymph
The tribunal do not rule in the girls’ favour but they do give them time to find the true owner of the house. This happens to be Cole, who lives just out of County. They go to him and, donning lingerie, Callista enters his room and offers him his wildest fantasies. He isn’t interested… he’s gay. It is then down to all three to convince him to help and, of course, they can provide him plenty of source material to help him with his aspiration to be a writer.

oompa Loompas?
The short was very well shot, though the makeup effects were quite stagey they played up to these and so when the girls try an experimental formula to protect them from sunlight the subsequent transformation into Oompa Loompas is a nice moment of comedy. There is a lot of background either put or insinuated neatly into the story and it is an amusing watch that could be expanded upon.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Vamp or Not? Tokyo Ghoul (Seasons 1 & 2)

This is an anime series (based on a manga) and run in two 12-episode series (with two OVAs) that were directed by Shuhei Morita. It was recommended to me as both a series and as something that “I think this is very much a ‘Vamp or Not?’” by Ian.

I went looking for it and found a Malaysian DVD set contain the two extant (at time of review) seasons, both OVAs and was in English dub or Japanese with English subtitles (bar the OVAs, which were Japanese with subtitles only).

This is set in a world inhabited both by humans and ghouls. Now lets just cover off the original folklore that has lent the creature name. The ghoul is a creature from Arabic myth mentioned several times in the Arabian Nights, as translated into French by Antoine Galland in the 18th Century. The story of most interest is The History of Sidi Nu’uman, which tells of a man suspicious because his new bride never seems to eat. Long story short he follows her to a cemetery and witnesses her indulging in eating the dead with the other ghouls.

Kaneki is a ghoul, but is he Vamp?
Cut forward to 1821 and E.T.A. Hoffmann published a story entitled Vampirismus as part of his Die Serapions-Brüder. There is every chance that the story title was added by an editor as the story is essentially a reworking, into a modern Western setting, of The History of Sidi Nu’uman. Jump forward a century and Dudley Wright adds the same story into his reference book Vampires and Vampirism and Summers conflates ghouls and vampires in “The vampire, His Kith and Kin” (1928).

ghoul attack
So, that’s the word but typically the ghouls in this Japanese series are somewhat different. Ghouls are either a branch-off from humans (perhaps a mutation, which is mentioned at one point) or a separate species. They can, however, interbreed with humans and I’ll cover that momentarily. They hide in plain sight and, though the series doesn’t say so, the human societal dominance must be down to numbers. They are faster, stronger and pretty darn resistant to mundane piercing weapons. When hungry, angered or feeding their eyes become red in colour.

Whilst they are separate from humans there can be hybrids born from interbreeding, as mentioned, these tend to be more powerful than regular ghouls and only one eye turns red. A hybrid can also be created by transplanting ghoul organs into a human’s body. This happens to primary series protagonist Kaneki Ken (Natsuki Hanae), who goes on a date with a pretty girl, Rize (Kana Hanazawa), only to discover that she is a ghoul (and a binge eater at that). The attack he suffers ends abruptly as materials fall from the building site they are on. He is badly wounded, she killed and the surgeons (not knowing she is a ghoul) transplant some of her organs to save him.

From that point on he is a hybrid ghoul and can no longer eat human food (food tastes foul to ghouls and the only human thing they can consume is coffee) but must eat human flesh to survive. He has also “inherited” Riza’s kagune – her predatory organ. This seems, to me, to be supernatural as much as physical and (according to online sources) is composed of special cells that flow like blood until the ghoul manifests the kagune as a weapon, emerging from the body. Each ghoul’s kagune is different. The kagune can be taken from a dead ghoul and fashioned into a weapon called a quinque – used by anti-ghoul investigators as an effective weapon for ghoul hunting.

What also is evident is that certain powerful ghoul’s can rapidly heal injuries and regenerate lost body parts as well. Food is necessary for both their power, their manifestation of the kagune and regeneration/healing. A difference between these ghouls and the traditional Arabic version is that they need to eat human flesh but this does not necessarily mean the consumption of corpses. There is a “gourmet” ghoul who speaks of eating a still living victim so that the suffering can convey subtle flavours to the meal and another ghoul mentions eating flesh before it spoils.

in the coffee shop
So, very much flesh eaters rather than blood drinkers but we do have the conflation of ghouls and vampires in the genre already. The regenerative aspect would seem to be more vampiric than ghoulish but these are a separate species (or mutation) and very much alive, rather than undead. The kagune is out with both traditional ghouls and vampires and is very much an anime embellishment that allows for spectacular action sequences (though it is story important also).

All in all, I’m not sure. If you accept the ghoul/vampire conflation then yes, this is a vampire series. If not, then the conflation itself is enough to make this of genre interest and the regeneration (and the fact that food is necessary for both power and regeneration) brings vampires to mind also. I’m leaning towards accepting this and it is definitely genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Short Films: Momodoch

Momodoch are a series of short films directed by Caroline Ebner and based on the children’s stories by Brian and Uschi Bagnall. They are narrated by Duncan Galloway and feature the illustrations created by the Bagnalls.

The style is just shy of a motion comic – narrated rather than voice acted and featuring little actual animation. Rather they showcase the wonderfully colourful and rich pieces that, I assume, accompanied the original books.

a new home
They are perhaps light of story but stronger in situational narrative. In the first part, entitled Monsters, Ghosts and other Ogres we discover that the reason we rarely see vampires (and other monsters) was because we ignored them as we became concerned with other (more mundane, one assumes) fears. One vampire, Momodoch – a 375 year old from the East of England – decided to emigrate with his friends.

the blood orange garden
They create a village for themselves named Obstroloch. A chaotic place with little social structure but a pub called the Black Soul. The first film simply establishes this place and comes in at 9 minutes. The second film, Momodoch and his Friends ..or the Soccer Game, begins with a sojourn in Momodoch’s blood orange garden but soon establishes that his birthday is approaching. His friends arrange a party but also need to get him a present. As the vampire collects points, they decide to have a football match with all goals dedicated to him. The second film is the longest at 13 minutes.

vampire frog
The final film, Momodoch's Birthday, is the shortest at 5 minutes and centres itself on the party arranged in part 2. How much of the books are covered I don’t know but these are pleasant to look at, the narration is solid but the films are ultimately based on a kids’ story and nothing more than a curiosity.

At the time of writing I couldn’t find an IMDb page.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Short Film: Blood Bride

This is a short film that comes in at just under 14 minutes and was directed by Michelle Romano. The premise around the film is very simple but it does have a twist at the end of the film.

Corey Tourigny as Mr Grant
Mr Grant (Corey Tourigny) is in the hospital where his wife (Michelle Romano) is not at all well. He is taken through to the Doctor’s office and Dr Baron (Robert Catrini, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) confirms that it is lucky that both he and his wife are type O Negative. As you probably know the blood is a universal blood type (ie all over blood types can be transfused with it) but those with type O neg can only receive type O neg.

something about Nurse Betty
Faced with the situation, Grant is more than willing to donate blood to transfuse his wife and Nurse Betty (Jennifer Jostyn, Vampires on Bikini Beach) is summoned with the release papers. There is something odd about Nurse Betty – both the sub-porn uniform and her attitude. However Grant is soon going off with her.

nurse Nicki has a taste
She leads him to a room and puts him in a chair whilst a bevy of nurses surround him. Yet they don’t seem to be that professional and one, Nurse Nicki (Heather Grace Hancock), ends up in his lap and biting his lip to see if he is ready. Soon they are draining him through multiple needles and running the blood into a cup, whilst fangs are on show. But what about Dr Baron and Grant’s sickly wife? The answers, of course, are in the short.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Honourable Mention: Doses of Horror

Allegedly directed by Hector Kabel and released in 2018 (according to Amazon) this is little more than a clip show with the flimsiest portmanteau wraparound. The wraparound suggests that patients in an asylum were subjected to experimentation by forcing them to watch horror films. The experiment went wrong as they went mad (one would think madness was a prerequisite to be incarcerated in an asylum, but never mind) and there was a bloodbath.

The films have now come to light and this is what we are watching. However these are all clips from old horror films, edited down and (in most cases) looking to concentrate a little bit more on flesh then horror. Some of the edits are quite well done – if you take the first section entitled a Dose of Bee Stings but actually extracts from the film Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), there is at least some level of story viewable through the cuts, though mostly it concentrates on sections with naked flesh it does also add in a tad of exposition. Other sections are much less coherent.

from Vampires Night Orgy
So we get a couple of sections that are lifted directly from vampire films and the section Doses of Peeping Toms and Vampires is actually an edit of scenes from León Klimovsky’s 1972/3 film the Vampires Night Orgy. The section is virtually incoherent – though it does certainly contain a peeping tom and vampires – however, the original film was, in and of itself, fairly incoherent anyway. I will say the print used seemed better quality than the one on my DVD of the film.

John Carradine in Vampire Hookers
There is a sojourn to The Devil’s Nightmare (listed in the filmography shown at the end as 1974, which was the US release date, but it was actually 1971) and this is worth noting because it includes a succubus (though she does little to warrant that name) and was released in the US as Vampire Playgirls despite absolutely no vampire aspect. We also get some clips, and they are more horror based, from Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979). The other vampire related aspect, however, is from Cirio H Santiago’s Vampire Hookers and features a brief look at John Carradine and then slinks off to a bedroom scene from the film.

And that’s it – probably not the best way to spend 100 minutes of your life and, at time of article, I can find no IMDb page.