Saturday, July 23, 2016

Commercial Break: Nerdoh

Just a break in our normal transmission to mention the UK based merchandise company Nerdoh, who do a range of merchandise based on movies from Tees to towels.

As well as a range of interesting non-vampire items (I do love some of the Alien related items and the Bladerunner Tee) they do, of course, have some vampire related merch based on From Dusk til Dawn, the Lost Boys and 30 Days of Night. The designs are the sort that they speak to other fans of the film, rather than just carrying the title.

To my Overseas readers, I believe they do deliver internationally but check their FAQ for more details.

We will now return to our regular programming.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Horror Within – review

Director: Tom Sanders

Release date: 2005

Contains spoilers

There is perhaps something postmodern about a group of filmmakers making a rubbish horror film about a bunch of filmmakers making a rubbish horror film but that is about the best thing I can say about this.

The fact that it is a film full of cliché is perhaps not as distracting as the poor photography and insistence on using cgi effects that look, well quite frankly, a bit rubbish. That said, they have done something I couldn’t do, make a film, so perhaps the criticism is a bit harsh?

Nick turns
It starts with a man, Nick (Zack Cooper), heading up the stairs to a house with shotgun in hand. He is met by tenant Collins (Garrett Lambert) and tells said tenant that the sheriff is on his way and it’s all to do with the murders that have occurred since Collins moved in to the area. Things escalate and Nick shoots the man at which point light seems to seep out of his wound (I have no idea why these vampires leak light – but suspect the effect was cheaper and easier than doing physical blood). The vampire bites him. When the Sheriff (Greg McCullough) arrives Nick has turned and attacks him.

making movies
We see a whole bunch of young people start their day. This includes seeing one young woman – Jessica (Michelle Crain) talking a shower. It is gratuitous but that is the point as this is footage of the film within the film and there is a question around exploitation that is explored but not very deeply. The film is called the Curse of the Weremonkey. Jessica’s boyfriend Ethan (David Roers) is the scriptwriter and he asks director Travis (Jesse Blitz) were the dialogue went – there was meant to be a sister, we assume it wasn’t a shower scene and Travis has changed the script.

Lynne Jacobellis as Emma
Ethan has writer’s block and does it matter what he writes when Travis changes it anyway. Jessica is making out with him to cure the block when the place fills up with people. Dexter (Pavel Royz) arrives with a desire to produce the film (his dad (Michael Spagnoli) is a producer) but is sent away with a flea in his ear. Emma (Lynne Jacobellis, True Blood) arrives and Travis wants to use her in film but she can only film that weekend. This leads to him cutting a deal with Dexter for equipment and use of the summer home Dexter’s family own – the very same one from the start of the film.

Dexter and Travis
Also in the mix are Vulc (Amber Phillips), a girl who models herself on TV shows (last week was Buffy, this week Star Trek and so she is wearing Vulcan ears), Frank (Christopher Boicelli), who is now the leading man, was sent by Dexter’s dad to watch his property and is a douche to boot, and Kenny (Owen Robinson), Travis’ brother and a gentleman with learning difficulties who is playing the monster. Frank is the first to be got and then turned (why Nick turns him is beyond me).

Invisible on playback
So, the idea is to stay alive and maybe kill the vampires. The lore is inconsistent. For instance when they look at a scene where Frank (who they don’t know is a vampire at the time) gets it on with Emma and ends up biting her playback of the scene has him not showing up (except for an occasional Predator like invisible effect). That would be all well and good but he did show on the computer monitor as they filmed it. The vampires seem to be able to turn to little balls of light (which would actually fit in with some traditional lore) but also seem to be able to carry off a victim when in that form.

mind control
Another inconsistency is Nick being staked and going grey until the stake is removed, and yet another vampire is staked and then dies fairly rapidly in a ball of light. The vampires have a very powerful mind control power and can think it and make their victim feel it. Beheading will kill a vampire in a bad cgi way (and left a body behind, whereas the staked vampire who died seemed to leave no remains) and crosses burn and do awful things to a vampire if they swallow the cross.

I mentioned the exploitation aspect and this comes out in Dexter convincing Travis to make Emma’s scene a nude scene and her being unhappy with the change – Travis then insists on it until he is reminded of friendship. It’s a little ham fisted and not explored enough. Dexter, like a moustache twirling villain, manages to betray all the others for some footage of a vampire – though the deal he makes is bizarre. Essentially he offers to hand Jessica over to Nick, getting him around their defences but they have no real defences and he really doesn’t do anything to help the vampire anyway.

The problem is that this is a pretty standard by the numbers horror (stereotyped kids, house, evil) and doesn’t do anything really that original. The photography is atrocious, the atmosphere thin, the cgi intrusive and, at times, confusing. The acting is ok for what it is but was never going to win any awards. When a film is so budget constrained one would hope for a bright light within the production to help offer a cult status for the film. This doesn’t have one. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Short film: the Adventures of Figaro Pho: Fear of Becoming a Vampire (Transmutasanguivoriphobia)

A wacky Australian animation, the Adventures of Figaro Pho was a 2012 series of animated shorts directed by Luke Jurevicius. Figaro Pho has every phobia known to man and each 7 minute short concentrates on one of those.

In this particular sequence it is Transmutasanguivoriphobia or fear of becoming a vampire. The shorts themselves are silent and feature Figaro and his robot dog Rivet. There is a Tim Burton-esque quality to the shorts.

the vampire film
In this Figaro and Rivet are watching a vampire film when the film stops playing. A bat flies into his home (a mansion) and bites his neck. Figaro believes he has been transformed into a vampire and has fangs, talon like nails and no reflection. He becomes hungry but is scared by the meal made by Rivet – it has garlic in it.

Figaro as a vampire
This leads to Figaro looking for a suitable neck that can provide his vampiric sustenance and this, in its turn, leads to some animated physical comedy in its own right. Eventually Figaro takes to a cupboard for the day but Rivet sees the end of the film, where the vampire is caught in sunlight – and this cures him. He sets to lure Figaro into the sun.

Fun, snappy and just a little bit Burton-Goth. The episode's imdb page is here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Manhattan Undying – review

Director: Babak Payami

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

This US/Canadian film seemed to come out of nowhere. Not a horror film it isn’t exactly a romance either and firmly concentrates on one part of the vampire mythos – reflections.

It always seems that a focus on themes in different vehicles come at around the same time and I was reminded, as I watched this, of Therapy for a Vampire as that had a similar theme of reflection within it. However, this is a very different film.

the corridor
We see a painting of a corridor or tunnel, the distant opening capturing a sunrise that is juxtaposed against the urban decay the tunnel represents. A voice over the scene states, “You don’t have to die.” Shots of Manhattan are interspersed with scenes from a night club (with plenty of cyber goths and wannabe vampires). After the credits we see Max (Luke Grimes, True Blood) sleeping through a hammering at his door. The visitor, Drew (Milton Barnes, the Strain & Hemlock Grove), lets himself in. He is his agent and artist Max is late for an appointment at a gallery.

Luke Grimes as Max
Max has had some fame in the past but hasn’t done a showing for five years and is busy leading a drug, drink and sex filled bohemian lifestyle. However, the scene seems to be depressing him and, with a host of hangers on at his flat, he has a moment and subsequently throws everyone out. He collapses, is taken to hospital and then we see him with his Doctor (Earl Pastko, also Hemlock Grove, Forever Knight, Blood & Donuts & Goosebumps: Vampire Breath) and Max is told that he has late stage lung cancer and has weeks, maybe months to live. He is told that treatment might help but refuses.

no reflection
In the club a woman looks at one of Max’s paintings, fascinated by it. She is not named in film but in the credits she is called Vivian (Sarah Roemer). A customer notices her and (having taken plastic fangs out) asks her if she is bored with the “vampire sh*t”. We cut to them in bed, she flips over straddling above him and attacks, biting into his neck. After she has fed she looks in a mirror, the film is deliberate about the scene making sure we know that her lack of reflection is the main drive going forward.

a victim
So, cutting to the chase, she finds Max as she wants him to paint her. For his part she looks his ideal subject model and will be the centrepiece for a show that Drew has arranged for him. Max keeps his illness to himself and the film follows the attraction of the two and the courtly dance played out before he paints her (which includes him working out what she is). Meanwhile the cops believe they have a serial killer on the loose, injuring the neck and draining all the blood. Tracing the first victim to the club they then make a giant leap of faith that Max, who was there that night, knows who the killer is.

This was a weak link in the film, the hunch comes from a “twitch” whilst they spoke to him and it seemed too far for the leap of faith that was necessary. It isn’t exactly a primary plot point either. They could have reached the same plot and character place without the cops on the trail. However, it is the relationship between the characters and the character of Max that are the important parts of the film. Max is played with deft skill and subtlety by Luke Grimes and it is due to him that the film works as well as it does. Sarah Roemer has less to do but the iciness and aloofness she portrays suits the character perfectly and she makes the cracking of that for Max – and the portrait – believable. Yet ultimately we know so very little about her that she actually brought to my mind The Girl with Hungry Eyes.

blood at mouth
There isn’t much lore offered. We know she avoids sunlight and she casts no reflection and cannot be photographed/filmed. She can, however, be drawn/painted – diverging from the lore used in Therapy for a Vampire, and being absolutely plot necessary. Strangely it is stated that she has never seen herself. This either is a logical faux pas if she was turned or means that she was always a vampire (either born that way, or created as a physical embodiment of Max’s muse as he dies). She does offer him eternal life by offering her blood and we know she must drink blood and consumes the whole body’s supply from her victim.

painting in the club
I rather liked this, it kept a solid, steady pace and the photography was nicely shot and, whilst the colours were muted, I felt this suited the tone of the film. It ended consistently with its own internal logic and in a way that added weight to the theory that she was the embodiment of Max’s muse. The story was simple – essentially artist comes to terms with mortality/vampire wants to see her own face – but it didn’t need much more. I might have considered working around the police or adding in something to connect Max with the victims in such a way that the suspicions he engendered withstood scrutiny. That aside a solid 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Honourable Mention: Spookies

It’s difficult to know exactly what to make of this 1986 film. Directed primarily (in the credits) by Genie Joseph, the director was building upon work from an unfinished work called Twisted Souls that was directed by Thomas Doran and Brendan Faulkner.

Twisted Souls was the story of a group of people who end up at a house (one with a cemetery as its front lawn) and find an Ouija board. One of the group, Carol (Lisa Friede), becomes possessed (with noticeable fangs, by the way) and the film morphs into a version of Evil Dead without the style and cult appeal of the more famous film. A variety of villainous monsters, including a lawn of zombies, farting “muck men” and some stop-motion creatures try to get the kids.

Linda and Duke
I say kids, but at least one of their number, Peter (Peter Dain), was treated like he was the “straight laced one” but looked old enough to be the rest of the cast’s dad. I should also mention bullish leader of the group, and the one who landed them at the house, Duke (Nick Gionta). His brash form of Bronx machismo was difficult to take with any degree of seriousness given that he seemed to have squeezed himself into one of Michael Jackson’s stage costumes. Of course this was only part of the story.

Billy's Birthday
The film was incomplete and shelved until additional footage was shot and stitched to the film. This involved the cadaverous character Kreon (Felix Ward) who has kept the body of his love, Isabelle (Maria Pechukas), preserved in a coffin for seventy years, luring victims to the house in order to preserve and raise her. This is one of the possibly vampiric aspects as Kreon suggests that he has sacrificed the youth of so many to keep her preserved. In main his victims are now the Twisted Souls kids. He does lure Billy (Alec Nemser), a runaway, to the house before they arrive and host a fake birthday party followed by burial alive – so much for Billy.

Kreon's son
The primary vampire element seems to be Isabelle and Kreon’s son (A.J. Lowenthal). Now, just when and how they had a son is not explored. When she is revived she is aware of him and so the suspicion is that it was before she poisoned herself to escape Kreon – she may be his love but the feeling is not reciprocated. The child (who may be over 70) is a blue faced and fanged thing in a cowl. They talk of him killing but, as he wasn’t in the footage of the original film, this does not happen and so the child does very little in film.

drained by the spider
The final aspect to mention is the Spider Woman (Soo Paek), who lures Rich (Peter Iasillo Jr., Street Trash) off from the others in the house and he’s not suspicious that the woman – who claims to be trapped like them – knows his name. When back at her lair she morphs into an actual spider, whilst he is stuck in a web, and then sucks him dry. Given Rich’s involvement this was certainly meant to be a scene in Twisted Souls.

And that’s it – the mention is primarily for Kreon’s son, just because he looks like a child vampire. The film is nuts but not particularly watchable nuts. The imdb page is here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Sanguinarian Id – review

Author: L M Labat

First published: 2016

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: She’s been beaten, stabbed, poisoned, and shot, but Hael refuses to die. In her pursuit for vengeance and her origin, the dhampir Hael hunts down the madman responsible for her fateful transformation. As this half-vampire juggernauts her way through a world at war, Hael battles hordes of Nazi soldiers and struggles to maintain her sanity. However, while Hael gathers knowledge on how to trap and kill her target, her adversary’s network is expanding at an exponential rate; his sick obsession with Hael grows deeper. Will she have her revenge? Will she find her origin? Or, will she crumble beneath her own insidious bloodlust?

The review: Is hosted at Vamped.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Otaku Vampires – review

Director: Christopher Wesley

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

Otaku is a Japanese word meaning a young person who is obsessed with popular culture (the word has become synonymous with anime and manga) to the detriment of their social skills. It is, essentially, a culture specific version of a nerd.

Now, nothing wrong with being a nerd and whilst Otaku Vampires flirts within the nerd culture, and derives its comedy from there, it does so sympathetically. Unfortunately, the film itself is weak.

the vampire approaches
It begins in a graveyard and a groundskeeper finds a bottle and bemoans the recently opened school and the troublesome kids. A cloaked figure approaches, communicating with him telepathically. The vampire, Terra (Christina Lambert), grabs him and feeds from him. We see very little but hear slurping noises. Indeed, the outdoor night shots are not the best filmed in the world. Whilst things are semi-visible the lighting seems non-existent.

Lora and Stanley
Ollie Otaku (Daniel Land) runs a radio show on campus and has an anime club, more than that he has an inflated ego. Nevertheless, new student Lora (Rachel Scott) has picked up a flyer. She meets her boyfriend Stanley (Tom Shelley) who deferred two years to go to school with her, likes to play video games and has no clue about what he wants to do in the school. Theirs is, we discover, a chaste relationship. Lora gets him to go with her to the anime club.

gone emo
Whilst she befriends Ami (Kelby Tienken) – a yaoi fan, yaoi being gay romance/sexual manga – we see Ollie’s sidekicks Dale (Nicholas Maertz) and Davis (Daniel Robers). Stanley befriends girl gamer Willow (Caitlin Drance) and porn addict Pierson (David DeVita). Terra is hunting on campus and sees Lora fall, helps her up and decides to seduce her. Stanley sees Lora drift away, starts a rivalry with Ollie and is then dumped and turns emo before realising what has happened and goes to save her.

an anime fan vampire
There is a concept of a vampire society within the film that isn’t explored (it is really introduced in the epilogue) but we do discover that Terra is a svengal (or so it sounded like) – a master vampire. The turn rules are not explained but some seem to be bitten and die and others are bitten then turn. Those turned are slaves to the svengal. Using blood and energy, a svengal can create another of her kind – that’s what she wants to do to Lora – but she does make some of the anime class thrall vampires.

staked vampire
Staking works – but the wood must be aspen. When this occurs we get a splash of cgi blood and then a ham fisted explosion done through post-production effect. Vampires can regenerate limbs, can be killed by a spirit sword, seem to avoid daylight (though nothing is done with that) and a vampire in thrall to the svengal can break away from them through sheer force of will.

Christina Lambert as Terra
The problems I had with this were many and varied. I mentioned the outdoor night shots – and they were better than some budget films but not brilliant. The acting was, generally, amateurish. There were sound inconsistencies and the effects looked pretty darn cheap. Many of the gags were college humour (though that probably fit the location). Some sequences were too long – the Stanley Emo one could have been mostly expunged and the gag still work as well as the segue into the next story phase, for instance.

All in all, I just didn’t click with this. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.