Friday, March 17, 2006

Night Fangs – Review

Release date: 2005

Director: Ricardo Islas

contains spoilers

Night Fangs is a low budget, English language movie from Uruguay. The back of the DVD box claims it to be “the goriest and most horrifying vampire movie ever.” Well, not really, I would say that the credit for that has to go to “Strange things Happen at Sundown” (2003). But gore is not what makes a film and this little gem has a lot going for it and a lot of plot crammed into it.

The film starts with two women, Jennifer Sommers (Leslie Frank) and Lupe (Cyn Dulay) picking up a guy, Mike, over the internet. They meet him and take him home, where they, whilst he is handcuffed, inform him that they are thugees and strangle him. This is an interesting aspect to the film in the first instance. The thugees were a cult dating back to the 13th century, and worshipped the Hindu Goddess Kali. They believed that each murder they committed prevented Kali’s return for 1000 years but we must remember that Kali is often depicted drinking blood – which creates a nice vampire connection.

We next see the girls in a bath, the blood from their victim’s now cut neck trickling into the water. The film next establishes that Jennifer is a pottery teacher and she and Lupe are openly lesbian. They are expecting a package containing Elizabeth Bathory’s diary and Lupe picks the courier up at an airport. However, on the drive back his taunts over her lesbianism cause her to attack and kill him, the fury she demonstrates showing just how psychotic she is.

The diary is not in English so they approach Professor Nashy (played by the director, Ricardo Islas), the history teacher, to translate. Now Bathory did, historically, keep a diary of her crimes. In the film the diary reveals that Bathory was also a member of the thugee cult, converted by her brother when he returned form the crusades – not too much of a stretch, actually, as some parts of the cult traced their roots to early Muslim kings and the Bathory family were certainly involved in the war with the Turks. The diary also reveals that Bathory’s blood ritual needs virgin blood. Cue the teachers hunting for a virgin student, their attention focused on Amy (Ruby Gonzalez).

In the meantime Nashy (one wonders if the character’s name was a tribute to horror legend Paul Naschy) is having visionary dreams of Bathory and vampires.

Jennifer seduces Amy, trying to ascertain if the girl is a virgin. They are watched in secret by Lupe, her palpable anger showing us again how deranged the woman is. Amy confesses her virginity and Lupe attacks the girl, leaving Jennifer clearly distraught. Later in the film Jennifer confesses her doubts about the road they have taken and Lupe explains that they will succeed and become vampires or she will kill Jennifer and then commit suicide.

Meanwhile Amy’s boyfriend Steve (Mark Edwards) has met up with friends. One realises that he knows the teachers’ earlier victim and an e-mail leads them to suspect the teachers. They go off to rescue Amy.

Lupe slits Amy’s throat and the two women bathe in her blood, but to little effect. To test whether they are vampires, Lupe attacks Jennifer. The teacher defends herself and cracks Lupe’s skull on the bath, running from the bathroom in panic. The blood spills into the already bloody bath water, which contains Amy’s corpse and it is she who becomes vampire. The two teachers are quickly turned. The way the vampires are done in the film is very effective. They are animalistic, drool as their fangs are extended and growl like big cats. They are also flesh eaters as well as blood drinkers.

There follows an attack on Amy’s friends as the vampires find their feet. The director produces a decent level of tension, despite the old horror cliché of splitting up when entering the bad guys’ lair. There is also an effective wall climb and attack.

The night ends with three survivors, including Steve who has been bitten and is changing. The two friends leave Steve and go to find Nashy and, unusually for such films, he does take some persuading. He also has some great lines, for instance “After 100 years of movies, Stephen King, Anne Rice and Buffy you still need a Professor to tell you what to do!” Another good one was “What do you want from me? I’m just a history teacher. I’m not Agent Mulder.”

They discover that sunlight cures Steve and then batten down the hatches for an expected night assault. The assault is languid in pace, with slow thunder sounds, but this pace seems to work. The next day they track down the vampires and here we confront a potential logic problem. We are left with Nashy, Steve and his friend. Nashy is the only one not bitten and sunlight is a cure, but then sunlight kills the vampires.

Perhaps it is within the downbeat ending, when all is lost and only Steve remains for a vampiric Nashy to attack that we gain a semblance of an answer. Steve had not died from his attack, thus sunlight was able to cure him. It seems that it is the ones that have died and returned that are affected by the sun in a deadly way. This is not explained explicitly.

Some of the acting is average, but others in the film shine and this shows what can be done with a low budget. There are elements in the film that need expansion, such as Nashy’s visions, but overall this is an interesting and intelligent film and I’ll give it 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: