Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Vulture’s Eye – review

Release date: 2004

Director: Frank Sciurba

Contains spoilers

This is the second film from the Vamps boxset. Sometimes you watch a low budget movie and think, God, if only they had a budget. This is truly a little gem, and though it gets lost occasionally in trying to be arty, perhaps to cover up the lack of budget, this deserves a lot more attention than it seems to have had.

However, let me first draw your attention to the cover – nothing to do with the film and it is a shame, as they could have used part of the cast. Secondly, let’s get this out of the way, this is a remake or retelling of Dracula set in Virginia.

Lucy Westenra (Brooke Paller) is going to marry Arthur Holmewood (Jason King), though she confides in her cousin Mina (Anna Flosnik) that plastic surgeon Jack (Joseph Reo) might have asked her if Arthur hadn’t. Mina is worried as her boyfriend Quincy Morris (Fred Iacovo) has gone missing on a photographic job in Sierra Leone.

Quincy does return but ill, he won’t talk of what’s happened but we see scenes of him in a cage often being offered raw flesh. He says he suffered from a fever.

One week later, Lucy falls from her horse and is rescued by Count Klaus Vogel (James Nalitz), who has recently bought the old Stoker place (A reference I wasn’t sure I liked, but one that was not laboured). As he talks we get scenes intercut of him feeding on Lucy. Vogel is obviously the Dracula character, it was he who kept Quincy locked away in Sierra Leone and, we later hear, committed atrocities whilst experimenting, in a torture sense, upon Quincy. The film, however, is almost like a twisted nightmare in quality. Instead of the dashing Count, Vogel has long, dirty claw like nails, he has warts or boils around his face and looks very old. This vampire shares more in common with “Nosferatu” (1922) and the Orlock character than the version of Dracula developed via Universal and Hammer – yet he seems to command a terrible presence and an ability to tap into the darkest sexual fantasies of his victims.

I won’t overly go into plot as it follows Dracula recognisably, yet veers away in interesting ways that makes the film fascinating. Suffice it to say that it is extremely dark in places and a few of the scenes need pointing out.

First, however, a nod to Abraham Van Helsing (Paul Zacheis) who is a Southern, cigar chomping doctor. He knows a little about voodoo, and yet knows not much about vampirism – he just knows something is wrong.

Back to a few of the standout scenes. Lucy, once dead, is returned to her coffin after visiting Mina. She is carried there by Quincy and Arthur, in a scene that underlines the surrealness of the movie in places. The fact that she has returned does not seem to phase them, they are more concerned about getting her in the casket before she starts moving again. It is once they have put the lid over her and she starts crying out about the darkness that the characters become upset by what is happening, yet the scene is powerful, and her plaintive cries for help haunting.

At another point the male characters go to the Renfields’ home, believing that Vogel might be there. We find Mrs Renfield (Eve Young) drenched in blood, laughing maniacally. Again it is a disturbing scene.

The last scene I’ll mention is when Vogel forces Mina to drink of his blood, a scene we see in flashback. There is no cutting of the chest with a nail. He sticks his finger down his throat and copiously vomits blood across her face and into her mouth before taking her. As she remembers this, Mina tells Quincy that she enjoyed it.

The vampires in this can walk in daylight. There is no mention of crosses or stakes to the heart. They are despatched in a multitude of ways, pitchfork, gunshot, scalpel, but always concluded with decapitation.

The film is languid in places, but the slow pace only makes the more gory scenes more powerful. The acting is not always of the highest calibre, but most of the performances are solid enough for a film of this budget, in fact the dialogue only really goes astray when the actors are forced to deliver more traditional lines from Dracula. Unfortunately the artiness of some of the scenes seems forced, shaky cameras in particular, and thus the direction is a little off at times – but all in all it is well put together and one gets the feeling that some of it really was used to try and hide the lack of budget. Sometimes the film goes in directions that perhaps haven’t been well explained, but for the most part it holds together well.

In Dracula we often see the seduction and fall of Lucy, this is what this film particularly aims at, going into it in some depth. It does have its problems but I really enjoyed it, that said I feel its going to be a love it or hate it movie – you have been warned. Incidentally the ending of the film is much darker than that envisioned by Stoker. 7 out of 10 for a film that gave much more than I was expecting.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Are the people in the box art even in the movie? I don't remember the vampire on the box at all...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no, not at all