Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bloody Mallory – review


Directed by: Julien Magnat

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

I thought it was about time I cracked this one out for review and thought I’d start with a question. Do you remember the sci-fi series Lexx? If you do then all I can say is the feel of that series is about the closest comparison I can find for this French movie. Not in content or setting but in vibe. It has a similar, vividly coloured comic book feel that is difficult to describe but, if you know Lexx and you watch this movie I’m sure that you will understand.

Olivia Bonamy as MalloryEverything about this film is over the top, so its time to leave your preconceptions behind and enter the world of Mallory (Olivia Bonamy), a world where evil exists, in many forms. This is not, technically, a vampire movie. It is one of the cornucopia settings where various forms of evil exist, fallen angels, demons, ghouls, succubi and vampires. There is a main vampire character however, hence the review.

The film begins with a flashback to Mallory’s wedding day, the day that made Mallory what she is. She runs along the road in a wedding dress chased by her new husband (Julien Boisselier), his eyes flash demonically. She brings an axe down onto his head.

In the present, a nun enters a church. She lights a taper when all the candles spring to life. There is a figure in the church and she calls to the Mother Superior, saying that she was scared due to the disappearance of the other nuns. Mother Superior turns and reveals that she has been replaced by a monstrous ghoul.

Mallory and her crew are in a car. Mallory is a special agent specialising in investigating the mysterious and eradicating evil. We get details of her and her crew in a computer game type menu graphics sequence.Jeffrey Ribier as Vena Cava Her crew consists of Vena Cava (Jeffrey Ribier) a transsexual in an electric blue wig and explosives expert, Talking Tina (Thylda Barès) a mute child telepath with an IQ of 360 and their liaison Inspector Durand (Thierry Perkins-Lyautey). They are heading to the church and Talking Tina is scouting ahead by possessing the mind of a bat. She warns of a black cat ahead, which Mallory runs over – you just can’t be too careful.

The nuns are all tied before the altar. The ghouls are human/monster hybrids and can only mate with virgins. One of the nuns will be killed and eaten (they only eat dead meat) as she has not been a virtuous nun. The team enter and kick butt. Talking Tina fights using her telepathy, controlling one ghoul and forcing it to attack another and then bash its own brains out. Durand lends supporting gunfire. Mallory and Vena are somewhat more visceral in their approach, wading in – though Vena does break a nail to her chagrin. When all are dead Mallory stabs one of the ghouls over and over, in her mind she remembers her wedding night.

Striding over to the nuns she questions one and scans her with a negative energy scanner, she was the non-virtuous one. The nun is pronounced clean when another, masked, creature comes in and throws Vena across the church. The bellies of the other nuns swell and burst, baby ghoulsbirthing two baby ghouls which bury their teeth in Talking Tina. Mallory has hands full with the mystery creature but manages to rescue Talking Tina after Durand shoots and distracts her foe. She hears Durand scream and chases out of the church. On the wall is part of Durand’s skin with the words “He’s coming” and he is dying on the floor. As she tried to touch the skin her arm acts strangely, we find out later it is the arm that absorbed some of her husband’s demon blood.

At the same time that all this is going down, the new pope, Hieronymus 1st (Laurent Spielvogel), is in Paris and speaks to a crowd regarding the evils of homosexuality, abortion and contraception – and taking a hard line. The crowd scream that those who are gay or use birth control should be “on the stake”. After the audience he is in an elevator with two leather wearing, machine gun holding priest bodyguards when the elevator opens and masked creatures rush in. We then find out that he has been kidnapped and his press aid (Valentina Vargas) has enlisted Mallory to help find him. Her team, however, is in ruins. Vena is in a day-glow neck brace, Talking Tina is in a coma and Durant has died.

Mallory summons her husband who, under the rules of the Necronomicon, must come to her aid when called. She asks him who wears the masks and he tells her it is the highest order of evil ruled by the Fallen Angel Abbadon. When she asks where they are he refuses to answer, he need only answer one question per summoning. Leaving Vena behind she goes to find the pope, coming across Talking Tina on route (her mind having escapedMallory with Father Carras into the body of a bat when she was attacked). Her search takes her to a village pulled out of reality and become a hell on earth, where she finds one of the bodyguards, Father Carras (Adrià Collado), and, of course, Vena soon catches up – parachuting in with a fluorescent chute and exploring the village on an electric scooter. With Talking Tina transferred into the body of a man who had attacked Mallory they continue on their search for the pope, but evil is tricky…

Some have said that this plays like Buffy, but I would have to disagree. It is certainly more hardcore and, whilst Buffy might have had a generic influence on such cornucopia type films I feel that to try and compare this is unfair – this is a horse of a very different multi-colour. It is much more adult in direction, as well as psychedelic, with little in the way of moralising (except perhaps for a sideswipe at organised religion) and a very grey view of good and evil. To a degree, Buffy was teen/coming-of-age drama with a supernatural twist whereas this is pure comic book fantasy that would have more in common with, perhaps, Hellboy (2004). There is clearly a Japanese anime influence also.

The general plot of the film is about Abbadon’s plans to release the other fallen Angels and destroy the world of man but, Valentina Vargas as Lady Valentineas I said, we do have a vampire involved – one of Abbadon’s creatures. The vampire is Lady Valentine, who posed as the press agent that recruited Mallory (I told you evil was tricky). Valentine also has two vampire slaves. In a fight with Mallory she is staked but it seems ineffective because, as she says, she is immortal. She also points out that she survived the guillotine. So staking and beheading are out.

vampire slavesMallory has a small cross like piece of equipment, one of the vampires mockingly says she will need a cross bigger than that, however it sprays holy water which causes the heads of the two slaves to explode. Mallory fails to use it on Valentine so we do not know if it would have worked, but we can assume so.

Carras prevents stakingWe also see the other bodyguard chained and bitten, Mallory wishes to stake him as he cannot be saved. Before she gets the chance, due to Carras’ interference, Valentine feeds on him and drains the victim to a husk, his skin collapsing in. Mallory does ask Valentine what she will feed on when mankind is destroyed but that has been thought out, with plans to save a few as breeding stock for food. That is about as much of vampire lore that we get in the film, though there is an indication at the end that she is blown up though that is not conclusive.

The film is odd, no doubt about that, and one of the ways it achieves its goals is by being utterly weirdly comic and yet playing the film straight through the weird comedy. The acting is over the top at times, but with over the top characters like Vena it works. Vena gets some of the best lines. At one point she is stood on a well, firing machine guns embedded into her platform boots. When the ghouls stand she complains as she was assured they came with silver bullets. Talking Tina switches bodies a few times and, at one point, ends up sharing Vena’s body. There is a nice moment when Talking Tina (who is still a child remember) tries to access the memories of what Vena got up to in Ibiza.

Lady Valentine with swordSpecial effects are good for the budget, though they look less impressive in still form and congratulations to the director for getting the effects to look good on screen without making the film feel too fast cut. The CGI can seem a little intrusive but because of the comic book nature of the film it matters less than if it had been filmed realistically.

A great fun film, steeped with classic camp, which lots of people will hate and that carries an irreverence with regards the church and religion generally – which may be offensive to some. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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