Monday, November 03, 2008

Dinner with the Vampire – review

posterDirected by: Lamberto Bava

Release date: 1988

Contains spoilers

I guess when you are the son of film genius Mario Bava there is a lot to live up to and, perhaps, a made for TV movie is not the best vehicle with which to do that. A fairly simple plot is bolstered by some unusual lore that I can’t really spoil as it is the crux of the movie but we shall come to that later.

exploring the catacombsThe film starts of with a group of workers and a film crew in the vaults of castle, back around the time of the First World War it later transpires. Presumably the crew are there to watch some sort of archaeological search or more probably a treasure hunt. Either way, the leader of the project has a worker go at a wall with a pick axe and they are soon in a new room.

ornate tombThey find, in the centre of the room, an ornate tomb. The lid is stone yet it has openings and we can see a decrepit corpse, clearly with fangs. The project leader has two men open the tomb up, despite the fears that the dead should not be disturbed. One of the workers cuts his hand (as they always do) and blood gets on the corpse.

claymation reformationThe corpse rapidly reforms and despite the fact that it was done, for our benefit, in a claymation sort of way I thought it rather well done – probably due to the speed of the animation. The vampire, an ugly brute, emerges from the tomb and attacks the team as the leader calls for the camera to continue to roll.

Cut to the present days (or the late 1980s) and a bunch of kids turn up for auditions. The auditions are being carried out for the horror director Yurek and it seems that anything goes. The film concentrates on four specific kids – so we know they’ll be picked. There is Johnny, a wise cracking comic, Monica, a dancer, Rita, a singer and Sasha, an actress.

the kidsSure enough they are (a week later) picked and taken to Yurek’s castle in order that they might meet the man and start on their path to fame. The castle itself, when they arrive, is populated by a mysterious woman (I can’t recall hearing her name at all), Jeeves the hunchback butler and producer Matthew. Matthew tells them that their host will not be there until midnight.

old filmWhen he arrives they are to eat but, in the meantime, they are to be shown a film – one of Yurek’s favourites. It is a black and white and features the vampire from the head of the film. Monica thinks the vampire looks like Yurek (perceptive girl) and says if the producer were a vampire she’d let him do anything to her (she might regret that one). The film breaks down before one of the characters reveals how a vampire can be destroyed.

Yurek at dinnerAt Dinner Johnny notices that Yurek has no reflection – nothing can hold a vampire’s reflection claims Yurik (though we see his reflection both on the old film and during our proceedings – I guess they forgot about that as they are fairly lingering shots). He tells them that he is from Mesopotamia and is 4000 years old. Now he wants to die, he has gathered four innocents together to kill him – though he cannot tell them how. If they fail he will turn them.

mysterious womanTurning them is not much of a prospect as the basement is filled with revenant or zombie-like creatures who are the vampire’s previous victims. Only the mysterious woman seems to be a higher functioning vampire but then I had my doubts. Her fangs looked fake and she begs to be turned and eventually works with the kids, so it appears that she was just a wannabe?

vomit green liquidIn this the lore is completely changed around in respect of killing vampires. Crosses do not work – so no crossing wood together. Garlic does not work. A stake through the heart manages to get Yurek to vomit green liquid but does not kill him. There is only one way and the clue they are given is Dorian Grey. This was really unusual, in how it panned out, and it is a shame I can’t spoil it but it is the point of the entire film.

using his strengthHe has eye mojo both to hypnotise and to use telekinesis – he rips a heart from a chest this way and summons a knife from out of a hand. He turns into a bat at one point – though crap bat syndrome is avoided by just showing a shadow. He is very strong and he starts to age during the events. A feed doesn’t seem to retard the aging process though the one bitten states that it was the most beautiful experience of her life.

crossed wood and garlic won't helpProblem is, the story is pretty simple and the film, whilst played for laughs, isn’t that funny. It might have been to do with the poor dubbing but I got the impression that the original dialogue probably wasn’t that good. The characters themselves are two dimensional at best, which does not add much to the proceedings. Compare this to similar (in basic plot at least; 'trapped with a vampire in a house, kill him or be turned') The Vampire Conspiracy and the later, low budget effort might not be able to compete with the luscious setting but plot and character wise it blows this apart.

It is a shame really, because this might have been a nice excursion into Italian Gothic vampire cinema but it ended up just a little flat. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anthony Hogg said...

Pretty spot-on, there.

The thing I liked most about the movie was the Gothic visuals. Especially the appearance of the vampire (in its aged form).

But it does make me wonder, if the way the vampire is killed holds true (don't worry, I won't give it away, either)...then how was he entombed in the crypt in the first place?

Regarding the date the film was set in, I recall something mentioned about the year 2000. If that was the case, then they obviously did very little to indicate any advances made in fashion from, say, 1988!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Anthony, the visuals are the best thing about this. Though I can't see it being set in the year 2000!!! ;)

Re the vampire, and the place in the tomb, a thought might be that it is something to do with the aging we begin to see. Is there a cycle that the vampire is in? That's a stretch, to be fair.

Perhaps there was a Grey (the actual story) type event back whenever he ended in the tomb? (he says tying to avoid the spoiler and probably failing).

Perhaps, prior to this awakening, he could be killed by standard means?

I think more than anything they just didn't think it through.

Everlost said...

Looks like this is getting a new lease of life... being released on DVD August 25th 2009

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for the uodate everlost