Sunday, August 16, 2009

Night Owl – review

dvdDirector: Jeffrey Arsenault

First released: 1993

Contains spoilers

Night Owl (or Nite Owl as the DVD cover reads) is a black and white film described as ‘guerrilla’ in some quarters. Actually it isn’t too bad a stab at a first directorial outing. It seems strange that Arsenault would then go on to direct (under the name Gregory Cabot) some sub-standard seduction cinema softcore films.

I say it isn’t too bad a first stab but it does have problems, filler moments in its short 77 minute running time appear when actual story narrative and lore explanations would have been better placed within the film.

James Raferty as JakeThe film follows Jake (James Raferty) as he mills around his life. Milling around his life, in the first instance, means feeding his cat in the squat where he lives and then going to the pizza parlour to speak to Frances (Lisa Napoli) and her man, Dario (David Roya). Ostensibly he works there too but we never see anything so sordid as him working.

Karen Wexler as ZohraAfter work he goes to clubs. Seemingly only two persons perform in the clubs in New York at this point in time. At this club he sees Screamin’ Rachel (as herself) singing her house music stylings and this is what I meant by fillers. We see (on two separate occasions) Screamin' Rachel performing and it really adds little to the film. Jake is looking over at a girl named Zohra (Karen Wexler).

He takes Zohra back to his place and she starts dancing for him. Dancing leads to kissing. Kissing leads to some breast suckling. Breast suckling leads to sex, during which he starts to bite her neck. Now the bite was rather well done, in a harrowing realism way, with Zohra screaming and him holding her mouth. Once finished he washes himself off, gets the excess blood off her and starts placing her in black plastic bags.

Angel looks for his sisterThe film then follows him and Angel (John Leguizamo). Angel is Zohar’s brother and is looking for her as she is missing. I think I missed something here, he is getting somewhat panicky about her going awol after a day and after 2 days has fliers made. His brother Tomas (Yul Vazquez, who would go on to be a vampire killer in Southern Gothic ) seems less interested and their unseen mother seems to have written her off altogether.

Anne and JakeMeanwhile, in a club, Jake sees a performance poet called Anguish (the other artist playing New York clubs, at least her performances had a plot reason for being in the film). That night he tracks a girl in a club back to her apartment, breaks in and kills and feeds on her. However he then gets to meet Anguish, discovers she is called Anne (Ali Thomas) and sleeps with her without attack.

you will not come backWhat then happens isn’t really explained within the film narrative. It appears that Jake goes on the wagon and this makes him ill. At least that might be the case and he does begin to throw up a lot. He also seems to be in a fight with Angel, though the reason why this happens is not given. Eventually Anne goes to see him, he tries to send her away but then comes on to her and attacks her. After the feed he chops her up – so she won’t come back.

Jake is illEven less explained was a second attack by Angel on Jake. At least this time we know it is because of Zohra but we don’t know how Angel has managed to connect the two together (at best he questions a barfly (Holly Woodlawn) who denies knowing who Zohra left the club with and then vaguely hints that she might know without mentioning a name). However it is not so much the way that Angel has made the connection but the manner of the attack that was odd. He seems (below camera line) to anally rape Jake with a bottle (and then drink from it) he then proceeds to kiss his mouth and nipple asking if that is what he did to Zohra. Eventually Jake attacks him back and feeds from him, he does not dispose of him due to a car coming along.

the vampire attacking JakeVampire lore wise things are murky indeed. Except for drinking blood and the fact that Jake sleeps through the day we get very little indeed. We do get flashbacks to Jake in 1944 (and a rather anachronistic radiator) and the attack on him by a male vampire (Asher Segal) after spending some time with a lady (Kristen Connors). She got him a doctor (Sharrieff) who suggests that if Jake died during the day he could be buried but if he died at night he would rise again as the living dead. In Dracula 1931 it is suggested that Van Helsing can save Mina’s soul should she die during the day but Dracula suggests he will ensure she dies at night – thus, I feel, making the scene in this movie a direct reference.

Caroline munro as herselfFrom a vampire movie fan point of view we also get Caroline Munro, as herself, being interviewed on TV. She talks about Dracula AD 1972 and Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter as well as a Meatloaf video she was in. However, as fascinating as this is it is not plot relevant, it is overly long in film context and simply another example of filler.

self feedingThis is our problem in film – as I said – all filler and little to no explanation of events. I understand that the film was reissued in 2003 as Blood Craving and that a wrap around was added showing some new vampires and some chained victims as well as some extra explanation as to the fate of Angel – but I also understand it was new digitally shot footage that hardly fit in with the grainy aesthetics of the original movie.

This is interesting but needed more explanation to make it truly worthwhile. That said it was certainly more worthwhile than some of Arsenault’s later vampiric efforts. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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