Saturday, May 22, 2010

Honourable Mentions: Vampire of Quezon City

There are times, and this is one of them, when I just do not know where to begin. Sometimes I feel that the beginning is not an adequate starting place. A 2006 Philippines film, by Khavn de la Cruz, Vampire of Quezon City is kind of an aswang merged with serial killer type of film; it is also more akin to torture porn than anything else.

Shot in grainy black and white over a total of three days I sat and wondered at it – my head spinning and my stomach churning. Was it an avant-garde art film or was it just a cheaply shot, incredibly sick film in black and white? Is Khavn an auteur or just someone muddling together a twisted collection of broken images?

the cop
The film begins with a policeman talking about the vampire, a serial killer who is ripping out intestines, glands and hearts of the victims. The victims are all female and beyond that we have no discernable pattern. One could be a nun, the next a prostitute. Later we hear that the policeman doesn’t believe it is really an aswang and yet at other times he seems to believe it is.

As for the killer, and the torture scenes (which make up the majority of the film) well, the Hostel series might have had the budget to create its images in blazing technicolour but it had comparatively little of the raw nastiness that this film seemed to ooze.

a victim
As the attacks are on women, the film has a miasma of misogynistic cruelty that surrounds and saturates it. From force feeding faeces and sperm, to violent rape with a crucifix, to actual rape and forced fellatio… the film becomes a parade of brutality that leaves the viewer rather uncomfortable. Bizarrely there is no nudity in respect of the victims, but we see often the vampire masturbating or parading with his erection on show (reminiscent of some of the scenes in the novel American Psycho) – one assumes (even hopes) it was a prosthetic!

aswang feeds
As for the vampire aspects… well he does eat of the intestines of the victims and this is done in raw (and in visceral, if black and white) detail. There are some more western genre aspects called into view. The cop, on the phone, tells the person he is speaking to that they should buy garlic. The torture room as awash with religious icons that have no discernable effect upon the vampire – indeed he wields them as weapons against his victims.

abused as a child
Their presence is important as it seems to tie into the only barely explored whys and wherefores of the vampire's actions. We see a scene of him as a child, with bibles on his legs, head and hands, as well as a burning candle, forced to balance them as his mother whips him. He is from the ethno-linguistic group the Visayans, one of many groups within the Philippines, and states that Visayans are discriminated against. He suggests that his mother came from Quezon City and that his mission is to kill all women.

Is he an aswang? Probably not, but the film remains silent. Is it a good film…? I am loath to say yes as it is a horrible film (designed as such, it seems) and yet Khavn builds something that is difficult to dismiss.

I can’t actually recommend it, there is little to no narrative, it is possibly not even a vampire – hence the honourable mention as it is most likely a serial killer displaying vampiric traits. However, if what I have written piques your interest, it is on region 1 DVD, though there is no imdb page at the time of writing.


Christine said...

OK, what sick crap. Sounds like this could be contender to worst vampire film ever made, but is it vampire film at all? Decisions, decisions...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Christine, it is sick... but the worst vampire film? No because there was something within it that was difficult to simply dismiss as rubbish. Doesn't stop it being sick and unpleasant, however.

As for the vampire nature. Were it an aswang I would say yes without thought. However, it may well be a human serial killer and thus the honourable mention (as I have done with other such films about real or imagined killers).

I can safely say, however, that from what I can gather it would likely be far from your cup of tea.