Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maleficia – review

Director: Antoine Pellissier

Release date: 1998

Contains spoilers

I do like to share rarities with you and this certainly is a rarity. A French language gore movie, which is a totally amateur production directed by Antoine Pellissier. I first heard of Pellissier through the series Eurotrash – which has a lot to answer for, in a totally good way – and he is an amateur director and practising Doctor. At the time of writing the review there is no imdb page for either the film or the director.

The coach
The film begins in 1860 and starts with a coach that is heading for Norille (a country to the North of Transylvania, according to the film). The coach is driven by Karl (Claude Auger) and his passengers are the mother Mina (Brigitte Garrigue), the father Paul (Claude Gatumel), the son John (Guy Cicorelli), the daughter Christina (Nelly Astaud), the Aunt Lucy (Maryline Soto) and the young son Tony (Nicolas Pellissier).

strange satanic ritual
Their destination is a castle that they have inherited from a relative who died from a strange disease. Suddenly the coach stops, the horse refusing to move on. Karl decides he will walk to a nearby chapel to ask for directions. I know, logically he already knew – the problem is that the horses are refusing – but there you go. We see a group of hooded people enter the chapel, women are chained up and a high priest (Paul Gallet) is there in red.

sadistic sacrifice
There then follows a sacrifice session. The first sacrifice is crucified and then stabbed, her blood poured into a pot and causes creatures of earth to rise (in other words zombies). The next one is poked in the eyes and branded by a three pronged red hot poker and then stabbed through the head, her blood raises creatures of fire (zombies whose graves seem to smoke). The final one has her throat slit and it is used to call up creatures of water (zombies from a lake). Given the low, low budget, the gore scenes are actually rather effective.

zombie rises
The high priest and his cohorts vanish, leaving the hooded monks to feast (zombies as they are) on the sacrifices and the zombie hordes roam the countryside. Karl manages to get back to the coach in order to get the family to leg it and soon they are split up and running for their lives as the zombies go after them (getting Karl first off).

So, where are the vampires, you may ask. Well Lucy, Christina, John and Paul get to the castle and manage to get inside but before we follow them I must mention Mina hiding out in the woods, hearing someone coming and braining them with a rock and stick, before realising it is her (still human) son Tony. It was a moment darkly poignant in what amounts to a cheap splatter fest.

staked with a cross
Anyway, the other four are not safe in the castle, filled as it is with zombie monks and so leg it into the basement, which is filled with coffins. They find a half collapsed tunnel – this provides escape for Paul, Christina and Lucy but it fully collapses before John can get through and then the coffins start to open. John wards the first vampire with a cross and then stakes him with it. Later the vampire revives and it appears that his heart is not actually in his chest.

Much too bright blood
One of the coffins is filled with (too bright) blood and all the vampires have rather poor fangs. We get little else in the way of vampire lore. John manages to beat a vampire insensible and then ‘Cushings’ a cross together out of, it appears, a couple of bones. They can walk in daylight, we later see, and inevitably John ends up as vampire chow and coming back as a vampire himself.

trying to bite sis
The film then has a lot of him trying to get his sister for a bit of a neck bite, but he seems to regain control a couple of times during this – becoming human and bemused at his own actions. And that, it seems, is as much as we get in respect of vampires. They lent the film (especially with the rubbish fangs) a touch of the Jean Rollins but the film did not have the dreamlike qualities or the symbolic textures of Jean Rollin’s work and was way gorier – it was kind of Rollin on steroids, and was a pale imitation at that.

zombie staggering
The main problem with the film is that it is pretty boring. After being introduced to the characters by voiceover they are left as two dimensional ciphers. We know that the Satanists are trying to call up the devil and a lot of zombies stagger around and much fake blood is spilt. That’s about it. The post-modernist ending is too little too late. The acting, well there isn’t any, but none is called for from the amateur cast anyway.

If you like a lot of low budget gore and little else this one will satisfy you. For those who demand a little (or a lot) more, the film will not hit the mark that well. 3 out of 10.


Christine. said...

OK, I love the idea of vampires hunting humans in 19th century Transylvania but then everything else seems to gone to the Hell in the handbasket.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

certainly nor one I'd recommend to yourself Christine, high on gore, low on story and atmosphere