Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vampire’s Call – review

Director: Kabat Esosa Egbon

Release date: 2005

Contains spoilers

Vampire’s Call is a Nigerian vampire film… it has that in its favour as we have not (thus far) visited Nigeria in our search for vampire media from around the world. However Nollywood is one of the largest film producing industries in the world. Regional location often dictates whether the film is shot in the Igbo or Edo language, though Vampire’s Call has been shot in English. I apologise for the state of the screenshots through this review as the film was watched via YouTube.

So, being from Nigeria is in the film’s favour but little else is. The Nollywood output is shot on video primarily but the pacing, story and effects were all suspect, to be candidly honest. The worst offender was pacing but we will get to that after the description of the film… this will spoil a lot.

Stephanie Okereke as Lisa
At a village compound the women sit and gossip as a car pulls in. A woman, Lisa (Stephanie Okereke), gets out of the car dressed in a business suit. She is greeted by her grandmother (Nora Roberts). It is five years since she had visited, five years since her parents died. Later (talking to her Grandfather (Justus Esiri)) we discover that she has been in England – though he got England and the US mixed up – and she is a medical doctor. She asks where her Grandpa is, it seems her Auntie Maggie died and he and the menfolk have been to her – the women are waiting their return.

Lisa has a sleep and dreams. In her dream she carries flowers into the graveyard but thunder sounds out and she drops the flowers and walks into the depths of the graveyard as though she is in a trance, as howls (suspiciously wolf like ones at that) sound through the night. She reaches a house and sees a skeleton stood before it, with a glowing heart within the rib cage, and the cgi so poor that it makes you wish they had just used a plastic skeleton. She awakens to be told by her niece that grandpa is back.

When the cars arrive the women fall into a wailing histrionic that I found fascinating because such funereal wailing is, presumably, cultural. Just as fascinating was the party that occurred that evening, a glimpse into Nigerian custom one hopes. I said that the film had little going for it but such glimpses are worthwhile, also worthwhile was some of the music played in the soundtrack, which was rather beautiful. During the wake Lisa seems to go into a trance having heard a voice calling her, she nearly walks out of the compound when her niece stops her. No one goes out at night.

Muna Obiekwe as Max
The next day Lisa goes to the graveyard to see her parents and is warned by her grandmother to get back before dark. She tells her parents’ graves that she is having strange dreams and is still there after night falls. She hears movement and a howl and legs it, seeing goats with their throats ripped on the way back. In a dream that night she sees a man, Max (Muna Obiekwe), he has fangs.

victim of the vampire
She goes to visit an Auntie (note I don’t know whether Auntie is an actual relative or a respectful title and have used it as the former). She hopes to see her friend Vera (Jennifer Uzoma) but is told Vera is dead. The flashback is much more detailed, clearly, than the tale Lisa is told and has details that Vera’s mother could never know but, essentially, Vera kept going out at night to look after the animals because something was killing them (despite being told not to, and beaten by her father for doing so). Eventually she vanished and, days later, several bodies were found with their throats ripped out, including Vera.

dream dancing
Lisa talks to Grandma, who says that something evil is in the village, leaving people drained of blood with marks on the right side of their necks. Lisa puts it all together and asks herself whether there is a vampire in the village and then dreams of a room both black and red, she wears red and Max comes to her in black and they dance. Lisa slips out at night and finds the house, sees the dancing room and a man led as though dead. She speaks to her grandfather, though says nothing of what she suspects or has seen, and he tells her a story of the past.

CGI monster
In this story there is a warrior called Chioke (Muna Obiekwe) and, at the same time, a cgi monster with no discernible texturing, which attacked men, women, children and animals. The warriors were called and asked to kill it but the one who survived would become next in line to be king and marry the priestess. Of course Chioke wins but is wounded and tended by an outcast called Chioma (Stephanie Okereke) – known as the scarlet woman as she became pregnant out of wedlock, was denied by the father and the baby miscarried. They, of course, fall in love and when he returns, Chioke’s decision to marry her greatly upsets the priestess (whose rant cuts of half way through for the credits).

Chioma and Chioke
Which, obviously, is where the film ends. No resolution, no proper reveal of the vampirism source (ok we know that Max/Lisa are Chioke/Chioma because we recognise them, but even that part of the story hasn’t been revealed to the viewer yet), indeed nothing much has happened at all. Bad storytelling, worse pacing. I am reliably informed that Vampire’s Call 2 is not a sequel but a story continuation but… as I write this I haven’t yet seen it.

hanging around the graveyard
Perhaps I shouldn’t review this in isolation but, given 1.5 hours of the film, it should stand up to individual scrutiny. Another 1.5 hours is not going to help the acres of interminable boredom that stretch through most of this, fended off by the occasional cultural glimpse or lovely piece of music scattered amongst the soundtrack, but encouraged by acting that is actually not acting but talking through the script, stilted, un-emotive and just plain poor. The bad moments of cgi should have been avoided altogether. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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