Saturday, July 27, 2013

Enchiridion – review

Director: Mark Beal

Release Date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Enchiridion is a Latin word that means handbook or manual and the most famous enchiridions seem to be ecclesiastical in nature. Now Enchiridion is also the name of a vampire movie but how to describe it?

Imagine for a moment if Canadian auteur Guy Maddin and Salvador Dali conspired to create a lovechild and name it Kerouac, then perhaps we would have a general frame of reference. Mark Beal has created a surreal psychodrama that belies the independent budget it must have had and creates something that I found utterly compelling.

Set, I guess, in the early 1960s – a Jazz soundtrack brings the Beats to mind and there are moments of coffee shop poets and performance art but the date 1962 is definitely mentioned as a date passed by. We begin with newsprint being cut and pasted to create the Enchiridion of the title, the work being carried out by the primary vampire of the film, Doctor Condu (Jeremy Herrera). We note that he has a sharp row of upper teeth, the front two forming Nosferatu-like fangs (the other vampires have side mounted canine fangs).

Cory W Ahre as Noah
A Marshall drives to a coffee shop and passes an address to priest Father Noah Gregory (Cory W. Ahre). Noah drives to the address on the note and finds a group of Marshalls. They explain that they have captured a person of interest and he had a book with him. They show Noah the book and ask him to confirm if it is in Latin. This he does and says it is named the bloodsuckers’ handbook. He questions them about vampires and they ask if he believes in demons. It is explained that they want him to translate the book, they also want him to meet the author.

After being given a blood-pack, he is taken into a windowless room where a man sits, bound and wearing a mask. When the man is unmasked we see his teeth and his wild eyes, it is Condu of course. To me he was reminiscent of Orlock/Dracula from Nosferatu. Noah gives him the blood-pack, which he drinks but complains about the temperature. He asks the vampire his name and the vampire demands Noah’s in return. Condu likes the biblical name, saying that Noah (in the bible) lived to 950 and then asks the priest how? He is playing games and admits that Noah was not one of his kind, people just lived longer then. Noah asks about garlic and holy water and Condu offers an insight into Noah's life that suggests he can read minds. He does become angry but quickly checks himself. For the most part the vampire is erudite and this astounds the Marshalls, the creature had kept his silence for three weeks until Noah came.

vampirism traces back to Vlad
Noah takes the Enchiridion home and starts to translate it. We get a background story – played out in stop motion, which really did work rather well – involving the creation of vampires in 1462. It surrounds Vlad Ţepeş and his anger after the suicide of his wife. It is suggested that he sold his soul to Moloch (the demon from Milton, which was originally a pagan God, is featured in the Allen Ginsberg poem Howl and thus adds to the Beat feel to the film). In this section we discover that sunlight kills vampires. There is an odd line suggesting that at a point Vlad Ţepeş became Vlad the Impaler… as Ţepeş means Impaler this seemed idiosyncratic but the language and symbolism in the film is carefully done and so I suspect this was purposeful.

I could have actually watched a whole film based on the conversations of these two, they were so well done, but eventually Condu escapes and abducts a girl named Edie (Jessica Bell), who appears to be Noah’s regret, to force Noah to return his book. It appears that Condu uses mind control to escape and one has to question how much of what then occurs is in Noah’s mind as well. The film slips deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole with junkies addicted to licking toads, flamingos frequenting bars and a private eye that is a dog (voiced by William Myrick).

I seem to be addicted...
The surreal aspects will put many off but I was captivated as I was drawn into Noah’s nightmare with him. I was particularly impressed with Jeremy Herrera’s performance as Condu and was astounded to see that this was his first listed project on IMDb. Beal has created a film that poses questions and often offers only signposts to answers. It is a psychodrama and one wonders how much was literal. As an English line in the Enchiridion states, “I seem to be addicted to something that doesn’t really exist.”

This will befuddle many but beguile many also, lick the toad and follow the baboon as it is tracked by Valentine the PI dog. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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