Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Familiar – review

Director: Kody Zimmermann

Release Date: 2009

Contains spoilers

I first saw this at the Bram Stoker Film Festival and was really taken by it and now this excellent short, thanks to instant video, can find a wider audience.

As well as being genuinely funny, the thing that carries this short is the focus. Whilst the vampire’s assistant is developed in some films it is rare for he or she to be the film's primary focus. I can list Sodium Babies as an excellent example, though it is anchored in arthouse cinema, whereas this film is much more accessible to the mainstream.

appearing from green mist
It begins in a park. As night falls green smoke coalesces on the pathway and vampire Simon Bolivar (Paul Hubbard) emerges and attacks a jogger (Art Kitching). Meanwhile Sam (Torrance Coombs) has been narrating, bemoaning his job. We see him watching the attack from a park bench. He is a familiar, servant of the vampire, and essentially that boils down to get rid of the bodies and shielding the vampire from sunlight (aside from the small print that we’ll get to in a second).

chance meeting
Five years earlier Sam had been a guy who was really into his vampire movies. Whilst he was in a movie theatre watching Nosferatu an older man (Brock Shoveller) started talking to him. They talked about the film, though Sam believed it had inconsistencies as it was not a case of bite and turn. The old man told him that blood needed to be exchanged – Bram Stoker got it wrong he says. He passed Sam his card and, deciding to follow up the encounter, Sam went on to meet a rather unimpressed Simon. An explanation to Simon that the old familiar (for that is what he was) was getting too old, plus Sam’s computer was a gateway to harlots, and Sam found himself owned by Simon.

bathing the vampire
So that small print I mentioned. It included dressing and grooming Simon, bathing him (a necessity because, as a corpse, if he wasn’t thoroughly scrubbed the smell was noticeable), making the vampire’s bed (with a layer of fresh earth) and generally being a dogsbody and slave. However there was the promise of being turned and Simon wouldn’t lie about that… would he?

a vampire in sunlight
I don’t want to spoil the short any further but I will say that we discover that vampires can be killed by sunlight – it seems that staking pins them (though it might kill them eventually, we never find out). We do meet a hunter in the course of the short. More importantly we meet Simon Bolivar, a bigger jackass of a vampire you’ll never meet. It is the antics of Simon and the banter between him and Sam that really makes this shine.

Well worth your time. A strong 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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