Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Babysitter’s a Vampire – season 2

Director: Various

First aired: 2012

Contains spoilers

We looked at season 1 of My Babysitter’s a Vampire here and it was a cute enough kid’s programme that never really seemed to straddle the child/adult line enough to make it too interesting for an adult audience. But, you know what, that’s fine as it aimed squarely for its own market.

In season 2 we get much of the same, and I have decided it does have a definite endearing charm that pushes at the boundaries but doesn’t quite dare to step over them.

Vanessa Morgan as Sarah
At the end of the last season fledgling vampire (and babysitter) Sarah (Vanessa Morgan) was faced with a dilemma when central protagonist to the show, her friend and seer Ethan (Matthew Knight) is bitten by a vampire. The venom will transform him into a vampire but Sarah saves him from that by sucking the venom out. That means, however, that she sucks his blood and transforms into a full vampire.

Addison Holley as Anastasia
As this season starts something is killing vampires and the vampire council suspect Ethan, though the killer seems to be a green mist. Benny (Atticus Dean Mitchell), Ethan’s spellcasting best friend, and their vampire pal Rory (Cameron Kennedy) have to help Ethan find a way to stop the mist or the child elder Anastasia (Addison Holley) will assume guilt and have Ethan killed. The mist is summoned by powerful magic and so a powerful enemy of the vampires must be around.

sparkly vampire
This enemy then vanishes off the radar until the final few episodes but we get a fair share of unusual vampire references through the stand alone episodes. Dusk is the show’s universe’s equivalent of Twilight, with its own brooding, sparkly vampire. The fake film is mentioned a few times in passing but we actually get to meet a sparkly vampire when Ethan dresses up as him for Halloween in an episode that sees everyone turned into their costumes.

Vampire Sasquatch
That aside we get another fake show reference when we discover Rory has a plush toy of Vampire Sasquatch – a series sadly cancelled after 9 seasons… you know, I actually think that might work! Rory and Erica (Kate Todd) are feeding live but there doesn’t seem to be a proliferation of vampires, how the venom turning someone after one bite has been circumvented is never tackled. Another under-explored element occurred when Erica saw her reflection because someone’s soul was trapped in the mirror – this inferred that vampires have no souls and yet the three vampires in the school all seem more moral than amoral.

vampire car feeds
One unusual appearance was a vampire car, or a car possessed with the spirit of a vampire… One could ask about the distinction between a spirit and a soul and if a vampire can become one does it not prove the existence of the other but, let’s face it, a kid’s show isn’t going to dwell on existential issues. So instead let us revel in the appearance of one of the rarer vampire types (the vampire automobile). This one has a vendetta against a certain family, can regenerate body work (and flat tires) and has to be staked. In another episode we discover that if a vampire drinks from the dead they can contract disease.

dead Sarah
A view of Sarah dead was, I thought, going to be a true vampiric form but it was a spell to make Ethan fear everything (anyone he met looked dead). And that (bar the finale, which I won’t spoil) is that. As I said, the show has its own charm and the leads are fun. It still fails to bridge that divide but – as I said at the head – does it matter when it reaches its target audience perfectly well. The change to the catchy theme tune, for the last two episodes, grated however. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Honourable Mention: Kill Zombie!

This was a 2012 Dutch horror comedy directed by Martijn Smits and Erwin van den Eshof, that probably had more in common with Cockneys Vs Zombies than Shaun of the Dead and perhaps contained more than a little smattering of Sars Wars.

Now that is not to say that this has zompires or zombies that might be vampires. These are definitely zombies and the vampire aspect appears at the very end of the movie. My thanks to Leila for alerting me to the film.

main "heroes"
The story centres on Aziz (Yahya Gaier) an office worker who hates his job, and the fact that his brother Mo (Mimoun Ouled Radi) keeps phoning him from a pool party. The one ray of light is that a beautiful co-worker wants to go on a date with him. Unfortunately his boss has designs on her and so sacks him for his personal phone calls (from Mo). He heads to the pool party to confront Mo but an accident with a ball causes some “tension” with a pair of guys called Jeffery (Sergio Hasselbaink) and Nolan (Uriah Arnhem). They end up in police cells along with bank worker Joris (Noel Deelen). During the night they hear an explosion and the lights go out.

zombie on a mobility scooter
A Russian space station has crashed into Aziz’ office building, carrying with it a green space moss that turns liquid on Earth and infects people with a virus that sends them homicidal. That said, the zombies are undead (not just infected) and their bodily fluids are green. A bite will pass on the infection – though a person killed accidentally by crossbow bolt automatically turns and thus it seems they may all be infected (though I doubt the film thought that far ahead). In the morning the lights are back on and the cells open. They leave to find a city in chaos and are confronted by a mobility scooter riding zombie. Rescue comes in the form of female cop Kim (Gigi Ravelli). There are safe zones but Aziz has had a phone call from the office girl, she’s alive and he wants them all to save her. Meanwhile Joris has access to the bank…

So, vampires… No spoiler to say that some of our heroes reach the safe zone, head back in and then get back to the safe zone again. However, when they return and enter the army tents that guard the safe zone – now mysteriously unmanned at the perimeter, they find that many of the army have become vampires (we also saw a bat fly past the heroes as they entered the area, presumably a vampire too.)

stakes at the ready
A quick production of stakes (where they got them from is irrelevant – it’s that sort of film) – and a comment from Aziz that he hates vampires and the heroes… Do nothing as the film ends, it’s a tiny coda piece. Vampires were mentioned earlier, as were werewolves, when they were discussing how to kill the zombies (silver bullets are mentioned) and that is it, a fleeting visitation. As for the core film, I rather liked it as a silly comedy. Scenes such as them trapped on the top of a kid’s climbing frame surrounded by zombies were amusing. The imdb page is here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dracula Chronicles: Bound By Blood – Volume 2 – review

Author: Shane KP O'Neill

First Published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: As his moment of death looms Dracula suffers the ultimate betrayal. The champion of the Catholic faith in Eastern Europe realises it is Lucifer who is coming to claim him. However, Lucifer does not want his soul. Instead he bites into Dracula's neck and then offers his own blood to drink. Dracula suffers his mortal death. But he re-awakens. Immortalised with Lucifer's blood coursing through his veins, the two are bound by blood for eternity. But Lucifer has groomed him for this day. He lays out the task before him. Dracula is to destroy the institution of that which he has championed for so long. By bringing down the Catholic Church he can undo the Crucifixion and turn man against God once more. If he succeeds then Lucifer will ascend again to Heaven and signal the end for all mankind.

The Review: When I looked at Volume 1 of the Dracula Chronicles: Bound by Blood I looked at it in a honourable mention article. I did so because Shane KP O'Neill is a friend on facebook. However Shane messaged me and suggested that perhaps the author being a friend shouldn’t preclude a review and, in the spirit of that conversation, I have decided to look at such books/films in review format and see how it goes. My pledge to my readers is that I intend to be honest about the product.

Bound by Blood was split into two volumes due to length and, honestly, I am glad it was. Not because I am against long books (being a veteran of authors such as Tad Williams, George RR Martin etc) but because I think this half didn’t quiet sit squarely with the first half of the book.

Historically it follows Vlad Ţepeş as a vampire through Saxony in 1517 and influencing the birth of Lutheranism, through the battle of Pavia in 1525 and on to the Court of Henry VIII and the schism between England and the Vatican.

The trouble was, I’m afraid, that where the first book was brutally violent in parts (a violence I welcomed) this volume felt more historical and less vampiric (despite the heavy influence of Vlad and his vampiric family – he has turned two sons and his wife and his granddaughter has been turned). Indeed the Pavia section had a parade of historical figures that could be overwhelming to the reader unfamiliar with that period in history. This slowed the book down comparatively, though there were still some nice gory bits (a freshly turned vampire who had been a bishop, with blessed blood that ate it from the inside until the flesh exploded was particularly nice).

Towards the end of the book, when we returned to the subject of Dracula’s nemesis the book felt more like the first volume and I welcomed the resurgence of the more fantastical element. Does this mean it was bad? Not at all, but I personally was less enamoured with this volume than the previous. The language needs to be mentioned also. Shane writes in a quite modern style (despite the historical grounding) and there is nothing wrong with that for the main, indeed the language works as a juxtaposition to the historical detail. However, the reference between a female vampire and her historically famous illicit lesbian lover as “baby” did feel much too modern. The might be hyper-critical, however, as the language did work otherwise.

I liked the vampire drones introduced in this; turned humans who have not drunk the blood of the vampire who turned them and become brain damaged creatures with distended and discoloured skin (as they had not purged their internal organs), who suffered an unquenchable thirst.

It is also interesting to note how religion is being treated. Dracula is trying to undermine the Vatican, and Lutheranism, the Church of England and Islam are all seen as forces that turn people away from God. De facto to this is the idea that the Roman Catholic faith is not simply a path to God it is the only path to God (despite, for instance, the fact that Lutheranism was born out of reaction to the corruption at the heart of the Vatican). I look forward to some further theological exploration in future volumes.

All in all this was still a good book but I enjoyed it less than the first volume. 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Honourable Mention: Gothkill

This was a 2009 film by JJ Connelly and it was way back then when I first became aware of the film and it has taken all the way to now to look at the film.

Now there is most definitely a supernatural element to the film but the reason that this is an honourable mention is because the “vampires” in it are vampyre lifestylers and there is nothing within the film to suggest that they believe that they are undead vampires. Thus it is, at best, of genre interest.

It is about a priest from the inquisition, Nicholas Dread (Flambeaux), who discovers that the church are killing innocents under the sentence of witchcraft in order that the church might confiscate their property and intervenes – getting burned at the stake in turn and vowing revenge by agreeing a deal with Satan that he will have a kingdom in Hell to rule after providing 10,000 souls. Thus he returns to earth over and over as a serial killer of the corrupt.

Flambeaux as Dread
When we meet him we see him with a coven who, after a ritual, he slaughters (by gun) and this provides him with the last few souls he needs. He is hung for mass murder but, arriving in Hell, the devil has stiffed him and taken all the souls – leaving him with an empty kingdom. His priestess has been accidentally run over and his book of magic, that could bring him back, stolen.

Annie and Kate
Meanwhile Annie (Erica Giovinazzo) has arrived in New York, where she is going to college and sharing an apartment with her cousin Kate (Eve Blackwater). Kate has got into the Goth scene and takes Annie for a makeover, where they are given an invite to the VIP party of the scorpion society – a vampyre lifestyle coven. Actually the group, under their leader Lord Walechia (Michael Day), end up drugging the girls in order that they will “initiate them” – for that read gang rape. Walechia has got his hands on Dread’s book and reads a ritual, however, allowing Dread to possess Annie…

Michael Day as Lord Walechia
The film is short and, from our point of view, features people who like to put fangs in and pretend they're vampires. I would wax lyrical about the cheapness of the film but it has a saving grace in the form of Flambeaux who is clearly having a whale of a time. The imdb page is here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blood Reunion – review

Director: Jim DeVault

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

This was nearly a “semi review”. I had hired the film from YouTube to watch and the last five or so minutes of the film just wasn’t there. I left a comment and the next day the film had been restored to its entirety allowing me to watch the last five minutes. My plan, prior to that, had been to do an article critiquing the film but holding back from a final score due to the lack of conclusion. The experience is, as I will explain later, going to affect the score (or at least illustrate a reasoning for the score).

The film opens with a quote from Montague Summers’ The Vampire in Europe, “The most characteristic feature of the vampire is its horrid thirst for blood. By blood it sustains and nourishes its own vitality, it prolongs its existence of life in death and death in life. Blood it seeks and blood it must have.” It is nice to see Monty still being cited, I have a soft spot for the eccentric clergyman and his writings.

For the blood of Winona
The film proper opens with a woman, Winona Lovett (Paula Marcenaro Solinger), who checks on her daughter Janeth (played as a child by Gracie Whitton) before leaving the house. She walks to meet a man as Janeth gets out of bed and tries to find her mom, to no avail. The man is a vampire and he bites Winona – it looks like she is a willing victim but why this is the case we never discover – in the morning Janeth finds her mom dead in bed and screams.

bars on a grave
Through the credits we see a set of iron bars being made and then the film starts proper, fifteen years on (actually there is a scripting error where, for one line, it becomes 18 years but the consistent figure is 15). Janeth (April Hartman) has grown up with her Aunt and Uncle in another State and has been haunted by the memory of finding her murdered mother. She has decided to return to her home town and face her demons but the town has expanded. She stops off at a store and meets Wilford Trent (Chris Macone) when she asks for directions. He stays pretty darned stum about the past as he talks to her not revealing that he immediately knows her name (despite, we discover, being one of the two people who saved the town from vampires 15 years before).

April Hartman as Janeth
Janeth gets to the cemetery and gives the custodian, Victor (Carl Bailey), some grief over the fact that the marker is gone, the grave is out of the main plot and overgrown and there are iron bars over the grave. He can’t say why and is ordered to tidy the grave up. Janeth goes for a beer and meets Mike Rivers (J.B. Brady), son of the local priest (Richard Houghton) and all round good guy who offers her his sister’s apartment – as she (Gail Brewer) is out of town… Yeah, I know, strangers meet and offer use of apartment, and use is accepted… plot contrivance time. Meanwhile, as night falls, Victor falls prey to a newly up and around Winona.

Tim Newkirk as Det. Rance Barry
The next morning the cops find Victor’s body and this is spotted by Father Rivers who recognises the wounds and sees that the bars have been removed. Local cop Det Rance Barry (Tim Newkirk) is unimpressed with the priest’s conclusion. Fifteen years before Father Rivers had preached about vampires coming to town and he and Wilford Trent (who was the coroner at the time) were barely kept out of jail by Rance after some post-mortem beheading and stakeage in town. He doesn’t believe in vampires. Father Rivers knows, however, that they will multiply quickly but he doesn’t know that Winona has a particular grudge against him, Wilfred and their families.

blood on mouth
So the stage is set but the script left a little to be desired. Mother daughter interaction between Janeth and Winona is restricted to the very end of the film (whilst you would have thought something about that would have been the central plank of the film). We have errors in chronology, not just the 15/18 years but after a couple of nights have passed Janeth saying she met Wilford that day (rather than when she got into town). The delivery of the script was amateurish as well, worst offender being Tim Newkirk who seemed to be wanting to out-growl Karl Urban’s Dredd but just sounding clichéd and silly as a result – a shame as he does become a central character.

burnt by a cross
We get standard undead in this film; garlic and crosses ward off vampires – crosses burning the flesh if touched, sunlight burns them, a stake through the heart and beheading to kill them and a bite turns. There bars on the grave aspect was unusual though, honestly, I failed to see how that managed to keep her in. There was also an aspect that could have been explored around Father Rivers. After being threatened with being turned he states that it will damn his soul and it made me wish they had explored this. Surely, if one is forced to become a vampire then one isn’t damned (at whatever stage the soul is finally freed). This is a too rarely explored conundrum (Twins of Evil did create a very sound set of rules specifically about the effect of a bite and whether a righteous person would turn), unfortunately it isn’t explored here but the film did raise the conundrum in my head whilst I watched.

In the sun
Effects are used sparingly and, given the budget, that is for the best. I said that the missing end of the film had affected the score and I shall now explain. This is a low budget film, the script needed work on and the acting wasn’t brilliant as I have mentioned. However I was really peeved when I couldn’t see the end of the film. There was no philosophical, “Oh well, it was rubbish any way,” as I wanted to know how it ended. Despite it all I gave a damn about the characters and wanted to see if they would prevail or not. Kudos to the filmmakers for doing that. As such the film gets 4 out of 10. It is below average, but it is also an indie film that makes you, despite itself, give a cuss. A sequel, I understand, is in production.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dracula Rekindled – review

Author: Xander Buchan

First Published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: 'Not until he cannot lose will he make his move! His preparation will be slow and thorough. Never again will he meet defeat by the same ends...'

A young couple find their plans delayed by unforeseen events. A student's PhD research digs up more than she bargained for, and a renowned Haematologist discovers his ancestor, Van Helsing, was master of more than just medicine.

Amidst a series of strange events and horrific discoveries, lands are being bought up in Scotland; renovation work begins in a quaint coastal village to restore a medieval castle ruin. Does the prestigious restoration, and its new owner, hold any connection to the dark events unfolding?

As a dark force rises, a secret history is uncovered - but could it even be believed? A desperate hunt for answers leads to the farthest reaches of darkest Europe; has an ancient foe returned to threaten mankind once more?

The Review: I received a copy of Dracula Rekindled for review and have to say I was nervous. There have been many sequels or continuations of Dracula written and the content is variable at best. Having read the book I had some issues but was, overall, very impressed.

The novel fluctuates between the early twentieth century and the present day and is told in an epistolary fashion – as the original was. We have a rebirth of Dracula that was clever and a continuation of the legacy (or curse) of some of the original characters that was handled very well.

Before I extoll the virtues, however, I want to lay my concerns open. There were a couple of minor parts. The tying in with Vlad Ţepeş was a choice I would have avoided (given the original character isn’t based on the historic figure) but it is a matter of author choice. The pernickety part of me has to point out that Mina was burned by a host and not a cross (the cross being a movie adaptation).

The thing that threw me, however, was the invention of Whitby. Having written a book myself I have invented details within real world locations, but the Whitby described bore no resemblance to the real place. The pubs did not exist, there definitely is no multi-screen cinema (as inferred), the council building would likely be in Scarborough and there certainly isn’t a zoo there. Is this a problem? It shouldn’t be, after all the Scottish Parliament hasn’t legalised euthanasia either and I accepted that within the story. But I know Whitby, so perhaps it is just me… but many of the target audience know Whitby too – virtually or in reality – and the details kept breaking my suspense of disbelief. This is probably unfair but I call it how I see it – the choices round this have not affected my final score however.

Now to the good. The reclaiming of Dracula’s Guest, set a few years forward in time from the original novel and involving Van Helsing’s niece as the protagonist was very clever, as was the interesting modern take on the traditional lore around suicide. As for the actual prose, I made a note on the kindle as I read the book that said “delicious language” and it was. Buchan’s prose was glorious and evocative, his descriptive prose wrapping around you and lifting you into the world he had created. This, to me, outweighed any doubt I may have had round the Whitby location. Indeed his other locations were rather fun, it was nice to see Slain’s Castle used and there was a gloriously understated moment of macabre culinary humour.

As we raced towards the ending I failed to see how anything could end on a positive note. The book, it became clear, is set to a sequel and a twist at the end was both out of left field and incredibly clever.

This is a welcome new addition to Dracula canon. 8 out of 10.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dracula {2012} – review

Director: Dario Argento

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Another year, another Dracula movie and, to me, this one owed much more to Hammer films than it did to Stoker’s novel. Now fans of the vampire genre, and fans of Dracula in particular, are very aware that a straight telling of the novel is a big ask from any film producer, but given the Hammer-esque nature of this film one could only wish they had also borrowed the quality of those films.

I had wanted to see this on the big screen, given it was designed for 3D that surely would have been the way forward. However, its recent sporadic appearance on DVD/Blu-ray and the general derision with which it was met by film critics suggest that this won’t happen. The derision, unfortunately, won’t stop here but it does have some positives that I’ll highlight as we go along.

bad CGI
The opening swooping camera above a nineteenth century (eastern?) European village shows a big chunk of what is wrong with this flick. The village is CGI and the CGI is not good. For clarity’s sake let me underline my thoughts on CGI. I don’t mind it, when it is done well. Badly done CGI, like all effects, is a different matter however. In this case the stone colouring is too uniform, the streets too clean and, worse, too straight and uniform – it is blatantly not real. It prevents engagement with the film in the very first moments.

transform from owl
Next we are in one of the houses and we meet Tania (Miriam Giovanelli). Her mother (Maria Cristina Heller) is retiring for the night and asks Tania to bolt the shutters, after all it is Walpurgis Night. This she does, but also puts on a crucifix and cloak, sneaking from the house. She passes the hut of a local taxidermist, Renfield (Giovanni Franzoni), and gets to a barn… where she meets her married lover Milos (Christian Burruano). After doing the deed she wants him to walk her home, he refuses and she puts the cross (a gift from him) in his hand and storms off. Something follows her through the forest and she runs towards a hut as an owl flies at her and transforms into Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann, Blade 2). As he bites her she swoons ecstatically. The hut owner, Zoran (Giuseppe Lo Console), seems amused.

a feeling of unreality
A train arrives at a cgi station and again we are thrown out of the movie. The passenger Jonathon Harker (Unax Ugalde) swots at badly constructed cgi flies that are too loud in the soundtrack. They were clearly meant to be a 3D thing and we also notice that the film concentrates its attention on mean things (flies, spiders, cockroaches and rats) implying that they are the eyes of Dracula during the day. There is no coach and so he rides a horse to the village and is chased by wolves that mysteriously vanish almost as soon as they appear. Arriving at the village after nightfall, he goes to the inn and gets a room.

in the grave
The customers look suspicious and we then see Milos, the lieutenant and another sneak off to the graveyard, where they proceed with digging up Tania’s corpse so that they might stake it. When the coffin is opened they check her neck and see the bites. However Renfield appears and stops the desecration. He bites the ear off a man, knocks the lieutenant down and then buries a spade blade in Milos’ head. He is then overpowered but Tania’s corpse has vanished and so he is pulled away to jail. We see Tania drinking Dracula’s blood from a goblet.

Tania reborn
In the morning Jonathan goes to the house of Mayor Kisslinger to see the mayor's daughter, Lucy (Asia Argento, Love Bites). She is teaching a young girl piano and is a friend of Jonathon and his wife Mina (Marta Gastini). Mina has been delayed and will reach the village in a few days. It was Lucy who had told them that Count Dracula was looking for a librarian – the position that Jonathon has come to fill. After leaving the house, and nearly being throttled through the jail bars by Renfield, Jonathon heads to the castle.

he is mine
In the castle, no one is around but a letter has been left for Jonathon. He finds his room and, when he comes back down, he finds a table laid out. He meets Tania first, who seems overly familiar, and then the Count comes along and explains that she is his niece. After a “children of the night” moment Harker is taken to the library (he notices the Count casts no reflection in a glass fronted book case). We have Tania steal a picture of Mina (and suck some blood from a wound in Jonathon's hand) and then there is a moment tying in Dracula with Vlad Ţepeş. Following all this we get Tania disrobing, coming on to Jonathon and a very forceful “he is mine” moment, with a naked Tania tossed aside and the count biting Jonathon.

Lucy and Mina
Now I mentioned Hammer and Jonathon arriving to be a librarian is pure Horror of Dracula, though his appointment is innocent on his part in this, unlike the Hammer film where Harker is a vampire hunter undercover. The Tania character seems named and modelled after a vampiric totty found in Scars of Dracula. Suffice it to say that the town elders are in cahoots with the vampire but regretting their decision. Mina comes looking for her husband, as Lucy falls to the Count’s predation, and Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula 3: the Legacy, Salem’s Lot & The Reverend) is drafted in.

The mantis
I have already mentioned the CGI but it is worth concentrating on. When we see the owl, it is clearly CGI but works and has a less is more approach to the transformation. However other creature transformations do not work so well. A wolf to vampire transformation looks totally awful, whilst a swarm of flies into the vampire fails as the swarm but works as we see the vampire absorb errant parts of himself. However much was said, in pre-production, about Dracula becoming a giant praying mantis and this was truly as awful as it sounded; not just the cgi, but the rubber bits for close ups.

Carry On Dracula?
The story is sketchy at first. Borrowing from Dracula (1973), Dracula thinks Mina the reincarnation of his wife and has lured the couple there with the express desire of taking her for himself. Now his expired wife is named as the Countess Dolingen of Gratz, who was a feature of the short Dracula’s Guest but I guess we’ll forget that Dolingen was a vampire herself. What is interesting in this is that Mina does not believe she was his wife, but the Count mojo’s her into acting as such. This means the love story (such as it is) really does kind of sneak up on you.

Van Helsing Cushings a cross
One has to question Van Helsing’s preparedness as well. As the ex-director of Carfax Asylum, he became a vampire hunter having caught Dracula feeding on a patient. However when he confronts the vampire Lucy he apparently hasn’t brought a cross with him (despite having a bag of equipment to hand, which later contains a cross-sword that he stakes Tania with) as he cushing’s two twigs together to hold her off. I think they just wanted to use the trope.

The story is poor in its simplicity. It could have done with tightening up to be honest and to actually develop rather than plonk set pieces in its own path like some sort of cinematic bumps in the road. These set pieces derail more than enhance the film. The acting is average at best but the worst thing is the CGI as there are some really bad choices and this is a shame because at times the film does look luscious, reaching back to the Euro-horror of yore and then a bad computer graphic just makes you scoff. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Film – Elizabeth Bathory

I’ve been contacted by the creative forces behind a proposed new film about Erzsébet Báthory. There have been two recent Báthory films, The Countess and Bathory but, realising that neither were horror genre as such, they have seen a gap in the market for a Báthory film catering to the horror fan. Here is the synopsis:

The Bath
In sixteenth century Hungary a woman, Anika, is in prison with an eccentric woman, Katarina, who tells horrific tales of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory and her brutal torturing and killing of virgin girls before drinking and bathing in their blood. Realizing that they are to be Elizabeth’s next victims and that Katarina is the only person she has now, Anika befriends her and opens up to her about her troubled past. They devise a plan to escape but they soon find out that neither is who the other thinks she is.

Tilke Hill tries her teeth
Filming is set begin in May 2013. The premiere is scheduled for this October in Buffalo, NY. The script was written by Elizabeth Nixon and Andrew Nixon and will star Tilke Hill and Kathleen Denecke. Elizabeth Nixon will also direct the film. You can see an example of the Nixons’ previous work here.

The film is being kickstarter funded and the kickstarter page is here, the film's homepage is here. I’ve embedded the trailer below and wish Elizabeth and Andrew the best of luck with their project.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blood-C: the Last Dark – review

Director: Naoyoshi Shiotani

First aired: 2012

Contains spoilers

I gave a rundown of the potted history of the Blood family of anime when I reviewed the Blood C series - so you can look at that and add this film to the franchise.

And what a sad franchise it is. Despite the potential for creating some iconic anime/films we have a franchise that, it could be said, epitomises the saying “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. When I looked at Blood-C I was tempted to go down the “Vamp or Not?” route but, ultimately, lead character Saya (Nana Mizuki) proved herself to still be a vampire. It is just as well that this is a direct follow-on from that series, as there is nothing vampiric (bar some quick healing) shown in this film.

Saya scoffs at your curfew
It begins 6 months after the events in the series, with the location moved to Tokyo. It is a dystopian Tokyo where main bad guy Fumito (Kenji Nojima) has used his conglomerate, Seventh Heaven, as a political tool and convinced the Government to introduce stringent censorship of the internet and the Youth Ordinance Bill, which forces all people under twenty to follow a strict curfew. Later it is suggested that this is to prevent the kids questioning things on the internet (so you force them home where they will… go on the internet).

monster on a train
Anyway, a rebel group of hackers, called Sirrut, are trying to expose Fumito and his shadowy Tower organisation (the black ops area of Seventh Heaven, I guess). A few of them are trying a field exposure of the group when a man on the subway train turns into a monster. Saya happens to be there and fights him but he manages to escape with the Sirrut agent, Mana (Ai Hashimoto). It turns out that Mana joined Sirrut to find her missing journalist father, at the end of the film we discover that the man/monster was him but it has no film impact at all.

boss battle time
Anyway Saya chases him and kills him, when the other Sirrut operatives arrive. Tower are closing in so they escape by car, with Saya, and she becomes part of the group. All that is left is for them to point Saya at Fumito whilst their sponsor, Kuroto (Hiroshi Kamiya), asks Saya to kill Fumito for him as they are cousins and Fumito killed their family. Fumito has been playing with Furukimono (or old ones) blood to transform humans into monsters and Saya gets near him once before a final assault on Tower’s base and a big boss monster that is easily defeated.

That is the trouble with the film; low on exposition, a silly twist in the tail, non-descript characters that bear no scrutiny, all in all it is pointless. It looks pretty enough in places, with some nice cgi amidst the more traditional animation. Saya is back to the taciturn character of the original anime rather than the effervescent character of the Blood-C. There isn’t a huge amount this does brilliantly but I have seen much worse. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Honourable Mention – Conquest

This was nearly a ‘Vamp or Not?’, having been explored due to seeing the word vampire mentioned in connection to the film in a couple of places. As it was the appearance of the alleged vampires is so short that a fleeting visitation, and thus honourable mention, is probably the way forward.

It is 1983, Lucio Fulci is at the helm and we are in the depths of the really poor fantasy film. This is particularly bad; mist billows through every shot, to hide the sins of effects so poor it would make a grown FX artist weep, as an awful synthesiser score rips through any atmosphere with jangling claws. It’s so bad it is damn near a classic of the genre (nearly but not).

Land of the transparent folk
It begins with Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti) preparing to leave his land. For some reason he, his father and all the others are semi-transparent. Ilias is going on a quest, with no apparent goal, and his father presents him with the bow of Kronos, a bow that will fire arrows of the sun (which are suspiciously blue rather than yellow or fiery) if the bow man has become a man and is out of arrows – Ilias doesn’t get this perk until a ways through the film.

He lands ashore in a place ruled by the evil sorceress Ocron (Sabrina Siani). Said to be the force that makes the sun rise she has a group of henchmen in demonic masks and other dog-men whom we will suggest are werewolves for the sake of tags down at the bottom of the article. After a ritual where something (narcotic?) is fired up her nose by peashooter, she has a vision of a faceless Ilias killing her with the magic bow and thus requires his capture. She has a habit of eating the brains out of severed heads.

magic bow
Ilias is attacked by dog-men and mask wearers and, having run out of arrows, looks doomed until a warrior, Mace (Jorge Rivero), rescues him. Mace admits he saved the bow, not the man, and suggests that all men are his enemy and he has no friends. In return for teaching him to use the bow, however, Ilias can travel with him. Mace seems to have some low powered Beastmaster affinity with animals and won’t kill animals. He will, however, kill a random tribesman to steal the animal he has killed and eat it. The morality is a little off.

revenant or zompire?
Anyway, vampires… Ilias is poisoned and Mace goes to get a magic plant to cure him. The sun has set when he is heading back and suddenly corpses rise (mostly from a lake) to get him. Now at this point I would say zombies, they look desiccated and only manage a moan. They also seem indestructible… that is until Mace kicks one and impales it on a tree branch. It dies. Armed with this knowledge he stakes all of them through the chest (earlier he had stabbed a branch into a stomach to no avail and so I believe we are looking at stake through the heart).

Now they probably aren’t vampires, despite this. At best I would say revenants or zompires. But they certainly conform to the night walking, stake ‘em, animated dead tropes. They are there for about all of a couple of minutes. And that’s it folks. The film is rubbish but watched as such you might get something out of it. Truth be told I found it a bit boring. Nevertheless the imdb page is here.