Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Queen of Blood – review

Director: Chris Alexander

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Never judge a book by its cover, but… if the DVD cover for auteur Chris Alexander’s first film, Blood for Irina, was wonderfully retro, then the poster for sequel(ish) film Queen of Blood is simply magnificent.

The film, of course, shares its name with the 1966 sci-fi vampire flick but that is all they really share. If this film shares with anything, it has to be Jean Rollin and, in particular, lead actress Shauna Henry (reprising the role of Irina) seems to be channelling Françoise Blanchard’s performance from the Living Dead Girl. But how to review… that is the question.

Blood for Irina was difficult to review. A mood piece, with little dialogue, it moved like the fevered dreams of the director committed to film. Queen of Blood has no dialogue, rather you are pushed along by the soundtrack, by the imagery, by Henry’s physical presence. I should say that the screener I had access to had an incomplete sound mix and so I am expecting the final mix to really push the viewer along as, even in its incomplete state, it was an integral and satisfying part of the experience.

first kill
Having seen Blood for Irina was very useful to the experience. I stumbled across the earlier film but I went into this with some sort of expectation of what Alexander would be doing. That said, story-wise, they are separate beasts. This seems to be (until the final segment of the film that steps into a contemporary world) set in the past, the clothes the actors wear tell a tale of the old west, perhaps. The film is split into three sections – Birth, Death and Rebirth. In Birth we see Irina emerge like a primeval spirit from a pond and, in the first instance, see her taken in by a man (a widower by the visual clues).

killing nail
She turns on him – but the attack seems without malice. Irina is simply being Irina, acting as her nature dictates. Her attack is one that sees her digging her fingers into his throat – the same method employed by Catherine Valmont in the Living Dead Girl. We note that Irina has one particularly long and sharp nail. She then walks the paths of Alexander’s dreams, killing those she comes across. Yet they are all mesmerised, placid before her. However there is more than one predator.

preparing a stake
We also see a preacher (Nivek Ogre) and he – like Irina – is a killer. We see him strangle a victim at one point. He also knows what she is, it seems. He whittles what seems like a rather thin stake, until we see that he makes a cross of it and then lashes it into his fist. The two, of course, will conflict and it is an interesting juxtaposition that sees the man of God being the immoral killer and the vampire being a force of nature, killing but not evil, welcome by her victims. There is another story that emerges out of the film but I don’t want to spoil that at all. I should also say that the visual nature of the story – and the dreamlike quality – do not lend themselves to me regurgitating the tale here either. Really it should be experienced.

How to score? The film is low budget but beautiful in its construction. A dream that will turn many off, to be fair, as this is arthouse stuff and not standard horror. It is a sequel in spirit to Blood for Irina but superior I think, Alexander becoming more confident in his filmic language. I was really rather taken with it though and, if I appreciated Blood for Irina then Queen of Blood has lead me to anticipate Chris Alexander’s future work. 6.5 out of 10 is fair I think, Alexander’s film making becoming stronger with this offering and, I hope, laying the groundwork for stronger films to come.

The imdb page is here.

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