Friday, June 12, 2015

The Carriage or Dracula & My Mother – review

Director: Benjamin L. Gordon

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

I’m often in a quandary when it comes to short films, should I review them or just give them an Honourable Mention. The short film is an art form in its own right, like the short story. The pressing of character, story and lore into a very limited amount of time takes a consummate skill. We can also forgive more in a short, I feel, for the very same reasons.

Ben Gordon as himself
Nevertheless, sometimes a short comes along and bam… this was a bam moment. I had approached Ben Gordon, from La Zona Productions in Spain, having spotted his short, and he was good enough to allow me early access to it (the film is now on YouTube and is embedded below). I had a read through the press pack and discovered that he had “inherited” the actual carriage from a commercial shoot and decided to film a story, with his family and a family friend as the talent, over Christmas – the vampire sections were reshot later and, given the really interesting thing he did with lore in the re-shoot it was well worth it.

investigating the carriage
The opening premise is that Ben Gordon’s (himself) mother (Charlotte Gordon) discovers that someone has parked a horse-drawn carriage (sans horses) outside her Spanish home. She phones Ben and tells him as he and his wife Laura and baby daughter Cloe are flying over for Christmas. On arrival he and Charlotte go to look at the carriage but the door is locked. Charlotte mentions Dracula in connection with it. The genius here is the Ben is recapturing older vampire movies where, to one degree or another, the carriage is more than just a conveyance. In Nosferatu, for instance, the shrouded carriage is a sinister omen and in Dracula Prince of Darkness it is a driverless honey trap.

The family dress the Christmas tree but, early the next morning, Laura becomes freaked out when she hears something on the roof of the house. Ben becomes obsessed with the carriage. He has Laura pose before the carriage, holding Cloe, as a lure for anyone inside. He then suggests that as Cloe is sleeping she go for a walk. With her out of the way he parks Cloe’s pram near the carriage and waits, a piece of string attached to pull his daughter away! When Laura returns she sees this, realises what he is doing and understandably leaves the country! That leaves Ben and (an unimpressed) Charlotte plus whatever is in the carriage.

Francisco Aguirre as the vampire
It is actually a vampire (Francisco Aguirre) within the carriage and, when we finally get to see the inside of the carriage, we see it is filled with earth. This reminded me of the Night Flier, in which the vampire’s plane was filled with earth also. However it is the vampire that is the most fascinating character. Almost hobo like in attire he is capable of acts of shockingly physical violence but it is his method of feeding that I have to spoil as it is so unusual.

roots retracting
Tendrils of roots emerge from his mouth and sprout from his hands reaching to the victim and burying into the flesh to suck the blood. This almost plant like attribute feels natural given the earth in the carriage. It also reminded me of the quote from Mansfield I read cited in Michael Bell’s Food from the Dead (pg 219), “Among the superstitions of those days, we find it was said that a vine or root of some kind grew from coffin to coffin, of those of one family… …and when the growing vine had reached the coffin of the last one buried, another one of the family would die…” The vampire can be warded by religious iconography, in this case Jewish, and seems to have some form of psychic connection with his victims. He can also turn into a bat.

Ben's mother
This was a fantastic little short, well shot and able to both summon reminiscences of genre staples and also very fresh ideas (such as the feeding method). The acting was naturalistic and the dialogue free-flowing often (the bickering over the cooking of Christmas dinner was actually real, the press release reveals). Gordon describes the film as a “self-portrait taken to a fictionalised realm of perversion.” I describe the film as a cracking little vampire piece. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here and there is a homepage here with a Facebook page here.


Fra Moretta said...

Thanks for sharing,this was a refreshing take on vampirism with some nods to movie tropes.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no worries