Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Children of the Night – review

Director: Iván Noel

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

I was lucky enough to see this film on the big screen as it played at the 2015 Bram Stoker International Film Festival. I also knew that I would be reviewing it not long thereafter as the DVD was slated for UK release the day after the festival.

Its release to the UK market was perhaps unusual given that it is a fairly unheralded Argentinean film (in Spanish and subtitled on the DVD, with hard subs). However we are lucky that this one has had a release as it is, whilst not perfect in a cinematography sense, unusual and entertaining enough to be an essential for the vampire aficionado.

Sabrina Ramos as Alicia
Indeed, whilst I usually ignore the quotes on DVD boxes this one’s suggestion of it being a “Truly unique vampire yarn” is pretty much on the money. It starts with Alicia (Sabrina Ramos) sleeping and dreaming chaotic dreams that show death. When she awakens we see her go to the bathroom and inject herself – she is a haemophiliac who takes preventative injections. She is also a reporter who has made a career out of searching for Argentina’s missing children (later it is suggested that 400 kids go missing each year in Argentina).

Toto Muñoz as Siegfried
She receives an email from a woman named Erda (Ana María Giunta) who runs an orphanage for sick children called Limbo (the original name of the film). The children are infected with a rare disease but are dying avoidably, she suggests. Alicia’s friend Euge doesn’t think Alicia should go and her (secret from work) boyfriend Gabriel offers to go with her but she refuses his company. She travels across country, arriving for the final walk to the orphanage at night. She meets a strange man who mentions Gabriel and then is met by a child, Siegfried (Toto Muñoz). He says he has been waiting a long time (and as the story develops we discover that he was her childhood friend).

The Count and Erda
The story then sees her getting to know the kids. Their illness is called transylvirus (ok that was silly), indeed it is a Hungarian strain, and has caused “photosensitivity” – the virus aspect fails to take account the supernatural aspects clearly involved. What is interesting is the way that the vampires are drawn positively (they are anything from 8 years old to over 100 and a curious mix of childishness and maturity is used when drawing them) and also in a religious sense. Erda is a catholic and sees them as part of God’s plan, there is no fear of or destruction by religious artefact. The children all (bar the Count (Lauro Veron)) wear white and the vampire hunters (who pick them off one by one and travel from Limbo to Limbo) call themselves Exterminating Angels and wear black.

in the sun
I’m not going to spoil where the story goes but I am going to look at the lore. The vampires can levitate and transform into animals (we see a mouse transformation, for instance) and sunlight destroys them (as does beheading and staking). Their fangs grow over time. Erda allows the elder vampires to feed on humans (not fatally) but the younger ones feed on animal blood. One young lad is caught sucking his own blood and Erda likens it to masturbation by quoting Genesis 38-39 at him. A completely new piece of lore was the fact that they have a drug problem in Limbo as some of the vampires like to sniff curry powder. For some reason haemophiliacs cannot be turned – like Alicia, Erda is a haemophiliac.

the kids are bloodied
The Count is the Grandson of Dracula and his father is ever present as a grey cat. He is genetically predisposed to protecting the vampire race and can make (mortal and immortal) blood boil through the power of the mind. Stoker’s novel is referred to as a biography but Stoker himself is referred to as a traitor who sold the vampires out and somehow died as a human. That isn’t explained in detail but the leader of the Exterminating Angels is Stoker’s son and can walk in daylight (so certain vampires can give up their vampirism it seems).

Lauro Veron as the Count
The performances actually work rather well, considering the majority child cast. Toto Muñoz is a likeable rogue as Siegfried but Lauro Veron actually manages to instil a weariness into his portrayal of the Count that makes you feel there is an ancient vampire in there despite the actor’s incredibly young age – though I couldn’t tell if that was accident or design. I liked the soundtrack and thought it suited but I felt the photography was a little too digital at times, offering an amateurish quality – especially in the opening scenes.

blood on tap
There are aspects to the story that seem a little preposterous – the name of the “virus” or the Bram Stoker/Dracula side – and yet somehow they kind of fit into this film. There is a sly sense of humour through the film, which actually takes advantage of some of the silliness (such as the curry powder), which belies the serious subtexts that might have been pushed much more to the fore (child sexuality, coming of age, abuse are all subtexts at times). Yet, despite the flaws I couldn’t help but like the film and enjoyed it as much the second time around. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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