Thursday, March 24, 2016

Killing Ariel – review

Directors: Fred Calvert & David J. Negron Jr.

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

There is a thin line between vampire and succubus and, depending on which side the vehicle sits on, I like to feature succubus films here. The succubus may be a sexually orientated demon but often it is depicted as drawing the lifeforce of the victim too – a vampiric act.

One thing I liked about this vehicle was the fact that the filmmakers kept the connection between the incubus and the succubus – all too often missed. The other thing was that they were absolutely aware of the thin line I mentioned and, indeed, played with that line.

young Ricky
The film begins in the summer of 1933. A small child, Ricky, awakens to noises in the house. He lights a candle and we can hear a man, his father (Bradley Whitfield), and woman, his mother (Stacey Martino). There is the roar of a gun. When Ricky peeks through the doorway he sees his father dead in his wheelchair and his mother turns the gun onto herself. After the suicide a man appears, her lover and an incubus (Joseph Gatt, the Dark Path Chronicles), and suggests that his mother was too highly strung to hang in there. Ricky runs to a closet, is haunted by the demon and then found in the morning when the house is searched.

Michael Brainard as Rick
Cut to the present day (I will mention timelines at the end) and Rick (Michael Brainard) is led from his hospital room by an orderly. He is with a psychiatrist (Miguel Nájera) and says that he read his father’s journal and his mother had cuckolded him for years with the man, his father knew he was an incubus. Rick’s story then goes back to 1973. Rick goes to a house where a hippy doctor (Sal Romeo) tries to get him to indulge in some free love. The woman, who he turns down because he is happily married, is the Doctor’s wife but Rick wins the insurance contract.

Ariel and Rick
Rick is married to Nancy (Shana Betz) and they have two kids. That night Rick turns down fooling around but wakes to find himself being ridden by a woman with glowing eyes (Sukunya Wangsomnuk) whilst his wife sleeps. Rick says that this succubus visitation twists his thoughts but it appears he is going through a mid-life crisis; he dyes the grey from his hair, buys a Porsche and is overly interested in female joggers when he is out running. Nancy clearly knows something is wrong and is upset when he suggests that he is going away for the weekend to the Mountain House – his parents’ old place. So she should be as he takes Ariel (Axelle Cummings).

Ariel dead
Ariel is flirtatious, young (enough to be his daughter, he says at one point) and knows Rick is married – she actually suggests that she is a sex demon, though the statement might be as allegorical as taken or an admission. However their weekend affair doesn’t really go to plan as Rick starts to have strange dreams – he sees his wife dead, for instance. The incubus also appears and, when he tries to shoot it, he shoots Ariel instead. Now that brief description doesn’t do justice to the excellent weave of weirdness that the filmmakers put to place. Let it be sufficient to say, however, that every time Rick buries Ariel she somehow comes back, alive and apparently without knowledge of her death. Her corpse also regularly speaks to him pre-burial.

the incubus
Let us talk incubus and succubus, however. At one point the incubus speaks to him in Ariel’s voice and talks in such a way that it becomes apparent that the succubus and incubus are one and the same. This is sometimes reflected in folklore. At one point he puts Ariel in a trunk and her corpse begins to speak to him as he gets rid of it. He tells the psychiatrist that this made him happy as it proved she was still in it and he knew that they can get out and start “sucking on your soul again”. So we have the allusion to energy vampirism right there.

Ariel staked
However I said at the head that the film knowingly played with the thin line between vampire and succubus. In a couple of scenes, whilst just murdered again, Ariel has fangs. Rick does wonder whether she is some sort of vampire and in response to that carves a stake out of a wooden spoon, puts it through her heart and then dismembers the body – burying the parts separately. Whilst we have this we do not have any actual blood drinking.

dead, animate and fanged
Finally I said I’d mention timelines. Rick was a boy in 1933 – quite young but that would make him in his forties in 1973 and he looks about the right age – though clearly he and his wife had children late in that case. As for the present day, well we don’t know the date but if it is contemporary with the film’s release it would have him in his eighties. The aging makeup (which we see late on) was very well done but I didn’t think he looked that old and I did occasionally wonder about the timelines as I watched the film. Not so much that it jarred but it did niggle.

more fangs
One reason why it didn’t jar was down to the two leads distracting the viewer from such concerns. Michael Brainard and Axelle Cummings make this good fun, with a real chemistry going on even when Rick’s killing her, again. The twists in the story are nicely done and the viewer is completely comfortable with the directions the filmmakers take us in. This is a great little indie film, really worth tracking down and definitely worth 7.5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.

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