Friday, January 27, 2017

Blood Dynasty – review

Director: Chris Alexander

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

The third Irina film, following the movies Blood for Irina and Queen of Blood, I should probably say that this felt like the most experimental of the series and if you are not into arthouse/euro-horror films you might want to look away now.

The blurb for the first film mentioned Herzog, Rollin and Franco – and, if anything, the Rollin inspiration shined through the first film and was more than apparent in the second. I felt less so with this. Almost devoid of dialogue (there are two words spoken in all), with experimentation with filters and a lack of any in-depth narrative (as though a narrative might undermine the atmosphere), this felt more like it took its inspiration from Jess Franco (though I haven’t mentioned it in the previous reviews, Irina is a name bestowed upon some of Franco’s vampires). Indeed, it felt like Burlington Ontario carried a weighty presence as much as locations such as Málaga had in some of Franco’s work. There are still nods to Rollin, for instance within a clock motif and perhaps even a touch of Vadim in Irina’s dress – reminiscent of Blood and Roses and Carmilla.

Irina with child
Spoiler for Second Film: This film starts with Irina (Shauna Henry) coming out of a pond, her dress awash with blood, holding a baby, its umbilical still attached. This was part of the climax of the second film, Irina giving birth, and I avoided that entire story thread for fear of a spoiler too far in the last review – so apologies if you haven’t seen Queen of Blood yet. The music is ambient with the cry of the baby accompanying the music. The scene ties this film to the previous however, unlike the previous film, we are clearly (by the next scene) in a contemporary time.

the vampire is summoned
In a room, in a motel is a girl (Cheryl Singleton) – note she is only credited as the girl. We follow her as she walks empty streets. Eventually she gets to the edge of the Great lake where the husk of a ship lies in the shallow. She breathes the word Irina. The vampire comes out of the water, curled, almost a rock, she rises and walks through the waters to the shore, towards the road and then the motel. The music leaves ambience behind becoming heavier, discordant, as Irina moves towards the hotel, seeming almost ethereal as though juxtaposed against the soundtrack. The girl reaches her room, dropping her glasses to the floor as the vampire reaches for her.

I should say here that Alexander has chopped the film into un-titled chapters by deliberately fading into black at places. Out of the black and into the bite – Irina feeds from the girl, taking her blood. She allows the girl to feed from her wrist and drips blood from her mouth to the girl. There are deliberate uses of filters through the feeding scenes, which scream Franco. The girl perhaps becomes vampire or becomes mad – maybe both.

attracting a victim
She then goes out and finds victims. The first (Holly Riot) approaches her at a picnic bench outside the motel. She ignores the blood across the girl’s face and reaches out to her, going to the room. She seems to back away as Irina reaches for her and then goes to her. Both vampires bite her (in heavy filters). It is this unreal luring of the prey that helps – along with the filters and the evocative soundtrack – to give the film a dreamlike quality. In this Alexander is probably more successful than Franco ever was, the Spanish auteur never capturing such an ethereal feel. Alexander mixes this with nightmare both through discordant music and moments when Irina seems to lunge at the camera.

Irina and the girl
However, there is little more than this (baring a coda that will lay unexplored) and whilst the lack of narrative offers an aspect of a dream it might be too much for those who dislike arthouse filmmaking, those wanting more substance and those uninitiated into the earlier films. I am, of course, very aware of the previous films in the series and felt that this perhaps didn’t carry me as much as Queen of Blood did. That said, it did still carry me in an almost hypnotic way and it says much for the film that after a gap of a couple of years I was pulled straight into the director’s world. I understand there is to be a fourth film in the series and I think Alexander needs to pull the best from the experimental aspects of the films as they have developed but also look backwards and offer more of a solid narrative to drive his story forward. 6 out of 10 (with caveats).

The imdb page is here.

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