Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sicilian Vampire – review

Director: Frank D'Angelo

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

I think one issue I come across in a lot of the more modern vampire films is the writer, director and star all being the same individual. Whilst it can, arguably, lead to a pure interpretation of the script, it can also lead to not having a check and balance, a built-in quality control as it were. Perhaps it is the loss of dynamic between these creative elements that the synergy between disparate individuals offers.

Sicilian Vampire certainly attracted a solid acting cast with well-known individuals and also expected the audience to think – putting two and two together in places (such as the source of the vampirism) rather than spoon feeding. Yet it kind of missed, for me at least. Not absolutely awful but not good, no, certainly not good.

Frank D'Angelo as Santo
It starts with a graveyard and a voice over by Santino “Santo” Trafficante Jr. (Frank D'Angelo) – don’t get excited, Santo in this is an Italian-American gangster and not a silver masked luchador. He tells us the “Life is timing and timing is life” amongst other things and admits he has told no-one this story, in case he is thought mad. We see a hand rest on his shoulder and this scene is the bookend of the film.

Daryl Hannah as Carmelina
So then we have a car with Santo’s oldest friends and trusted lieutenants, Sammy (Michael Paré, Bloodrayne, Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance, the Blood Reich: Bloodrayne 3 & Blubberella), Vince (Armand Assante, Soul’s Midnight & the Bleeding) and Tony (Tony Nardi). Tony starts singing along to Just a Gigolo, is told to can it because he can’t sing and then the others join in. Meanwhile Santo wakes up. His wife, Carmelina (Daryl Hannah), is confused as to why he is up but he is going on his monthly trip to the cabin, something he and his guys have done for 18 years – I’ll give the dialogue the benefit of the doubt and suggest she was confused having just woken up as she has made him, late the night before, stacks of home cooked food to take with him

Nina Iordanov as Anna Marie
So, he goes to the bathroom – we get a routine of him not peeing until multiple taps are switched on and, when he gets back to his room, his clothes are put out for him. He looks in on his daughter, Anna Marie (Nina Iordanova, ABCs of Death 2), picks up a gun and steps outside. The car arrives and he remonstrates aggressively about the noise of them singing at 6AM. He then tells Tony to get in the trunk or die… then admits he is kidding.

food stocks
They get to the cabin and Santo refuses food for booze and cards. It is at this juncture that I want to talk dialogue. The IMDb synopsis says, “Equal parts Goodfellas and Dusk till Dawn” – well let us remember that From Dusk Till Dawn was written by Quentin Tarantino and, like the rest of his oeuvre, can be used as a dialogue masterclass. The lessons of that class were, unfortunately, not learnt. The dialogue sounds like a caricature of gangster flicks, rather than carrying you it thus blocks you and Santo (who D’Angelo clearly wants to make sympathetic) comes across as absolutely unlikeable.

bat bite
So, the next morning and the four awaken at the card table – Sammy getting a box of bananas to force fruit onto his companions. Santo notices that there is a “rat” in the box – but that rat is a bat that launches out and onto his neck. Blood squirts, they manage to get it off him, bind his neck in a sheet and take him to hospital. As well as threatening a receptionist they are seen by a doctor (Jack Newman) who says it is nothing but a scratch – but offers a tetanus and rabies shot. Whilst waiting Santo has a dream of hyenas and I wonder why? Ok, there is a genre connection with Nosferatu but they aren’t exactly a Sicilian thing, a wolf perhaps would have been more apt.

no reflection
So he notices that he has lost his reflection. He also detects, in his sleep, when his daughter is being hassled in a club (that she was forbidden to go to). This leads to him sprouting talons, fangs and red eyes. He gets to the club to defend her – there is an aerial shot so that might be as a bat. Whatever it is, its blooming fast as the same song is still playing. He tells her, in response to her question of how he knew, that he can hear a mouse fart and later we see him hearing a mouse fart in the house! He also starts getting phone calls from someone claiming to be his dead father (Robert Loggia, Innocent Blood & the Boneyard Collection).

Paul Sorvino as Jimmy
With his super hearing he discovers that a member of his crew is betraying him to rival boss, Jimmy (Paul Sorvino, Spooky Kids & Airship Dracula), who spends most of his time in his go-go club. Santo does nothing about this, letting the rat make his move. He also goes to Professor Bernard Issacs (James Caan) for help, who discovers that his blood cells are reproducing at an astonishing rate and thus he will not die. The Professor wants to be bitten, to live forever, but Santo won’t do it and here was a huge problem with the story.

strip joint or go-go?
I can buy vampire films where the vampire will not pass on the curse, even when begged. However Santo experiences very few negatives – he is still around during the day, he eats normal food (the Professor reckons eventually he will have to rely on blood but puts no timescale on that) and drinks. Indeed the only negatives are that he has no reflection (no one notices) and his foot starts steaming when he steps on a church’s hallowed ground. Given the character built before us, however, I would imagine he would exploit this new power – see the actions of the gangster boss in Innocent Blood. D’Angelo creates a caricature gangster and then suggests he straightens up because he can now sprout fangs – nothing in the film supported the direction the story went in.

the cops
As a film it relied too much on dialogue heavy scenes but the dialogue was clichéd. It was much too long a film and could have had a good 30 minutes cut from it, this might have helped the pacing, which was turgid in places. Certainly the presence of the two Detectives (Eric Roberts – Lost Girl & Halloween Hell – and Art Hindle – Monster Brawl), shown trailing Santo, added nothing to the story and could be expunged, for instance. The filming and photography was purely budget but with such a renowned cast the film could have done more, and I return back to the dangers of all the key creativity resting in the hands of a single individual. 4 out of 10 is generous.

The imdb page is here.

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