Monday, April 24, 2017

Vamp or Not? Alp

This 2016 film by Juan Salas came to my attention because of the title. The Alp is often quoted as a Germanic variety of vampire, in fact Theresa Bane (in Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology) states it to be a “vampiric demon” – to confuse things, however, it is said to not have am infernal source but is created “when a newborn male child dies, when a child whose mother went through a particularly long and painful childbirth dies, or when a family member dies and his spirit simply just returns”. This illustrates the confusion and overlap that can exist in the wider view of vampirism.

The film starts by showing a version of Fuseli’s Nightmare and an intertitle that concerns itself with sleep paralysis. We then follow Chris (Yussef Abdur Razzaaq) who, as the film begins, starts (as though awakening from a micro sleep) at the wheel of a car. He asks his passenger, his therapist Dr Jim Atterson (W.M. Bacon, Blood Reunion 3: Hunters), if he saw *that* but Atterson suggests that Chris was hallucinating. They go to the door of a house, Chris holding a gun, and with some effort he opens the door… the film jumps back to a few days before.

Chris sleeping
Chris is in therapy and telling Atterson about his dreams. These include showing Trisha (Vanessa Anders), his fiancée, a tree in the backyard of his childhood home and being in a convenience store where he sees a hooded figure. He suggests he often sees the figure in his dreams and also when he is awake. He then describes sleep paralysis including the feeling that someone is on his chest. Bane tells us that the alp “sits upon the victim’s chest and compresses the air out of their lungs so that they cannot scream”. Finally they discuss him returning to the old house, something the doctor believes will be cathartic.

Dave & Chris
Trisha is going to the house with him and they plan to stay for three days. Chris’ estranged brother Dave (Adrian Lockett) is at the house and is going to sell it. At first everything seems ok – there is a party in the backyard, at which one of the partygoers mentions suffering an episode of sleep paralysis and Trisha mentions that Chris has that all the time. Then Chris and Tricia go to bed but he suffers another set of vivid nightmares. This includes a fire at the house, a baseball and a bloody woman.

bloodied woman
The dialogue isn’t explicit as to what happened in the siblings’ past – apparently it involved a babysitter, murder by meat hook, a fire, and Dave and Chris being the only survivors. Their mother (presumably out during the incident, hence the babysitter) soon after committed suicide. What the film does well is keep us off kilter, just as Chris is off kilter. We are not always sure if a sequence is dream or otherwise – though there are obvious dream parts also. Perhaps it is in his dreams that Chris researches sleep paralysis and the alp – for one would have thought he’d have done so earlier, given the history. Moments where the hooded figure moves into Trisha or Dave’s awareness may just be dreams that Chris is having.

the hooded figure
Going back to the quote from Bane, what an alp does after sitting on a chest is “drink blood (and milk if the victim is a woman who is lactating), which will cause her to have both horrible nightmares and erotic dreams. The next day the victim will have vivid memories of the attack and be left feeling drained of energy and miserable.” Chris is certainly miserable (and paranoid) but the film does not give us any blood drinking. The alp is associated with myth figures such as the mare and the old hag and so it may be that there is energy vampirism going on. The film also lingers, during a google, on the word succubus – but there seems nothing in the way of erotic activity (bar one interrupted shower moment).

Vanessa Anders as trisha
The fact that the film uses the alp is great and the entire sleep paralysis aspect is covered off. What we don’t see, per se, is anything vaguely resembling vampirism (or even energy vampirism). Rather we have a decent into delusion and madness. As such this is of genre interest but ultimately it is Not Vamp.

The imdb page is here.

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