Monday, July 30, 2018

Vampira – review

Director: Joey Romero

Release date: 1994

Contains spoilers

This offering from the Philippines eschewed their own rich mythologies and folklore to take a very western style of vampire. Indeed we even get some of the more general western staple imagery such as the angry mob with torches, yet the thing manages to maintain its own feel.

The vampirism in this is quite unusual, however, as it focuses on a cursed family and (up to a point, as will be explained when we look at the lore) the vampirism cannot be passed on except along familial lines.

Cesar chained
So, we start with a woman (Nida Blanca) chaining her young son, Cesar (Boy 2 Quizon), to his bed. He cries that he can’t take it anymore. Mom leaves the room to go and see his father. In the city a woman (Felanie Patricio) is chased and caught by a rapist (Sammy Vencio). He is pulled off her and attacked by a female vampire, who we later realise is primary character Cara (Maricel Soriano). Cutting back to the mother and father, he asks for Cara. The father has given up drinking blood and is dying.

Maricel Soriano as Cara/Paz
Elsewhere a girl has just got out of the bathroom when a male vampire, Miguel (Jayvee Gayoso), literally smashes through her window and attacks her... Cara goes to her father and he tells her that the lunar eclipse is almost upon them and she should return to Salvacion to lift the curse from their family. She asks how but he dies before he can tell her. The mother gets her to leave before Miguel returns home. When she reaches Salvacion she feigns exhaustion as she reaches the church and is taken in by the Priest (Ernie Zarate, Shake Rattle and Roll 9).

Christopher De Leon as Arman
The next day she gives her name as Paz but overwise feigns amnesia. She is given a place to stay by young widower Arman (Christopher De Leon), who lives with his daughter Len-Len (Patricia Ann Roque) and was, himself, an orphan raised by the priest. This arrangement is not appreciated by the bitchy daughter of the police chief, Donya (Lulu Arietta), who has her sights on Arman herself. Of course, Arman and Cara/Paz fall in love – the subsequent marriage seems ridiculously rushed and ill-thought through by the vampire given the day they marry on.

vampire baby
The vampires can go around in the daytime but become fairly bestial, with an overwhelming need to feed, on the full moon. Arman and Cara/Paz happen to marry on a full moon and so the wedding night is interrupted when a snarling Cara/Paz has to leg it to find food. Cara/Paz feeds from criminals or (mostly) animals and we see Cesar given a chicken to feed on. Miguel is happy with his lot and doesn’t want to have the curse lifted. The curse itself was cast on the Noche family when they stole land in Salvacion. All the members of the family were thus cursed. The father was the last of the family alive but he married a human and his children were cursed like him, the mother isn’t. There is a vampire baby but it is a nightmare sequence.

on the wedding night
Apparently, the lunar eclipse can go one of two ways – either the curse is lifted or they will gain the ability to turn victims into vampires. Miguel has threatened to turn his mother. The curse can be lifted if a member of the family that cast it forgives and loves a member of the Noche family. Coincidentally (!) orphan Arman is the grandson of the family that cursed them – when he discovers what Cara/Paz is (on their wedding night) can he maintain the love he feels and forgive her? Or will the angry mob burn her alive (they decide she is the monster killing people)?

time for a bite
The film is way too long. It needs a good thirty minutes shaving from it. The acting really isn’t that much to write home about. Maricel Soriano does well enough as Paz but not so well when she is Cara (in vampire form). She permanently looks a little sick and perhaps just a little lost. There is no level of nuance to the Miguel character – indeed there is little nuance in most of the performances, to be honest, with most characters just coming across as stereotypes. I liked the core premise, the execution was a little too romance, a lot too under-nuanced and stretched well too far.

3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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