Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Honourable Mention: Morbius the Living Vampire

With the major Marvel film franchise that is seeing massive movies weaving an intricate fantasy world over the big screen, it is hoped that they might see their way to bringing some of their darker characters to the big screen (or back to it, in the case of Blade).

and bite...
One of those dark characters that could open a black edge to their franchise is Morbius, the Living Vampire. But (a Polish spider-man film in post-production notwithstanding) it seems we should look to fans to actually bring us these characters. Enter Chaz Dray and Adam Michaels who wrote and directed this Morbius short.

Adam Michaels as Morbius
Now there isn’t much in the way of story; some backstory, a little back alley tête-à-tête (which was, admittedly, a tad too dark) and then Morbius (Adam Michaels) fighting his way through a building to rescue a girl he hardly knows. That girl then turns out to be Shriek (Carley Coakley). Minimalistic but it does open up the possibilities for the character nicely and has plenty of geek references. Marvel could do much with this character, creating a truly dark film and – so long as they don’t make him too maudlin – have the possibility of creating a truly conflicted anti-hero for the big screen. Perhaps they could ask Dray and Michaels for their thoughts?

At the time of posting I couldn’t find an imdb page but there is a facebook page here and I have embedded the short below:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

O komis... Tsakonas – review

Director: Takis Simonetatos

Release Date: 1989

Contains spoilers

O komis... Tsakonas, or Count Tsakonas, or Count Tsakonas and his Draculettes (as one title version went) was a shot on video Greek comedy and was pretty much the brainchild of Panagis Tsakonas who starred in the film and came up with the original concept.

Now I do often say that comedy is subjective, it is also sometimes received well or badly due to knowledge and understanding of cultural nuances (or lack thereof). In this case, however, the fact that it is badly shot and directed probably underline the paucity of humour. Indeed I knew what they were trying to portray – despite any cultural nuance I missed – I just didn’t laugh!

Vera Gouma as Elizabeth
It begins with an open buggy riding through a lovely summer’s day (keep that in mind). In it rides a blonde woman in satin dress and cape, Elizabeth (Vera Gouma). As she passes a workman by the side of the road she flashes fang causing him to collapse (note that the fangs are cheap plastic jokeshop sets). Eventually she reaches her destination and is greeted by Dracula... Ish. He is a Dracula – the name is a title given to the senior vampire of a region (it would appear).

the Dracula
The Dracula has a mission for her. There is a Dracula who they made Prime Minister of a country but he is breaking the rule of gradual exsanguination and his nation has become anaemic. That country is Greece. She is to go and replace him with a newly chosen Dracula, Count Tsakonas (Panagis Tsakonas). He is a descendent of Erzsébet Báthory, just as Elizabeth is – making them distant cousins.

trying to sell the chicken
“Count” Tsakonas is unaware of his regal heritage. When we meet him, he and his nephew have broken into a farmer’s chicken shed. They grab one and feed it wine (to quieten it) before putting it in a sack and leaving. The farmer comes after them with a shotgun and Tsakonas gets a bottom full of buckshot as they escape. They end up at a roadside trying to sell the chicken and having it stolen from them in turn. They meet the local priest (Antonis Yakovakis), who offers them a job clearing weeds at the cemetery – a job Tsakonas doesn’t want as the cemetery scares him but the nephew reminds him that the water is about to be cut off and thus they need the money.

Tsakonas receives his cape 
That night, at the tower in which they live, the nephew watches a horror movie – which doesn’t impress Tsakonas, who switches it off and declares it bed time. Not long after going to bed there is someone at the door – it is Elizabeth, introducing herself as a cousin from Carpathia. She is given a room for the night and we can gloss over the barely funny cemetery gags and get back to the next night when, after dinner, Elizabeth does a ritual to the dark powers, gives Tsakonis a cape (red on the outside, black lining it would appear… or just inside out) and bites him.

cheap plastic fangs
There is no existential grief, there is little learning curve. Tsakonas takes to his new undead status as a duck to water. He aims to go out the next day and Elizabeth warns him about the sun (go back to the opening scene again and revel in the plot hole). He uses sunscreen and she is impressed that he has solved a centuries old problem in a day. The other lore we get centres on garlic and stakes and the fact that it seems to be one bite to turn.

the hunter
As the film continues an unlikely vampire hunter looking for Elizabeth turns up, the arch-Dracula decides that Tsakonas will host the 17th World Vampire Convention (with vampires such as Sir Sherlock Holmes in attendance) and the local men are concerned that the young women all seem to have fallen for Tsakonas and moved in with him (he has bitten and turned them all – hence the alternate title’s use of Draculettes).

the Draculettes
And you know what, it is hard work. It isn’t brilliantly written and the direction is poor. The whole thing looks trashy but sometimes that works in a film’s favour. The trashiness, in this case, was the saving grace as the comedy missed by a mile. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Honourable Mention: Die Schlacht der Idioten

This is a short silent film (with German intertitles) from 1986 and directed by Christoph Schlingensief and to say it is strange is an understatement and yet it was compelling in just as strange a way.

Apparently the film was shot in celebration of a movie organ being installed in the Film Institute in Dusseldorf and is a surreal exploration and celebration of the art of the silent movie, accompanied all the way through (quite obviously) by organ.

Udo Kier is the vampire
We start with folks watching a silent film, which we see in negative and, as such, do not get much of a clue of what is going on within it. Except… well we can tell that there is a vampire (Udo Kier, Shadow of the Vampire, Blood for Dracula, Blade, Dracula 3000. Modern Vampires & Bloodrayne) within the film as the fangs are prominent. As the film ends the actors leave, in costume… the actors remain in character, it appears, so I guess Keir’s character is acting as a vampire rather than being one, but the border of film and reality are less blurred and more absolutely merged.

The main film concerns Queen Quelly, who is in love with one actor/character but is the focus of jealousy from both the vampire and Native American chief. The two kill her lover (tying him to train tracks) and whilst the vampire revives him – as his first ever friend (and a zombie it would seem) – the chief and his braves (who are all played by children) kidnap Queen Quelly. This leads to rescue attempts, shifting alliances and true love winning in the end.

No doubt strange but Udo Kier again appears with fangs. The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Quick – review

Author: Lauren Owen

First published: 2014

Contains spoilers

The blurb: You are about to discover the secrets of The Quick –

But first, reader, you must travel to Victorian England, and there, in the wilds of Yorkshire, meet a brother and sister alone in the world, a pair bound by tragedy. You will, in time, enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of the richest, most powerful men in England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide.

It is then, and only then, that a new world emerges, a world of romance, adventure and the most delicious of horrors – and the secrets of The Quick are revealed.

The review: My vamp-dar was clearly functioning. I saw a poster for the Quick (which was just of the UK cover) and it piqued my interest. I had a quick look online and read that it was gothic fiction and the blurb above. I decided to buy it and discovered, a hundred pages in, that what I had was a vampire novel.

Having said that, and re-reading the blurb, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Quick, of the title, refers to the vampires of the story but it does not. The Quick are us, the ordinary mortals. The book rambles along for the first 100 pages, exploring the world of young siblings James and Charlotte. It reads like a fine gothic novel with not a hint of the supernatural. The novel moves forward in time through this section and James has left university and moved to London and then we hit part two of the novel and immediately, we are confronted with the vampires of this book.

The vampires refer to themselves as undead or those of the Club do, aristocratic and well to do vampires – gentlemen only; women are never turned. There are vampires that come from the poor and they call themselves undid (an accented corruption of the word). The vampires are cold (not only to touch but they feel permanently cold and crave warmth – though fire would eventually destroy them). They are not killed by sunlight but the brightness overwhelms them, as does the noise of humanity (physical and mental), They can confound a human by the mazement, their form of mind control, and a human bitten by a vampire finds it impossible to communicate the attack. Turning is done by exchange of blood and must be agreed to (or so they believe). Holy water makes them weak, silver burns them and they must be invited into a home.

The book was a wonderful read, there was an authenticity to the prose that summoned thoughts of the gothic novel. There are some beautifully drawn characters but, if I have to criticise, it is perhaps that the ending felt almost rushed after the more detailed (and perhaps rambling) first 4/5s of the novel. It is a goodly sized tome, weighing in at over 500 pages. That said I really did enjoy my time in the world of the Quick, I hope that Owen sees fit to explore some of this world once again. 8 out of 10.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kantemir – review

Director: Ben Samuels

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

I recently received a comment from olbas006 suggesting I check this movie out as there were hints of vampires. My thanks for the suggestion and I would say that the film contained more than just hints of vampires.

The film creeped in from nowhere, at the time of review having appeared on Swedish DVD, and is as notable for some of the actors involved – primarily Robert Englund and Diane Cary – as anything else. Indeed the film itself ends more than a little flat but we shall explore that as the review moves along.

Wendy and John
It starts (having seen a dog running through woods) with signs about missing dogs. A train stops and two passengers disembark. One, John (Robert Englund, Dance of the Dead), phones his daughter, telling her in the area and he is to perform in a play. The other, Wendy (Justine Griffiths), is also in the play and John rightly guesses she is to play Wanda – he is going to play her father, Peter.

The House
A van pulls up and they are collected by Brad (Stuart Stone, Bitten & Tales from the Cryptkeeper) who says he works for the director, Nicholas (Daniel Gadi). It transpires that he hasn’t met the director and is also a local actor who will be in the play. They drive to a country estate (after they pass through the gate it is chained and locked) and at the house they meet the other players; Rebecca (Diane Cary, Forever Knight), Lars (Sean Derry) and Allison (Alanna Janell), who seems excessively bitchy. The story of an acting troupe in France, who were in the country rehearsing and, as legend would have it, all died when the director bled them dry and fed on them, comes out

The Play
Allison is John’s ex-wife and we discover that he was a film actor that has been in and out of rehab and totally off the rails. He has been sober for three months and took the job because it was the only one that would touch him with a bargepole. Nick arrives and explains the characters (none of them have seen the script). As he does he has each touch an ornate book (the script) and they see their characters. John plays an abusive father and husband who was to marry his daughter off to royalty but she fell in love with a gypsy, to be played by Nick. Rebecca will play his wife, Allison a whore and the two men are two servants both loyal (perhaps homicidally) to John’s character.

Nick is a vampire
Nick takes their mobile phones away and the actors become subsumed within their roles, living the play. All, that is, bar John who can see what is happening but cannot seem to break the spell. So vampires… Well the play is a described as being cursed by blood and through blood it lives – so perhaps a vampiric play (that is, of course, a unique one). However, it is Nick who is our vampire. He was indeed the gypsy and his love’s father killed wife and daughter before being killed by Nick. Nick wrote their story as a play and came across an immortal hermit (Bingo O'Malley, Dead Time Stories). Nick asked to be able to spend eternity with Wanda and the creature grants him that.

the immortal hermit
The scene wasn’t too clear but it looked as though he projectile vomited blood at Nick, making him a creature like the hermit. He then cursed the play so that Nick would have to perform it, for real, over and over again and thus spend eternity with his love. He can produce fangs and we see him drink the blood of a dog. Later he admits that animal blood doesn’t satisfy like human blood and we see him cry a blood tear. He actually seeks death, for someone to break the cycle of the play (though why John didn’t just give the pair his blessing and be done with it was beyond me).

So it’s a very interesting idea but the film itself leaves much to be desired. Most of the characters are underdeveloped – bar John but as much as Englund tries he is pulling against a lack lustre screenplay that leaves the other characters at best two dimensional and an even more lack lustre direction that fails to develop any tension. A scene with Allison hunted down by a dog, for instance, just has no sense of tension. The character is a cardboard cut-out, so we don’t care about her and the film spends so much time flicking between the past and present versions of the attack that it forgets that this is meant to illicit fear, tension and violence.

4 out of 10 is probably generous, but I liked the idea if not the execution.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Summer of Blood – review

Director: Onur Tukel

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

It came as a bit of a shock to me that director (and star/writer) of Summer of Blood, Onur Tukel, once worked as Sergio Lapel. Some of you may find the name familiar – as he was the director of the film Drawing Blood. Now the 1999 released film, on the Troma label, is one I had a love/hate relationship with. The first half of the film was good – but the second half, oh boy… I really hated that second half.

Let me say, from the beginning, therefore that Summer of Blood is in a different league entirely.

Anna Margaret Hollyman as Jody
It starts with couple Eric (Onur Tukel) and Jody (Anna Margaret Hollyman) eating a meal. Jody passes Eric a box that contains a ring. He thanks her, places it on his right hand until she suggests he has used the wrong hand. He suddenly realises it is a proposal and reacts very negatively. He doesn’t want to get married, and what about her career – could she give it all up to be a housewife! They leave the restaurant with a cloud over them that becomes worse when she bumps into an old flame, Jason (Jason Selvig). Eric grabs her by the wrist and so she leaves with Jason.

finding a victim
Eric is not a nice person and the genius of the film is in how he is drawn. He is selfish, misogynistic, cynical and has no drive or ambition. When he sees a man, on the way home, with his throat ripped out, he feigns help but doesn’t really want to be involved. He has no cell phone and when he gets help he actually stops for a conversation whilst the unfortunate man expires. He is skating close to being sacked at work and also rather close to being accused of sexual harassment of co-worker Penelope (Dakota Goldhor). Indeed he has stolen a picture of her and masturbates in the work bathroom to it. Yet, despite being unlikeable he has been drawn with enough knowledge of his flaws and clever enough dialogue to make the character carry the film with a comedy born out of everything that is wrong with the character despite the fact that he is not even an anti-hero.

Eric bitten
Eric goes back to dating, via an online agency, and goes on three dates – with Samantha (Vanna Pilgrim), Denise (Juliette Fairley) and Blake (Melodie Sisk). He blows all three dates – though he does sleep (with rather poor skills it appears) with Blake. He is stood on a New York street, looking out to the river, when a man approaches. The man talks to Eric and eye mojos him. In this scene we see the hypnotic attraction of the vampire as Eric opens his heart, admits he wants to die and (after the bite) tries to kiss the vampire.

The vampire bite in this is messy, a bite to the neck opens the artery and blood gushes. After feeding, the vampire walks Eric to a fire escape, sits him down and leaves him. Eric awakens at work, a plaster on his neck but covered in dried blood. How he got there no one knows – and no one cares about the state he’s in, just that he missed a meeting. When fired Eric pushes a spreadsheet down his pants and wipes his ass with it, which leaves it covered in blood. He walks the streets an absolute mess but New Yorkers walk on by. He can’t keep food down, has a pain in his stomach and (unknown to him at this point) it’ll be the last time he walks in daylight.

Eric turns his dates
Once Eric feeds (and in a moment of pathos holds the victim as they die) he begins to realise what he is. He replicates the three dates and this time woos the women and rocks their world sexually – which includes rather gory blood play. Once all three have turned he has the archetypal three vampire brides, as it were, but he is still selfish and he still treats them like objects (but doesn’t realise it). In fact he begins to realise that he is missing Jody and the future she offered – a marriage, kids and a normal, adult life. Perhaps he can achieve redemption – but will that get him the girl, or cure him of his new condition?

eye mojo
There really isn’t too much more lore than I’ve already mentioned. The vampirism is incredibly virulent and, if this wasn’t a comedy, we might be wondering why it wasn’t widely spread but that disbelief can be suspended within the world Eric draws around him. Sunlight does burn (but not visibly) and the eye mojo is very powerful. A few famous persons are mentioned as being vampires and the undead get together every so often to party.

sharing a meal
Whilst it is Onur Tukel who carries the film brilliantly (and cracks the fourth wall when Eric suggests that, should he direct a film, he would be an auteur who would write, direct and star in the film he made) the other actors are all superb – especially Dakota Goldhor and Anna Margaret Hollyman. A genuinely funny movie that came out of leftfield. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hansel and Gretel Get Baked – review

Director: Duane Journey

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

I saw Hansel and Gretel get Baked at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival under the alternate title Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch. The alternate title means very little in the UK but I understand that 420 is a code for marijuana in the US (with a large amount of urban myth about the reason why the number is associated with the drug).

So, as it was, the title gave little away – though the drug nature of the film is pretty darn obvious from the get go. You might also be wondering why its being reviewed here… well, I’ll say energy vampire and elaborate more later.

I should also mention that this is a horror comedy and that comes with the normal warnings that comedy is probably one of the most subjective areas of film.

Cary Elwes as Ken
It starts with a meter man looking through the neighbourhood. The meter man, or Ken, is played by an almost unrecognisable Cary Elwes (Dracula (1992), Shadow of the Vampire & Hellgate) in a cheeky little cameo. The power company has been experiencing a surge in the area and when he checks #140 he sees their electric meter spinning out of control. He sees marijuana plants in a basement area, behind a frosted but open window. Putting his phone in to take a picture he is grabbed and pulled in.

Gretel, Ashton and Hansel
After the credits we meet Gretel (Molly C. Quinn) and her boyfriend Ashton (Andrew James Allen) who are a pair of stoners. He has just scored some Black Forest Blend marijuana for free courtesy of local pusher Manny (Eddy Martin), who in turn got it from Agnes (Lara Flynn Boyle), a little old lady in Pasadena – apparently it is really good stuff. Gretel’s brother Hansel (Michael Welch, Twilight, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 & The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2) comes in and finds a note suggesting their parents have gone away to see the Stiltskins. He manages to trigger the munchies in his stoned sibling and her boyfriend.

the gingerbread house
There is gingerbread mix in the kitchen so Gretel sets to bake whilst Ashton goes to Pasadena to score more weed. Agnes invites him in and is off to prepare some sardines when he notices an ornamental house made of gingerbread. She warns him to leave it but he breaks part of the roof away and discovers ID from the Third Reich through to the modern day. He passes out and awakens tied to a table and being buttered for cooking. He assumes it is a sexual thing and when she mentions eating him he says ok, but he doesn’t want to see. She removes an eye with a fork and eats it.

sucking youth
So, with Ashton missing, Gretel starts looking for him and all roads lead back to Agnes. Manny, his girlfriend (Bianca Saad) and other local criminals become involved, amongst others. As for Agnes, we have seen she is a cannibal, she is certainly a witch… but a vampire? Having kept Ashton alive and eaten a leg she decides he is more trouble than he’s worth. Chanting an incantation she draws the breath from him and becomes younger. Later she says that she sucks the youth out of her victims (Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter famously had a youth stealing vampire). This is, of course, a form of energy vampirism.

witch on camera
Beyond this she is tough to kill, can weave enchantments, has a habit of creating zombies and has a very intelligent Doberman Pinscher with demonically red eyes. When she has a photograph taken it shows a hag version of herself (although she still looks younger than she did at the start of the film). Lara Flynn Boyle has great fun with the role and some cracking moments (answering the door to the cops is a film highlight).

Agnes flirts
I mentioned it is a comedy but it isn’t gag filled, rather it has a vein of richly black comedy running through it. The suspension of belief is probably necessary – aspects do not stand to scrutiny – but the comedy carries us over these parts. One thing I disliked was the very (coda) ending that was a little too clichéd – but I won’t spoil it. However that was the last minute or so of the film. Beyond that I found this great fun and deserving of 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.