Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Interesting Shorts: the Story of Baelbrow

The Story of Baelbrow was a supernatural detective story that was part of a series featuring Flaxman Low by E. and H. Heron (the pen-names of Katherine and Hesketh Prichard). The series was printed in Pearson's Monthly Magazine and this particular story was published in 1898.

The story takes place at Baelbrow, ancestral home of the Swaffams. The mansion had been known to be haunted but the family were proud of their ghost and it was little more than a presence – until the time of this story that is.

The mansion had been loaned to professor Jungvort and suddenly the ghost became violent and able to touch the corporeal. The Professor had seen the ghost and it had grabbed his daughter Lena and several others. They are reported as being left weak but eventually a maid, Eliza Freeman, was found dead. “There was a little blood upon her sleeve but no mark upon her body except a small raised pustule under the ear. The doctor said the girl was extraordinarily anæmic…”

When Low meets Lena it is noted that she is pale and has a circular patch of pink behind her ear. She reports that it had a bandaged arm.

It eventually turns out that the Professor had taken possession of an Egyptian mummy and Low eventually rationalises that, "It is held by some authorities on these subjects that under certain conditions a vampire may be self-created. You tell me that this house is built upon an ancient barrow, in fact, on a spot where we might naturally expect to find such an elemental psychic germ. In those dead human systems were contained all the seeds for good and evil. The power which causes these psychic seeds or germs to grow is thought, and from being long dwelt on and indulged, a thought might finally gain a mysterious vitality, which could go increasing more and more by attracting to itself suitable and appropriate elements from its environment. For a long period this germ remained a helpless intelligence, awaiting the opportunity to assume some material form, by means of which to carry out its desires. The invisible is the real; the material only subserves its manifestation. The impalpable reality already existed, when you provided for it a physical medium for action by unwrapping the mummy's form. Now, we can only judge of the nature of the germ by its manifestation through matter. Here we have every indication of a vampire intelligence touching into life and energy the dead human frame. Hence the mark on the neck of its victims, and their bloodless and anæmic condition. For a vampire, as you know, sucks blood."

So the ghost, created through the psychic field of a barrow and belief, became an incorporeal entity and then took possession of the body of a mummy when it was unwrapped from its outer bandages and acted as a vampire.

The story wasn’t the best from that particular era but what was interesting was the combining of the ghost, vampire and mummy elements. You can read the story here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Currently at Vamped

After news that Let the Right One In might become a TV series I found myself getting hot under the collar over a social media backlash, because the series would be American, and a renewed backlash against Let Me In. Rather than simply froth at my screen I vented my spleen at a word document and the results are now posted over at Vamped.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Honourable Mention: The ABCs of Death 2

The 2014 released second instalment of the clever anthology series, which started with the ABCs of Death, this followed the same premise of 26 directors each with a letter of the alphabet, a small budget and creative freedom. The result is less disturbing than some of the segments in the first film but still with moments that are head-scratchingly bizarre.

A couple of outstanding sections are the segments Z is for Zygote, C is for Capital Punishment and J is for Jesus. There was a quirky cameo from Goth singer Voltaire in the Larry Fessenden directed N is for Nexus and there were zombies in some segments. However it is the section I is for Invincible that we are looking at here at TMtV.

the "kids"
This is an aswang piece, though the A word is not actually mentioned in film, and was directed by Erik Matti, who is no stranger to the aswang having acted in the film Yanggaw and directed TikTik: the Aswang Chronicles. The latter film was absolutely thick was various aswang lore and this short has an unusual piece of traditional aswang lore in it.

Killing Mama
The film starts with four adult children, Caloy (Jun Urbano), Quinito (Tommy Abuel), Conchita (Arlene Muhlach) and Carmela (Yayo Aguila), trying to kill their Mama (Sherry Lara). To this effect they are shooting and stabbing the old woman who is tied to a chair and they are doing this because they want to inherit her estate. The old woman, however, just isn’t dying.

flaming Mama
She says that if they want the inheritance they must eat *this*, this being an ornate stone on her tongue. None of the children want the stone and argue about who should take it. Meanwhile Mama bemoans the fact that she is 120 years old and insists that they take the stone and let her die. In response they set her on fire.

The fire does not kill her but it does destroy her bonds and so she totters towards her children. The response is to remove her head with a cleaver and yet the head still lives. One of the children picks up the head and starts to berate it and the head spits the stone out and into her mouth – allowing the old woman to finally die. So, how exactly is this aswang?

the inheritance
The stone clearly represents her aswang nature or trait and the story itself reminded me of one of the folk tales in Maximo D. Ramos’ the Aswang Complex in Philippine Folklore, from which I’ll quote: “The uncle with whom he had lived was an aswang. His body was dead but he still breathed. This was because no one would receive the aswang trait. When his nephew agreed to inherit the trait, his uncle died.” Very much that is what we have within the story (though the daughter is forced to take the trait rather than agrees).

So, some nice aswang folklore lurking within the film. The imdb page is here.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tales from the Crypt – The secret – review

Director: J. Michael Riva

First aired: 1990

Contains spoilers

When I looked at the uninspired Tales of the Third Dimension I accused it of being a low rent Tales from the Crypt. I have to thank Scott Harper who suggested that my description of the plot made the vampire section sound like this episode from Season 2 of the TV series of Tales from the Crypt.

Now, I had looked at several vampire episodes from the TV series but never realised this was one. It was floating out there, on YouTube actually, and it is not going to be a surprise therefore to discover that it is about a pair of vampires adopting a child who happens to be a werewolf (as that is the third dimension plot). Indeed it is so similar it is eerie!

Georgann Johnson as Miss Hagstead
It begins with Theodore (Mike Simmrin) sneaking around the orphanage at night as the authoritarian Miss Hagstead (Georgann Johnson) bemoans him to the nice Miss Heather (Stella Hall). Theodore is after food but to Miss Hagstead he is a problem. He is older than the other children (past the cute stage) and a bit of a problem child. He will occasionally disappear and then turn up covered in mud. They do not speak of his parents.

stuffing his face
However, as things come to pass, a couple – the Colberts (Grace Zabriskie and William Frankfather) – do decide to adopt him. They are clearly fabulously wealthy and bring him back to their museum of a house. He is primarily under the care of the butler, Tobias (Larry Drake), and is kept locked in his room. However his room is filled with toys and he is filled with sweets (every meal is made up of cakes and drinks are milkshakes). The Colberts work through the days, it seems.

Tobias and the boy develop a bond – and this leads to him trying to help the boy escape. For the Colberts are vampires and are making his blood as sweet as possible before they devour him. When he runs, his secret comes to light (to him as well, the implication being he had been ignorant of his nature to that point) as he turns into a werewolf, which kills the vampires.

fangs on show
The budget was clearly bigger than the Third Dimension had. We actually get to see the wolf, rather than a blur of fur and the episode felt classier. Gone are the faux-Lugosi accents and, instead, the Colberts are drawn as eccentric, indeed just plain old odd. Though the story isn’t much better the characterisation is and it just feels more rounded – due to better direction, acting, sets and effects. In short it didn’t feel as poor as the earlier film segment.

This isn’t, however, the best Tales from the Crypt episode. But it does deserve 5.5 out of 10. One wonders, however, if the team behind the earlier film ever realised that their creation had been borrowed and improved upon.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Honourable Mention: Vampz!

Whilst Vampz! Is available as a just over an hour piece via video on demand, it did start life as a web series and it is still available to view for free on YouTube (you can find the channel here) and so I decided to look at this as an Honourable Mention.

The Ramsey Attia directed series was the focus of a successful kickstarter campaign and starts off with a group of people, intercut for comedic value, talking to the unseen Simone (Lilly Lumière) as she interviews potential roommates. The three we see are Marcus (Ark Octavian), who believes in conspiracies about reptoids, vampires and werewolves, (and the credited as) Spunky Chick (Simi Richardson) and Pervert (Gerard Michael). By the end they all suggest Simone looks like a vampire; “I am a vampire” is her reply.

Lilly Lumière as Simone
Simone is a Goth and vampire wannabe. Her (paternal) twin brother Sam (Louis Bacigalupo) despairs of her. Simone wants to watch Bloodlust but it is on hiatus and Twilight is on in its place. There is someone at the door but when Simone sees cheerleader outfit and sparkly pom-poms she is going to shut the door in the girl’s face. The girl in question is Ashley (Christal Renee) and she is there about the room; Sam is smitten. The best way to describe Simone’s reaction is bitchy. However, Sam points out that she has turned down 32 roommates and the rent is due.

Marcus means business
As soon as her new roommate moves in Simone has a run in with her, taking umbrage at her Twilight poster (Simone has the Lost Boys and 30 Days of Night posters). Within dialogue we suspect that her issues come down to being left behind when friends join cliques but she really does come across as unfriendly. Ashley, on the other hand, whilst ditsy seems to just want to be friends. Meanwhile Marcus, our conspiracy nut, has decided that Simone is a real vampire and, given that he has been hunting them (and other creatures) for years unsuccessfully, decides he will take the Hell spawn out. He gets his very laid back friend Vin (Guy N. Ease) to give him a lift!

vamp face
Simone wakes from a dream of Ashley crawling over the bed to her – believing it to signify that she is becoming lesbian. She hears something and investigates. It is Marcus, replete with stake. He looks to attack her and she cries out that she isn’t a vampire when Ashley comes in to the room and states she is, giving vamp face and attacking the hunter. Of course what they have done is turn the stereotyped characters on their heads and, whilst it was fairly obvious that such a twist was what was going to happen, it still works nicely.

blood on chin
The reactions are interesting, Simone is terrified and then horrified that her “specialness” (the vampire persona she developed) is not so special. When Ashley spaces out (Marcus had taken cocaine and she is affected by the drug in his blood) Simone actually comes around and offers Ashley her own blood (essentially looking to be turned). Ashley is freaked out, not only because of the drug but because she hasn’t bit a person before (it appears she was biting dogs). She doesn’t know much about her condition but is certain that Marcus won’t turn as she has not fed him her blood – that was what happened to her.

Louis Bacigalupo as Sam
The appearance of a drunken Sam complicates matters further. As does the fact that Marcus isn’t actually dead and escapes the house, kidnapping Sam for good measure. He wants Simone to hand over Ashley but the girls then manage to take Van – and Van’s friend Dr Wu (Andrew Chien) – hostage and wants Sam back in return. If that sounds a tad absurd, at the point it happens it works and that is what can be said for the series as a whole. It works.

vampire eyes
That said it isn’t perfect and I felt, when watching it cut into a single feature, that it probably worked better episodically – that perhaps it needed a tad more editing in its long form. The dialogue interaction between Simone and Ashley was also a tad overworked and needed some subtlety adding. However the actors – one and all – did a great job, especially given it’s the first IMDb credit for all of them. I was impressed with the photography, it really showed an awareness of budget restrictions and worked around them.

unflattering picture
One thing I felt was lacking was some exposition. Dr Wu has argyrosis but I never really felt I understood how that came to be – something that, given it meant he had a blue face, should have been more explicit (argyrosis is caused by exposure to silver dust or chemical compounds of silver, however many in the audience would not necessarily know this). Without spoiling too much there is a “puppet master” behind the events (apparently) and this is foreshadowed by Marcus’ dialogue but the reasons why, how it was manipulated and what the person may be isn’t expanded upon. Perhaps that has been saved for a second season but it is frustrating as things stand.

That said, given the low budget and the inexperience of the filmmakers I was impressed with what I saw. The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3 to murder – review

Director: Jeff Kirkendall

Release date: 1999

Contains spoilers

When I reviewed the Temptress I mentioned that this prequel short (which comes in at 40 minutes) was on the special edition DVD. I purposefully watched this second and there was no loss to the main feature by doing so.

The film seemed to be lower budget than the feature and, in its favour, the events – which display what happened before the immediate “present day” section of the feature – not only fit but had the same cast and even continuity for the costuming. It showed us why Ronnie (Tim Hatch) and David (James Carolus, Bloodlust (2004)) where in the house with Tina (Jennifer Lescovich) and Karen (Jennifer Birn) and the fate of the victim in there.

James Carolus as David
It begins with an alarm waking Ronnie. His special magazines have been taken by his mom (Ellen Williams) and a note left to that effect – incidentally if his mom was meant to be a comedy character, in her latter appearance, it just didn’t work for me. David is checking a haul of stolen jewellery and stabs a mirror with a knife (why, we don’t know, probably to show us he is badass and able to attack mirrors), Ronnie pops round to see him and mention is made that Ronnie is single. David suggests they go meet the three women who have just moved into a long abandoned house near Ronnie’s home. David has only seen them at night so they will go the night after, that night David is “working”.

poor lighting
Working consists of him and two friends – JoJo (Jason Palmer) and Cruze (Jeff Kirkendall, also Bloodlust) – doing a home invasion, handcuffing the woman (Mary Kay Hilko) and then killing her at the end of the robbery. We then cut to the next night, and Ronnie and David spying on and subsequently meeting the girls. The girls are sat outside as though it is day and I have to say that, although the lighting was inconsistent (a scene with Ronnie and David dramatically shifts in lighting quality depending on camera angle), there were none of the poor day for night scenes that the later film had. Karen and Tina want to go out on the town with the young men but Rachael (Eileen McCashion) blows them off.

Ronnie and Karen
Another night and Ronnie manages to get them an invite over to the house from Karen. We discover David is using the opportunity to case the house for a robbery but there is no honour amongst thieves and his criminal friends decide to case it themselves – JoJo then falling into Karen’s hands (off screen) and being the victim who then turns in the following film. Of course the girls are not all they seem and, having seen the next film, we know they are vampires. This is revealed right at the end through Karen.

Karen eats JoJo
The only additional lore we get is that the vampires do have reflections that vanish when they “vamp out”. For Tina, vamping out consists of dipping her finger in blood and then zoning out in a dreamy way. The film itself didn’t have the ambitious storyline of the next one, indeed the story was fairly hidden and I wouldn’t have been surprised to have found out that this had been filmed (or at least written) after the latter film or as part of it and subsequently edited out. The characterisation was nominal, leaving the characters two dimensional, and the dialogue delivery was amateurish. I don’t really see this one standing up in its own right, which is how I am scoring it. 2 out of 10.

At the time of writing the review there is no IMDb page.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Honourable Mention: Christmas at Draculas: Montage

Christmas at Draculas is, at the time of publishing this article, a forthcoming comedy written and directed by Simon Mckeon. The film is a no-budget production and yet the comedy has certainly got my attention firstly through the trailer and also through the sneak peak I managed to get of the prelude.

The prelude is just over 6 minutes and cleverly has been done in the form of a black and white silent film, replete with intertitles. It essentially tells the story of Dracula’s downfall – Dracula is played, in this, by Conor Dwane (and I’ll come to him in a minute).

witnessing purity
The idea is that for centuries Dracula was evil personified, terrorising mortals until he happened to look into the soul of Mina Harker (Mary Pappin). The scene where he looks deep into her eyes and sees this was reminiscent of Nosferatu and the idea that a woman with a pure heart would be the undoing of the vampire.

Conor Dwane as Dracula
Unable to attack her, Dracula ends up watching her, Jonathon (Colin Patrick Kelleher) and their daughter through the years. As he leaves Mina’s grave the montage seeps into colour for a brief moment. My understanding is that the full film sees Dracula at rock bottom and throwing a Christmas party for the various monsters and ghouls – so is pretty much a monster mash.

Now I said I’d come to Connor Dwane and I am struck by how much, at times, he reminded me of the great Bela Lugosi. Indeed the scene at the grave actually made me recall the test footage that Ed Wood shot of Bela, just before his death, for Plan 9 From Outer Space (though those shots are actually very different). What the prelude doesn’t offer you, being silent, is his vocal performance – but the trailer (at the foot of this article) offers a very good Lugosi-esque voice and delivery.

a mob
I have been asked to mention that the film will premiere 21st April 2015 at a special charity event for Saint Vincent DePaul UCC at University College Cork. Keep an eye on the film’s Facebook Page for more information.

The imdb page for the full film is here.