Thursday, January 20, 2022

Teenage Vampire – review


Director: Aaron Lee Lopez

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

There was a 1989 film called Teen Vamp – obviously a similar title – I have said film on DVD, indeed I had it prior to starting this blog and hence you won’t find it reviewed as it is so bad I could never find the necessary motivation to rewatch it for review. In many respects I just wanted this to be better than its nearly namesake – and it is… though that’s a mighty low bar.

This, unfortunately, does little else right, it is a bloodless (mostly) affair that owes more than a little to the Lost Boys for its primary twists and plot points.

Pam and Chase

It starts with Chase (Claire Tablizo) and Pam (Jaeden Riley Juarez) at a bowling alley – though Chase is particularly poor at the sport, they have been taken in by the team (of older players) the Slayers – and they’ve got them t-shirts. The Slayers, you’d think, would come into this later… and they do… sort of… it is a really half-hearted affair that might be said to mirror the involvement of Grandpa in the aforementioned The Lost Boys but without any panache and with a feeling of afterthought.

meeting Sin

Anyway, it is the start of school and Chase is getting a lift off Pam (and refusing a lift to little brother Dean (Tres Allison)). Chase and Pam are far from being part of the cool kids and they vow to say yes to anything (the definition of anything being mild in the grand scheme of things). New kid Sin (Gabby Garcia), with her cohorts Lucy (Sophia Laia) and Violet (Callista Willeford) get up in the girls’ faces (and get Chase by the neck) and new Cheerleader Coach Mrs Rooney (Cynthia Fray) intervenes. She suggests Chase and Pam try out – they do, with Chase getting on the team, as a consolation Pam is made assistant coach.

comic

So, suddenly Sin is nice and invites the girls to a party (her parents are away) and they pitch up to the big house with eerie red lighting and Chase is encouraged to drink from a goblet of blood – which she does, thinking it a hazing. When she wakes up the sun is bright, her reflection fades in and out (though after that scene tends to stay) and occasionally fangs pop out. But she is only a half vampire until she makes her first kill, and until then can be restored to humanity by killing the head vampire… oh, I wonder where I’ve heard that before. Young brother Dean is suspicious, his suspicion fed by a (very amateur looking) horror comic… oh, I wonder where I’ve heard that before.

initiation

So, there we have it. The vampires are strong and sportier and popular and… look, the vampire gang in the Lost Boys were cool but still outsiders. This was, of course, fitting with the concept that the vampire most often represents the outsider. Whether it was down to a misunderstanding of this or a deliberate (and if so, bravo) turn-around by the filmmakers, but the vampires here are not the outsiders – they represent the top social strata of high school life. Chase and Pam are the outsiders and it is vampirism that brings Chase popularity and confirms her place in the in-crowd.

stake through shoulder area

The vampires find sunlight annoyingly bright only and at one point say that only a silver knife to the heart can kill them. However we then see successful stakings (wood with garlic rubbed in) and use of holy water. In fact it is apparently enough to stake through the shoulder area, rather than the heart. There might have been an indication (when half-vampire Chase goes to buy booze without I.D.) of eye mojo but the red eyes, fangs and hiss, combined with the clerk (P.G. Marlar) peeing himself, suggests it was intimidation and fear rather than mesmerism. The school and student body seemed unmoved by students and staff going missing.

the effect of holy water

So this mostly missed. As I mentioned, until the slays at the end, where some blood was present, this was a mostly bloodless affair. I know that it might be argued that it was for a young target audience but both Goosebumps and ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ were able to add an uncanny atmosphere and, often, genuine scares to vehicles aimed at the same age group. This is listed as a comedy but generated no real laughs and was pretty gag-less (perhaps bar one pratfall that limped into action). The acting was ok, the actors had little to work with, but the awful hissing all the time detracted and didn’t fit. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Honourable Mention: Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake


As well as being a bit of a fan of the vampire genre, I have carried a(n adult) lifelong love of Jack Kerouac’s work and, for me, his oeuvre is simply the best of American literature. His book Doctor Sax was very different from his more famous road novels. Set in Lowell, Massachusetts, which was his childhood home, it draws inspiration from his childhood but with the addition of childhood fantasy. The eponymous Doctor Sax is a sinister looking figure who, ultimately, is actually a good guy. There are also vampires – most notably the Hungarian Count Condu whose aim is to bring about the awakening of the World Snake so that it will devour the world.

Doctor Sax meant much to Kerouac and so he actually adapted it into a screenplay and that screenplay is Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake. I received the screenplay for Christmas and, being a screenplay, decided to look at it as an Honourable Mention rather than a review. The screenplay was never filmed but the book originally came with 2 CDs that had an audio rendition of the screenplay produced by Kerouac's nephew Jim Sampas. The book I received was the screenplay alone (and I assume designed to be so as the cover doesn’t mention the CDs.)

I have discovered that the audio is on YouTube at time of writing – though I have to admit that the voice acting is disappointing. That said, it pleases me that the greatest writer America produced (in my opinion) has a place in the vampire genre. At some point in the future, I will re-read the novel Doctor Sax and at that point review it here. My thanks to Sarah for this book.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Monday, January 17, 2022

Kickstarter: Dracula Walks the Night



A project by the Don’t Go Into the Cellar theatre company – and I have been lucky enough to see a few of their performances over the years, this kickstarter is for staging an original online show featuring Sherlock Holmes. A theatre production with Jonathan Goodwin playing Holmes, Dracula, Van Helsing and others.

Over on the kickstarter page you can see montages of Jonathan Goodwin in costume as both Holmes and Dracula. The performance date is set for Feb 13th 2022 15:00 EST 20:00 GMT.

As always, I post about crowdfunded projects for information and the risk, should you choose to back the project is yours. I am not affiliated with the company or production – but will say I have backed this one.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Custodes – review


Directors: Lea Borniotto, Vera Borniotto & Edoardo Nervi

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

This is an Italian film that is available for stream on Amazon and it is a difficult one to evaluate, to be honest. It meanders slowly through its length but does manage to offer some good imagery and, as you will have deduced given this review, there is a vampiric aspect to it. In many respects it is more a mood piece than anything else and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The joins, unfortunately, do show but as you’ll see I was quite taken with it.

Lorenzo Crovetto as Dante

The movie starts with Ada (Lea Borniotto) walking through a forested area – her case cumbersome. She has received a letter from her cousin Umberto (Edoardo Nervi) who apologises, in the first instance, for the fact that his father had disinherited her and that he never sought her out before this point. He had checked one of the properties he had inherited – expecting it to be a wreck – but found it in (fairly) good shape, looked after by caretaker Dante (Lorenzo Crovetto). He wants to employ her to appraise the books, parchments and other valuables.

Ada screaming

She gets to the property and is met by a rifle wielding man – after establishing that she is Umberto’s cousin he reveals he is Dante and leads her to the mansion. He installs her in a room – opposite the one working bathroom. He, himself, does not live in the house (indicating an adjacent building) and leaves her to it. Strangeness begins on the first night – with her thinking she hears someone walking downstairs. The oddity is her reaction – locking herself in her room, rather than either investigating or getting out of there.

dancing in dreams

Be that as it may, a mist fills the room and her dreams are filled with strangeness and an oddly moving women (Vera Borniotto). There is much play with red lighting in the film (for reasons I’ll get to). Again, a strange aspect is that Ada doesn’t seem to notice (when the lighting occurs during waking hours) despite a red light wash flooding behind her. Anyway, she does notice a bruise on her inner arm when she wakes and, going down to a breakfast Dante has provided, mentions that she thinks it an insect bite (concerned about poison) and that she noticed blood outside her door. He suggests he must have cut himself when in the attic.

the mask of Arev

Its difficult to give a blow-by-blow as it is mostly Ada meandering. She finds a strange collage piece that Dante denies knowledge of and eventually some writings by the Baron Malatesta – a previous owner of the estate – his writings matched with black and white film footage. He mentions finding artefacts belonging to the Red World (hence the importance of the red light) – firstly the bones gate (the collage) that is a passageway to that place, home of Cthonic deities. The baron’s wife Lucilla – the figure in Ada’s dream – was obsessed with eternal life and so was happy when they found the mask of Arev, the third queen of the Red World (the mask has a rather cat like design). Arev offered eternal life (and we see Lucilla dancing in a way described as pagan).

a glimpse of Lucilla

Eventually the Baron found a dead maid, drained of blood and went to a curate – but he was a fan of the inquisition and tortured Lucilla with fire. She survived, but we see her swathed in bandages and the Baron describes her soul as dying. She called out to the shadows of the Red World – who ask for blood and, we discover, Lucilla is still there, harvesting blood provided by the Baron (who describes himself as not alive but unable to die – his life dependent on her existence). Presumably she is able to produce the mist and she definitely has set her eyes on Ada (or, more accurately, her blood). Occasionally Ada might catch a glimpse of Lucilla in a reflective surface.

the bones gate

So it is blood for eternal life (hence calling this vampiric) but we don’t see the context – is it a blood sacrifice or imbibing the blood. Is it Lucilla herself who imbibes it (we see, in the subs, a mention of the sound of her eating flesh and bones – presumably of animal) or one of the shadows from the Red World or even Arev herself? That said we see little of anything really – and whilst a little can go a long way, when it comes to gore, this has nothing at all and it is one of the film’s failings. Some visceral moments might have helped the meandering pacing. However, despite this, I was rather taken with the film. I enjoyed it more than I suspect I should have. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Friday, January 14, 2022

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Vol. 1 – review


Author: Ana Lily Amirpour

Art: Michael DeWeese

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps and other sordid souls, is a bastion of depravity and hopelessness where a lonely vampire, The Girl, stalks the town's most unsavory inhabitants. Collects the first two standalone stories.

The review: The collection of the first two issues of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the comic based on the film of the same name and written by writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour has been a long time coming. I pre-ordered the volume in April 21 and, after several shifts to the right, it finally arrived Jan 22.

It needs to be noted that this is a slim volume – some 64 pages – and the artwork, whilst starkly lovely, is black and white (actually white on black). I do need to mention that one pair of pages became more a white on grey and I wondered if this was deliberate, an obfuscation as it was tied to seeing the sun… until another few pages later in the volume had the same fading of the necessary black and at that point it seems to be a printing glitch (which hopefully has only affected a minimal number of copies). The comic was still readable but, if I’m correct about it being a glitch, is annoying nonetheless.

detail

As the blurb suggests there are two stories. The first, Death is the Answer, introduces us to the girl and will be familiar to those who have seen the film treading familiar streets of Bad City with familiar characters. There is no story, as such, but establishes the character and her draw to wrongdoers. The second, Who Am I, goes back in time and sees the girl walking into the desert to face the sun but after 15 years, days spent buried away from the sun, subsisting on a meagre diet of desert dwelling fare (and a flashback to a kill in Paris), the hungry vampire heads towards Bad City – essentially providing a past for the girl.

As you can tell the volume is low on actual story, which in comic issues may be alright, building towards a story in further issues but in (what amounts to) a trade paperback is somewhat lacking. The thing is, whilst there needs to be character establishment for readers unfamiliar with the film, the lack of story is going to be a barrier – that said if you are familiar with the film I think you’ll get a kick out of seeing the girl immortalised in another medium. I am, of course, of the second camp and it was nice to see the girl again and this has bolstered my score. The art itself, as I mentioned is rather stark but it fits the character and the franchise, and was rather lovely. 6 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Honourable Mention: Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent


This was a 2020 Swedish film that was directed by Amanda Adolfsson and was definitely a family movie but very well done.

It focuses on young girl Nelly Rapp (Matilda Gross) who lives with her father and dog named London. She doesn’t have any friends, is overly imaginative and generally the odd one out. She believes her mother died in an autowreck.

Her father arranges for her to stay for a week with her maternal Uncle, Hannibal (Johan Rheborg), and his friend Lena-Sleva (Marianne Mörck). What she soon discovers is that they are monster agents – tasked with protecting humans from monsters and monsters from humans. She goes on to discover that her mother (without her father’s knowledge it seems) was a monster agent and she actually vanished tracking a werewolf.

vampire in a cage

She discovers this when she sees her Uncle Hannibal bringing in a figure (Stephen Rappaport) with a sack over his head, taking him into a cellar and putting him in a cage. With his bald head, long ears and fangs she recognises him as a vampire and it is later explained that he had started to hunt for blood again and had been captured until he went back onto alternate food. He is the first of two vampires we see.

Matilda Gross as Nelly

The story sees the monster agents endorsing the scheme of one of their number (and life coach) Vincent (Björn Gustafsson), to capture all the monsters and ‘process’ them to make them normal. A glimpse later into his centre suggests that this includes lobotomising them and has ignored the part of their tenant to protect monsters from humans. Meanwhile Nelly has met a Frankenstein-like construct, Roberta (Lily Wahlsteen), who loves to bake and helps her create a café.

David Wiberg as Lukas

It is during this thread that we briefly meet Lukas (David Wiberg) a vampire who describes himself as vegan (using iron supplements to replace the blood), who is also a big fan of the Sisters of Mercy. And that is about it. Two fleeting visitations in a monster mash that is actually really feelgood and rather inventive. The DVDs out there (Japanese and Swedish) do not have English subs but there are fan-subs on the net.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Star Trek the Animated Series: The Lorelei Signal (s1e4) – review


Director: Hal Sutherland

First Aired: 1973

Contains spoilers

Star Trek the Animated Series was an Emmy award winning animation series that aired between 1973 and 1974 and was based on the original Star Trek series. More than that it featured the voice talents of many of the original actors. It seems a shame, therefore, that it was removed from Star Trek cannon but it is still fun to watch despite the fact that the animation is severely dated and the voice acting seems a tad stilted at times. It is actually the stories that make this worthwhile, of course.

This episode was the fourth of the first season and riffs upon the Siren myth (or, more accurately, the Rhine Maidens as Loreley was one of their number). It starts with the Enterprise in a mysterious sector of space where, according to talks between the Federation, the Romulans and the Klingons, several spaceships have mysteriously vanished. Indeed a ship disappears once every 27 years and the anniversary is upon them.

Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura

They receive a signal and, on playing it, Kirk (William Shatner, Incubus) and the other male members of the crew seem somewhat entranced, describing it as calling to them, though the unaffected Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, Spider-Man (1997)) detects no such messaging within it. She eventually asks Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) to observe the male crew.

'Bones' aging

When they get to the source of the signal, however, Kirk arranges an all-male away party – including himself, Spock (Leonard Nimoy, Night Gallery: Death on a Barge), Bones (DeForest Kelley) and Lt. Carver (James Doohan). They are entranced by the all-female aliens they meet (who lie and tell them the males are in another compound) but feel weak and soon we see them begin to age rapidly.

all female security detail

What I found great about this episode was Lt. Uhura taking command of the Enterprise, putting female security details on the transporters (to prevent any other male crew member beaming to the planet) and leading a female security detail down to rescue the men. It spoke of a capability in the character and of her place within the rank structure, both of which should have been more widely addressed in the physical series. Of course, this episode was written and filmed at a point where gender was invariably portrayed as binary – a view that the Star Trek universe has rightly corrected in its latest TV/Stream incarnation.

one of the aliens

What they discover is that the female aliens, long before, had come to the planet as part of a colonising effort when their own world started to die. What they hadn’t realised was that the planet drained life from humanoid creatures (making the land itself vampiric). The men it drained but the women developed a glandular secretion that allowed them to both manipulate men and drain them of their energy (Bones reckons that they are aging 10 years per day). It has made them immortal, but also infertile, and they have to lure more men every 27 years.

So, alien energy vampires (and a vampiric planet) and a welcome spotlight on Lt. Uhura. I enjoyed this episode. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK