Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Short Film: Daytime

Daytime is a short film by David Doria and comes in around the 17-minute mark. It is listed as 2018 on Amazon but doesn’t have an IMDb page to confirm this. It is one that plays with the vampire’s propensity to be allegorical, indeed the vampirism in this is tied very much into addiction and, in exploring that, I am afraid there will be a major spoiler.

It starts with a stage and, once the curtains part, Rose (Cree Armstead) is on stage singing. She is watched from the crowd by Andre (Ray Raymundo) and he knows the words – indeed we will learn that he wrote the song. At the end of the performance Rose leaves and is followed by Andre. She stands in a carpark smoking. He has been looking for her for weeks, she can’t stay in one place too long and doesn’t want to hurt him. They kiss…

Cree Armstead as Rose
8 Months later and they are living out of a van. It is morning and she awakens; he reaches for a vial – but they are out. There is a moment where he looks in the mirror and it doesn’t seem to capture her. After some conversation they start kissing and she (with flashes for the audience of fangs) bites him. She stops, realising what she has done, and runs out of the van. We see her in what appears to be a restroom. She sees herself in the mirror looking unbloodied and normal whilst she is covered in blood and fanged. A body is on the floor, wound in his neck – for a moment she sees him as Andre.

She returns to the van by nightfall and says it is lucky it was cloudy (I’ll come back to this). Andre believes they should move on but she wants to party for one night before they go and drags him to a bar. At first all is ok and they dance but she gets an urge again and vanishes to the bathroom. Andre leaves the bar and sees her with a man. He reacts verbally, she goes to bite him and the stranger smashes a bottle over her head. Andre beats him and takes her back to the van, where she vomits… in the morning she knows something has to give.

in daylight
So, here is the big spoiler – the film plays with the vampire as the allegory of the addict, of course, but more so… the vampirism is a tool used by Andre to capture her plight in a story he reads to her (prose or screenplay, I wasn’t sure). She is an addict and in rehab. The giveaways were there – when we see her run into the daylight it isn’t cloudy (as she later states) but deliberately overexposed to give the impression of harsh direct sunlight, also she sometimes sees herself in mirrors and at other times doesn’t. In the rehab centre we see needle marks on her arm and prescriptions of Subutex (used for opioid addiction). It is a nice use of the allegory by making it an allegory for the consumption of the characters rather than for the audience exclusively.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, December 02, 2019

Revenge of the Pontianak – review

Directors: Glen Goei & Gavin Yap

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

As this hit its local Malay market it also appeared internationally on Netflix, which shows that the streaming service does do its part in opening a market for international films. What we get is a story of supernatural revenge but I’m not altogether sure that it hits the mark as it should.

This is a shame as this could have been a lush entry into the annals of Pontianak films – a creature that hasn’t yet flooded the vampire market and could do with a strong entry into filmographies.

Shenty Felizaina as Siti
The film opens with an intertitle that explains that if a woman dies whilst pregnant, or at the point of childbirth, and does not receive the correct funeral rites, then she will return as a vampire. The issues with the film then start with the opening scene, where we see a grove of trees at night and hear crying. We see a car with the doors open. It tries to set a scene but doesn’t reveal anything at all (as there is a mystery element to the film) and the grove feels like props rather than an actual grove. The scene needed to give us more, whilst maintaining the mystery’s integrity, and the atmosphere is frankly lacking.

However, the next scene detailing the wedding of Khalid (Remy Ishak) and Siti (Shenty Felizaina) was lush and beautifully photographed. Khalid has a son, Nik (Nik Harraz Danish), who perhaps feels distant from Siti and more could have been done with the relationship with his father (we get a little but it then takes the relationship as read) and a lot more with the relationship with Siti – perhaps building more resentment and then moving towards acceptance and even dependence.

Lady in Red
Khalid’s brother, Reza (Hisyam Hamid), is the best man (or equivalent) and he has arranged for old friend Rais (Tony Eusoff ) to visit for the wedding. During the celebration Rais sings a song for the couple, entering into a duet with wedding singer Ida (Nadia Aqilah), and during the party Rais seems to see a mysterious woman in red (Nur Fazura) at one point. He leaves with Ida but accidentally knocks her out as she smashes her head onto the dashboard when the woman in red appears in the road and he slams the breaks on. He is attacked by her.

Rais' left dead
The next day Siti and Khalid find blood on the outer deck of their house and then see Rais, pinned to the trunk of a tree and very dead, high above them. Local holy man Su'ut Din (Namron) blames Siti for the calamity, claiming she has brought a curse to the village. She hasn’t, not really, but is more the catalyst for the curse becoming apparent. The curse takes the form of a Pontianak and it isn’t really too much of a mystery as it is obviously Nik’s mother, Mina, who is seeking revenge. The film details what happened to her and why the men she attacks deserve everything they get. And this is the biggest issue – the mystery is no mystery at all.

the living dead
She doesn’t particularly act like a vampire either, though there is a claim that local children are becoming ill. This should have been explored in detail and a whole thread of her being a monster – even if she is a righteous monster – could have been explored. It wasn’t. It also means that she doesn’t do to much that might be described as actually vampiric. There is an indication of possession at one point.

the pontianak
There isn’t too much lore; we know how a vampire is created and it is killed with a (sacred, one guesses) nail to the neck. As well as a deeper exploration of lore this also needed more vampirism, more moral ambiguity and much more of a solid mystery, rather than going through the motions of a mystery and allowing the viewer to crack it very early in the film. It needed tension, more atmosphere and perhaps more gore. It isn’t all bad, but it certainly isn’t something to write home about and it could have been so much more. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Tales of Found Footage – review

Director: Matthew I. Schmidt

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

This is an anthology tale with a reluctant host, Fredrick Michaels (Richard Brogden), who is played as a classical actor not so happy to be hosting three lowbrow horror tales. For a change the anthology is all the work of a single director and, as far as I can tell, the films were made for the vehicle – rather than piecing together previously shot shorts.

All the films are in the found footage genre, hence the name, and I have to say that ghost story #TheChallenge was easily the most effective of the films (at least until the post-story coda, that was unnecessary and hokey). The third story was a tale of Goth girls dabbling with witchcraft, the occult and human sacrifice. That leaves us with middle film – Mail Order Bride.

Ana and Hooch
The film begins with Matt (Matthew I. Schmidt) filming his friend Hooch (Richard Jachner) before he sets out to pick his mail order bride from the airport. Mutual friend Ana (Anastasia Klyuchinskaya) thinks this a really bad idea and is worried about human trafficking as the bride, Nicoletta (Mackenzie Newbury), is from Romania. Who else might be with her, she worries, summoning thoughts of Eastern European organised crime? Matt is utterly dismissive as Hooch has had a long dry spell, romance-wise, and it was his idea. Hooch has been speaking to Nicoletta for several months and is sure she is for real.

Hooch and Matt drive to the airport, Matt continuing to film, and there is a lengthy section of dialogue (including the fact that Nicoletta is unaware of his Hooch nickname and knows him by his given name). When they get to the airport Nicoletta is there but so is another woman, Mihaela (Jeanette Pacifico). Nicoletta introduces her as a friend who speaks no English, Matt is excited – calculating that he may also benefit from Hooch’s adventure. They take the ladies to a bar. There is pool, shots and a selfie and then it’s time to head to Hooch’s home.

Now, of course, the fact that Nicoletta and Mihaela are actually vampires is the twist – but you would wonder what was going on if I featured this on TMtV and didn’t spoil the reason for the inclusion. However, to be fair the twist is broadcast for all too see as soon as we hear that the bride is from Romania – we’d be surprised if that wasn’t the twist. What the film didn’t explain was the desire to travel thousands of miles to hunt an American. Perhaps she was already based in the US and the Romania aspect was a VPN powered honey trap – if so the film doesn’t say.

Unfortunately, therefore, the vampire aspect is a bit of a damp squib at the end, we see it coming and the ‘shock’ is pedestrian and handled quite clumsily (essentially through sound whilst the screen is black, moving to a shot of Nicoletta with fangs). What is handled well, however, is the characterisation of Hooch – through the extensive dialogue we come to find the character rather personable but the ground made there isn’t capitalised on when he's attacked. Is it awful? No, not really, the Hooch aspect keeps it above that level but there isn’t much in the way of shock or horror to write home about either. As always, the score is for the vampire section only – 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Vamp or Not? Fang

This is a 2018 film by Adam R. Steigert and is brave in the first instance as it is a budget werewolf movie. There was also a question, as I watched it, as to whether one of the main characters is actually a vampire, rather than a werewolf.

However, as the film starts, we get to see that one of the things it does well is gore as we see a man (Christopher Burns Jr.) chained to a chair covered in gore and vomiting. It’s a startling opening and the blood effects are really well done. This then moves into images of medical diagrams as credits roll, until we get into the film proper.

opening gore
Joe (Theo Kemp) is rifling through a purse and then wakes girlfriend Chloe (Melodie Roehrig). They are junkies and are out of drugs. Joe has a gun and a plan – he will rob someone and Chloe has to distract them, when she asks how he suggests by opening her legs. She acts as a prostitute and ends up in the car with a man who also has a gun. Joe shoots him in the head but the murder makes them a measly $50.

Chloe and Joe
They go to see dealer Christmas (Sean C. Sanders) who, despite misgivings, hands over some junk. They go home, Chloe shows her regrets first and in the morning Joe is down too, wondering how his life has hit rock bottom. Chloe mentions an Aunt and Uncle (Doris (Melantha Blackthorne) and Roy Crowley (Patrick Mallette)) that they could visit – she hasn’t seen them since she was a kid and Joe’s ears are pricked when she mentions they are rich.

family home
So, we see them travelling (and scoring) and eventually they come across a broken down car and driver Chris (Jason John Beebe) and his girlfriend Shelly ( Jennie Russo, Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8)). There is no cell reception and Joe suggests they go with them to Chloe’s Aunt’s house, which isn’t far. They get there and meet creepy grounds/housekeeper Harold (Gregory Blair).

dinner party
The Aunt and Uncle are away to lunch but he lets the visitors in, locking the door. Apparently, they like all the doors to be locked (and mention has to be made of the miming of doors being locked without keyholes, using one of the keys from his large bunch). Anyway, soon Aunt and Uncle appear and they are weird and the guests feel trapped. Meanwhile, a local Sheriff (Steve Losey), has found the ID that Chloe (unbeknownst to herself) has dropped at the scene of the murder and gets dying (of cancer) ex-officer William Sanders (Michael O'Hear, Dry Bones, Red Scream Nosferatu & Mostly Dead) to go with him over the county line to look for her.

wolf form
Of course, Aunt and Uncle are monsters and things get weirder and weirder until blood begins to flow. Now they never mention what they actually are, except referring to themselves as monsters, but Aunty is definitely a werewolf. Uncle Roy, however, is perhaps not as easily classified. He suggests that they have been around for some time, the Crowley’s found them in tombs and they took their forms – whether they stole their faces, shape-shifted into their forms or possessed them is not actually answered.

eyes carved out
“Uncle” Roy wears dark glasses and when they are removed, we see his eyes are carved out, the wounds raw looking. Both hide away during the day and both eat raw looking meat. He does produce fangs (top and bottom) but we do not see him turn hairy like Doris and, when he bites Sanders, he says his blood is poisonous due to the cancer. Later they discover Sanders' blood is actively debilitating and beheading kills, that said, all the house residents get up after bullets and so, later, silver bullets are suggested. They don’t actually seem to work on Roy, though he implies this is due to his longevity. However, a face full of holy water burns Roy and that is not normal werewolf behaviour/reaction.

holy water
It is the holy water and the not turning hairy (that we see) that makes me question whether Roy is actually a vampire. He is from the tomb (but so is Doris and, actually, so is Paul Naschy's werewolf in at least one of his classic films), avoids the sun (though we don’t know if he needs to) and is killed by beheading. This makes him feel vampiric to me and I’m going down that line – though it could just be an adoption of tropes thing. The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Vampire Slaughter: Eaten Alive – review

Directors: Charles Band & Ted Nicolaou

Release Date: 2018

Contains spoilers

I don’t know what it is about Full Moon Pictures and recycling their material. This is the fourth film in the Full Moon's Bunker of Blood series – in which they put a wraparound animation about the Gore Collector (a really short wraparound in this case) and then recycle a load of clips from their movies.

In this case they recycle the Subspecies series (you can read the reviews of films 1, 2, 3 & 4), the spin-off Vampire journals and the decadent Evil series (reviews for films 1 & 2) – interestingly the first Decadent Evil film recycled 10 minutes of Vampire Journals itself.

wraparound animation
One wonders why they bother, especially with the promise of new original material on the horizon, but it isn’t the first time. They sent my hackles up with I, Vampire: Trilogy of Blood, which took three 90-minute vehicles and edited them down to three 30-minute shorts. This doesn’t even do that and, in some ways, that is the saving grace. Rather than making shorts out of the various films this literally stitches scenes together like some cinematographically-conceived Frankenstein’s Monster.

Radu rises
The down side is obvious, these scenes from full length vehicles are condensed into 90-minutes and so there is no real narrative, no sense of character or character building, no sense of time or geography – this is no more than a clip show. I should also mention that they list the character Mummy in the opening credits as a vampire and add a fang to her on the DVD cover – she was always a witch and there is a clip included that names her as such and makes it clear she is active during the daytime (the vampires are not).

victims to the slaughter
However, on a plus side, there are some very nice vampiric scenes on display – especially the vampire detection ceremony from the first Subspecies film with a white horse and masked villagers – that was a cracking scene and looks great today still. But it still has no context.

vamping it up
In truth I can’t see why someone would watch this unless they are a massive Full Moon fan (and then, surely, they’d watch the actual films) or by accident. Generously it would make a decent backdrop to a horror themed party. I dropped I Vampire to a zero-score due to its pure exploitation of the viewer and the fact it didn’t work at all. With that in mind (and ignoring the fact that this is one of several such clip vehicles) I won’t drop this as low, because the lack of storytelling made it easier to watch than the previous vehicle's butchered storytelling. 1 out of 10 – Full Moon, I love many of the films herein, the score does not reflect their quality at all, but please make new material and stop recycling the old.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Capulina Contra los Vampiros – review

Director: René Cardona

Release date: 1971

Contains spoilers

So, I previously looked at a film featuring Capulina (Gaspar Henaine) when he was in his long-standing double act with Viruta (Marco Antonio Campos), that being El Camino de los Espantos. This later vehicle was following the double act’s split and saw Henaine carrying the vehicle himself.

His character in film was one of an affable buffoon but that does, in many respects, work better with a straight character to bounce against.

reading about Dracula
In this Capulina is in his bed clothes, whilst a storm rages outside. We get a little physical humour sketch of a window that won’t cooperate with him and stepping in a chamber pot. Eventually he goes to bed and starts reading a book about Count Dracula… This then moves to a scene where we see the vampire Count Draca (according to the subtitles I saw), who has astoundingly tusk-like fangs, being staked with a wooden lance.

Draca Staked
Draca turns to dust but the lance becomes wedged into the floor. His companion, Pampa (Rossy Mendoza) spends the next 150 years trying to have the lance removed from the floor as it will allow him to revive and regularly has strongmen make the attempt. Later she addresses why she can’t remove it but citing she might get splinters (!) and no consideration of chipping the surrounding stone is made. We essentially get a (barely thought out) stake/evil-equivalent of the sword in the stone.

Pampa calls the agency
Capulina is at an employment agency where he has driven the owner to distraction as he cannot last more than three days in a given job. He wants to be a manager (as they get to sit on their backsides all day). Whilst he is there a call comes from asking for a caretaker for an old house – a call made by Pampa – and he is sent to the vampire’s mansion. Within there he meets a diminutive good spirit called Carbonata, who is the guardian of the treasure there. Of course, he ends up resurrecting the Count as well.

What follows is a bit of slapstick, mingled with some absurdist humour. Throwing in vampires means a plethora of really crap bats, which are definitely of the rubber variety. Carbonata is able to transport both himself and Capulina in a blink of an eye and the star is safe to a point as the vampires want to know the secret of the treasure. The Count has a group of six vampire women (referred to as slaves, rather than brides) who Pampa is jealous of and who all wear transparent chiffon over black underwear.

anti-vampire suit
At one-point Carbonata recalls that there is an anti-vampire suit, which is a suit of armour. That might protect the neck from biting but not the buttocks. However when two of the vampire slaves try to bite the neck they lose their fangs. The vampires retreat at dawn and Carbonata suggests pulling the Count into sunlight at one point – so we know it is deadly to vampires. Pampa gives the Count a glass of refrigerated blood, making the point that it is as nutritious as fresh when he pulls a face; she stole it from a blood bank. However, there is little other lore to note.

Gaspar Henaine as Capulina
This didn’t work as well as the early film I’ve looked at and I suspect that the Capulina character needed a better foil. Some of the humour hadn’t aged that well either but there is still a charm in Henaine's performance despite working better in a duo. 4 out of 10

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On DvD @ Amazon UK

Friday, November 22, 2019

Interesting Short: Vampyre Theatre

This is a short written by Nancy Kilpatrick and probably straddles that space between short and novella.

This is both positive; the story was a quick, satisfying read, and negative; it feels like the opening of a much wider vista and I want to know more.

I wanted to know more about the characters; Aleron a mystic, Cheryl the newly turned vampire and Nightshade the actor. All of them were gifted with fascinating personality aspects that absolutely hooked the reader. I wanted to know much more about this vampire world, which seemed to have unique elements that feel worth exploring. I wanted to know more about the story, we are teased with the short prose and I wanted that flirtation to develop – hopefully it will.

Like much of the author's work there is an erotic aspect and this contains (and this is a spoiler) what is probably the most erotically drawn vampiric rebirth I think I've ever discovered in a piece of prose – worth the entry fee alone. Excellent stuff.