Thursday, February 02, 2023

Short Film: Frank Drinks at Night


This was a short that was directed by Henry Lobdell and released in 2022. It is a scant 12:30 in length and, honestly, felt like it was a bit of fun between some buddies rather than anything else. Of course, that does not necessarily lead to decent filmmaking.

approaching an attack

Starting with Michael (Tyler Easly) approaching some form of altercation with his phone out and recording. Frank (Peyton Galbraith) looks up from the victim (George Golden) that he is feeding from and lunges at Michael, who turns and runs.

Michael runs as Frank walks, but taunts with requests to taste his blood. Nevertheless, the vampire still manages to catch Michael, but the attack is short lived as he rips off Michael’s shirt to reveal the cross beneath. Michael runs off and then stops to put on a spare vest (he happens to be carrying). This covers the cross again, he is again attacked, and once more his shirt is ripped – allowing an actual escape.

Frank lunges

Waking in (what looks like) a dorm, he quickly convinces himself that it was a dream – Frank couldn’t be hanging beneath the bed, surely…

The plot is, as you can tell, surprisingly convoluted for a simple film – though not necessarily in any good way. That said the filmmakers were having fun, I feel, which is fair enough. There is a repeated line from Michael about not knowing his parents that actually kind of works due to repetition. At the time of writing the short did not have an IMDb page.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Mandao of the Dead – review



Director: Scott Dunn

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers


This was a low budget effort that does its darndest to work above its budget and does so through story and plot, which is refreshing. It is inventive, no doubt about that, but perhaps struggles a little on the characterisations, which is a shame because they could have been expanded to much more than they are presented as.

taking the Mandao's

It starts with Jackson (Sean McBride) getting out of a tent, pitched in a living room. He starts making breakfast but sneaks into a bedroom, belonging to a sleeping Jay (Scott Dunn) and reaches for a cereal packet (called Mandao’s) and takes them. He pours a bowl (and finds the toy) but is caught when sneaking the packet back. Jay is incensed, it was the one thing he told Jackson to leave alone and the cereal was the last packet made before his father’s cereal company was sold. He kicks Jackson out telling him not to call him Uncle Jay.

Jackson and Maeve

Jackson wanders the streets with his tent and bag and eventually knocks on a front door. Maeve (Marisa Hood) answers unsure as to why he would be there – they broke up. There is a comment about her being exposed to sunlight – she has a photosensitivity disorder. He manages to push his way in and it is clear that he is so unaware (he is played as pretty simpleminded) that he won’t or can’t accept their split up. He uses her loo and the water is red – her period she explains.

Jackson and his tent

Jay finds Jackson pitching his tent in a friendly lady’s yard. When Jackson refuses to come back to Jay's, he trashes the tent until he cooperates. Back home Jay phones his sister but she won’t take Jackson in and puts the phone down on him. He technically was Jackson’s step-uncle as his sister was married to Jackson’s dad for a month (he still refers to her as mom). The interaction between the various players is the key to the film and is good but I did think that both Jay and Jackson needed something else in their characters to warm the audience to them.

astral projection

Jay has been having weird dreams and we see one; it starts with him looking at himself and then seeing a green light emanating from the bathroom but being unable to open the door. This time he sees Jackson walk into his room and try to rouse him as he thinks Jay is having a nightmare. Jay calls his cousin Andy (Sean Liang) round, who is a paranormal expert and, it seems, somewhat jealous when he discovers Jay may be astral projecting with no effort. He gives him some sleep aid drops and says he’ll meet him that night in the astral if it is real.

Scott Dunn as Jay

They do meet but Andy is freaked by the green light from the bathroom and skedaddles. He has told Jay how to move distances he goes to Jackson, who is stalking Maeve and rather upset as he can see her kissing a guy, Darth (David Gallegos), in her kitchen. Jackson, in the physical, leaves, but Jay can’t seem to move his legs he freaks, ends up in the front yard and meets Darth’s spirit. Freaking more he wakes at home, back in his body. Jackson persuades him to go to Maeve’s and Darth’s car is there, they see her drive off in it and Jackson breaks in. Jay meets the spirit again – apparently, he can now see dead people.

Darth dead

It turns out the Maeve was fired from her job at the blood bank for stealing blood and had Darth steal more for her (he was a delivery guy for the blood bank). Unfortunately, security had increased and so he filled three flasks with cheap red wine. Maeve then decided to kill him and take his blood. Luckily Darth took a semester of parapsychology and knows that, as it is Halloween, the thinness of the veil means that an astral projector like Jay can go back in time and, with luck, stop his murder. Unfortunately, he only has till midnight for the conditions to be right. This plot direction throws things like evp into the mix and (very) minor paradoxes.

meeting

Maeve’s vampirism is interesting. We get a flashback to Halloween where Jackson and Jay had crashed a party she was throwing and she talked to Jackson because he was dressed as a classic vampire (she was also dressed as a vampire). We see there that she has books on vampires (both reference and things like The New Annotated Dracula) and it was perhaps the death of her mother (from leukaemia) that pushed her interest over the edge. She is drinking blood (presumably the blood in the toilet was vomited after drinking) and rubbing it on her skin and says that it prevents rashes developing in the sun. She also claims it offers vitality and health.

Maeve's books

The acting worked for the film and the plot was interesting enough to overcome limitations that the budget offered. I thought the lighting and filters used to depict the astral was really well done. This is a comedy and mostly centres on the characters of Jay and Jackson, their behaviours and interactions. This is fine, and is amusing enough, but I felt they needed something extra to make them more relatable to the audience – not that they didn’t work but they could have been so much more than they were. That said I was pleasantly surprised with this one. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Haunted Hotties – review


Director: Dean McKendrick

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers

At first glimpse, you’d think that this is one of those films that was clearly shot as an adult movie but then had all the sex stripped out and released as a feature. An example of this sort of film, out in the wild, is Tomb of the Werewolf that had scenes intimating sex, a quick fumble and then fade to black. It was also released under the title The Unliving with the scenes in full, though they were softcore. That is not the case here and I doubt that this will get a second release under a different title with the (expunged) sex added back in as it is actually several films cut together.

vampires

The film isn’t totally sanitised as it is part set in a strip club and therefore there is some level of nudity. It is also under the Full Moon stable and with it they reset the bar, already very low with I, Vampiri: Trilogy of Blood, even lower, offering an incoherent film that literally vampirizes bits of other films for its storylines and then adds them in with their scenes out of order (and not in a clever non-linear way). We get story threads that do not relate to each other as they’re from other films and actors in multiple unrelated (though in one case similar) roles. IMDb does not list the editor and the listed director, Dean McKendrick, may have been listed because he did direct (or even edit) this or may have been listed as he directed three of the four butchered films. 

the 'lab'

Anyhoo, I'll try and pull a 'coherent' synopsis together... A man, Jennings (Frankie Dell), in a bow tie, with a girl named Rachel (Misty Stone) in club gear, walk into a house. It isn’t the start of a joke; I wish it was. He is a professor and met her in a club and she has come home with him but he hasn’t brought her home for sex, oh no (though I am guessing that it happened in the film this is based on, which after some googling turned out to be the rather literally titled Invisible Centerfolds), instead he shows her his lab. There are some scenes interspersed that I’ll get to. His lab consists of a folding table and some beakers etc. He then shows her an empty fish tank, invisible fish he claims, and then an empty cage – the invisible parrot squawks. He’s ready for human trials – Rachel is not keen on the idea and is quickly out of there.

Zombie Housewives

As mentioned, during this we get some scenes from other films, such as a woman (Karlie Montana) in a kitchen who seems to be in a trance. She is the professor’s wife but not in the invisibility plotline, rather these scenes are from College Coeds vs. Zombie Housewives in which the professor is called Gary not Jennings. In this unrelated plotline he works in an actual lab, rather than from home, and has created a female libido serum but it soon becomes clear that it has the side effect of putting users in a trance and makes them violent – essentially zombies. Incidentally, he apparently hasn’t tested it on humans yet (that occurs later with his lab colleague (Mary Carey)) so his wife shouldn’t be in a trance.

Alexa and Jane

We also get scenes from Erotic Vampires of Beverley Hills, starting with Jane (Jacqui Holland, Teeth and Blood & Brides of Sodom) gossiping and telling her friend Stacy (Jazy Berlin) that someone moved into the house over the road in the middle of the night, with no luggage (yes, it does sound awfully Fright Night). They go over as a “welcome wagon” but no one answers the door and so Jane goes snooping round the side of the house and from that we can see it was shot in the same house as Invisible Centerfolds due to an identical picture seen through the window. The Professor hasn’t answered because in this plotline he doesn’t live there, rather a vampire called Morticia (Adriana Chechik) has taken residence (the character Vlad, from the source film, is not introduced in this film and has met the cutting room floor) and, through the film, Jane meets a female vampire hunter, Alexa (Sarah Hunter), and it culminates in some eye mojo and a threesome (or so it seems, as we cut to black and the adult scene joins Vlad on the cutting room floor).

the club

The other plot line lifts scenes from Twilight Vamps (the one film collated here that was not directed by Dean McKendrick) and involves two guys going to a strip club. Roger (Tony Marino) has just been promoted and Jack (Frankie Cullen, Vampire in Vegas) is celebrating with him. They catch the attention of a hostess/dancer, Tabitha (Brandin Rackley, also Vampire in Vegas) who takes a shine to Jack and brings over dancer Angela (Christine Nguyen), who takes Roger to the VIP area. Roger gets eaten (they’re vampires, of course). Jack blows off Tabitha as he has a girl at home (never seen as she hits the cutting room floor). This is one confused storyline as he gets her address but we don’t see him go there in the next scene. Rather, he is in jail – for the murder of Roger – and a cop (Ted Newsome) speaks to him (as does Angela) and he knows they’re vampires. Later he is with the cop, identifying Roger’s corpse but it is clear that he hasn’t been arrested yet nor does he know what the women are, then he’s back in jail and being bailed. At the end of the film, he goes to her 1313 Mockingbird Lane address (!) though this should have been before the jail scene. Twilight Vamps wasn’t a great film but it didn’t deserve this. Messy.

yup, a Gorilla suit

The invisibility storyline has the Professor meeting a woman (also Christine Nguyen, playing yet another character) who wants to be invisible, but their conversation is overheard by a mobster (Andrew Espinoza Long) on the run. The mobster turns up at the Professor's house (after it has been tested) with a companion (Krissy Lynne) who he has drink a serum he finds – which isn’t the right one and turns her into a gorilla (no kidding, we get a gorilla suit). The libido serum ends with three “zombie” women attacking three cheerleaders – including Christine Nguyen as a zombie housewife in yet another role. None of it is meant to be together and so none of it makes sense as you watch it.

vampire 101

If all that was confusing, imagine what it was like to watch. To be truthful despite being from multiple films this isn’t badly shot, though it isn’t the greatest photography it is, at least, competent across the board. However, it is the editing that kills it, a slapdash affair that throws in multiple storylines from multiple films, that don’t belong together, for no good reason. Worse still is moving the scenes out of sequence in the various storylines, which shows a lack of care that is just awful. 0 out of 10 is down to the editing and the exploitation of the audience, the film is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Full Moon via Amazon UK

Friday, January 27, 2023

A Cleansing of the Blood: An Anton the Undying Story Collection – review


Author: Scott Harper

First published: 2022

Contains spoilers

The blurb: “Is there immortal blood, blood which will forever quell the red thirst?” asks Anton the Undying of Bregit, Mortark of North America.

Back in a second anthology, Anton, the ancient gladiator turned vampire enforcer, continues to police the magical world and keep it safely hidden. But Anton is also troubled by his bloodlust and seeks a magical means to rid himself of it.

Meanwhile, a threat to Bregit’s rule is growing. Will Anton discover the secret plot to topple Bregit before it’s too late?

Find out in A Cleansing of the Blood.

The review: I previously reviewed the first Anton the Undying collection and, though a short volume, I was taken by the crisp writing. This volume is not as short, but still shorter than an average release and, like the first, is a collection of interlinked stories rather than a novel.

I described the previous novel as an Urban Fantasy, and the modern sections are. However, the stories set in the past are less urban in their fantasy. All in all this could be described as dark fantasy, I’d suggest, and the writing in this volume is as crisp again. The first stories are set in that modern urban setting and we see, as the blurb suggests, an increasing threat to Bregit. What we don’t get is a resolution to that as the stories then stick firmly to the past, with one modern story feeling like it was prior to the primary storyline.

Now, it is here that I am torn. These are well written, entertaining stories and help both world and character building. The last story even goes off-primary character and follows another character, offering a different view of the world – indicating that the author has room and scope to expand his universe beyond his primary character. On the other hand I was also wanting to see how the plot against the ruling power structure would develop – this will, I assume, continue in future volumes. 

Just to touch on lore within the stories, one newer piece is the idea that witchbane will dampen a vampire's supernatural power and we do get a scenario where Anton is pitted against hunters who use witchbane soaked ropes to hold him. There is also lore set around blood able to stave off further bloodlust and allow daywalking but I won't spoil the source of that blood. Some vampire bloodlines have an affinity to the moon and this harks back to early 19th century vampire stories.

For now, this volume is worth your time, again caveated with it being short (but longer than the first) but fun and well-constructed. 8 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

On Kindle @ Amazon UK

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Kickstarter: Night is Falling Volume 1


Some time ago I featured a kickstarter for issue 1 of Night is Falling, a comic book written by Karen and Barry Todd and Greg Tulonen, and illustrated by Alysa Avery. Since then, the comic has grown in an online sense and is free to read over at Webtoon. However the team have a new Kickstarter to fund creating a graphic novel volume of the comic.

The story goes a little like “The Haskell family have moved from New York City to Jonah's Harbor, Maine. It's a chance for a new start in many ways, as daughter Valerie has been dogged by cruel rumors at their former school, and her older brother Joshua has been kicked out for fighting.

They soon discover that the neighborhood kids who take them into their circle have been keeping a dangerous secret, and cultivating a plan to save the town from an unspeakable evil.

To be honest, the kickstarter seems to be doing really well – with the early bird stage just finished and already at 2/3rds of the goal. However I do have to remind you that features I post about crowd-sourcing projects are for awareness purposes and not an endorsement of the product, support is given at the reader's own risk. With the caveat aside, if it sounds like something you are into you can learn more over at the Kickstarter page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Use of Tropes: Lilith’s Hell


The mythological figure of Lilith has become inextricably linked with vampires in the genre’s megatext. It is this figure, therefore, that is the main trope from the genre within Vincenzo Petrarolo’s 2017 film (I have seen it listed as 2015 but IMDb lists the later date).

The film is of the found footage variety and, after statues of women in the credits – some with maws of fangs, it opens with Ruggero Deodato, he of Cannibal Holocaust fame, talking about being contacted by the filmmakers to be involved in their project and realising they were a bit more than fans but then also realising, when he went to the house they shot in, that there was more than just a movie.

Ryan and Marco

The film follows director Ryan (Marcus J. Cotterell) as he goes over to Rome to shoot a film with his friend (and producer) Marco (Vincenzo Petrarolo). The film is to be shot in Marco’s grandmother’s house, whilst she is overseas, but Marco – it quickly becomes apparent – is more interested in using the filming to sleep with women than for the art. We see the arrival of Ryan and the travel to the house through the camera carried by Alberto (Federico Palmieri), who is capturing everything for DVD extras.

Sara and Ryan

Ryan starts to see that something is off when they get to an equipment warehouse and Marco suggests they need much less than he thinks they need (found footage, after all, just needs a camera). The house is also further out from Rome than implied. Ryan is an arse. He claims the film, about a group of kids trapped in a house and forced into cannibalism, isn’t horror and calls it mokumentary. He is prone to histrionics and argues with everyone. This may just be poor acting but it was also down to the script. Unfortunately, it means the audience dislikes the main character.

night in the house

They are a bit bemused when Michelle (Manuela Stanciu) turns up as the actors are due the next day. It is clear that Marco hired her for her body/looks, having found her on social media, and she hasn’t seen the script. She is with Sara (Joelle Rigollet) a makeup artist she barely knew and who it sounds like the filmmakers weren’t expecting, but go along with anyway. However the house isn’t all it seems and we start seeing glitches in the found film, which corresponds with eerie noises.

Michelle possessed

Eventually we get Marco and Alberto in the large bath when Michelle comes in, suddenly more willing to entertain sexual activity. Marco is somewhat abusive, though she doesn’t seem to mind, but then her fellatio of Alberto becomes a penectomy by teeth! Michele has been possessed by Lilith and, when the others find secret rooms beyond a wardrobe, they discover that Grandma (Elena Croce) wasn’t abroad but had, with others, invoked Lilith to turn over the patriarchy – though the ritual had ended in death for the participants bar the possessed woman (Dani Samvis) who was tied up and is still in the ritual room.

possessed by Lilith

So, we have Lilith as our main trope, and if you read her as vampire then vampiric possession. That said she doesn’t particularly do anything vampiric and her biography as explained in exposition surrounds Eden and Adam and does not expand on her folkloric role of the killer of unprotected babes in the cradle. She does bite – as described – and later she is seen on camera eating Alberto’s flesh but this felt more connecting with the Cannibal Holocaust theme than putting a further vampiric marker in the filmic sand. She does demonstrate eye mojo, able to dominate the will of men who look her in the eyes, and she can pass from woman to woman (presumably in close proximity). As found footage films go this is not the worst I’ve seen – conceptually – though the acting is poor and the characters irredeemable (especially Ryan). However, whilst not a great film it is certainly of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Monday, January 23, 2023

Amityville Vampire – review


Director: Tim Vigil

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

This is yet another in the flood of recent films that tag Amityville to the title and, in this case, there is a link at the beginning with the famous series. However, the main film is not connected at all and that additional opening footage (in a different aspect ratio) was directed by someone other than Tim Vigil (I think).

In truth this film nearly got ignored, as I assumed at first that it was a rename of Amityville Harvest. But whilst this isn’t brilliant, it is a nose ahead of the earlier film.

attack in the Amityville house

So it starts at the Amityville house and with a clean-up crew. One of them is sponging down a red wall only to discover that the red is blood and has transferred onto her sponge. The wall starts bleeding (and, given the drip onto her face, so does the ceiling). She tastes the blood on her face and turns, proceeding to attack the other members of the clean-up crew. It has no further bearing on the film that I could tell…

couple

Credits role and we get a vampire within them with fangs protruding from the upper lip (which looked odd). The film changes aspect ratio and goes one month earlier and a guy has taken a woman into the woods. He is clearly trying it on, she seems less than receptive and calls a peck on her cheek “nice”, a description that apparently sticks in the guys incel-driven craw. When he tries to more sexually and aggressively kiss her, she shuts him down and so he storms off, gets in his car and leaves her in the middle of nowhere. The vampire gets her…

Fran and Johnny

Next we meet Johnny (Anthony Dearce), a former DJ and now record producer. He tells a friend that he is due to take his girl, Fran (Miranda Melhado), camping and will propose. Fran, meanwhile, has met with her sister, Margie (Kat Rodriguez), who thinks Fran is a pushover and Johnny not good enough for her – the scenes actually add little to the film. Johnny drives them to Red Moon Lake – and I understand that was going to be the title of this before the Amityville opening and moniker were tagged on.

henchman and victim

On the way to the lake, he tells a couple of stories about how the lake got its name. Both concern a vampire, Lilith (Jin N. Tonic, Dracula in a Women’s Prison). In the first she is a CEO of a company and invites one of her workers, Gloria (Veronica Farren), to her cabin at Red Moon Lake – where, of course, she is the main course. Unfortunately, the balance of this short is all wrong, with a huge amount of dialogue (interrupted by a fantasised kiss) in the office and then her seeing a victim run in front of her car, her punched by the henchman (Tom Newth, also Dracula in a Women’s Prison) and then chained and food in short order.

Chastity and Lilith

The second story goes back into history and, whilst again it had much dialogue at the head, this one worked better. Caleb (Randy Oppenheimer, Blood Moon Rising) has had to bury his daughter, Chastity (Haillye Young Miller) and his wife (Maggie Nolting) is dying. He is praying to God for her, but God seems deaf to his pleas. A knock at the cabin door and he meets Lilith, who asks for an invitation and suggests she can cure his wife. She even has Chastity with her, raised from the dead. Of course, eventually, he invites them in and leaves them with his wife. The next night all three women feast on him. This is a surprisingly well-done segment compared to the previous it paces well and the attack is rather visceral. Don’t get me wrong, it is probably not worth the entrance fee, but it beats the other parts.

kidnapped stripper

After a side-bar for a pee-stop and some jealousy over a sexually aggressive fan (Laura Meadows), which added little to the film, Johnny and Fran are in the woods but also, as night falls, are three ne’er-do-wells who have brought a stripper into the woods, bound and gagged, to torture, rape and kill – whilst filming the whole thing. The stripper, one complains, is cold to touch and to us looks a whole lot like Lilith… When she does vamp out, she has the fangs coming out of the top lip motif from the credits.

attack

The issue – beyond some general film-making problems – is that this does nothing, it is an anthology but the parts aren’t strong enough to wow us and the over-arching story gets bogged down in the lives of the protagonists. That said we get some lore – Lilith is the biblical Lilith, vampires reflect in natural mirrors and only fail to reflect in man-made mirrors and they need an invitation – but there is too little narrative to need a whole lot of lore. That said it holds together better than Amityville Harvest. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK