Sunday, May 09, 2021

Use of Tropes: Shadow of a Doubt

The use of genre tropes is a strange thing as it might be deliberate, it might be accidental or unconscious and it could just be a form of pareidolia on behalf of the viewer. Now, truth be told I didn’t sit down to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 thriller and suddenly said, "Wait a second..." Rather, I went in fully looking for tropes and connections to Dracula. You see, I read someone else’s piece making the connection and will therefore be making reference through this to Victoria William’s essay Reflecting Dracula (1) and, as the first source references it, James McLaughlin’s essay All in the Family (2) – references at the foot of the article in case you wish to seek them out. In truth there are elements that are likely to be a stretch but there was one direct reference, which we’ll come to, that convinces me that Hitchcock had given this some thought.

'lying in repose'

So, we get images of people dancing, over the credits, to the waltz the Merry Widow. Then we see images of Philadelphia but they are not all idealised; homeless by the river, a decayed shell of a car by a no tipping sign, contrasted against kids in the street. We cut into a room and lying on the bed in the room is Charles Oakley (Joseph Cotten), also known as Uncle Charlie as we’ll soon discover, his hands on his chest playing with a cigar but looking like he is lying in repose. Williams likens him to Dracula as Harker finds him entombed in the castle. Certainly, his voice, when a knock interrupts him, is soft, almost languid.

close up

His landlady tells him that two men called, looking for him but she said he was out – they told her not to mention the visit, she later says, they want to surprise him. She says he looks tired, and we’ll touch on health again, and notices money on the floor, picking it up and admonishing him for being careless. There is a connection that could be made here with Dracula, and Harker finding “a great heap of gold in one corner, gold of all kinds, Roman, and British, and Austrian, and Hungarian, and Greek and Turkish money”. This is probably reading too much in, however, as it has much more to do with what Uncle Charlie deems important – I’ll come back to this.

on the rooftop

He instructs her to let them in next time and she suggests he has his nap and closes the blind. As the darkness draws over him, he sits up – Williams likens it to Count Orlock rising from his crate, but it certainly seems that the darkness has given him some vitality. He takes a drink and then angrily throws the glass, smashing it. He lifts the blind and looks at the detectives who are loitering outside the house, but they have nothing on him, he decides… he leaves, deliberately walking past them, they discreetly follow. Interestingly he evades them, them splitting but not finding him as he looks down from high up a building. This evasion was almost supernatural, Mclaughlin suggests “Like Dracula, he can mysteriously disappear.” He blows a plume of smoke. Then we see him sending a telegram to Emma Newton (Patricia Collinge), his sister – he is coming to visit.

Charlie on her bed

Around the same time, in Santa Rosa we cut to Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) led on her bed. McLaughlin argues that the way the two scenes are presented deliberately aligns the two, beyond having the same name and a familial bond (she is his niece) he suggests that “Incest is a barely suppressed presence in the film” and, as you watch it and see how the niece reacts to the uncle one can certainly see that. Of course, there is a connection with the genre and I always, on this point, return to the scenes that were cut from Mark of the Vampire were those that explained the vampirism being caused by a combination of incest and suicide.

how can you talk about money...

Young sister Ann (Edna May Wonacott) begrudgingly interrupts her reading to answer the phone – it is the telegram office but, not having a pencil, she does not take the message. Father, Joseph (Henry Travers), gets home and goes upstairs to see Charlie. She seems depressed, she has been thinking about the rut life represents, her father argues that it isn’t all so bad and mentions the raise he recently received from the bank. Charlie’s reply is important, “How can you talk about money when I'm talking about souls?” This lowering of the import of money is a trait shared with her Uncle… speaking of which, she realises that there is only one person who can help and declares that she is going to send a telegram asking him to visit.

We have the same blood

When she gets to the office to send a telegram to Uncle Charlie, she is given her mother’s telegram from him saying he is visiting. She actually talks about telepathy, "To be in tune with another person who is on the other side of the country-it's all mental". McLaughlin suggests that she has invited Charlie (and that like Dracula he needs an invitation). I disagree. The telegram office called before she stated she would telegram him and Charlie was coming without an invitation. However, like Mina and Dracula, it does suggest a mental connection between uncle and niece. This is reinforced when she, for no reason, gets the Merry Widow Waltz stuck in her head, for reasons we’ll get to. In Dracula we get, “And you, their best beloved one, are now to me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, kin of my kin” and in this Uncle Charlie says to her, “We have the same blood”.

Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie

That Uncle Charlie seems ill is reinforced on the train (and note, as Williams points out, that he is travelling from East to West, like Dracula did, and 'back East' is mentioned several times in the dialogue, reinforcing the East/West aspect), where he is hidden behind a drape and the guard knows him to be very ill. In fact, he is so ill that he is helped off the train and walks with a cane. Yet, when he sees Charlie, he comes alive again, a spring in his step almost and certainly not invalid. The acting ill was likely a ruse, of course, but the symbolism of moving from infirm to sprightly matches Dracula’s becoming younger in the West, "I believe it is the Count, but he has grown young."

newspaper report

Anyway, Uncle Charlie’s secret is that he is a serial killer known as the “Merry-Widow” murderer (hence the waltz scenes and the importance of Charlie having the tune stuck in her head). He uses his charms to seduce widows and strangles them (probably a stretch to think that it is deliberate but the folklore vampire was, more often than not, a strangler). He has killed three widows, according to the press article we see – matching the three vampire women perhaps? He also sees them as less than human, somehow, and sees them “drinking their money, eating their money.” This ties in with previous themes on money (and distinguishing between money and soul, with the widows reportedly only caring about the former) also tying in with his dismissive air when he sets up a bank account and nonchalantly hands over thousands from his pocket to open it.

arrives with a plume of smoke

There are motifs used through the film that need touching on. There are important scenes at the dinner table but we never see Uncle Charlie eat. Dracula could become mist (although there is no mist in this, the novel describes the mist as being like smoke at one point). Smoke is used through the film, the plume of smoke from the cigar after he has escaped the detectives, the smoke of the train bringing him into town and the use of car exhaust to try and kill his niece. When he first sees his sister, he does not use her married name, rather he says she looks like she was when single using her maiden-name and giving their old address – an address she hadn’t thought about in years – for how the undead become the repository of memory I recommend the volume Undead memory.

Charlie in photograph

Wait a second… You just said undead.” Of course, not literally but there are no pictures of Uncle Charlie, he claims. One of the detective’s gets a picture of him and Uncle Charlie takes the film (or so he thinks, there is a switcheroo and the photo is sent to witnesses back East though, as Williams mentions, we never hear anything more about the picture and there is no witness confirmation). However, there is one picture, of a very young Charles, from the old address he’d mentioned, taken at Christmas just before an accident. He was a quiet child, a reader like Ann, and he slid his new bicycle on ice into a streetcar. There was a concern he might die, he fractured his skull and was bed-ridden but, once he recovered, his personality had changed – he became full of energy and into mischief. The tale could indicate a symbolic death, with him reborn as the mischievous Charlie, who becomes the murderous Charlie and symbolically undead.

Teresa Wright as Charlie

I mentioned that it might be a case of reading too much in but there is a moment where one of the detectives, to distract Ann, asks her to offer a synopsis of the book Dracula. According to Williams the original script used a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde reference (which would have fit the dualistic role of the two Charlies) but Hitchcock deliberately changed the reference. This suggests to me that Hitchcock did see Uncle Charlie as being like Dracula. Whether every aspect I’ve mentioned was deliberate is, of course, highly debatable but the foundation is there. EDIT 10/5/21: A couple of Facebook commentators have pointed out that The Return of Dracula is almost an unofficial remake of this, thanks Doug and Troy.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

(1) Williams, V., 2013. Reflecting Dracula: The Undead in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. In: B. Brodman & J. E. Doan, eds. Images of the Modern Vampire: The Hip and the Atavistic. Plymouth: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, pp. 3-13.

(2) McLaughlin, J., 1986. All in the Family: Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. In: M. Deutelbaum & L. A. Poague, eds. A Hitchcock Reader. Ames: Iowa State Press, pp. 141-152.

Friday, May 07, 2021

The Dracula File – review

Author: Gerry Finley-Day & Simon Furman

Artists: Eric Bradbury, Geoff Senior & Keith Page

First published: 2020 (tpb)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: A brand-new paperback new edition of the sold out and beloved classic horror comic!

KGB officer Colonel Stakis desperately hunts for Count Dracula, who is spreading terror in 1980s Britain after escaping from behind the Iron Curtain.

Blending Cold War paranoia with horror staples, Gerry Finley-Day and Eric Bradbury's strip overcame sustained attempts at censorship to become one of the most popular strips in the 1980s best horror comics.

The review
: I have to confess that I don’t remember Scream comic – despite probably being the exact age of the target audience when it circulated and, given this collection, that seems a shame. A short run horror comic it does mean that the story in this volume doesn’t conclude. Dracula manages to ‘defect’ to the West, via the Berlin wall and is taken to Britain where, luckily, the MI5 safehouse he is taken to is his old residence when he was last in Britain and so has some of his native soil stashed there.

He is soon terrorising London with the secret services convinced they lost the defector somehow and the police convinced a killer is on the loose. The one person who knows the truth is KGB agent Colonel Stakis who is disgraced in the USSR for his superstitious beliefs and so manages to escape to the UK to hunt the vampire. We get so much of that story, which then moves into a 2-issue flashback of Dracula facing another hunter in the 19th century. That covers off all that is available of the story from the substantive comic, but the title was subsequently maintained as holiday specials from which we get some stand-alone stories of Stakis hunting Dracula.

Lore-wise, I’ve mentioned native earth and this Dracula is vulnerable to sunlight it seems (or at least aims to be in his native earth before the sun rises and does not leave his coffin until it sets). We get transformation into smoke, bats and wolves (and Stakis employing an eagle to hunt the bat form, which was fun). It also mentions garlic, holy water, silver bullets (though a reproduced quiz refutes that as being for werewolf only) and wooden stakes… silver stakes are mentioned also. There are lore errors – lack of reflection is used as a plot point and then, in one of the holiday specials, we get Stakis posing as a policeman and somehow seeing the vampire attack in a mirror taped to the inner brim of his helmet!

The art is black and white, certainly reminiscent of the style of the time and could be best described as gritty, which suited the vibe. Dracula’s artwork does have a bit of a Christopher Lee vibe to it. The new cover art for this collection is fun, what with the attack on the pin stripe berk, but perhaps one of the original Scream covers would have served better. The writing for Dracula posed him as arrogant and quite pompous (“You dare strike at me!”) and this reminded me of the Marvel persona for Dracula.

This was fun, it's not a massive book (the comic didn’t run long enough) but it was a nice discovery for me and I suspect a lovely bit of nostalgia for others. Thank you to Sarah for the volume. 7.5 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Slaxx – review

Director: Elza Kephart

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

I didn’t sit down to watch Slaxx with the view of viewing it as a vampire film, it just looked like a fun watch. It became clear, however, that it can be viewed as such on a couple of levels. This necessitates a broad view of what a vampire is, of course, but the tropes are there.

When I mention a couple of levels, one is within the primary subject of the film – a pair of homicidal possessed jeans but the other true vampire of the film is the company, the commercial entity and, of course, I will explore both in the review.

picking cotton

We start in India and Keerat (Pritha Mazumdar), a young girl, is picking cotton. The crop is designated “Experimental Field 357” and is owned by Canadian Cotton Clothiers. We move from there to see a box, labelled with the company name being delivered to the stock area of a store. It contains jeans with a distinctive “SS” logo (standing for Super Shapers), which are placed into storage as a sign reminds workers that “employee theft hurts us all”.

store worker

CCC as the company is known is a clothing chain that prides themselves on the fact that they use fair trade, organic produce, that they are ethical and espouse a view to their staff that they are a family. They are the sort of store that calls an area of the shopfloor an ecosystem and expects their staff to display a certain (and insincere) attitude, whilst wearing this season’s line. I previously looked at the vampire tropes used in the film In Fabric and whilst the stores are very different (one classical 70s the other very modern) beneath the surface they are very similar.

Romane Denis as Libby

Into the store comes Libby (Romane Denis), a fan of both the store and the philosophy of founder Harold Landsgrove (Stephen Bogaert); she is a new hire and this is her first day. A store worker (who is one of the few staff who doesn’t display the sickly cult-like attitude expected by CCC), Shruti (Sehar Bhojani), takes her through to see store manager Craig (Brett Donahue), in turn he sends her to see Hunter (Jessica B. Hill, Being Human (US)) who has no time for the new hire. Eventually she finds herself having to buy a new wardrobe as her clothes are last season, without staff discount (it starts the next day).

the first kill

Meanwhile Jemma (Hanneke Talbot, Rabid) has taken a pair of the new jeans and puts them on. As she does the zipper she catches her finger – this feels very much like the accidental cut in a standard vampire movie that resurrects the undead. There is a staff meeting to tell the team that Harold is coming to the store to launch the new line but Jemma gets cramps (she believes an early period) and goes to the bathroom. In a stall the jeans squeeze to eviscerate her and a panel in the “SS” logo turns red. Unfortunately the staff are locked in until the launch in the morning.

the jeans dance as Shruti sings

So we have a killer pair of jeans. As the story unfolds we discover that the cotton was GM (used for profits), the cotton is one that is meant to mould to the wearers body shape, though that is not really explored as part of the lore. Once Libby discovers that the jeans like Bollywood music and (after giving itself a mannequin head and torso) wears a bindi, the pieces start to come together and they eventually discover that the jeans are possessed by Keerat, who was a child labourer and died in an industrial accident. Keerat is after justice and/or revenge.

lapping blood

Why vampire? Well, the jeans are specifically after blood it seems. We see them ‘lapping’ blood from the floor and when they awaken other pairs, they do so with blood also. However, the jeans may be vampiric clothing (and represent a form of vampiric possession) but the bigger vampire is the company itself. Certainly immoral and dishonest about its trading practices and how it treats supplying labour, the expectations of its store staff is cult-like (bringing Hammer’s cult of the vampire to mind) and through influencers they try and embroil consumers into that cult.

death of an influencer

This was fun. Perhaps not as artistic or involved as the aforementioned In Fabric, this is a slasher at heart but with a nice lore that uses vampire tropes and a healthy cynicism about consumer culture. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, May 03, 2021

Vamp or Not? The Darkness

The Darkness is a 2020 film directed and written by Tharun Mohan and truth be told I am looking at it by accident. You see I had seen the trailer and there is a moment that looked as though a character was in a coffin, throat slit and staked. Now, although the trailer was clear that there were themes of witchcraft and changelings, I thought that at the very least there would have been a use of tropes with the stake used to hold a character in the earth.

I was offered access to a screener and accepted on that basis, to discover that I had mis-seen the scene. The character is, indeed, in a coffin and their throat is slit but they hold a rose to their chest. As you know, the blog deals exclusively with vampire material but I had also given my word that I’d do an article. However, the film does have aspects of the restless dead and I decided that a ‘Vamp or Not?’ would be the fairest way of looking at the film.

the decayed finger 

The film begins in, what feels like the 19th Century (or early 20th century) and we see a bell – it is the surface bell of a safety coffin. We move below the earth and see a decayed finger with the bell pull attached to the finger. It moves and the bell rings. Brian (Adam Bond) rushes to the grave shouting to his mother that *she* is back. He gets into the grave but something pulls him in. At the same time, we see through a window into the house and see a figure move behind the mother.

Lisa and David

In a car Lisa (Amelia Eve) awakens suddenly. She and her partner David (Cyril Blake) are going to a house that has been in his family for years but he has only just found out about. He seems quite work focused; she is an author who has written and published her first book but is struggling to move on to the second. The house, of course, is the one from the prologue. It is remote and there is no wifi or phone signal.

Katherine Hartshorne as Niav

Almost from the get go there is strangeness afoot, with Lisa particularly nervous (and having the dream of herself in the coffin that I had noted in the trailer.) She then finds a diary in the attic written by Niav O'Connor (Katherine Hartshorne) – Brian’s wife… except a local historian has no record of Niav only of a wife called Mary who mysteriously vanished a year before he went missing. The diary, however, has intrigued Lisa who thinks it might be the basis for her next novel.

gluttonous eating

The film follows two paths – with the nineteenth century one showing us Niav’s story and involving fairy folk, witches and changelings. The modern one sees Lisa changing as the spirit in the house takes possession of her. It is all a case of unfinished business but – trying to not spoil anything – we have seen the corpse of Mary move and there is a hunger passed to Lisa when she is possessed – manifesting itself in gluttonous eating of food. This gluttony would fit in with some of the restless dead folklore.

blood tear

Ultimately there is spirit possession in the present day, which manifests as personality change and the gluttony I’ve mentioned, along with eye colour change and levitation. Essentially it is aimed at finishing the unfinished business. In the nineteenth century section we have a wider bag of stuff – we have witches, a faery cave and blood sacrifice to attempt to resurrect the dead. We do get a random blood tear at one point. The movement of the finger and what then happened to Brian suggests a degree of restless dead (which was frustratingly under explored) but there isn’t really a vampiric element to it. An unusual mix of themes but ultimately not vamp.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Boys from County Hell – review

Director: Chris Baugh

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

The legend of Abhartach is that of an Irish magician who was cruel and, when slain, became one of the unquiet dead, unwilling to remain buried. Some versions of the legend add in blood drinking to his habits. His alleged grave is still there, near the town of Slaghtaverty, and is known today as the Slaghtaverty Dolmen. The Dolmen, made up of one large and two smaller stones and a thorn tree, which is essential to keeping Abhartach in his grave.

Prof Bob Curran theorised that it was this story that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. In truth there is no evidence I’m aware of that Stoker was aware of Abhartach and certainly didn’t reference the legend in his notes for the novel.

spontaneous bleeding

Which brings us to the film, which is about Abhartach and does carry the conceit that Stoker visited the location of the grave, heard the legend and wrote the novel because of that. It starts with an elderly couple watching TV. It’s rubbish, complains the husband and the wife suggests going out – perhaps to the Stoker (the local pub) but he dismisses the idea. A drop of blood falls into her tea, her nose has started bleeding… he has started bleeding from the eyes and the blood from both is being drawn towards the door… which opens…

the Stoker

Two months earlier and we go to the Stoker – a cracking pub sign almost bringing the Slaughtered Lamb from American Werewolf in London to mind, simply by being a great horror pub sign. Friends Eugene (Jack Rowan) and Will (Fra Fee) are finishing their pints. Eugene asks barmaid, and Will’s girlfriend, Claire (Louisa Harland) for another round but she refuses. The landlord has told her to cut him off until he pays his bar tab. Will offers to get the drinks in.

Eugene and Will

Obvious tourists (Canadian they surmise) come into the pub. Eugene engages them (and in doing so reveals he hasn’t read Dracula). There is a moment where “beware the moor” is mentioned, again intertextually tying to American Werewolf. They are looking for the grave and Eugene offers the help of himself and Will as guides – the grave is on Will’s father’s land – for the price of some cans of beer. They take them out and the grave (in this) is a stone cairn with a black sheep’s skull on top. They tell them about it drawing blood if you get too close and hearing voices close up. They encourage one to get close and a hairy hand reaches out from behind the cairn – it is their friend SP (Michael Hough) wearing a monster glove.

the cairn

So, the council wants to build a by-pass and are looking to throw Will’s family off their land and it will mean that the cairn is levelled. It turns out it is Eugene’s father (Nigel O'Neill) who gets the contract for that. A drunken fight, about Will’s plans to go to Australia, between Will and Eugene one night sees Will pushed against the cairn, cutting his hand. He is fine but then an escaped bull gores him against the cairn, killing him. The death, along with his father’s involvement in the by-pass, sees Eugene barred from the Stoker and him deciding to work with his dad to get the money to leave the town.

still with stake

Of course, Abhartach (Robert Nairne, Penny Dreadful & Vampire Virus) is buried under the cairn – we see Will’s blood absorbed into the earth when he is killed and the lore in this is really unusual. We discover that it is not a bite, but the stones, that turn someone (presumably due to their proximity to the vampire for so long). Staking might slow a vampire down but won’t kill it – in fact we get two unusual stakings in film. The first with a surveying pole, is great, the pole actually pushing the heart out of the back of the body – the vampire continues moving. The second I won’t spoil but it’s towards the end of the film and worth the entry fee all on its own.

unconscious victim

Essentially the best thing to do is to bury the vampire and weigh it down by putting stones above it. Whilst it sounds hinky, if you follow it logically, it is clearly the symbolism of the stones that is important. The other great bit of lore was shown in the first scene with Abhartach able to draw blood from multiple victims, that blood then flows to his lair (which is not his grave) as the victims lie insensible. Of course, that makes getting near him dangerous. Amusingly, when they see him rise it is a leg, not an arm, that breaches the earth – this fits with one form of the legend that said he had to be buried upside down.

Robert Nairne as Abhartach

I really enjoyed this. Billed as a horror comedy, the comedy aspect is not so much slapstick or absurdity but more in the dialogue and the craic between characters, if you are attuned to that humour it works so very well – a strength of both script and actors. The figure of Abhartach was nicely creepy and in some respects reminded of another Irish vampire film, From the Dark. The unusual lore was great fun too. This is a film that deserves some love. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Use of Tropes: the Wailing

The Wailing is a 2016 film by Korean auteur Hong-jin Na and, from the outset, I have to say that it is a wonderful rabbit warren of misdirection throughout and so bleakly dark it is untrue. Coming in at just over 2.5 hours, the biblical quote at the head directly relates to the ending rather than just being a scene setter and you know from this you are in for a ride, although that ride is going to be tense.

The film uses many themes and we certainly have possession/exorcism and a moment that is wonderfully zombie in its depiction. There is also the use of tropes that are perhaps from the vampire genre, which is why I’m looking at it here.

the murderer

The film itself starts in a village in South Korea and local policeman Jong-goo (Do-won Kwak) has to get up, though it is still dark and a rainstorm rages, as someone has died. He is persuaded to stay and eat before leaving, by his mother-in-law (Jin Heo), who lives with him, his wife (Jang So-Yeon) and his daughter Hyo-jin (Hwan-hee Kim). Eating with them, he explains that it is the ginseng-seller’s wife who has died, apparently murdered. When he eventually gets to the crime scene, it has been discovered that the seller himself was murdered (elsewhere) and dragged to the house. Outside is the murderer, handcuffed and seemingly in a trance, his skin covered in a rash and boils.

in the forest

So, we have families where one of them goes mad and slaughters everyone, and the perpetrator always has the rash. But there is talk about a Japanese immigrant (Jun Kunimura) living in the woods and it is around him that our tropes appear. In the first instance, being Japanese, he is an outsider – and, of course, this makes him the Other, which is often the role of a vampire. The film moves us into a scene where we see him in, what is revealed to be, a second-hand story being told. A man is in the forest and finds a dead deer, he lifts it but looses his balance and falls down an incline and cracks his head on a rock. When he wakes the Japanese man is nearby, naked, bar a diaper, and tearing into the deer with his teeth. He sees the man has woken and comes at him, bearing over a rock, his ears pointed, his eyes red…

The mysterious woman

Now this could be just an Othering urban legend or xenophobic tall tale. Later, whilst sitting outside another crime scene, a mysterious woman (Woo-hee Chun) annoys Jong-goo by throwing stones in his approximate direction, with her gradually moving physically closer to him. Eventually she gets to the cop and then she enters the crime scene, despite his protests, and shows him where the deaths occurred and then says that the ‘old woman’ told her where it happened and also told her that the “Jap is a ghost. He was gonna suck her blood dry.” This is clearly our most vampiric aspect. The mysterious woman then tells Jong-goo that if he has seen the Japanese Man (and he has, a couple of time) then that is the ghost stalking him for his blood. Returning to the biblical quote I mentioned, which was Luke 24:37-39 – where the Christ risen from the grave says he is not a ghost as he is corporeal – the film makes us wonder if he can be a ghost and corporeal?

the photos

Jong-goo leaves her to take a call and when he returns she has vanished. He searches for her but at the back of the house, instead of her, he sees the Japanese Man, naked and eating flesh. The Japanese man runs at him… He wakes from a nightmare – now we quickly establish he did see and lose the woman – as his boss is aware of it – but he has dreamt the Japanese man in his bestial state. The cops speak to the witness from the forest, who swears he saw the Japanese Man in bestial form, and have him take them to the stranger’s remote house. On the way there they find the deer and realise he was telling the truth (though that could have just been about his fall) but they don’t get to the house as there is a sudden storm and the witness is struck by lightning. This could be coincidence or... well, we also know that control of storms is part of the genre. Things get more urgent for Jong-goo when they eventually get to the Japanese Man’s home and find photos of those who have had the rash and items of their possessions, including Hyo-jin’s shoe. Getting home Jong-goo discovers she is developing the rash and her personality has changed.

Hyo-jin is ravenous

Interestingly there are points when Hyo-jin becomes ravenously hungry for any food – reminiscent of the feeding of one of the restless dead in the film Strigoi, and there was a rash element in that film too. The photos are an interesting aspect, as one reading (as there are photos of them alive and dead) is that they are a way of stealing a soul. However, the film twists and turns and, whilst Jong-goo becomes convinced the Japanese man is some sort of evil shaman and persuades some of the townfolk to blame him for what is happening, we also get told that he is a good shaman or monk who is trying to protect those afflicted. The Othering also comes in when someone suggests that the Japanese Man is also a rapist – though his alleged victim is dead, having hung herself after one of the mass murders, so cannot confirm or deny. Jong-goo’s mother-in-law has him employ a shaman also, and the death hex he attempts to cast at the Japanese Man involves hammering iron stakes into a wooden fetish.

zombie-ish moment

This was a great film. I have seen complaints that the ending is confusing. There is apparently a deleted scene that does clarify the ending but only in as much as it agrees with what I thought the film was saying anyway. It is a film that manages to build a palpable tension and is relentlessly dark, nevertheless, it is worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it and it does use vampire genre tropes.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Short Film: The Not so Bright Vampire

Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF, this is a film by Jim & Nick Zounis that is just under 2.5 minutes and is incredibly simple in format.

The film has been treated to look like is has base scratching and is sepia. It portrays a vampire, at first in crap bat form (and it really, deliberately, is crap) and later in human form and an encounter with a rake.

the vampire

That isn’t a spoiler as the slapstick is telegraphed ahead, but there isn’t much more to write either. It really is that simple.

At the time of writing there is no IMDb page.