Saturday, February 27, 2021

Short Film: The Blood of Love


Directed by Jeff Meyers and released in 2015 this short comes in at just under 20 minutes (and my thanks to Simon Bacon for spotting it on Vimeo). It is a really interesting take on the genre.

It starts with a man, Josh (Chris Stack), presumably sleeping. His wife, Kate (Mali Elfman), kisses his face and he rouses slightly. He is ill and she is going out – a work thing she says, but he does notice that she is dressed sexy. There is no one but him, she says.

As she drives, she picks up a voicemail offering condolences and a drink. However it is a bar she is going to and she meets a man (Steve Xander Carson). We next see them returning to the house, though she has used the back door, and asks him to help pick a wine from the cellar. Down there she uses a handheld Taser on him. He comes round rather quickly and grabs her leg but she gets a bat and bashes him. Soon he is suspended from the ceiling and his throat is cut.

killing in the name of love

We see blood, in a machine and the machine hooked to Josh. He comes round with a gasp. Asking when the doctor is due, she tells him that he missed him and he was there 2-hours before. He said the machine needed adjustment. Later she wakes and Josh is not in bed. In the kitchen he is making dinner and has been out for groceries. Kate gets mad; what if someone had seen… but then suggests he needs to take his condition seriously. Later again, watching TV, and he feels sick. In the bathroom he vomits blood and cries tears of blood…

as the effects wear off

Kate goes to see Mr Ashling (Norm Roth), from whom she got the machine. He had told her all she needed was blood and love but Josh has been responding to the machine less and less. Ashling says she should not mistake quantity for quality… It is clear that Josh died from his illness and, unbeknown to him, Ashling has given her a machine that can revive the dead through blood… but what will it take to get quality time? The answer, of course, is in the short and please watch through the credits as they contain the full denouement.

The imdb page is here.

The Blood Of Love from Jeff Meyers on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Honourable Mention: Domina Nocturna


Released in 2021 this Brazilian film was directed by Larissa Anzoategui and is entirely without dialogue. My quandary was how to tackle and explain it here. As such I decided to reproduce the IMDb summary first of all:

"Haunted by the darkness as she wanders through a dead city, our young, doomed heroine Angelique is stricken with hallucinatory visions as she learns the story of a cruel and loveless vampiress. Her visions are of the bizarre rituals that imprison a group of Satanic worshippers in a cycle of dying passion, and who seek to survive beyond the grave. In Angelique's ears, only the music of the gothic atmosphere flows to augment her quest into the horror and the passion of the dead - and no voice can rise above it. A haunting, enigmatic tribute to the classic Euro-Horror works of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco. Brazilian filmmaker Larissa Anzoategui created a film inspired by authors Lord Byron and the Brazilian Álvares de Azevedo and Anzoategui's passion for expressionist aesthetics. The cast and crew was composed completely of women under the direction of Larissa Anzoategui ("Astaroth") in her sophomore film."

opening scene

It is quite the summary and so let us break it down. It starts with Angelique, played by Larissa Anzoategui, walking through the city and then, having seen (and tried to follow) a(n animated) crow, checks into a hotel. We do not see the desk clerk – just a creepy hand is in view – and we also get a cloaked figure operating a switchboard. She clearly feels the presence of something following her and rushes to her room. In there she has a series of visions, which make up the bulk of the film and includes a vampire themed one (I’ll get to that I promise).

bloody mouth

Getting back to the summary and the citing it as a tribute to Franco and Rollin. This can be problematic, as a citation for influence generally, and sometimes a disservice. If we take Franco for a moment it needs to be said that the photography displayed in this was superior to anything Franco produced (though not as recognisably idiosyncratic). On the other hand, this may have been a tribute to Rollin but it did not capture the essence of his work – to be fair, you could probably draw an inspiration line from Two Orphan Vampires, with the various visions in this like the orphans meeting the Outcast, but without Rolin's depth of overarching narrative. However, there was another film that struck me as I watched…

hrebalist

And I am loathe to say this, as they are two different beasts, but I was less struck with a connection to Eurohorror and more to the Edward D Wood Jr written Orgy of the Dead. Very unfair, in many respects; Orgy was an exploitation flick with Criswell hamming it beyond the pale, this was an art film where mini-stories were expressed with seriousness using expressions and (sometimes) dance. Yet I couldn’t shake the underlying feeling, and so can only apologise.

the vampire

As for the vampire section, we have previously seen a herbalist create a poisonous concoction which, having looked at a heart locket with her face and that of another woman in it, she drinks. The scene cuts to a vampire woman sat on a throne with a woman by her side sat on the floor – it is the woman from the locket. She offers her neck and the vampire bites her, drinking her blood. The herbalist comes in and offers the vampire her wrist – which she bites and dies poisoned and the herbalist falls (presumably dying also). The woman from the locket takes the throne and reveals her new fangs.

cat witch

It is a simply constructed story that is told without dialogue. Other sections have more gore at times and more nudity at times (the vampire section is modest in that regard). Mostly they take themselves very seriously – with the exception of a scenario with a witch who puts her cat in her cauldron, turns herself into a cat creature and gets furballs… at first…

offering her wrist

The reason for not looking at this as a review is that it is simply a performance piece put to film, rather than a narrative film – and whilst not all art films are narratively constructed, this seems so performance above narrative that to score it would be unfair.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Some Smoke and a Red Locker – review



Director: Zetkin Yikilmis

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers


I think what weighs on my mind, as I think about the 94 minutes of my life I won’t get back after watching this, is the fact that the actual photography wasn’t bad for a low to no budget film. Indeed, I have seen so very much worst.

Unfortunately, this was matched by the turgid writing and performances in the film. But, before I go on in that vein, let me give you a story synopsis.

are you serious!

Brutus (Alexander Tsypilev) is playing a computer game and smoking dope when his brother Rufus (Narsh Alexei Smith) comes in and says for him to get off the game – they have things to do. When he doesn’t react, Rufus messes with the computer and wreaks the code. And… I’m going to get back to performance. Brutus starts exclaiming, “are you serious!”… except he doesn’t, it is a turgid, barely mumbled delivery. I assume to give the impression that he is a laid-back stoner.

the zombie

They get to work… on their invention. A time machine (which is literally a red person-sized box with a keyboard pasted on the back wall and the insinuation of some wiring). Brutus has made a remote for it – much to Rufus’ bemusement. Something goes wrong and so they go to bed. They actually share a bed and so Brutus wakes next to his brother, convinced that someone has broken in. He goes out and there is a zombie (Roland Bialke) – which they kill and then take out with the trash.

Zetkin Yikilmis  as Agent Mara

As they go out they see neighbour Mrs Jones (Eva Rolle), a mad cat lady (with toy cats) who makes a crack about her pussy… except it isn’t actually a joke, or comic at least, as there is barely a cogent delivery again (the delivery generally was so bad in places that I actually put subtitles on), with the intonations all wrong. And here we get to the nub of the dialogue and delivery problems. The film is a German film (nothing wrong with that), with a primarily German cast. Unfortunately, it is in English, so it is not being performed in first language (and in some cases it might have been learnt phonetically as the actor may not speak English) but the syntax is all wrong as writer/director/actor Zetkin Yikilmis did not write in her first language (I’m guessing). Now, fair play, I couldn’t even contemplate writing in a second language but we cannot escape the fact that the dialogue is awful and the actor delivery almost entirely poor.

summoning the vampires

So the zombie came from the time machine and they realise they have invented a machine that will bring monsters through space and time. Their next experiment is killed by Mrs Jones who then contacts the authorities… who send Agent Mara (Zetkin Yikilmis), to set a honey trap through a newly opened bar (not filmed in a bar though... low budget remember) and subsequently to try and steal the machine. That is foiled and the guys run away to their Uncle Joe (Michael Tietz) a survivalist, hippy, revolutionary communist living in the woods. He helps train both them and an army of (or two vampires and two other) monsters to fight the government. One happens to be Mr (Oliver Möller) and Mrs Dracula. Vampires have their own language (lysanic) and so Brutus makes a translator.

monsters

God this was bad. It was a real struggle to get through and a lot of the problem stemmed from script (which could not maintain a comedy element) and the performances. The absurdist humour might have worked with a much sharper script and actual comic actors. As for the vampires… well when the government arrive they kind of vanish… if killed I don’t know by what… Not a lot more I can say about this one. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Poe Clan Vol. 1 – review


Author & Illustrator: Moto Hagio

Translation: Rachel Thorn

Published: 2019 (Hardback English translation)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: The Poe Clan: a race of undead that feeds on the energy of the living, whiling away the centuries in a village of roses where time and geography have no meaning.

A brother and sister, Edgar and Marybelle, are initiated into the clan too young and, unless a wooden stake or a silver bullet should lead to their demise, are doomed to live for eternity, trapped forever on the brink of adulthood.

Created by a pioneer of the shojo/shonen-ai genres, The Poe Clan is a groundbreaking series originally released in the 1970s, published here in English for the first time.


The review
: Seen as an early 70s shōjo manga – a manga aimed at young girls – this actually was a winner of awards for both that genre of manga and as shōnen which is manga aimed at boys. However, what it actually is, in my view, is a melodramatic gothic composition that takes quite a sophisticated look at emotion by concentrating both on the vampanellas, as the vampires are called, and also by looking at the lives they touch not only directly but via familial/generational lines.

The primary character is Edgar and, as the manga moves through time, his sister Marybelle and friend Alan. These characters are all teen (when mutated into vampanellas), turned too young by circumstance, and the manga was recommended by Leila who pointed out that the series, which began in 1972, contained gender fluidity, a queer viewpoint and vampires trapped in a teen age before Interview with the Vampire, indeed she suggested that it was Anne Rice before Anne Rice.

The vampanellas are primarily energy drinkers, though they do this through the medium of blood. They do not have to bite, but draw this through finger to skin contact, leaving just a faint bruise. One interesting aspect of lore was their ability to be seen in mirrors – but they have to consciously will their reflections to appear.

The English language volume is magnificent, an embossed hardback book that is just shy of 500 pages. The illustrations as dreamy as the almost faery realm that they sometimes inhabit – the village of Poe, a rose festooned place set out of time.

This is a remarkable first volume and worth the time of those who appreciate manga. 9 out of 10 and my thanks to Sarah for giving it to me as a Christmas present.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dracula Vs Frankenstein – review


Directors: Tyler Ralston & Marc Slanger

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

In 1971 a film was released called Dracula Vs Frankenstein. If you look at the comments to that review you will see some wisdom. Regular visitor The T agreed with my 1 out of 10 rating but also saw that film as “so bad its good” – it all depends on frame of mind. I still dislike the film, mourning the swan song it represented for Lon Chaney Jr.

What it really didn’t need was remaking – and remaking with even less budget, I suspect. However remade it was and this, dear reader, is my review of its remake.

sepia Dracula

It starts in 1891 on a train, the film filtered to be sepia. The train stops and Dracula (T. Tocs Sined) disembarks. He heads to the bank and then the jail trying to get directions to the castle (in the jail is a Renfield type, bug eating and mentioning the Master – it is not expanded on). Eventually, through hypnosis, he gets the directions he seeks. The castle belongs to Frankenstein (Paul Byrnes), descendent of the infamous Doctor Frankenstein. He has made a blood serum that Dracula wants – it will make him invincible.

blood sfx

He is double-crossed however and the vampire hunter Pretorius (Erik) enters the room at Frankenstein’s behest. Dracula has the serum and also wears a ring (sorry, I couldn’t catch the name they gave it), which is a nose. He pours the serum on the magic ring – despite Frankenstein’s protestations of doom. There is an explosion. Whether Dracula is thrown through time (perhaps) or just waits, hanging around, wasn’t too clear. In the modern day we see a girl, Joanie (Melissa Field), coming down some stairs. She is beheaded by an axe – with potentially the worst post-production blood splatter on film.

laser nostril ring

At a theatre Joanie’s sister Judith (Susan Manger) is on stage doing a musical number. Off stage she gets a telegram and goes to see the police but her sister is still missing. She takes on the investigation herself and the film fairly much follows the plot of the original. Dracula’s ring fires lasers (out of the nostrils), Frankenstein’s relative Dr Duray (J. Spank Jenkins) has his henchman Groden (Tim Haven) beheading folk for experimentation, Drac digs up the monster (Matthew Beale), Judith gets spiked and the action takes place in Duray’s museum/freak show. For plot points see the review of the original.

the main event

This film serves a purpose and it is to make the older one feel like a better film. The DVD transfer is poor, the effects mostly terrible. The look of Dracula is reminiscent of the original film – but sans the makeup. The acting is universally amateurish – after all it is an amateur cast if their IMDb credits tell the tale correctly, for many it is their only listed production. It is clearly a love letter to the previous version, which is fine. Love letters, however, should be personal and private affairs, whilst this is on commercial DVD. Like the previous version I think 1 out of 10 is as high as I can go.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Short Film: Another Nail in the Coffin


Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF, this Australian short comes in at 12 and a half minutes and was directed by Nadia Russell, and I was really rather taken with it, if I’m honest.

So an intertitle tells us that our vampire in this, Brad (Matthew James French), has been searching for 100 years for ‘the one’ and, at last he thinks he has found her… her being Megan (Georgia Mckevitt).

It starts with the sound of sex… Megan demands to be bitten and Brad admits he can’t. She gets upset and suggests its because she’s a vegan. He denies this and admits that he is a vampire, the time hadn’t been right to tell her before. She is dismissive of this. To prove it he gets a bag of blood out of a bedside fridge and drinks it. She calls him a monster (later it is made clear that this is not because he is a vampire but because he deigned to consume his foodstuff in front of a vegan) and leaves him.


Brad is despondent. He goes to a bookstore and finds a book on vampires to find ways of killing himself. In there, drinking from a boy, is another vampire, Ingrid (Vanesa Everett). She becomes a witness to his suicide attempts by sunlight and crosses (his attempt by immersing himself in a bathtub full of silver cutlery is solo) and then, after managing to get himself beaten by a priest, openly accompanies him when he tries to die through fire and garlic. Asking people to stake him fails too. But there is a method in her madness and perhaps she can pull him back from the brink…

This was witty and fun, Brad was a bit of a wet lettuce – though amusingly so – but Ingrid was all sorts of cool. Worth tracking down.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell – review


Director: Mitch Schauer

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

The marvel (and DC are the same, to be fair) machine rumbles on with another franchise tie-in, in the form of an (almost) feature length cartoon. Interestingly, however, this one concentrated on Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) – though it was as much a Dr Strange (Liam O'Brien) vehicle.

Indeed, after introducing us to some trick-or-treaters who knock on his sanctum door, it starts with Dr Strange battling an eldritch horror. Once he has contained that (and returned spilled candy to a trick-or-treater) he is suddenly facing three more monsters.

Dr Strange

Step in Hulk, who Strange has summoned. Strange is clear that it is capture and contain – not destroy. Hulk and Strange mostly get the job done but, in the middle of battle, Hulk falls asleep and turns back into Bruce Banner (Jesse Burch). Strange contains the last monster and then casts a spell on Banner so he can speak to his unconscious self. Apparently Banner has been losing hulk time recently (he normally remembers everything) but a sight of a monster causes him to wake up and Hulk out.

Paranormal Containment Division

Despite Strange trying to prevent the fight there is a battle with the newcomers – who turn out to be S.H.I.E.L.D.s Paranormal Containment Division. There is Agent Sitwell (Mike Vaughn), commander of the team and now a zombie (who has to be fed brains occasionally to stop him going mindless revenant), Warwolf (Edward Bosco), a weapon enabled werewolf, the moderately well-known Man-thing (Jon Olson), and Nina Price (Chiara Zanni). Nina Price is the important character, from our point of view, as she is Vampire by Night.

Vampire by Night

Vampire by Night is the niece of Jack Russell – aka Werewolf by Night. In Marvel comic lore she has the option of becoming a vampire or werewolf between dusk and dawn – though she is human/powerless during the day and can walk in daylight. This kind of makes a mockery of her commentary in this about Banner being a part-time monster and there is no mention of her wolf side either. Mostly we see her using eye mojo, flashing fangs and, arguably, being the most competent member of the Paranormal Containment Division.

Hulk and Sitwell

The general story has the four monsters that Strange contained being four children turned into monsters by Nightmare (Matthew Waterson). Nightmare is also manipulating Banner/Hulk to try and split them in the dreamside and get control over Hulk, where he will use his power to smash the barrier between dimensions (on Halloween, when the barrier is thinnest) and turn earth into a nightmare dimension. Whilst Strange and Banner try to deal with that, the Paranormal Containment Division are babysitting their bodies and the four kids/monsters – who manage to escape and must be recaptured.

Nightmare

This isn’t a bad animation but it is far from the best superhero anime I’ve seen. Strange really began to annoy with his Summoning the Flames of Wachdya-Call-It every 30 seconds – probably comic book accurate but annoying in a film and Nightmare looked like the lovechild of Loki and Joker as imagined by a Black Metal fan. The Hulk moments were good and the Paranormal Containment Division might have been played for laughs but that made them more satisfying than perhaps they should have been. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US