Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Honourable mention: Night Thirst

This was a 2002 horror portmanteau film directed by Jon McBride, John Polonia and Mark Polonia. I spotted it on Amazon video and, when I noticed the involvement of the Polonia brothers my heart fell. Whilst I haven’t seen much of their work we know them at TMtV for the utterly awful How to Slay a Vampire and that was more than enough.

However, I watch the films so you don’t have to and this purported to feature a vampire. As things go that happens to be in the wraparound section and is thus a bit of a fleeting visitation. The actual segments feature various horror tropes but they aren’t particularly wonderful – if you intend to watch this for the vampire in the wraparound you have been warned.

Jeff Dylan Graham as Jerome
Anyway, for the wraparound, we have already seen a drifter called Van Roth (Jon McBride) walking down the road. We then find ourselves with Jerome (Jeff Dylan Graham, Cremains, Blood legend & Bloodsucking Redneck Vampires) playing a really old video game. He stops, goes to close the garage and something is moving out there. Anyway, he doesn’t find whatever it is and has a bit of a fight with a garbage bag, as you do.

Van Roth knocks on his door and asks to use the phone as his truck has broken down. The rescue will be a while so he asks if he can hang, mentions the “night thirst” and the stories he then tells are the segments. By the end he reveals he has the night thirst as he is a vampire and Jerome isn’t shocked – he’d already spotted the lack of a shadow… and he has his own secret anyway. And that’s it. A Fleeting visitation of a vampire (unaffected by sunlight, as we see him walking in the day, but casting no reflection).

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Short Film: Monsters Anonymous

This short film, directed by Jeremy London, was released in 2016 and comes in at around the 20-minute mark. It is a veritable Monster mash with all the favourites; Dracula (Brian O'Halloran), the Wolfman (Brent Phillip Henry, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter), Dusty – the Mummy (Christopher Hall), Frank (Daniel Levy) a (deliberately) misnamed Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride (Sheenan Cole).

As well as the classics as listed we also get brief appearances by the Devil (Jason Robbins), the Blair Witch (Juliet Reeves London, also Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) and a horde of zombies.

Brian O'Halloran as Dracula
For the majority of the film, however, we are at the Kavorkian Rehabilitation and Permanent Pain Relief Centre where the monsters are receiving group therapy. We actually see Dracula first, getting a warm glass of blood. As things go on, we get the undeniable impression that Dracula and the Wolfman do not get on. The Underworld movies are mentioned – though Dracula calls them unrealistic.

wolfman, Frank and Dracula
The crux of the matter is that the monsters are in therapy as they just don’t seem to be scary any more. Dracula pinpoints the malaise with the coming of Anne Rice’s books but, as you would expect, sparkling gets mentioned. On the other hand, as the Bride of Frankenstein points out, they are now legends in their own right and that can’t be taken away from them.

The makeup for this is rather well done and the actors are clearly having fun – though ultimately there is little story, just a round of jokes and an observation on the changing face of horror films. Incidentally, it becomes clear that Dusty is an energy vampire – saying at one point that the last soul he absorbed was that of a redhead. There is a section worked through the end credits that treads ground also explored in the Monster Club about the monstrous nature of humanity.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Friday, January 11, 2019

Playing with Tropes: Cannibal

This is a 2010 film directed by Benjamin Viré and whilst not a vampire film per se it has a level of ambiguity woven within it and definitely touches on one of the major tropes of the genre. It also plays with the concept of mental health impairment – in this case agoraphobia. However this is not a fear of open spaces so much as the actuality of agoraphobia, a form of anxiety that leads the sufferer to avoid situations, including social ones, where it might make escape impossible. This can translate to not leaving one’s home but not necessarily so.

The sufferer in this is Max (Nicolas Gob) a young man who lives in a secluded house by a woodland and spends most of his days practicing his golf swing in the woods. We see his agoraphobia in full swing when he hides in his house when his brother calls – refusing to interact. He is not entirely cut off from social contact – we later see that he does interact with a taciturn hunter. We also eventually learn that his condition is as a result of the very ropey criminal life he used to lead.

Max and Bianca
When he is out with his club one day, he finds a bloodied girl (Helena Coppejans, Raw) lying in the wood – who at first glimpse appears dead. He picks her up and carries her home. She isn’t dead, however, though she doesn’t give her name (he suggests that she looks like a Bianca and that is her name through the film, thereafter). We also see some wrong ‘uns who are dispatched to find a girl who has been 'lost'.

in the woods
Bianca leaves the house in the night and Max follows her, catching her in a car with a man and she is eating him alive. Max becomes an accomplice as he disposes of the body and removes the car from the area (being picked up by the hunter to get back to his home). He starts to fall for the girl and the relationship is one partially of love, partially of fear and partially of servitude. He takes her to a dogging area at one point and finds her in a town’s graveyard during the day and, again, helps dispose of the corpse she leaves behind. In many ways then he becomes a Renfield equivalent. We know he has a mental health impairment (Renfield was, of course, portrayed as a lunatic) but this is not key, more apropos is the devotion and servitude (which is almost chosen) that is displayed.

consumption in the graveyard
This is not the big trope, however. That comes in the actions of Bianca. She has entirely conflated love (and the act of intimacy) with the act of consumption. The times we see her feed she is in a sexual situation. When we see her hunt, if I can call it that, it is through flirtation and sexuality. This is akin to both the vamp of early cinema and the sexually driven vampire of the later genre. When she and Max actually get close to intimacy she is biting at his flesh (though she doesn’t break the skin) as though she is unable to break the connection between the act of love and the act of feeding.

Why she is like this we do not know. The bad guys, who eventually kidnap her and force Max to return to civilisation and face his past, use her as entertainment – consuming the losers of illegal cage fights. They are described as gypsies and, of course, there is often a use of gypsy characters in the genre too. Yet the film leaves much to imagination and guesswork. As for the film itself, well it is a love story more than a horror but a darkly drawn one. The colour-scale used was, perhaps, ill advised – too washed out, perhaps, in the first half of the film, pulling further back to black and white later, with flashes of colour in the feeding and the love (again conflating the two). The pace is languid, the story obscured, the dialogue unusual and some of the interactions less then explained, but it does play with genre tropes – love and consumption and the vampire’s servant.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Ekimmu: The Dead Lust – review

Director: Andy Koontz

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

This film appeared on Amazon Prime Videos and the picture of fangs accompanying the film there caught my attention – as you would imagine. I also knew the name Ekimmu, and suspected it was a vampire type. A quick peruse of Bane’s Encylopedia of Vampire Mythology was in order. (Incidentally, you’ll see me refer to Bane a lot. It isn’t perfect, by any stretch, is expensive and certainly takes a very wide view of what might be constituted a vampire. It is, however, one of the better starting point resources for comparative folklore with a vampiric twist.)

Bane says Ekimmu is a variant of Ekimmou and it “is bitter and angry, doomed to stalk the earth, unable to find peace, desperately wanting to live again. Ghostlike in appearance, it attacks humans relentlessly until they are dead.” It goes on to say “One is created when burial procedures are not followed” (amongst other causes). Director Andy Koontz actually encapsulates some of this within this film.

she's just a devil woman
However, I should also warn that Koontz also goes for some quite experimental filmmaking/storytelling and some of his decisions work better than others. We start off with a man, Steven (Jeff Argubright) at a barn shouting for the occupant, Hank (Brian Jones). Once he gets inside we get a confused story of missing girls being found but that did not include Steven’s daughter Sarah (Carissa Becker) who is still missing. Hank says that the cost was Sarah and his own daughter, Mary (Chloe Francis). Their souls are lost and they all (the townsfolk, one assumes) signed the oath in blood – producing a document. No one will ever find her, he says, she is now a ghost or spirit lost to lust and blood.

haunted by murder
The opening seemed quite cheaply made and is perhaps a tad superfluous. If it were missing, the film wouldn’t suffer and it isn’t properly referred back to in the later film. We then get scenes that seem unrelated. A new couple, Mike (Ethan Hoyt) and Beth (Chloe Francis), very much in love and getting engaged (with a necklace, not a ring) – there was some strange distortion to their dialogue. We see a scene of murder in the snow. We see a demon woman who appears writhing at the camera at various moments – unfortunately her dialogue was pretty distorted to the point of being incomprehensible. We see Eli (Andy Koontz) kill himself.

Beth and Mike
Mike awakes, sat in a chair, clutching at his chest… Beth receives a letter at college from Mike. He has been doing their new home up and will pick her up at the station. Driving to get her, the car suddenly breaks down at a garage. It is run by Hank, who takes a look at the car whilst he rings Beth – managing to say he’ll be late before the call cuts out. Hank tells him that there is nothing wrong with the car and he is able to drive away. He picks Beth up but it is dark as they drive home and the car stops again. He is having a frustrated cigarette when a girl appears at Beth’s window covered in blood. In the woods we hear a man shouting for her. It is Sarah. Thinking her attacked, they drive away with her (in the now working car). It was Steven who was shouting for her.

the ekimmu
Having stopped at the now closed garage to use a phone (it doesn’t work) and avoiding Steven again, they end up waking in the car to find Sarah gone. They go home and go to bed. Mike wakes and hears Beth in the shower. He potters around and then goes to the bathroom, pulls back the curtain… it is Sarah. Just as Beth gets home and falls into a jealous rage (saying that he clearly wants Sarah) and storming off. Sarah does then try it on with him, he rebuffs and when Beth gets home she finds him beaten on the floor (the contusion on his head, herein, looks very false).

Anyway – lets cut to it. Sarah seduces Beth (in the shower) and awakens her memory of being Mary – the two women go off. It also becomes clear that Mike is Eli and he was a serial killer who killed the two girls. How this rebirth works is not explained. Steven reveals that Sarah died 18 years ago (and Eli must have died after her) but both Mike and Beth seem clearly older than 18 so reincarnation would seem out, so are they possessed with the spirits of the dead? It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme. It is suggested that the girls (or Sarah at least) come back periodically and kill. They attack men to avenge themselves but Eli/Mike is a particular target. How this fit in with the devil and the townsfolk's oath... well, I just wasn’t clear.

Given the narrative gaps you’d have thought I’d have hated this. But it wasn’t actually too bad at all. Some of the acting was atrocious and most was amateurish but the direction offered an off-kilter edge that carried me along. The transformation of the girls into vampires (or ekimmu) seems to have been caused by incorrect burial (they are in a shallow grave in the woods). They are not restricted to night time and we see them in daylight (indeed we see them hunt the day). They do seem to be able to become incorporeal.

Surreal, yes. Low budget, definitely. Flawed, absolutely. But even so, it had something. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, January 07, 2019

Honourable Mention: Ripper Street: A White World Made Red

I’d not, before this season 4 episode, watched any Ripper Street – a detective series set in Whitechapel at the end of the 19th Century. However my wife is a fan and had mentioned this episode to me and it came up in a chapter of Dracula an International perspective. In that volume it is described thusly: “The theme {connecting Dracula with the Ripper} was made even clearer through television’s Ripper Street episode, A White World Made Red set in 1897, the year of Dracula’s publication. In the story a vampire stalks the East End…” (P119).

Janice Byrne as Agniezka
Unfortunately, this isn’t correct. Whilst we get exsanguination, Stoker’s novel and the play of one of the fictional vampire tropes it is never suggested that a vampire stalks the East End. Rather we have a crime to be solved by series regulars Det Insp Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Set Sgt Drake (Jerome Flynn), along with American soldier/surgeon Jackson (Adam Rothenberg). We start with a woman, Agniezka (Janice Byrne), stood on an East End street. She is approached by a girl (Emelia Devlin) who leads her to a building. In a room a man is hung upsode down and she screams…

finding the dead
The room is an abattoir’s cold storage room and the police are called as the man is hung and exsanguinated. Blood is in a bucket below him. However, they realise that there was more to the scene than this and find Agniezka. As Jackson investigates he realises that the man was not killed by the exsanguination – he was actually executed by hanging (in prison) and his stolen corpse exsanguinated. Agniezka died from organ failure and had not been exsanguinated.

Emelia Devlin as the girl
Eventually we discover that the man had been in prison, where his blood had been taken and it was discovered (with very rough experimentation – bearing in mind that this is before blood typing) that it matched with the young girl’s blood. It was another Polish seamstress Magdalena (Julia Rosnowska) who was supposed to go to the rendezvous. Not realising that her specific blood was key she sent a friend in her place, actually to help the friend out. The girl has inherited porphyria and her disgraced Doctor father (Dylan Smith) is trying experimental transfusions to help her.

reading Dracula
The thing is, there is no connection in the episode made with the exsanguination, porphyria and vampirism. Any genre connection is made through Reid’s daughter, Mathilda (Anna Burnett), reading Dracula. We do get the line about 'blood is the life' as a further oblique connection. Where the episode made no sense was that there seemed no reason to transfuse (and thus kill) Agniezka, unless it was to see whether the blood of the dead could be transfused into the living… Indeed one wonders why the doctor felt he needed Magdalena when he had the fresh corpse (or why he needed the corpse when he had access to the living woman)?

bucket of blood
Nevertheless, whilst there is no historic connection between porphyria and vampirism, it is a sometimes-used trope in vampire films. The connection to Dracula is also interesting (and the rapid death of Agniezka might have been exaggerated but almost speaks to Lucy’s transfusions and the idea in some reworkings of the Dracula story that it was they, not Dracula, that killed her). In short this is of genre interest but at no point is it suggested that a vampire is haunting the East End.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Vamp or Not? Kuntilanak (2018)

This 2018 film, directed by Rizal Mantovani and hailing from Indonesia, suffers from not quite knowing what it wants to be. It has a horror theme but the young cast pushes it down a kid’s arena to a degree. That said it has some effective scare moments but what we are interested in more than anything is whether it is Vamp or Not?

So we have looked at several movies with kuntilanaks as the primary monster. Sometimes the vampire correlation is obvious, at other times not so much. In this case the kuntilanak of the story seems to be much more of a spectre but is it a vampiric ghost? We shall see.

According to Bane’s Encyclopedia of Vampires a kuntilanak is a variant of the pontianak, suggesting that “In the folklore of Indonesia and Malaya there is a vampiric demon known as a pontianak. When a woman dies in childbirth, as a virgin, or as the victim of a pontianak attack, she will then transform into this type of vampire”. We do not know how this kuntilanak became what she is (ie whether she died in childbirth) but she is a child stealer who seeks to replace her lost child.

anger in art
It starts in a house and Anjas plays with a remote-control car. He hears his name being whispered and calls out for his mother. He wanders into a room where a large mirror is covered by a dust sheet but then his dad calls him. His dad reminds him that his mother is dead and it is clear the boy blames himself – she had gone to buy him the car and had an accident. The father tells him not to blame himself but gets angry with him when he wants to stay up rather than go to bed. In his room he angrily draws his mother as the mirror begins to move.

trail of blood
He investigates and the mirror has written on it “when she comes you will be gone”. Suddenly a female figure is sat there but then he realises it is his mother (the kuntilanak has taken her form). She holds him and asks whether he wants to go with her and he answers in the affirmative – at which she changes into a monstrous form and he seems to be physically affected by the transformation; it is difficult to tell but she might be indulging in energy vampirism. The father investigates his scream and finds a trail of blood leading to the mirror.

Our main characters are a group of adopted kids. The lady who has adopted them is going away for three weeks and the eldest (by quite a way, being a teen, the rest being pre-teen), Lydia (Aurélie Moeremans), is being left in charge. She has arranged for her boyfriend, Glenn (Fero Walandouw), to get her a new mirror. Glenn is host on a paranormal investigation show and has looked at the “kuntilanak house” and takes the mirror – bringing the cursed mirror to the house with the kids.

nail in the head
Primary lore is offered by Miko – the bookwormish kid. We get the idea that the kuntilanak either lives in the forest or the mirror. They can be summoned but are attracted to children – especially those missing their mother. We discover that the children can be rescued but they are often deposited in strange places (atop trees, in henhouses). This doesn’t overly fit in with Anjas who we meet again as a spirit as he has been killed, nor does it fit with the look of being drained and the blood left at his abduction. He shows the kids, through a picture, how the kuntilanak can be defeated – with an iron nail. This is not in the neck (as per the pontianak’s folklore) or permanently in the head as a power limiter as in Paku Kuntilanak. Rather she is literally staked in the head in a stabbing motion.

Aurélie Moeremans as Lydia
Her primary activity is very much a haunting more than anything else. But she is able to become corporeal and interact with the living in such a way. She is also able to possess the living (and possesses Lydia). That is about all around the lore, however. There is precious little vampiric – unless one believes she was draining Anjas (and as mentioned that isn’t conclusive). If that is the case this is then Vamp, if not it is still of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

NYV: Punk – review

Author: KV McQuain

First Published: 2016

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll... and the UNDEAD!?!

Forced to flee across the country, a teenage runaway must struggle with self-discovery and raging hormones on the New York Punk scene while being hunted by an ancient, bloodthirsty evil.

For fifteen year old Christian, living in rural isolation with only his mother for company was as boring and bleak a life as he could imagine. Nothing ever happened and the most exciting thing to look forward to were monthly visits from the nice old lady who took his mother shopping in town. After being subjected to a bizarre and humiliating birthday ceremony, Christian decides to leave home to think things through. And when the opportunity for adventure presents itself, he jumps at the chance.

But being on his own is more terrifying than he ever dreamed. Barely surviving a brutal attack, Christian finds himself being hunted across the country by an ancient bloodthirsty evil, putting himself and those he cares for in mortal peril. He must learn to navigate the hazards of the tough Punk music scene if he is going to survive on the gritty streets of New York City long enough to discover his destiny. Can he survive on his own? Will he find the life he dreamed of? And what the hell does OMFUG mean anyway?

The Review: Is hosted over at Vamped.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK