Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Enterfear The Next Wave – review


Director: Tim Wall

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers

This is a sequel and, to be honest, I haven’t seen the first film but the opening of this gives a quick synopsis. A year before, a meteorite crashed near a TV broadcast tower and the radiation it gave off caused the broadcast to enter reality – in simple terms it brought forward a zombie outbreak. This was eventually quelled by Frank (Phillip Drake) and Rick (Hunter Bickham) who managed to zap the zombies with a remote and dampen the effects with a “radio virus”. The fragment was taken by the CIA.

Frank and Rick

One year on and Frank has a book signing, when a guy, Lucas (Ryan Reinike), comes to him with a messed-up copy of the book and wondering if the book told all or if there was facts missing. He then gets funny with Frank and declares him a fake. Lucas then meets some mobsters who he has been skimming credit cards for – though he hasn’t brought the required numbers. He’s threatened.

film

Lucas has kidnapped a janitor from a local lab and creates an ID so he can get in – the aim is to steal the meteorite – which he eventually does. He tries to tap into its power, when back home, but fails and puts on the video Vampirum King of the Night and promptly falls asleep. The meteorite powers back up and Vampirum is created – wanting to break the virus that’s holding back the meteorite’s power and take over the world. Vampirum possesses Lucas and they can swap between identities. The possession aspect means that the remote-control trick won’t work.

Ryan Reinike as Lucas

After turning one of the mobsters into the wolf man (Chase Waters), Lucas tracks down Rick at his TV repair shop to try and find the laptop that carried the virus. Rick doesn’t have it but realises things have started again, discovers that remotes don’t work, and tries to warn the new sheriff (Jeremy London), who doesn’t listen. He then gets Frank and together they search for the original Sheriff, Clooney (Wayne Rodolfich), who (they realise) must have the laptop. It is up to the three of them, plus detective Rebecca Wilder (Faith Stanley) and officer Chang (Cuong Alex Do) to stop Lucas/Vampirum.

Vampirum gets the laptop

This was actually quite good fun – though watching the first film would probably have been useful. I was genuinely amused and the Frank and Rick characters worked well. Vampirum was a tad rubbery to look at, but then he was the recreation of a b-movie vampire, so that actually worked, There wasn’t a huge amount of lore with this for the same reasons but it is worth watching as a B but more so as a pretty effective comedy. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Honourable Mention: Interplanetary Revolution


This is a just over seven-minute-long Soviet propaganda movie from 1924, with the distinction of being only the second animated film made by the Soviets and the first sci-fi. It was directed by Nikolay Khodataev, Zenon Komissarenko and Youry Merkulov. I have to thank David Annwn Jones for bringing it to my attention.

Now, before looking at why this has got a mention, I have to just remind that Marx did use the vampire as analogous to capitalism. Indeed, most famously the line in Das Kapital, “Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.”

sucking the lifeblood of the worker

So, to the mention. The cartoon suggests that (in the near future of 1929) men will have colonised Mars and that the evil capitalists will be sucking the lifeblood of the enslaved workers there until Comrade Cominternov saves the day by going there and sparking revolution. The cartoon shows two capitalists becoming gorged upon sucked blood. We can also see that one has a swastika on his brow – showing a Soviet conflation of fascism and capitalism (the swastika was adopted by the Nazis in 1920 but also by other far right nationalistic organisations of the time). It’s this scene that gets the cartoon its mention, but take away the Soviet propaganda aspect and think about (a hundred years later) whether there are today capitalist demagogues who have eyes set to Mars (or space generally) and play to the worst of the right-wing popularist tropes, whilst treating their workers as disposable means to capital…

The imdb page is here.

I have embedded probably the best resolution I can find on YouTube but there are versions with English subs added that can be found through a quick google.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Handbook of the Vampire: Introduction to the Handbook of the Vampire


This is my First post looking in an in-depth way at Palgrave’s Handbook of the Vampire, a monumental reference work that has an introduction and 97 chapters concerning all aspects of vampire study. It is published as an e-book with the chapters available through institutional logins and being published as a two-volume hardcopy. I am lucky enough to have provided two chapters for the handbook (which I won’t be writing blog posts on but you can find links to the Handbook pages for each chapter I provided on the Handbook Page I have set up).

This first post concerns the Introduction, written by editor Simon Bacon. Of course, the chapter is an editorial, it outlines the scope of the project and what the reader can hope to find within. He suggests that “So much more research and study are required to understand and recognise the full implications of what we are saying when we say ‘VAMPIRE.’”. This is fitting coming from Simon – he and I indulge in frequent correspondence and have collaborated a few times, but his output into the arena of vampire study is vast (as both editor and author) but his definition of vampire is wide also and it is this width that allowed him to catch a vast net to snare the cornucopia of treasures within the Handbook.

I also have to give a moment of thanks for the fact that one of my entries for the Handbook was actually cited within the introduction.

As I continue to look at the Handbook, I will point out interesting ideas, new sources of vampire media and even where I disagree with a proposition within a chapter. This project, to map each chapter, over time, here at TMtV will undoubtedly take a long time. I will read the chapters over time and then have to write the article and schedule it for posting, of course, but it is a journey I think will be worth taking.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dragged Beneath the Shadows – review


Directors: Jasper de Bruin, Xavier Hamel & Dustin Curtis Murphy (segments)

Release date: 2023

Contains spoilers

Creating an anthology film by tying shorts together is very much a thing at the moment and they often vary in quality. The shorts in this case, one of which I have previously looked at in its own right, vary on story quality but are all good quality shoots.

The film has six shorts in all and three of them are vampire shorts. I do have to give a shout out to the first short, however, which is a witch orientated one, simply because it was so well done. Shot by Sofìa Carrillo in Black and White it is called the Wandering Witch. A lovely sequence is included where two witches in the film both transform into cats as they prowl and fight in that form and as humans but with fangs.

The Hunger

The first vampire segment is the Jasper de Bruin directed short Nightingale, which still holds its own as a short and, indeed, I think was ultimately the most satisfying of the three vampire shorts. The next was called Forever & Ever and was directed by Xavier Hamel. It is narrated by Kate, a girl at high school who becomes invisible to all until Vicky sees her. When we first see them together they are led under a The Hunger poster. Vicky takes Kate to the prom and there is homophobic murmuring and Vicky dances with one of the mean girls but, when she lures Kate into a room, she reveals her vampire nature, turns her and a massacre ensues. The short was very short, quite classy in its cinematography though it showed very little and the story was absolutely basic.

survivor

The final vampire segment was Dustin Curtis Murphy’s The Last Confession in which a priest visits Franz, a dying man who had been a guard at a concentration camp. He is unrepentant but tells the priest that he did one selfless act, taking a girl who somehow survived the gas chamber and hiding her from the Nazis. Of course there is a reason she survived the industrialised slaughter and she has been in touch with him recently… This one worked well, mentioning her nature is a spoiler (but when the vampirism is the twist its hard not to spoil) and the thought that a selfless act amongst all the evil was an evil act in and of itself was interesting.

bitten

The collection is worthwhile and it’s nice to see vampires taking centre stage. In fact, the short Family History by Mark J. Parker could also be argued to have a vampiric aspect also but with three of the films being traditionally vampire stories I haven’t covered that one off. The scores for these are for the vampire segments and Nightingale strengthens this to a solid 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, February 19, 2024

Vampire Stories: Bluttanz – review


Director: Max Schaller

Release date: 2023

Contains spoilers

A German film, which started filming pre-pandemic, IMDb suggests that filming was completed over the pandemic and this might explain the sparseness of scenes as the film felt quite empty of extras (bar a dance recital audience). This, of course, may also have been deliberate but the entire film felt a little empty.

It starts with a pair of cops, the older Richard Hess (Klaus Schweinzer) with his rookie partner Jan Marcus (Randy Bernd), who are investigating the death of Belgian pianist Haral Koffier, who has suffered fractures and bites. There was very little blood, but his intact wallet suggests robbery was not the motive. He was attached to a particular Ballet House but they are soon ordered off the case as the forensics suggests an animal attack.

Michael Diekers as Blomstaed 

The replacement for Koffier is Valentin Blomstaed (Michael Diekers). He meets the director of the House who tells him that the House have employed Vivienne Denieu (Agnes Pock), the granddaughter of a famous ballet teacher, to perform the “Blood Dance”. Written by Jean-Andre Bordeaux (Matthias Sommeregger), it is a piece for a single dancer to perform to piano and is deemed nigh on impossible – later we hear that 30 directors have tried to stage it in the past and the staging has failed, leading to their unemployment.

Agnes Pock as Denieu

Denieu has concessions such as being able to practice exclusively at night – much to the chagrin of lead teacher Olga Vadimovich (Sabine Schink), who was a student of Denieu’s grandmother and thought her a bully. Vadimovich actually doesn’t think Denieu is up to the dance, and we see her fall whilst rehearsing. Blomstaed hasn’t practiced the “living” music and Denieu is not sure of his abilities. Suddenly, however, the music comes naturally to him and the two start to fall for each other. I have to say that neither the music nor the dance (when we see part of it) seemed anything special – how one might give such an illusion on film is quite the question, however.

Randy Bernd as Jan

Anton Bowicz (Sidd Hartha) contacts the cops about the killing. He is an academic, who has written books on “night eaters” – what we might crudely (as he puts it) call vampires. He is convinced that Koffier was killed by a vampire and, after Jan reads one of his books, is able to convince the rookie cop. He also convinces him that it is Denieu (who was, of course, the grandmother). They eventually hatch a plot to kidnap her after the performance and kill her.

vampiric eyes and fangs

We do see, in flashback, Denieu married to Bordeaux, who wrote the piece for her. She, however, was suffering from polio and, to cure her, he arranges for a vampire to turn her, with a price of him giving his life (essentially the vampire drains him). It isn’t much of a backstory, we have no real motivation (that I could discern) for the vampire doing this and a whole question around why she was still struggling to perform the dance if she had three generations to practice it (presumably it had been written to her skill level by her husband).

attack

I hate to say it, but I struggled with this. The film absolutely failed to keep my attention and so I struggled to watch it. The premise could have led to a vampire version of Suspiria but, instead it just bobbed along at a dreadfully slow pace. I didn’t buy either artist as the top tier performer they were drawn as, probably not helped by not really seeing or hearing anything that felt particularly complex (this is me speaking as a bit of a heathen, however, and I am quite prepared to hear how difficult the piano – replaced for a synth in the recital – and dance was). Not for me, I’m afraid – 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Honourable Mention: Hansel, Gretel, and the Sensual Witch


This is the dubbed, cut down version of a film also known as Hänsel und Gretel Verliefen Sich im Wald (Hansel and Gretel Got Lost in the Forest) and The Naked Wytche. It was released in 1970, directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb and can’t really be called anything more than a sexploitation film – it doesn’t really manage to qualify as a bedroom farce.

It tells the story of Hänsel (Dagobert Walter) and Gretel (Francy Fair) a young couple who have been together nine weeks. She loves him, wants to marry him and is not ready to rush into sexual activity. For his part he is pressuring her quite badly.

The Countess with fangs

They are on a day out and relations cool after her refusing his advances. As they drive through a forest they find a tree across the road, wander into the woods, eat and then meet (before pitching to camp) the Countess (Barbara Scott). The Countess offers them a place to stay and they accept. Gretel options to sleep separately in one of the fairytale named rooms (the room is actually called Gretel). Hänsel is still determined to sow his oats but is rebuffed when trying to climb through her window.

looking drawn or dead

The Countess is the witch, and in this a witch is a sexually experienced woman who tries to lure of another woman’s man. She sets her sights on Hänsel and he is not that difficult to seduce. The scenes are tame (they might be cut, having not seen the original German release) but there is a lot of nudity. But why the mention? It is a fleeting visitation, Hänsel is having a psychedelic (and possibly hallucinogenic) dream and partway through he sees the Countess (who has not yet seduced him) bare fangs. This, of course, connects the vampiric imagery with the Vamp. Later on, some dark makeup makes her look drawn or dead. And that is all… it is free to watch on (UK) Prime but it really isn’t worth the effort.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Blood Machines – review


Author: J.K. Gravier

First Published: 2021

Contains spoilers

Blurb: Allison Drew is a smart and ambitious government agent whose career is stagnating. Then she is surprisingly assigned a high-profile case that could get her attention. But she isn’t prepared for the web of intrigue and corruption that confronts her when she tries to disentangle a wide-spread string of crimes involving too much murder and more than a little blood. As her investigation hits dead ends and questions proliferate, Allie is forced to face the possibility that the organization to which she has pledged herself may have a secret agenda. To survive, she needs to question everything she believes and revisit some demons of her own.

If you just want a good procedural, thriller or horror story, this novel is that. But if you're also dissatisfied with how bureaucracy works, feel undermined by increasingly illogical administration and are frustrated with your place in North America’s late-capitalist economy, you might identify with the challenges Allie faces as she tries to just do her job.

The review: This is a neat little thriller with a touch of the detective noir to it. This is a world where vampires exist – but they are not supernatural. Preferring the term sanguinarianism to vampirism, they suffer from a genetic condition that causes a chronic allergy to carbohydrates and sunlight (the latter identified as erythropoietic protoporphyria) but also the advantage of living longer (by about twenty years) and showing less aging than someone without the condition. It is genetic, through familial lines, but not from the actual vampire, as they are infertile also. What the author creates is a group of people who were often kept out of school (for obvious reasons of sunlight exposure primarily) and were a lower social class generally. There has been an attempt to integrate into society through the federal government, though some – often referred to as Primitives or Draculas – believe that there is a supernatural element to human blood (most modern vampires subsist on animal blood, especially lamb, and meats primarily) and live to stereotypes and there is a danger that they might forcibly drain a person.

To this end there is the VBI – the Vampire Bureau of Investigation – which is aligned to and under the remit of the FBI. Allison Drew is an investigator and is sent to Detroit when a blood den, where daylighters – as none vampires are referred to – have been murdered for their blood. The local police accidentally found it and three bodies, but VBI forensics have ascertained (from blood residue) that up to 10 may have been murdered there. But her superior thinks that there may be a corrupt element in the field office and that tracking data (from an experimental chipping system for paroled vampires called Domesday) has been compromised. The novel follows her investigation and the twists and turns of internal – and possibly deadly – politics.

I really enjoyed this. The move into a realm of living vampires with a genetic condition was a nice way of framing the lore for a change and the writing was crisp and kept you moving along with the story. I do also want to mention the proofing as I noticed nothing in the way of proofing errors that so often creep into independently published novels, kudos for that. One thing I really liked was a moment that showed the impact of intersectionality, with African American vampires and the double disadvantage they face. Drew was a great character – not drawn as too overly impressive, her investigation skills might be designated as solid (and at times brutal, sun torture is a standard VBI tactic), her dialogue was engaging and the author avoided stereotypes that might accompany a female lead character in some prose. Overall, this one is recommended with the caveat that it is not, and never pretends to be, supernatural, and it is a thriller and not a horror. 8 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK