Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Nosferatu vs. Father Pipecock & Sister Funk – review


Directors: Tony Watt & Vivita (& F W Murnau)

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

The last time I reviewed a Tony Watt film it was Acid Head: The Buzzard Nuts County Slaughter, which was an original project that had the distinction of running headlong into the #2 position in my Worst 100. No mean feat.

Nosferatu vs. Father Pipecock & Sister Funk differed from this as it is a recut of Nosferatu eine Symphonie des Grauens that adds sound, both foley and dialogue, as well as adding in several bats, overlays of half-naked/naked women, new scenes/characters and colour moments.

poor print

So lets start with the original footage that was worked with. Blooming awful. It really was one of the worst prints of Nosferatu I’ve seen. I know that (rightly) the Kino Remastered print would not have been available to use but there are much nicer prints than this floating around. Then there was the impact of cutting stills in repeatedly. For example, and early on, as Hutter speaks to Bulwer on the street the spoken dialogue added was obviously longer than the original scene and so a still of the bell tower is interjected to stretch the time out, not once but randomly multiple times; it didn't fit and it almost feels like a strobe.

dancer imposed over original

So, the dialogue sometimes follows the original but more often veers off-piste, for instance Knock tells Hutter about the loose women at Orlok’s castle, there is a dancer at the inn (mentioned by the innkeeper and imposed over the scene) and when Orlok arrives in Bremen he and Ellen get it on (a part of me wants to avoid being a snob at the disrespect to the original… but only because being a snob feels embarrassing and overall, godammit, being a snob over this is absolutely the right thing to do).

blood at mouth

The foley work isn’t great and there is an over-reliance on fart gags (in fact just one fart gag would have been one too many). Then there is Father Pipecock… Played by Tony Watt it is an exercise in blackface and clearly a thing for Watts as he did the same in Acid Head. It wasn’t right then, it isn’t in this, it is racist (compounded by a fried chicken joke) and can’t be supported, applauded or defended. The sexploitative aspects are poorly done too but I can’t get past the racism. If I give this 1 out of 10 it is because it sits on the solid foundation of the original film and, as much as you disrespect and butcher it, the genius of Murnau still strives to show itself.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Short Film: The Demons of Dorothy


This short film is 30-minutes long and was directed by Alexis Langlois. It was released in 2021 and hails from France. It is very much a fantastique film and pitches itself as glittercore. It owes a definite debt to the Wizard of Oz, though it is somewhat wilder in its ride, and nods appreciatively towards Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Dorothy (Justine Langlois) is a filmmaker who, despite winning an award, is struggling to get her non-mainstream films funded. As we meet her we see her mind’s eye view of her latest script. She just wants to write glittercore films about enormous breasted, lesbian bikers who destroy the heteronormative patriarchy.

Romy the Vampire Slayer

Unfortunately, her producer (Nana Benamer) calls with the bad news that they have not been awarded funding that was up for grabs – rather Dorothy’s self-appointed rival Xena Lodan (Dustin Muchuvitz) has been given it. The producer suggests that she tries something more mainstream, though insists the film will eventually get made. Her mother (Lio) then contacts her but Dorothy is in no mood for her. She consoles herself with her favourite show, Romy the Vampire Slayer, but just as Romy (Romy Alizée) finds herself in vampiric peril, Dorothy falls asleep…

Justine Langlois as Dorothy

The fever dream she has is the rest of the film and, within it, her mother has become a vampire with both the producer and Xena becoming demons. The film is a technicolour psychedelic trip with some dark moments hiding within the glitter. It is certainly not the mainstream film that the in-film producer suggests.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Shudder via Amazon US

On Demand @ MUBI via Amazon UK

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Taste of Blood – review


Director: Allen Kool

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers


It is important, I think, for films to enunciate their story – not all films, some hinge on obscurity, or capturing a moment rather than narrative, but for the main it is a rule of thumb that’s rather important. This film doesn’t do that well – for instance we understand that the film centres on cannibals but only know that they are “cannibals in the 20th century, descendants from the an (sic) old Scottish family from the 16th century” via IMDb – the film doesn’t mention this.

meat

It might seem an unimportant detail but it is part of the story and other more important details are also lost. I assume that this ties the antagonists to the Sawney Bean legend – but I don’t know for sure. I might be doing the filmmakers a disservice as I discovered that this would seem to be a sequel (to a film called the Sanctuary, which features the same antagonists) but that is not clear and, whilst I’ll search that film out, I hadn’t seen it when I watched this.

Erica Sherwood as Janet

So, after an opening where we see reverend Janet (Erica Sherwood) imposed against the countryside (with a suggestion she is dead and the character does meet her end in film), in which she talks about evil, we see a man trekking through the snow. He is shot and then we see a figure dragging his body on a sledge. The film cuts a chapel, specifically the stained-glass window and blood trickling on it, as opening credits roll.

Nate and Dan

Nate (Timothy Paul McCarthy) is asleep and the sleep is disturbed, memories invading it. As I watched first time I didn’t know, but I now suspect the dreams are from the Sanctuary. Nate is a drunk PI, living in a mobile home and long since estranged from his law enforcement job. His friend Dan (Daryl Marks) comes to see him, he has solid work for him but Nate has spent 20 years obsessing about the Whalens, Harley (Rick Amsbury) and Edna (Lawrene Denkers) – cannibals who he is sure are still out there.

Lawrene Denkers as Edna

Dan suggests that they would be over 100 and likely dead but Nate is convinced that eating flesh makes them younger – which is how they escaped last time – and they are still out there. So, this is our vampiric aspect, eating flesh to gain/maintain youth. When we meet the pair we see they are now very old looking – the aging makeup, whilst clearly makeup, was rather well done. As the film progresses, we discover that Edna believes the flesh isn’t working anymore.

Hope and her doppelgänger

We discover they are living in a large house/hotel (closed currently) in Canada with a young woman called Hope (Amelia Phillips). Hope talks often to what might be a projection of a second personality or a twin (I suspect the former but the film didn’t make that clear). The other one doesn’t like the fact that Hope has found religion and, as the film progresses, a boyfriend, Jacob (Darius Rathe). Meanwhile Nate gets a lead on the Whalens and goes after them.

cgi fire

The filmmakers did do quite a bit with a low budget but some of the cgi they used just looked a bit false – I get it was a large building on fire and the budget will dictate the methodology used, but there was some blood/wounding effects that looked poor. I wanted the narrative to be a bit more explicit (as I mentioned at the start), I didn’t overly develop much empathy with Hope (the entire romance seemed just a little bit trite), nor with Nate… There wasn’t much of a horror element drawn with the Whalens, indeed there were moments with victims that we see little and then it felt that they were forgotten about – making the entire horror/gore side seem dodged.

crumble to dust

There is a supernatural element to their longevity and on death their bodies crumble (though the cgi effect wasn’t great). There are moments with Hope that seem to show her as immaterial, which seemed odd, and we do see eyes turn red. There isn’t much other lore communicated. I can see the effort that went into this but there were elements that just didn’t work for me – elements where I think lack of experience caused the filmmakers to either miss or gloss over, which might have ramped the horror, the tension or developed the characters. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Short Film: This Mortal Coil


With a running time around 17.5-minutes, and directed by Sean King, This Mortal Coil carries the conceit that it was based on a true story. Given the lack of supernatural aspect to this I could believe it may be, however remotely, though couldn’t find detail of the original story the filmmakers refer to.

It starts, for a moment, in black and white and we see a figure, Matthew (Drew Moore), walking down the street away from the camera. The photography moves into (a deliberately washed out) colour as he opens a gate to deliver a paper. He is leaving but just hears Maybel (Eileen Lacy) call him (he’s wearing head phones). She gives him a cuddly toy she’d bought him.

toy

As he continues down the street, we see that the toy panda has fangs. He sees a bird dead on the road with blood sprayed from it. When he gets home, we see he is immersed in the vampire genre – be it film posters or watching Nosferatu on TV. Eventually he leaves the house.

Emily Wallace as Alice

In the woods is a party. He watches a Goth, Alex (Emily Wallace), dancing and is informed that she is a German exchange student and she claims to be a vampire. As he watches, she looks at him, smiles and she reveals fangs. At home he cuts his finger on a dagger and tastes the blood and then, doing his paper round, he checks to see no one is around, stabs the bird’s carcass and dips his finger into the wound to taste it. Eventually he goes to see Alex and, after she says she came to the town because the old make for prey that the killing of won’t arouse suspicion of foul play, he asks her to turn him.

Drew Moore as Matthew

The way she freaks out, intimates that she was role playing and he has gone too far for her but just how far would he go to impress her? The answer was broadcast ahead, though that is unsurprising in a film so short. The direction keeps the atmosphere of this one purposely dour. The imdb page is here.

This Mortal Coil- short film from Clean Rocket Films LLC on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Honourable Mention: Castle Rock


This was a TV series that ran for two seasons between 2018 and 19. The Castle Rock of the title is a fictional town featured in several Stephen King stories and the seasons featured characters and locations from, as well as references to, Stephen King’s books.

The first season, for instance, had Shawshank prison as a primary location, as well as a subtle reference to The Green Mile, and (now retired) Sheriff Pangborn (Scott Glenn) who features in a couple of novels. There is reference to Cujo a couple of times and one particular mention that I want to cover before looking at season 2, which is the primary reason for the article.

Jane Levy  as Jackie Torrance

One character we meet is Jackie Torrance (Jane Levy). She is a taxi driver who wants to be a writer and thus laments the days when, the now socially deprived, Castle Rock had rabid dogs and serial killers – as you should write about what you know. She did have an uncle who went mad with an axe in the Overlook hotel, though her parents won’t discuss it, and she changed her name from Diane to Jackie after him. Yes, her uncle was Jack in the Shining and during the season she ends up having to wield an axe herself and, in a credit coda to the season, we see her working on her book and undertaking to visit the Overlook – a trip we don’t see.

the lot

The first Season was really strong and saw overlaps of alternate timelines and a particular episode from the point of view of Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek), a character suffering dementia. The episode moved with her perception as she fell through memories and she tried to piece a puzzle together; it was really cleverly done. Season 2 took place in both Castle Rock and nearby Jerusalem’s Lot – which is, of course, Salem’s Lot. There is no evidence that the vampire incursion took place in this world – and unlike Chapelwaite there wasn’t a need felt to include vampires – though we do get the returning dead.

Ace's body

The primary reason for the mention is that the Marsten House looms large, just as it does in the Salem’s Lot story. Before we get there Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan, True Blood) kills temporary landlord Ace Merrill (Paul Sparks) for threatening her and her daughter (Elsie Fisher), and uncovering her true identity. She tries to get rid of the body but falls through the earth in a building site, into an underground cavern with two ornate and several plain coffins. Ace’s body ends up in one of the ornate coffins, where it would become host for the occupant’s spirit and starts the main thread of resurrecting the French settlers from New Jerusalem – the original settlement that eventually became Salem’s Lot.

Annie at the Marsten House

Annie finds a way from the cavern into tunnels that lead eventually to the Marsten House. At the time as decayed as described in King’s novel, though the returning settlers (who are killing town-folk to take their bodies and reanimate more of their colony) soon start renovating the ill-fated house. Once again, the Lot is threatened from an undead menace that emanates from the House. But I won’t spoil it further. As Season 2 started I was curious as to why there was a large number of Somali refugees in the area, as a story choice, and soon discovered that this was to reflect real world tensions that occurred when a large number of Somali refugees settled in Maine, so there was an interesting social commentary that touched on US foreign interventionalist policy also.

No vampires but a town and a house that both have an enduring connection with vampires. The imdb page is here.

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon US

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon UK

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Wrath of Van Helsing – review


Director: Sonner Metin*

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers

*According to Tubi the director is Sonner Metin, there is no listed director on IMDb at time of writing. 

This is a flick by Jagged Edge Productions, which seems to crossover with Proportion Productions. Writer Tom Jolliffe also wrote Reign of Terror but this one is particularly poor. It is on Tubi as Van Helsing but I decided to use the title as listed on IMDb to save confusion with other vehicles sharing the name. It does have vampires in it – known mostly because we are told they are.

into the building

So, we start with the titular character (Michael Hoad) in woods, a particularly weedy looking “keep Out” sign and him entering a building where he draws a circle and summons something – which will grant what he wants (unstated) but there will be a price (again unstated). Presumably this is why, in the film proper, he keeps displaying a pain in his hand and hoping for additional time but, honestly, this wasn’t mysterious, as it never become a prime issue in the ensuing film it became pointless.

the gals

Elli (Antonia Whillans) and Shauna (Abi Casson Thompson) are waiting for friends stood by a breakwater. Elli has a weird feeling and they wonder why they haven’t seen anyone else around as its 9AM (they suggest fishermen might be at sea, I guess that doesn’t count the sail boats out on the water we can see, it probably doesn’t count the moving car we see at another angle… what we don’t see, at any point, is the structures of the allegedly abandoned village). Anyway their friends arrive, being Alex (Beatrice Fletcher) and Briony (Elspeth Foster). They are off on an adventure – none are dressed for hiking or urban exploration.

warning signs ignored

So, they get so far and stop and Alex explains where they are off to… the Zone, an area that is prohibited as it is 5 miles worth of radioactive wasteland. There are meant to be tunnels there – with something in them. This leaves some doubt in Ellie’s mind… but no one wants to go back to the unpopulated village and the nearest next town is seven miles away… so the zone it is… They leave a packed up tent by accident, as they set off again, but no one mentions it within the ensuing dialogue. When they get to the gates the handy Geiger counter, one of them bought online, doesn’t show much in the way of radiation and, despite the officious “keep out” sign and the warning about CCTV they check the gate… its unlocked and in they go.

the garlic 'barrier'

Just inside the gate is a little (hopping/stepping height) barrier that seems to have garlic on it and dangling from it… that’s weird they conclude. They get to the tunnels and Ellie decides to stay outside as she has claustrophobia (she might have mentioned that when tunnels were first mooted). The other three go in and immediately Shauna wanders off (she finds an old coin, not much plot relevance to it). Eventually Briony is hunted down by a gruesome in a robe and it bites her neck… vampire? You’d not think so by the ugly (my first instinct was demon or mutant and there are more than one that look the same) but you might think by the bite… but then (later) we see it eating guts, then a more demonic creature tells it to feast if it must… later we get a confirmation that there are vampires and cenobites in there and the ugly that bit her is a vampire. Ellie, hearing the scream, goes in…

bitten

Meeting a bloke, Igor (Darrell Griggs), is a bit of a jarring cut as we have just left the girls to their fate. He’s gone to meet a couple, Francis (Kate Sandison, bats) and Leonard (Richard Harfst). The police aren’t looking for their missing daughter – Ellie – and they pay him £30k to bring in a man who might be able to help – Van Helsing. Cut back to the girls being attacked in the tunnels… OK, this made the film non-linear, but it didn’t gel and was unnecessary – edited in another way would have worked better. So, at a point after the girls have been captured (and Ellie held for sacrifice) Van Helsing goes in with Igor to rescue her. We do see a staking, vaguely, and some fighting generally.

Igor and Van Helsing

But it isn’t fun and the pretty silly premises don’t help; the Zone is an idiotic idea – a cut off area by the Government generally might have worked (or even by a private organisation) but a ‘radioactive’ area called the zone just felt hinkey; the girls adventuring in clothes that suggest they’re off down the pub, the left tent that’s not mentioned again; the garlic barrier that looked so silly and easily stepped over. The dialogue is poor, the acting is poor (I’m sorry, I like to find a plus but the performances were poor, though the dialogue undoubtedly did not help) and the film plodded. This really is a poor one that seems to have been ground out just to make a quick VOD cash grab. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Reign of Chaos – review


Director: Rebecca Matthews

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers

Give director Rebecca Matthews her due, she and her partners in crime are pumping out the low budget films (Matthews has, at time of writing, 51 producer credits since 2016 and 15 director credits since 2019). I have looked at a couple of them before… Hellkat was flawed but was also interesting, and Bats was pretty poor. I’ve also watched a couple of flicks that weren’t suitable subject-wise for this blog. I get that they are low budget affairs (and the filmmakers have done much more than I could ever do) but in Reign of Chaos we have a new low to come out of Proportion Productions.

Mark Sears as Chaos

We start with a narration talking about Chaos (Mark Sears) wanting to take over the world and releasing a plague upon mankind… Ok this wraps everything into Greek myth and suggests that he was opposed by the Gods (the descendants of Nike are the ones who can stop him). Its just… what’s he been doing for a few thousand years? That’s never answered.

a joiner

So the Guardian, Rhodri (Peter Cosgrove), leads three sisters into battle against Chaos and they get their arses kicked. Only one sister, Alina (Rita Di Tuccio), survives. So it’s off to find more girls then… Which he does in the form of Lindsay (Georgia Wood) and Nicole (Rebecca Finch). Now, bear in mind the ‘plague’ is essentially a zombie thing with those bitten becoming Joiners (now it might have been more interesting if the bite made them experts in woodwork but I assume it is because they’ve joined Chaos).

Peter Cosgrove as Rhodri

So Rhodri finds Lindsay who’s just fighting a guy who offered to trade food for sex in an underpass. The fact that she then goes off with Rhodri essentially without question and leaves the food is hinkey to say the least. As for Nicole, we first see her scavenging food and losing it to a desperate woman – mostly because she gets a psychic flash, when they touch, showing how the woman will die. Following that she goes home to suburbia, where electricity is apparently still on and dad (Mike Kelson) is ill (she gets a flash of his death) and mum (Kate Milner Evans) is worried about starving (but not about the fact that the house hasn’t been barricaded).

Rhodri and Nicole

She is found by Rhodri during her next trip looking for food, who helps her out with a Joiner. We don’t see the killing stab hit home – but it looks to be around the heart. Later he mentions always taking a head or heart shot with Joiners. She is a little more resistant than Lindsay was to the idea of going off with him, but not that resistant and soon follows him to a hotel – for the purpose of making a brew it would seem. Then she takes him home to meet mum – having discovered she is adopted and mum always knew she was special… Off then to meet the other two Nike descendants and enter the world’s worst training montage. So why is this a vampire film?

the heroes

Well, the Joiners are a bit zompire, I guess, due to the fact that heart shots kill – though they are mostly standard, mindless zombies. Rather, it is because of chaos. He bathes in the blood of the Nike descendants and from doing so is gaining power (and will soon ascend to be a God). This makes him a vampiric entity of some sort. He also suggests that his minions will drink the blood and, whilst the Joiners are minions, I think he meant his sentient sons.

catsuits of the apocalypse

So the post-apocalyptic world doesn’t seem too post-apocalyptic (we do get a scene of buildings ablaze in London but I suspect they are burning through embarrassment at the bad fire cgi). Apparently, as nothing looks too grimy, the heroes still have access to washing machines, the Joiners must repel dirt off their clothes and Rhodri has a stock of latex catsuits that he can fit to random women he meets. The fight choreography is weak, the acting not great – melodrama is the order of the day, with Rhodri channelling his best pirate into his accent, and there is a supporting role that is one of the most wooden performances I’ve seen for some time. Still, there was an effort made, at least. 1.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK