Monday, July 16, 2018

Little Deaths – review

Director: Sean Hogan (segment)

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Little Deaths is an anthology film and by the title (i.e. la petite mort) you can tell that the segments are about sex and death, and there is some wonderful twisted, disturbing stuff in this. The first segment is the one we’re interested in and so I’ll quickly mention that the second segment, mutant tool, is probably my favourite of the three and is a very twisted modern-day story involving a mutant, Nazi experiments and drugs made from its emissions. The last segment Bitch was disturbing, more than anything, as there wasn’t a sympathetic protagonist just the descent into absolute depravity in an incredibly abusive and dysfunctional relationship.

As for House and Home, the first film. Well, I’m not entirely sure there are vampires in it… but there is something and I’ll discuss it at the culmination but, please beware that this means I will entirely spoil the segment.

everyone has appetites
We start with middle class couple Richard (Luke de Lacey) and Victoria (Siubhan Harrison) in bed, he seems to be deep in thought as she reads. He tries it on but is rebuffed and when he subsequently gropes her she bites his hand. He complains but then mentions he saw her, a homeless girl called Sorrow (Holly Lucas) it transpires, again, in the park. Victoria tells him he should be careful and she admits that everyone has appetites, though everyone has different actual tastes.

sorrow and boyfriend
We next see Sorrow and her (unnamed) boyfriend (James Oliver Wheatley) in the park. They are dirty, cold and hungry but clearly in love. She notices that *he* is back – referring to Richard a distance away, in his car and smoking a cigarette. They wonder if he is police or pervert? He drives off. At home he discusses them with Victoria and it is clear that he has followed their movements and worked out that they split up to beg. They agree to do *it* the next day.

Richard approaches Sorrow in the street and puts a high value bank note in her cup. She says she can’t give change but he doesn’t want change, so she says that she isn’t on the game and he replies that he would hope not. He asks whether she knows God and mentions that he and his wife like to give if they can; money, a hot meal, a bath… at the mention of his wife she relaxes a little and goes off with him. Getting to the house she meets Victoria, is shown the bathroom, allowed to have a bath and given a glass of wine.

She comes down for dinner but the other two are not drinking – they only keep drink in for guests they say. Sorrow becomes overcome and their conversation moves from the faux-piousness to quite nasty filth as Sorrow passes out, her head in the food. Victoria tells Richard to get rid of the drugged wine and open a clean bottle. This is the game they like to play, pick up a homeless girl on the pretence of Christian charity, drug them, abuse them and send them away with hush money. When Sorrow awakens she is naked, strapped to a bed with a bit in her mouth.

She is raped and peed on by Richard, who goes to shower as Victoria takes over and then we get the twist (which I’ll have to spoil to justify the review). He hears Victoria scream, getting into the basement he sees her with Sorrow crouched above her lapping at the blood from her neck with a maw of sharp, monstrous teeth. Richard runs for his car but is surrounded by homeless people (including Sorrow’s boyfriend) who have all sprouted said teeth. We then see them ripping at Victoria’s guts, feeding on her, as the still living Richard is pinned to the wall with scissors.

So what are they? Well the teeth appear when necessary and Sorrow laps blood, but they clearly also eat flesh. They intend to keep Richard alive for as long as possible for food and so they are not classic ghouls (corpse eaters) and they seem, to all intents and purposes, vampiric with regards their eating habit and hiding in plain sight (enough for me to go for a review). Part of me did actually think lycanthropy, but they don’t actually transform (bar the teeth), though they make cat like noises. Perhaps the lycanthropy feeling was a class thing as werewolves (which these are not) are often portrayed as working/lower class whilst vampires often enjoy middle/upper class status. Clearly there was a class abuse going on – bored middle classes preying on an underclass of poor.

a living buffet
I did enjoy the segment, however, and thought it a nicely twisted piece. Her going with Richard seemed too easy but then, unbeknown to the audience at that point, she had a definitive ace up her sleeve. There was room to expand on the film, but that would have just been an expansion of the abuse/torture. 7 out of 10 for the segment.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

DVD @ Amazon UK

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Short Film: Nunja

Directed by Autumn Gieb, this is roughly 20 minutes long (excluding end titles) and I couldn’t find a date although the companion piece was copyrighted to 2014.

So, when I mention a companion piece you’ll notice from the movie poster I found that this and another (short feature-length) film entitled the Knight Squad played together and, on the Amazon release, they have been bolted together as Knight Squad with Nunja. The poster also mentions this being ‘Grindhouse’ and certainly they have gone down that tradition with film burn out, scratches and missing reels. However, whilst a Grindhouse aesthetic can be fun it does seem that too many budget filmmakers are using it as an excuse not to do more with less, but just to do less.

meeting the victim
So, we start with a couple, Lucy (C. Jade Diaz) and Jose (Rafael Medina), in a cemetery. She is worried, he is horny and pressuring her. Suddenly they are attacked by vampires but the grainy film quality and incredibly poor lighting conspire to show us very little. The attack is interrupted by a white robed ninja (Indrani Rauth) who kills the vampires. Lucy thanks her for the save but is asked whether she was bitten, she denies this but there is (just about, given film quality) blood and (with an apology) she is staked. The ninja ducks out of shot and reappears in a nun’s habit – hence Nunja… yes this is a nunspolitation.

bad fangs
The nun in question is Sister Maria Michaela and the novice Sister Portala (Evening Star Sciarabba) knocks on her door and enters her room to say that Mother Superior (Kathi-Jane Mahon-Haft) is looking for her as she did not attend morning mass. Maria is going to confession however, taken by Father Ignacio (Robert Senecal), and then to train. Her confession is regards impure thoughts (towards the Father himself) and we discover that he has thoughts about her too – nothing is developed as any storyline regarding this would be on the “missing” reels. Indeed there is little story developed at all.

staked cleavage
The vampire leader, Kael Hathaway (William Zimmerman), is rather upset about his vampires being killed and sends his second, Madra (Marissa Bond), out recruiting more vampires. As for the vampires we get very little. One bite turns, they then develop cheep Halloween plastic fangs (even Madra seems to vacillate between wearing decent looking fangs and the cheap plastic ones). A stake to the heart kills… or in this case an actor holds the very thin and flimsy stake close to their chest whilst playing dead – with the spectacular variant being to push the stake horizontal into the cleavage!

I can’t find an IMDB page at time of writing but you can watch it after Knight Squad on demand:

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Night of Death – review

Director: Raphaël Delpard

Release date: 1980

Contains spoilers

“La Nuit de la Mort!” to give the film its original French title, is a film I stumbled across and it certainly is a vampire film, though not traditionally so – we are in the realm of living vampires here – and those who eat flesh as well as drink blood.

Also, whilst not a detective movie it reminded me of Columbo in that I knew exactly what was going on and was entertained not by the mystery itself but with just when lead character Martine (Isabelle Goguey) would figure it all out herself.

Michel Flavius as Flavien
It does not start with Martine, however, but with her lover Serge (Michel Duchezeau) calling for her as he wakes and walks round his flat. He sees a note in which she suggests that the argument they had should not be taken seriously but she has decided to take the job he found for her in a private nursing home. She arrives by bus as the caretaker, Flavien (Michel Flavius), is looking the iron gates. He suggests there isn’t a job but she retorts that she has a letter from the owner, Madam Hélène (Betty Beckers). She is shown onto the grounds.

Charlotte de Turckheim as Nicole
At first she waits outside but is shown in and Hélène suggests she is a day early and they had not prepared a room. Nevertheless, she can have the job and they’ll put her in the attic room. She is introduced to the other care assistant, Nicole (Charlotte de Turckheim), who thinks that the position has been offered to replace her. Hélène denies this and points out that Nicole had asked for help and orders Nicole to show Martine around. Nicole clearly dislikes the place and the residents – whereas Martine quickly develops a rapport with them. Nicole also explains that Hélène does not let two staff leave the grounds for the first two months – to allow the residents to become acclimatised to the helper.

the residents
Nicole is excited that she will be able to go out soon and be able to see her fiancé. She is going to show a photo of him to Martine but they get interrupted before she gets it out of her case. There is a phone call for Martine and it is Serge and – given that she isn’t actually due to start – Hélène allows her to have one more night with him. This, of course, means she is out of the house when the residents march together, replete with butcher's cleaver, and drag Nicole from her room. She is taken to a butchery room and Hélène drinks a cup of blood from her cut throat before the residents start pulling offal from her opened stomach and feeding on it.

eat your heart out
The next day Martine is told that Nicole left in anger – despite a letter she left Martine suggesting they would be great friends. As the two months go on Martine has to pick up the clues to understand what is happening. Also, outside the home, the serial killer “the golden needle killer” is murdering women by pushing a large needle through the neck and sexually abusing them. This brings in a neck puncturing and vague psychosexual element that is standard trope referential, but what is happening with our cannibalistic residents – who apparently are vegetarians (for their normal meals)?

Martine drinks a suppliment
There are hints through that they are older than they look and, eventually, Martine finds a newspaper clipping about Hélène (including her age) from 1886 and she calculates that would make the woman 118 years old. They prevent further ageing through their cannibalistic repast – a threat of a punishment of no meat for a week has one resident terrified. It is clear that they eat the corpse slowly (it is kept in a meat locker) but it is inferred that the impact of the flesh diminishes over time as they become weaker towards the end of the period.

rapid ageing
There is ritual to the act – Hélène sings a specific song and the murder is carried out on the 28th. If this is necessary we don’t know. They feed a cleansing supplement to Martine through her stay there – whether it does clean the system or somehow prepares the flesh in a way that allows the effect of the feast isn’t explained at all. Indeed the film tells us very little about the mechanics of the act. We do see the impact of missing the feast, however, in a rapid ageing. So, this isn’t a delusion, there is a genuine physical effect. Hélène suggests that without her they would be rotting in their coffins, so she is the original instigator. In a twist of standard tropes we get a mirror moment but it is vampire’s servant Flavien who looks in the mirror, hating what he sees as he deems himself ugly.

twist on the mirror trope
This is all kinds of quirky, vampiric/cannibalistic horror. As I suggested at the head, there are aspects that are all too obvious to the viewer and we are waiting for Martine to twig – be that about what happened to Nicole, the peril Martine is in or the grooming that clearly took place. Even the shock twist at the end was clearly telegraphed a mile off – but that isn’t the point. It works because of all this and not despite it. I really rather enjoyed this. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Short Film: Fine Dining

Coming in at round the 9-minute mark, Fine Dining is a gorgeous short directed by Usher Morgan. At the end of the credits an intertitle actually tells us how the film came to be: “This film is the result of a screenwriting challenge in which the filmmaker was asked to replace the main characters in their favourite dialogue-driven scene with folklore characters and rewrite the dialogue based on the characters they introduced.

In this case the scene chosen was the opening to Pulp Fiction and the characters replaced with the vampires, Vladdy Daddy, or Vlad Dracul, (Joel Bernard) and Lisa Bear, or Jusztina Szilágyi, (Elyse Price). Before I get to the dialogue, however, I want to touch on the look of the short. Done in an animated style the film is simply beautiful to look at and, I understand, each frame was individually painted and processed to give it its distinctive style.

I'll execute every...
As for the dialogue – if you are going to pick a dialogue driven scene then a Tarantino script would be the place to start. However, to pick that and then re-write it, and do it justice… well that is a tough call and, I’m glad to say, this was up to the task. As the scene progressed and Vladdy tried to convince Lisa that drinking from blood bags was something to be abandoned in favour of drinking from source, we hit a cracking line that verbosely rewrites the line from Dracula, “when men believe not even what they see, the doubting of wise men would be his greatest strength.” This becomes “Santa Clause is missing, the Tooth Fairy is in rehab and the Easter Bunny died of diabetes, there is no magic left in this world and if there is, humans are too f*cking cynical to recognize it!” Fantastic.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Dawn in Damnation – review

Author: Clark Casey

First Published: 2017

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Buddy Baker is a dead man. Literally. After gunning down more men than Billy the Kid-and being hung by a rope necktie for his crimes-the jolly, fast-drawing fugitive reckoned he'd earned himself a nonstop ticket to hell. Instead, he finds himself in Damnation: a gun-slinging ghost town located somewhere between heaven and hell.

There are no laws in Damnation. Only two simple rules: If you get shot, you go directly to hell. If you stay alive without shooting anyone for one year, you just might get into heaven.

Hardened outlaws pass the time in the saloon playing poker and wagering on who will get sent to hell next, while trying not to anger the town's reclusive vampire or the quarrelsome werewolves. Buddy winds up in everyone's crosshairs after swearing to protect a pretty gal who arrives in Damnation pregnant. Her child might end up a warm-blooded meal for the supernatural residents, or it could be a demon spawn on a mission to destroy them all.

The review: Is hosted over at Vamped.

In paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Friday, July 06, 2018

The Beaumonts – review

Director: Jamie Sharps

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

When this appeared on Amazon video my first thought was of the Butcher brothers’ films The Hamiltons and The Thompsons. There are some surface level similarities but then this film does reference other examples of the genre through its running length and I can’t dismiss the notion that the most obvious correlation was deliberate.

With that said, where The Hamiltons was a dark character study, The Beaumonts is a comedy and quiet absurdist in parts – though it steered clear of making me laugh out loud, if I’m going to be honest. It begins with a car...

ready for the kill
The car pulls into secluded woodland and the occupants kiss. The girl, Carmilla (Sheri Lee), puts the window down on the driver’s side as she likes to hear the sound of crickets. We see pov movement towards the car as they begin to kiss again. We see her fangs and she attacks as her brother, Edward (James Richardson), lunges through the open window and attacks from the other side. So we have a vampire named Carmilla and a vampire named Edward (though we don’t discover their names in this scene).

Carmilla and Joe
Joe (Matthew Dean Fletcher) wakes to his alarm. He trudges through the house, breaking a booze bottle and ripping up a picture of his ex. He leaves, putting off his landlord (Dale Mottram Jr.) who is after rent and going to the night shift at a nursing home, where he is the handyman/janitor. He meets his dayshift equivalent (who is also a drug dealer) and partakes of a line of… at this point it looked like coke but later it is given a name of “magic dust” and when Joe says everyone does it, he’s not kidding. In a bar scene later most of the patrons are openly sniffing plates of it. He asks the dealer if he has asked Carmilla out yet, the answer is negative.

Alan Gilman as Abe
Inside Joe is taken by head nurse Mrs Blofeld to meet new patient Dusty (Richard Miller) and his friend Abe (Alan Gilman) – why the handyman meets and (later) has to look in on patients is unexplained. Sharp-eyed viewers can’t help but notice that Dusty has a stake hung round his neck and a wooden cross in his pocket. To cement things Dusty later tells Joe he was a vampire hunter but then suggests he was joking. Carmilla is a nurse in the home and, that night, kills Dusty (having made the cross he holds in his sleep fall through, I guess, Telekinesis) . To do so she felt the need to strip to bra and knickers (to stop getting her uniform messy, one assumes).

Vance and brides
Basic story then is Carmilla and Edward are an incestuous vampire brother and sister (this was the Hamiltons correlation) who have moved into town with their mother, Lucy (Stephanie Gilson), and father Count Vance Beaumont (James Parry). There is some suggestion of actual familial ties, rather than forming a family through turning. Vance has ordered them not to feed in their own town (though Dusty was sanctioned as a kill) but they keep disobeying him. Edward, incidentally, has a look modelled on THAT Edward. Something is going on with Vance, and he clearly has a trio of vampire brides beyond his actual wife, who is up to something herself. They are, in a word, dysfunctional. Abe takes the inept Joe under his wing as a trainee vampire hunter after saving him from Carmilla.

preparing to stake Edward
As for lore. They are fine in sunlight but most other standard lore holds true. They are wounded by holy water and warded by crosses, garlic is apotropaic and high levels will make them vomit blood. They are strong, fast and there is evidence of eye mojo (on each other as well as humans) and shapeshifting. To kill a vampire it is a sequence of stake through the heart, decapitate, garlic in mouth and cremation. The invitation rule holds true in this also. Humans can be turned and this involves a bite but as we don’t see it happen it is unclear as to whether blood sharing is necessary.

Joe is splattreed
The film was alright. Some of the comedy was on the absurdist side and it never really made me laugh – though I wasn’t cringing either. Some of the blood effects were good, others so-so. There was a moment when wind noise in the mike overcame the dialogue and as it only happened in one scene we must question the sloppiness of this. The acting wasn’t earth-shatteringly good but Matthew Dean Fletcher was personable as Joe, though the vampire cast struggled to make some of the more archaic turn of phrase believable and this felt like a dialogue issue as much as an acting one. None of the actors really struck me as comfortable with comedy chops.

This is one where I appreciate that the filmmakers had an idea and did what they could with budget and a sincerity. It didn’t work that well but didn’t totally fail and I have erred on the side of generosity with a score of 4 out of 10 because lower seems churlish. The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Habit – review

Director: Simeon Halligan

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Not to be confused with the Larry Fessenden film from 20 years before, this trades the seedy underbelly of New York for the equally seedy underbelly of Manchester in the UK.

It is one of those films that some may question as to whether it is a vampire film but I felt it had enough of the tropes to barrel ahead into a review rather than examining it as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ It begins, however a good few years before its timeframe…

Elliot James Langridge sa Michael
A car drives through a forested road (this is later described as a park). There are a pair of children in the back of the car, Mand (played young by Leah Eddleston) and her brother Michael (played young by Jenson Leadley). Their mother (Nina Johnston, Blood and Bone China) drives and eventually pulls up where other families are walking into the woodland. Mand and Michael go and play and the mother heads back to the car but Michael falls, cutting his knee and calls for his mother. Mand helps him back and they see their mother… Michael (played older by Elliot James Langridge) wakes with a shock and Mand (played older by Sally Carman) is on the phone reminding him of his appointment at the dole office.

Michael and Mand
He gets to the office to see a young woman, Lee (Jessica Barden, Penny Dreadful), being manhandled out by a security guard – she gives Michael a wry smile. Having signed on he goes to the pub. Lee is in there and insinuates herself along with him, goes back to his (where his friend Dig (Andrew Ellis) is wondering around without pants) and then gets herself invited to stay. They go out drinking, bump into Mand and Michael becomes ragingly drunk and nearly knocked over by a car – at which point Mand leaves them in disgust.

join us Michael
The next day Michael is asked to go with Lee to see her Uncle Ian (William Ash), he runs a massage parlour (actually a brothel) and she is due to get some cash from him. She suggests that he might want to give Michael a job. Obviously, there is going to be something odd about the parlour and, when he goes back to see one of the girls, Alex (Roxanne Pallett), who offered him a discount Michael is faced with a murder. He tells Lee, who persuades him to go back to Ian (rather than the police) and finds himself with a job as a doorman. This quickly escalates to him walking into a lockup owned by the parlour to see a cannibalistic feast.

Through the early part of the film Lee has been hinting that he, like her, has something inside. Whilst he passes out when seeing the feasting on flesh, in the first instance, he is quickly drawn to it (on awakening) and joins in. The cannibalism is drawn in such a way that there is clearly an erotic side to it, it is raw and makes the participant feel good. Ian describes it as waking up and a hunger is talked about. We can see this as a turning of sort – though these are living vampires – they need the feed once it has been awakened, it makes them feel good and means they need nothing else. There is a hint of a bigger picture around Lee but that isn’t explored, rather it seems set up for a future chapter.

What I did notice was that Michael was 'dreaming forward', as though he subconscious recognised the others like him before his conscious did and introduced things into his dreams like Alex licking blood before he actually saw a feed. When approached by a girl in a club he fantasises about biting into her neck whilst with her, indicating that his (very new) habit is a compulsion. I also felt that a scene in a bar with a crucifix theme was deliberately chosen as a counterpoint to the normal vampire/cross paradigm.

Lee feeding
The acting in this, on the whole, is good though Langridge seems a little too shell-shocked, though at other times (such as when he takes a beating) he displays a manic-ness that fits well. Barden, as Lee, plays the girl of indeterminate age well. The film itself, however, could have been paced better and the ending is a bit of a damp squib, indeed there is a climactic moment that kind of peters out. However there was a grittiness I liked and I would definitely watch it again. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK