Sunday, December 03, 2006

Urban Gothic – Vampirology – review (TV Episode)


Directed By: Colin Bucksey

Season 1, released 2000

Contains spoilers

Urban Gothic was a two season TV series produced in the UK. Each episode was a horror story, each of a different subject matter and filming style. It was only at the final episode of season 1 that you discovered there was an actual common arc. The series is available with both seasons on a four disc DVD set.

Keith-Lee Castle as RexThe second episode was entitled Vampirology in which Rex (Keith-Lee Castle) is a self-confessed vampire who allows a film crew to follow him around for one night, filming him and his friends. We learn of Rex’s self-spun philosophy and see him as perhaps arrogant and yet there is a pathos and sadness beneath the façade.

Rex has a five point plan for life, know yourself, know your friends, know your enemies, know the kill and have no regrets. As we follow him around we hear from his friends, all of whom don’t really believe he is a vampire and some of whom blatantly dislike him.

According to Rex he is one hundred years old. He has no fangs as he filed them down. outside a HIV clinicHe tells us that turning into a bat, aversion to garlic, aversion to candlesticks crossed to form a cross and holy water are all, in his own words, bullshit. He alludes to the fact that sunlight is dangerous when he explains that he uses sun-block. As for a stake through the heart, as he tells us, he doesn’t know anyone who would survive that. When asked if he is concerned about blood bourn disease he tells us that vampires have a robust immune system. In a nicely subtle moment we see him being interviewed outside a HIV clinic.

Rex cannot remember how he became a vampire. He, when failing to feed at one point, after feed smokeends up in a toilet and starts retching (not exactly Anne Rice, he remarks). However he cannot physically vomit, the retching is simply a memory of when he was alive. He collects vampire paraphernalia to remind him of what he isn’t. He believes Christopher Lee made the best Dracula, comparing him to Sean Connery as Bond. When asked about Lugosi he says he was more Roger Moore, to much reliance on the eyebrows. His favourite vampire actor is Ingrid Pitt.

Ingrid PittHe hunts via the personal ads and goes on a blind date, but his next meal does not show up. In the restaurant he sees Ingrid Pitt and, in a real fan-boy moment, goes over to speak to her. His opinion of her diminishes, however, when he tells her he is a vampire and she laughs pityingly at him.

Chance brings him across a girl (Saskia Mulder) on the street asking for directions. When the film crew suggests that he takes her he refuses, on the basis that she is French and they have too much garlic in their systems. Gruesome feedThough garlic doesn’t work against vampires, he hates the taste. They remind him that they are on a schedule and he goes after her. The hunt and kill are brutally portrayed. He chases her down an alley and then beats her head onto bricks. Then he rips open his shirt and slits her wrist with a cut-throat razor in order that he might feed. She is still alive, however, so he slits her throat and feeds from that wound also. It is very gruesome but brilliantly portrayed. “I have to do this every night!” He exclaims as he holds her corpse tenderly.

When asked, afterwards, how he feels he admits he is still hungry.

This is how I feelOne of his friends, Emmanuel (Julienne Davis) visits him and she becomes his second victim of the night. We do not see the kill this time, only the aftermath and this is why I said there was pathos and sadness to the character. Earlier he admits that he has no choice in what he does. We see a bloodied, presumably dead, Emmanuel with Rex curled into himself by her. “This is how I feel.” He explains.

It is clear that his arrogance is a mask for the pain he feels, the loneliness. In some respects Rex represents the isolation of fame. There is a throwaway comment in the film about him adorning the covers of magazines. Rex also tells us that he is his own worst enemy, because one night he might want it to end.

curled upThis is brilliantly acted and well constructed. It is a very clever idea that makes us question whether he is a vampire. He certainly drinks blood and is homicidal but we only have his word that he dulled his fangs and is 100 years old. In the end, however, we take his word because it is easier to stomach a supernatural creature killing as he does than a human being. The amount of references for fans of the genre is simply staggering and it was great to see Ingrid Pitt in the cameo role as herself.

This gets a well deserved 8 out of 10; given the short length of the episode (a little over 23 minutes) this just goes to show how impressed I was by it.

I’ll leave you with Rex’s final words, “Be good to everyone, because you never know where your next meal is coming from.”

The episode’s imdb page is here.

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