Monday, November 23, 2009

The Chosen One – review


Director: Theodore Collatos

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

There clearly is something going on over at r-squared films. The indie distribution company have released a few vampire movies recently and we previously looked at Loved Ones. Now, despite that being a bad film, I loved the cover of that DVD and this film also has a cracking, classy DVD cover.

As it is, the cover isn’t the only good thing about this film and whilst aspects of it might be flawed – due to the constraints of budget and indie film making as much as anything else – I found myself faced with an unusual and fascinating look into the world of the undead.

lovers before the stormThe film is in black and white, which for the most part works rather well, and is period set – which falters occasionally (we see electrical bits above a bar, for instance, which were missed) but again, in the main, works well. It begins, however, not with a vampire but with a zombie (Jared Barron) that stumbles Romero like through a graveyard and across fields. We also see an elderly man, later revealed to be Dr Abraham (Arthur Collins), visiting the grave of his wife.

a zombie attackSamuel Wolfe (Sam Porretta) and his wife Elizabeth (Carolina Monnerat) are very much in love. They are running through snowy fields but, when they get to the graveyard, she feels greatly afraid. He tells her that *they* are dead and can’t hurt her. At home she reveals a nursery – she is with child. He waxes lyrical about his son, Samuel Wolfe III. However, the zombie reaches their home and smashing through a window bites Elizabeth’s arm. It gets in the house but Samuel is able to hack away the zombie’s arm and shut the door of the room they hide in, eventually it goes away.

Arthur Collins as Dr AbrahamI would ask what happens to the zombie? Whilst Elizabeth and Samuel go to a fortune teller for help we see it in a cellar and then we see Abraham performing an autopsy on a cadaver, covered so we cannot see the face but making noise, with a heart (when he gets to it) that still beats. At first I thought it was the zombie but later I was not so sure, all I could say is that the autopsy was on someone not exactly dead, who finally dies when the heart is being examined and who Abraham felt had evil in their heart.

pregnant and infectedThis is the main problem with the film, it is very artistic but, at times, forgets that it should offer a certain level of exposition and we’ll return to that problem as the review progresses. As it is, Elizabeth starts bleeding from the mouth and states that she hurts like it is evil. We see her in bed, looking like death warmed up, but we also see the bed as though it has been transported beneath some trees, perhaps a representation of the limbo she is in?

masked men in a limbo worldIn desperation Samuel goes to Dr Abraham, who starts taking blood samples (off both of them, Samuel may be infected also) and we hear much of the doctor’s thoughts in letters to his apprentice (Theodore Collatos). Eventually she is giving birth, a deliberately drawn out scene where we sometimes cut to the limbo world and see Elizabeth surrounded by men with masks. Eventually mother dies but the baby is saved, it is a girl. Samuel puts his finger to the baby and is bitten – Abraham declares it Nosferatu.

It is at this point that Samuel admits to Dr Abraham that Elizabeth was bitten by an undead and Abraham declares that he will raise the girl himself, in the name of science. As for Elizabeth they remove her heart and burn it (on the end of a pitchfork, in what can only be described as a very traditional manner) and bury her out in the wilds, away from the actual graveyard.

Samuel infectedThe film then follows two paths. It follows Samuel and the pain he feels over his wife’s death. Of course, having been bitten, he is now infected and that infection is slowly spreading through him. It is through his eyes, more than anything, that we get to see the reaction of the local population to the danger lurking in their midst.

Dr Abraham bittenThe other path follows Dr Abraham. At first he feeds the baby pipettes of milk but, when he finds birds and mice sucked dry he realises they have passed the need for milk. Note we never actually see the baby, just swaddling, but that works rather well. Abraham is not a patient man and actually, at one point, physically abuses the baby because it cries. When he tries to apologise later (as he often talks conversationally to the baby) the baby is gone and then attacks him in (rather crap) bat form. I mention crap bat, but in honesty it was no worse than many others due to the way the shots were composed.

contortionist vampireAbraham is infected and the child grows quickly into a woman – played by Carolina Monnerat. However, when the townsfolk are turning on him he sends the girl contorted into a trunk, to his assistant. Earlier we had seen the vampire girl in a scene that didn’t gel too well, as there was no explanation to the scene. However the scenes between vampire and the assistant work very well and have a very Euro-horror feel to them.

no sense of camaraderie between the vampiresLore wise we are a little all over the shop. Clearly there is a nod to some of the more traditional lore – burning the heart for instance. Yet the idea that a zombie bite would turn an unborn baby into a vampire was completely from left field. Part of me wondered if the zombie was meant to be more like a revenant. There is an indication of blood infection and a parasite like inclusion in the blood suggested, to me, a nod to House of Dracula. There is an interesting bit with the girl (who often seems to glide rather than walk) putting her blood into wine, an act that makes the wine act like a drug. There is no sense of camaraderie between the vampires.

vampire girl feedingIt is the lack of definitive exposition that lets this down. Perhaps Collatos was composing something more dreamlike but I still felt it needed a little more clarity in its narrative. Some of the scenes didn’t gel with the period setting, but they were few and generally it was well done in that regard. The effects were sometimes limited by the budget, perhaps. Soundtrack wise there were some brave choices that worked in the film’s favour.

Dr abraham sprouts fangsThe acting, especially given the fact that Collatos used local amateur actors, is rather well done. Special mention to Arthur Collins who was a last minute replacement. Part of it is his look, of course, but one almost felt like he had walked out of a Dreyer movie – indeed Dreyer cast Vampyr from locals and based on the performers looking right for the character. High praise indeed but this film, unfortunately, does not hit the same dizzy heights.

I find myself thinking that 4 out of 10 is probably a fair score but 4 out of 10 with caveats. The lack of necessary narrative really does force the score down with this but I will say I enjoyed the film, appreciate what Collatos was doing with it and really believe we should be keeping an eye on this young director. This is a film I am glad I own.

The imdb page is here.

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