Sunday, February 21, 2010

Karmina – review


Director: Gabriel Pelletier

Release date: 1996

Contains spoilers

I think it is a testament to a film that, even when dubbed (and the dubbing being not particularly great in places), you still enjoy it – especially if it is a comedy. Karmina is a French-Canadian production and the DVD has a French or English language option. Subtitles would have been better, but hey…

We begin in Transylvania and the dialogue here is odd. It seems to be a combination of languages (including English) with hard coded French subtitles. After a while one of the characters, the Baron (Raymond Cloutier), declares he hates subtitles and they shatter. The film then goes into French (or English dub). That is a little way in, however, and we begin with a hunchback character pushing a cart through the woods and spilling the body parts it contains out for the wolves before heading back to the castle.

landing after the window leapIn the castle Karmina (Isabelle Cyr, who was also in the Hunger episode a Matter of Style) is chased by her mother the Baronne (Sylvie Potvin). Karmina throws herself from a window but, being a vampire, this has little effect (what, with her being undead and all that entails) but to make her ignobly land face first in the dirt. She flies back up to the window to face her mother.

Vlad, the Baron and the BaronetteThe problem is that the Baron has arranged for her to marry Vlad (Yves Pelletier), a communist vampire, partly due to the fact that the Americans (who the Baron hates) are going to build a burger factory on his doorstep – why marrying Vlad should help prevent this wasn’t clear but the dialogue ties the two events together. The castle is full of vampires and one is reminded, in look, of the vampires from the Fearless Vampire Killers. Indeed the whole look of the film is wonderful.

the Baron's angerAfter waiting for Karmina to come down (not realise that she has fled, by horse drawn car, to the airport) Vlad goes to her room. He stands outside the door, hearing her say that she will soon be coming out. When the Baron arrives at the room he has less patience and blows the door of its hinges. Inside a cage is a bird that has been taught to respond as though Karmina is saying she is coming. The Baron’s anger reverberates around the castle.

vampires in this are strongA coffin is deposited on the luggage carousel at Montreal airport. A sniffer dog alerts the guards and they open it but it is empty. Karmina is stood behind them. She takes her passport (that states she is 140 and has no photo) to the guards and uses eye mojo to make them stamp it. Karmina has reached Canada. We then see her on a rooftop, eating pigeons, until she spies a woman walking below her.

Isabelle Cyr as KarminaThe woman enters her apartment, puts on a dating video, fixes a drink and is looking in the mirror as Karmina comes up behind her – not casting a reflection. The woman turns and… launches herself at Karmina giving her a hug. She is Esmerelda (France Castel) – Karmina’s aunt – but, wait, I did say aunt and yet she had a reflection and is in a photograph. She has developed a potion – from a plant whose roots must draw from a corpse (and thus she has a coffin in her greenhouse to feed the plants) – that makes vampires human (ish). Their complexion becomes human, they lose their fangs and nails, they can walk in sunlight, stand crosses and reflect – for as long as the potion lasts.

Vlad attacks GhislainIf Karmina is to stay with her she must use the potion. On her first day out she becomes fascinated by her own reflection. Riles a gang of skinheads and ends up in a church, where the organ music played by Phillipe (Robert Brouillette) moves her so much she flies (though still human in appearance). Of course Vlad is on her trail and he turns airport security guard Ghislain (Gildor Roy) to help him in his task - this leads to darkly comic moments when Ghislain takes Vlad home to his surbuban house with wife, Linda (Diane Lavallée), and surly teenage son (also Gildor Roy). What we then get for the rest of the film, as it concerns Karmina, is a romantic comedy with a darkly gothic twist.

hammer and sickleI have covered most of the lore and, of course, the big new piece of lore is the potion (which adds an almost twisted Cinderella aspect to the story). However one thing I wanted to mention was about the cross. Phillipe is faced with bad vampires and Cushings a cross together that holds them off. In response Vlad crosses a hammer and sickle together, which glows and fires a beam at the cross, causing it to burst into flames.

line dancing soviet vampireI really enjoyed this, though I am led to understand that there are nuances in the humour that means much more to Montreal natives. I would have preferred it to be subtitled, of course, but beggars can’t be choosers. I am not normally a fan of the romantic comedy, but this was so oddball and off the wall that it tickled me from beginning to end – plus it had a line dancing soviet vampire, which I am sure is a first.

The film looked great and whilst the dubbing makes a comment about the acting difficult, the physical acting seemed spot on. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Scare Sarah said...

Woah. Look at that cover art, priceless.

Zahir Blue said...

Oh cool--a good vampire comedy! They are so rare. I can only think of maybe two others that qualify as "good". One was LOVE AT FIRST BITE and the other SUNDOWN. Okay, maybe NIGHT LIFE as well--and I'm talking about movies so YOUNG DRACULA doesn't count. But even if you do, that makes four out many?

And now number five. Great! Thanks so much for the head's up.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for the comments guys...

Zahir I rate Netherbeast Incorporated quite highly and - I know I am one of the few - but I really like Dracula: Dead and Loving it. I also like Fearless Vampire Killers - that said there are some that fall on their face LVK!

The review of K2 - the sequel - will be posted soon.