Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vamp or Not? The Tomb

I remember watching this Michael Staininger directed film back in 2009 when it was released. I couldn’t remember too much about it however. I knew, of course, that it was loosely based on the Poe story Ligeia but couldn’t remember why I had thought, as I watched it, that the potentially vampiric story was not vamp.

More recently a friend asked me my thoughts on the film and suggested that it might be an energy vampire story. I decided to watch the film again.

spirit leaves
It begins with a wild landscape and the young Ligeia (Anastasiya Belyaeva) on a horse. She rides back to the impressive Romanova Manor where her mother (Yekaterina Fedorchenko) is dying. She suggests that it is the Black Death that takes her (a romanticised name, not the actual plague, I assumed) and that it is the curse of their power. As she dies her spirit visibly evacuates her body, from her mouth, and then vanishes through the window.

Wes Bentley as Jonathon
It is morning and we see Rowena (Kaitlin Doubleday) in bed. Her fiancé Jonathan (Wes Bentley, Underworld: Awakening) comes into the room and she lures him back to bed – causing him to be slightly late to the college where he is guest lecturer. After the lecture, and post signing several books for students, he asks his friend the Chancellor (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) about a woman, Ligeia (Sofya Skya), who was in the lecture as she had turned up to six of his guest lectures (one being 200 miles away). She is one of the post-graduate students studying comparative religion.

spirit capture
He chases after her to speak to her and asks her if she will be at the faculty function. She suggests that she’ll wear something sexy and gives him her card. We see Jonathan and Rowena having dinner with her father, George (Michael Madsen, Bloodrayne, 42K, Vampires Anonymous & the Bleeding) where we discover that Jonathan is independently rich. We cut to a man, Eddie (Joel Lewis), attacking a junkie. He takes the junkie’s corpse to the college where Ligeia puts a device on the man’s mouth, injects him with a serum, utters an incantation and draws the man’s soul into a tube. They are caught by the Chancellor but Ligeia makes no secret of the fact that he has slept with her, the implication being that he must ignore what he has seen or she’ll tell his wife (Christa Campbell, Mansquito & Revamped).

Sofya Skya as Ligeia
Ligeia uses magic to get Jonathan to her, manages to inject the Chancellor with her serum (which causes him to bleed from the eyes and go into a coma) and then sleeps with Jonathan and ensures that Rowena finds out. Ostensibly she gets her claws in Jonathan to get him to buy back the Romanova Manor for her, but she does actually seem to love him in her own psychotic way. She also gets a collection of three spirits (we see the face of the Chancellor in his spirit tube and the man finally dies when Jonathan finds it and releases it). Ligeia is dying of the same illness her mother had.

spirit in a tube
If she had taken the spirits to feed on in order to stave off death than I would have agreed that this was an energy vampire – indeed a soul eater – but that is not the case. What she actually does is bind two of the spirits to herself and commits suicide. The implication is that the additional spirits make her strong enough to evade death but the film never suggests she devours them – simply binds them. This leaves her a disembodied spirit and she then takes over another body and displaces their soul (this is a tad narratively confused; she is able to invade one host, whilst the hosts spirit is still in residence it would seem, but actually invades her target host by dosing them with serum to displace their spirit).

Kaitlin Doubleday as Rowena
At no point is it suggested that she devours energy or souls. She does develop a plan for immortality by jumping from body to body but again it is snatching the fleshy husk not eating the gooey spirit innards. The film descends, at its climax, into a body swap type story – which I am not a fan of at the best of times. The dialogue teeters on the awful at times (especially when Johnathan passes on some bad news about a bereavement) and ultimately it is not an energy vampire. One might argue that Ligeia is a vamp (as in a femme fatale) but that’s about it.

The imdb page is here.


Andrew Hall said...

A have the entire collection of Poe's works at home. I've never read the story but now want to.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'm a bit of a Poe fan Andrew so I'll suggest you should... I'm particularly fond of the Fall of the House of Usher

Paul Mclennon said...

it never hurts to have beautiful babes to break up the monotony of blood and gore and horror.