Saturday, November 18, 2017

Short Film: Vampire in Union City

This was a short film, coming in at 48 minutes, directed by Lucio Fernandez and released in 2010. I was lucky enough to be sent a DVD of the film, though it came with a health warning that it was “really artsy fartsie with a campy 1960's "bad horror" film style”. Now I like myself a bit of arthouse and also, if done well, some neo-Grindhouse.

The first thing that struck me was the artwork on the DVD was beautifully moody, the second thing that struck me was how low resolution the print committed to disc was (as you’ll gather through the screenshots accompanying). Indeed, it was so low res that I contacted Lucio Fernandez to ask whether this was actually deliberate. The answer was yes, “We did that on purpose. Everything was done with the intent of making it look like an artsy 1960-70's bad horror flick.”

staggering into view
So, if I tell you that generally I enjoyed the short, I must add that I think the low resolution went a step too far and I would have preferred if it had been upped, at least a degree. However, I respect what they were looking to achieve. I also have to be careful not to spoil the underlying narrative that is revealed within the arthouse and probably offend at my lack of geographic etiquette.

Lucio Fernandez as the vampire
I am aware that Union City is in New Jersey and I don’t know, therefore, if it is an etiquette faux pas to mention New York – but the film, for me, certainly had the visual texture of the arthouse end of the New York vampire genre. As such it slips into the same realm, ambience wise, as films such as Nadja, the Addiction and, perhaps, Habit; though this tellingly had less in the way of budget. It begins with the vampire (Lucio Fernandez) who staggers. A phone rings and eventually we hear that the vampire cannot go into work as he is dead.

the Danse Macabre
What I noticed was how well the vampire’s voiceover (voiced by Tom Osborne) worked, adding a noir element, underpinned by the ambient soundtrack that worked well throughout (and became a centrepiece later in the film as a violinist performed Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre as performers offered interpretive dance). However, back in the film's opening, our vampire is set upon by men who call him a freak and as he blacks out we see a Dead Poet (Gerard Karabin) reciting Poe’s The Conqueror Worm.

drinking myoglobin
The vampire is obsessed with death and suggests to one man, in a park, that he knows what being dead feels like – before sharing that feeling by throttling him. Is he actually a vampire though? He is called such by one couple and also called chupacabras by a third party. We see many of the traits and tropes tied with the genre such as religious iconography, sleeping in coffins, thoughts on walking in daylight and reflections, endless hunger and the drinking of myoglobin from meat trays.

This is arthouse on a budget and, as such, might put some off. Certainly the low resolution choice is something the viewer has to push through but, at its heart, there is an interesting examination of the genre here and it is worth looking at.

The imdb page is here.

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