Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Strange Blood: 71 Essays on Offbeat and Underrated Vampire Movies - review

Editor: Vanessa Morgan

First Published: 2019

The Blurb: This is an overview of the most offbeat and underrated vampire movies spanning nine decades and 23 countries. Strange Blood encompasses well-known hits as well as obscurities that differ from your standard fang fare by turning genre conventions on their head. Here, vampires come in the form of cars, pets, aliens, mechanical objects, gorillas, or floating heads. And when they do look like a demonic monster or an aristocratic Count or Countess, they break the mold in terms of imagery, style, or setting. Leading horror writers, filmmakers, actors, distributors, academics, and programmers present their favorite vampire films through in-depth essays, providing background information, analysis, and trivia regarding the various films. Some of these stories are hilarious, some are terrifying, some are touching, and some are just plain weird. Not all of these movies line up with the critical consensus, yet they have one thing in common: they are unlike anything you've ever seen in the world of vampires. Just when you thought that the children of the night had become a tired trope, it turns out they have quite a diverse inventory after all.

The review: I mentioned this film when I reviewed Wilczyca as it was the one film in the collection that I hadn’t covered here. That said, there is much to discover within and this is a collection of (mostly) folks talking about a film they love as a fan. I say mostly because, for instance, the Frostbite entry was written by director Anders Banke and producer Magnus Paulsson. Also, not every entry was a love letter, in some there was a recognition of how poor a vehicle might be (after all, who could defend the cinematic pedigree of Devil’s Dynamite, though Chris Hewson did a fine job of suggesting to an uninitiated reader that it might be a “so bad, its good” film – it isn’t, it's just bad).

Where this went wrong, as a reference work, was in a failure to provide any referencing or an index. The issue then is, can the background information and trivia be trusted as reliable? The answer, probably not. For Wilczyca I gave the benefit of the doubt to a quote attributed to the director in my review of the film but, equally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable in reproducing that quote in a reference piece without (at the very least) a heavy caveat. Also, some factoids are just wrong. For instance, in the essay about the Curse of Styria (under the US title Angels of Darkness) author Christine Hadden suggests the film takes place in a remote area of Austria – in fact it takes place in Hungary, which is important as it is within the cold war and Hungary is a communist country (hence the difficulties crossing the border at the head of the film). It is where authors wax lyrical about their love of any given vehicle that this book excels (and going back to Hadden’s Styria essay, this is a case in point as the love for the film was palpable despite the geographic faux pas).

And in that respect, it really does work. It’s also a darn sight cheaper than many reference works out there. I should mention that author and blog friend Doug Lamoreux provides a couple of the essays. 7.5 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

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