Monday, August 30, 2021

Village of the Vampire – review

Director: Roberto D'Antona

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

I fail, and always have, to see the point in dubbing a movie – bar some accessibility reasons. For each movie where the dubbing is well done, there are many more, like this Italian vampire film, where the dub is mistimed and poorly voice acted. It must be cheaper, surely, just to subtitle the original recording?

Not that the dubbing on this film, also known as Caleb, is the only issue. Overly long and poorly paced the film drips with melodrama – but little of the investigative side the plot promises. That said it does have some great vampire images through its length.

Elena and friend

It starts with a street in the dark and two women – one whose name I didn’t catch and the other Elena (Erica Verzotti) – who are running from something in their nightclothes. They stop and the first says *he* is in her head. Suddenly she vanishes and then Elena sees her dead on the road. She is grabbed by the vampires… Cut forward... Rebecca (Annamaria Lorusso) is a famous journalist and Elena’s sister. The latter has been missing 3 months. Rebecca is about to take leave but tells her editor that she is going to meet a source first, who might have information about Elena.

Annamaria Lorusso as Rebecca

She goes to a medieval restaurant and is taken to the contact. He waxes lyrical about being a fan – he sounds creepy stalkerish and the bad dub-dialogue and poor voice acting probably doesn’t help. Would it sound better in the original Italian? Probably, though he’d likely still seem creepy. Nevertheless, he gets to the point, he has found a file belonging to Elena (a wannabe journalist) who went into the mountains looking into a series of missing persons, her companion was his sister-in-law. Everything centres on a village called Timere – a village not on any map. Rebecca decides to holiday there.

Marta and Gaspare

Once there she finds an insular village (with no cell reception) with plenty of weird characters. The local inn only has two rooms, luckily one was vacated that day. In the morning she meets Gaspare (Francesco Emulo) and Marta (Natalia Moro), the couple staying in the other room. He is a horror novelist and they came to Timere by mistake. After seeing him on the street under an umbrella, in the sun, they also soon meet Caleb (Roberto D'Antona), a philanthropist who everyone in the village appears to love. He invites them to the ballet performed by a troupe he invited to the village.

A bite at the ballet

At the ballet he chomps down – because he is obviously the vampire – on a woman in a box, who seems to welcome his toothsome ministrations. Backstage, after the performance, the vampires eat the troupe (at this point we see only Caleb and his companions Cora (Nicole Blatto) and Anastasia (Susanna Tregnaghi) but there are more). Rebecca starts having strange hallucinations often involving blood and her sister. And, given the fact that the film is some 160 minutes or so, it takes its sweet time getting to a resolution – a resolution involving a group of vampire hunters we don’t see until late into the film.

out in the day

Lore-wise there isn’t too much to report. The local wine is produced with drops of Caleb’s blood in it – so, as one wine drinking character says, if they are bitten but not drained they will turn. Drinking the blood of the dead is poisonous to a vampire. Holy water is like acid and crosses ward (though Caleb makes a cross spontaneously combust). They are sunlight sensitive but we don’t know how much. Caleb was turned by a business man in Transylvania who said that “the blood is the life” – likely an oblique inference that it was Dracula and now we get to Caleb's backstory.

vampire hunters

This was handled really badly. Rebecca and Gaspare escape his clutches and meet the vampire hunters and we are rushing into the finale (having dragged our feet getting here) when they decide to tell his backstory – we already had the bit about his sire in dialogue – and move into flashback covering his childhood, being sent to Transylvania, getting back but not his time in Transylvania. We get the tale of an abusive father, who murders both puppies and Caleb's love, and it just grinds the pace to a halt. A one-minute piece of dialogue would have sufficed. The film was too long without this flashback – it needs editing out, desperately (notwithstanding Rebecca referencing it later).

the imagery works

I can’t really comment on the acting due to the dub – I can say the voice acting was on par with some of the worst from the seventies and the syncing to the actual dialogue was very hit and miss with some terrible moments of words and a moment later the mouth moving. Annamaria Lorusso did, for the most part, shine visually and I hope her actual dialogue delivery was as good as her physical acting. On the other hand, with all that said, there were great visual vampire moments. It just desperately needs the original dialogue, subtitles and an extensive appointment with an editor. 4 out of 10 reflects that the melodrama was there and a view that a half-decent film might lurk if the issues are addressed.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK


Balthizaur said...

They must have changed the name from Caleb for the Western release.
The movie was alright at setting the tone, but damn does it know how to drag things out.
They managed to capture what it is that makes vampire unique from other monsters, the seduction, the sensuality, though I did feel they weren't as threatening as they could have been at times like during the later fight scenes.
The visuals were spot on, the blood, the fangs, the atmosphere was top notch, but I found too many moments I wanted to click fast forward in.
I'd recommend it to a vampire fan, but you probably won't get many repeat viewings. I'd say the recent Death Rider In The House Of Vampires suffers many the same problems while having much the same strengths.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Balthizaur - I think we are in agreement :)

A good edit would solve a lot in this, I might have also introduced the hunters earlier.

And, yes the name changed for both the UK and US releases (its on demand in the UK now and comes out on DVD in the States soon)

Death Rider In The House Of Vampires fills me with a little dread, I have to admit, I wasn't keen on Danzig's last outing but I'm glad (assuming the strength you refer to) you feel he's got the visuals right

Balthizaur said...

The biggest disappointment from Death Rider was Julian Sands honestly, his wig was atrocious and he felt very stiff, I went in assuming he'd be the highlight for me. I think you'll find a few similarities between the two just with different approaches.

Caleb chose to be seductive and stick to the shadows and try to milk the slow burn to drag things out. Death Rider chose to play in the light a lot and felt like it ran when it should have walked at times, that is to say whenever something interesting happened it ended too quickly and the dialogue dragged on a bit too long, not something pornographic actresses are known for being great at.

The trick to enjoying that movie will be to turn your brain off, the faster the better haha

Taliesin_ttlg said...

keep that in mind (until I switch it off 😉)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

switch off the brain, that is