Monday, May 30, 2022

Dracula: Plots & Schemes: The Legend of Dracula Book III – Review (& Revisit)

Author: Perry Lake

First Published: 2021 (2nd Edition)

Contains spoilers  

The Blurb: Dracula and his vampire hordes plot and scheme to enslave the world and rule the Night!

Dracula hacks and slashes his bloody way to the top of the undead hierarchy as he wages his final battles against the seductive Nycea, and the cunning Erlik Iblis, and the slithering Sethos. Plus the origins of Varney the vampire, Lord Iorga, Lady Lenore, and Countess Dolingen. Will Dracula be able to stop any of them?

There's further clashes with the Vordenburg family in the tale of the son of Dracula—a dhampire! Can the heroic Vordenburgs trust a man in whose veins flows the blood of Dracula?

Then in a novella-length trilogy, set on the eve of the French Revolution, Dracula allies himself to the sorcerer Cagliostro—whose powers are equal to his own! But how long will the alliance last when Dracula sets his sights on Cagliostro's beautiful young wife? Can even the powerful Cagliostro stop Dracula's plans?

Find out in these seventeen stories.

The Review: The revision of Lake’s Dracula Arisen in this volume, like book 1 and book 2, there is modification, changing of order and new stories – a volume in which Dracula perhaps appears less (at least in some stories), becoming more the shadowy force manipulating the board.

The writing in this is Lake’s strongest thus far, with a pleasant crispness to the prose. He throws the kitchen sink concept wise and the blurb above covers a lot of these but doesn’t mention the inclusion of Frankenstein also. The use of Lenore adjusts Gottfried August Bürger’s Lenore (1773), which was quoted within Dracula, and makes it a vampire story, indeed making Dracula the embodiment of death portrayed within.

One aspect I particularly liked was the description of the internal changes when someone is turned, of the growth of a parasitic other within the body (particularly the heart) taking the personality and memories of the victim from the brain but dislodging the soul.

I do need to mention the essay the author has put in the rear of the book, which argues the idea that Stoker was much more aware of Vlad Ţepeş than current thinking suggests, and based the character on him (rather than simply borrowed a name and a paragraph of biography). My own thoughts are in detail here and align with those of the late Elizabeth Miller and there is nothing within the thesis that would shift that position. Ţepeş is a part of the Dracula megatext and thus it is legitimate to use the character within the author’s contribution to the megatext, ie the stories, but the coincidence he focuses on as evidence (between an aspect of Ţepeş’ life and the broad brush of the novel) is more pareidolia than alignment I’d say (sorry Perry) and – in honesty – neither enhances nor detracts from what Lake did with his prose. For that prose (and not impacted by my view on the essay conclusion), a solid 7.5 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Kicking Blood: A Vampire Love Story – review

Director: Blaine Thurier

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

The drawing of a comparison between vampirism and chemical addiction is not a new idea, nor is the idea of a vampire trying to kick the blood habit. However, that doesn’t matter as the vampire genre builds upon the foundations of what has gone before and always has.

What we have with Kicking Blood is a very visually stylish film, defying what I assume were tight budgetary constraints, which eschews horror for character drama but is that enough?

in the glow of candles

It starts with a portrait shot of lead character Anna (Alanna Bale), her face illuminated by candlelight. The candle, a birthday one, comes in shot, is blown out and then we see her in artificial light. It is a celebration of her birthday in the library she works in. She doesn’t eat the cake despite co-worker Bernice (Rosemary Dunsmore) telling her it is good. Later she overhears Bernice arguing with another co-worker, Gerry (Shaun Austin-Olsen, Forever Knight), who has treated her poorly and taken advantage of her sexually.

killing Gerry

Gerry gets home and, when he puts the light on, finds Anna on his couch. She mentions the look he gave her at work and so she came over. He offers her some whisky (80-year-old, apparently) but she doesn’t drink alcohol. He approaches her and her hand drifts to his crotch before grabbing him and squeeze/twisting. This is the only real display of strength (if indeed it is) we get – later she seems of standard human strength. She leaps on his prone body and bites his neck.

in the underpass

Robbie (Luke Bilyk, Lost Girl & My Babysitter’s a Vampire) wakes after a drinking binge, He is at his sister’s place and she is both pregnant and mad with him for making out with her fiancé whilst drunk. He’s failed to clean himself up… again, and she kicks him out. As Anna walks home from work she sees Robbie in an underpass, ready to sleep rough. He speaks to her, asking about what happens after death? With lukewarm encouragement he follows her home.

Alanna Bale as Anna

He gets in her apartment and asks for a drink – she says she doesn’t drink but then digs out the scotch she took from Gerry’s and offers him a glass. She is honest with him and says that she is a vampire, she will drain him and get high on his blood. He challenges her to do it and then stops her for a moment. He pours the bottle of scotch away saying he won’t drink again as long as he lives. She leaves him on the couch, going to bed. Reading in, she is intrigued by his action but the film doesn’t actually tell us this.

Anna and Boris

We discover she regularly hunts with two vampires, Nina (Ella Jonas Farlinger, also My babysitter’s a Vampire) and Boris (Benjamin Sutherland). We see them feed together and with the lights we see flashed in the scene of Anna attacking Gerry, her words about getting high, and the aftermath of their co-feeding, we see that the blood addiction is definitely akin to a chemical addiction. In fact, we see Robbie hallucinate with the DTs and Anna hallucinate as she kicks blood. The other two don’t understand why she works – she can’t live looting the dead, she suggests. We see that their attitude is one of disdain for humans and Anna starts off sharing this – saying to Robbie she doesn’t f*ck humans. Her attitude shifts and as Robbie looks to kick drink, she looks to kick blood.

blood at mouth

The lore is sparse with this one. They are addicted to blood and suggest that not drinking will lead to their deaths, however Anna holds a hope that she will become human again. Sunlight stings (possibly kills but we only see a flinch and moving out of the direct sunlight) and Anna arrives at work whilst still dark and leaves after dusk. They are immortal – Boris claims to have known Aleister Crowley. Anna warns Robbie of just how dangerous they are but she also struggles to drag his unconscious form so they aren’t that strong and one wonders whether a (prepared) human could hold their own.


The trouble was, this is character driven but I felt motivation was low and reasons for behaviour not well explained. It looks beautiful, with the photography top notch and Alanna Bale offered a strong performance that dovetailed neatly with Luke Bilyk's, but whilst I bought their characters through performance, the same couldn’t be said of presented narrative. It’s a shame but the film felt like it meandered to its ending rather than moved with purpose. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Cult of Dracula – review

Author: Rich Davis

Art: Various

First Published: 2022

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: The collected edition of the hit horror comic book series by Rich Davis that changed all we thought we knew about DRACULA!

Cult of Dracula is pure, unadulterated horror drawn from the nightmares of rising horror master, Rich Davis. It's witchy. It's wyrd. It's helter-skelter within a hippie cult dedicated to an ancient blood goddess. You may know Bram Stoker's genre-defining tale of terror by heart, but you have no idea where Cult of Dracula will take you!

The Review
: The first thing that struck me about Cult of Dracula was the art, indeed the cover art. I was blown away by the cover but, once inside and despite several artists listed, the house style of the graphic novel – whilst colourful and bold – just didn’t do it for me. There was nothing I could put my finger on, it just didn’t appeal to me (and certainly nowhere near the way the cover art did).

With a modern-day tale of a vampiric cult, as well as flashback moments, I was also struck by the recycling of Stoker character names. For example, Mina Murray the reporter, Jonathan Harker the cameraman… I know that recycling the character names from Dracula is a trope in and of itself but I actually thought it detracted. What did work was the gender swap of Dracula, and the subsequent tie in with Lilith in her Judaic myth form.

The story was good but took some following in places and the dialogue worked well enough. This is a solid read, a tad muddled in places but a clear head can keep the story straight enough. 6 out of 10. My thanks for the TPB as a birthday present from Sarah.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Magic Kids: Three Unlikely Heroes – review

Director: Tim Trageser

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

With its original German title of Die Wolf-Gäng I was (and still am) going to wax lyrical about how this is (in essence) a Harry Potter clone. However, when I opened up the IMDb page, I was shocked to see it is actually based on a Young Adult Book series by Wolfgang Hohlbein. I can’t say how accurate this is to the book, but if it is accurate then it is the book series that is the Potter clone.

It starts with a bit of a background that suggests that the world was once ruled by creatures of the night but, as centuries passed, they became good and there was peace between them and humans with the night creatures eventually living among us in secret.

moving to town

There are, however, still places where the night creatures live openly, hidden towns often sheltered behind magical forests. It is to one of these places that the young vampire Vlad Tepes (Aaron Kissiov) is moving to with his father Barnabas (Rick Kavanian) – a pair of vampires, moving as Vlad has been invited to join a magical school there. So, whilst not an orphan (totally, his mother is dead), he is a young teen moving to a magical school by invitation a bit like a certain wizard, Harry.

nodding vampire dog

They are stopped on the bridge into town by a troll (Waldemar Kobus), who is the town gatekeeper and who reads out a prophecy to Vlad that suggests that he will meet friends, become a trio of companions and save the world (to us, at least, it makes no sense to Vlad). When they get into town a crystal pendant Vlad wears (bequeathed by his mother) glows and a modern bike becomes a penny farthing and a policeman’s hat becomes an old-fashioned helmet. Vlad doesn’t realise the connection with his pendent.

Vlad's fang

That first night his father is visited and charged taxes that he cannot yet afford and has to go to the town hall to protest, in the morning. The mayor offers him the opportunity to sell Vlad’s pendant to stave off the debt (refused as it isn’t the father’s to sell). Meanwhile Vlad goes to school and there is a ceremony which reveals the new children’s true faces (for instance a ghost becomes incorporeal). There is a fae called Faye (Johanna Schraml) who flies, and soon discovers a fear of heights, a ginger werewolf, Wolf (Arsseni Bultmann), who transforms and discovers he has a fur allergy and then Vlad’s hair slicks and fangs appear. However Faye crashes into him, he cuts himself on his fangs, sees blood and vomits (a blue goo) as he is scared of blood.

the gang

So these are our heroes – the all-round good Faye (Hermione, essentially), the ginger Wolf (very obviously in look and actions Ron) and Vlad is our Harry imitation. They get help from the school caretaker, Hannappel (Axel Stein), who is a bearded (though not wildly so) person who shouldn’t do magic (due to ineptitude). There is some bullying from the blonde Draco Malfoy clone and his two bully-boy friends. I mean it is so obviously lifting from Potter it is painful.

Rick Kavanian as Barnabas

As for the film itself (and the sneaking into the forbidden library, through a set of underground tests after getting past the - one-headed, to be fair - guard dog). Well, it seems competent enough, though that competence is then undermined by some average to poor dubbing. Perhaps it would work better in the original German. Nevertheless I couldn’t actually get past the blatant Potterness – was that from the book or added in by the filmmakers? I don’t know, but the film had neither the charm, the magical quality or the slickness of those films. I think 4 out of 10 is more than fair, perhaps too fair to be truthful.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Short Film: 400 Ways to Kill a Vampire

This Christine Parker directed short was released in 2013 and comes in at around the 21:30 mark. What we get is a vampire hunter’s story and a lovely nod over to many classic tropes.

The opening credits have various clips from vampire films, shown in Black and White, and then it starts with a homeless man (Bill Mulligan) walking, with the aid of a staff, through the night time streets, moving into a wooded area and we also see a figure (Michael Ray Williams) following him.

He gets to a wooden bridge (over a depression in the forest floor) when the vampire following him is suddenly in front. Quick as a flash the man presses a Taoist prayer scroll to the vampire’s forehead, freezing him. As he takes the fake beard and moustache away the hunter – named as Vordenburg in the credits, the name being a lovely nod to Carmilla - explains that it doesn’t matter that the vampire doesn’t read Chinese or know of the book the kanji are copied from for it to work. He asks if the vampire can speak but he clearly can’t.

prayer scroll

Vordenburg explains that he is writing a book on how to kill vampires and claims 400 kills – later he says the kill count is 570 in 400 different ways – he also asks if the vampire will promise not to attack if he removes the scroll. He manoeuvres the vampire around so, when the scroll is removed, he falls from the bridge, this is followed by tossing a cross at the vampire who stumbles backwards and is caught in thorn bushes (later confirmed to be Hawthorn – and apparently the thorns cause the vampire to continuously bleed and eventually bleed to death).

worse things inn the night

The hunter takes a picture of the vampire (they can now, digitally) and sends the picture on, to have his organisation run him for an ID – guessing he was only two weeks turned. The vampire comes out with a pretentious vampire name and clan but the search says he is named Eddie, a high school dropout. Vordenburg wants to question him and eventually Eddie lets slip that he has a Mistress (Amber Teachey) – as it is she turns up. Vordenburg decides to leave his circle of protection to face what he realises is a very powerful vampire, knowing that pitting wills against her is dangerous but not realising the night might hold worse things.

the mistress

I did like the pitting of wills as the dialogue used indicated this was an inverted nod to Salem’s Lot and the pitting of wills between Barlow and Callahan. I also liked the various bits of lore tossed in – I was particularly taken by the idea of getting a vampire (a clan leader it is suggested) and dropping them in the centre of Jerusalem to watch them find something touched by Christ at every turn. The film does feel like a set up for more (either shorts or a feature) but it is still enjoyable in its own right. When I first started watching it I wasn’t sure, the opening scenes are deliberately dark and it just felt off a little, but as soon as the scroll was placed on Eddie’s forehead it had me.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Use of Tropes: Wyrmwood: Apocalypse

Ok, there’s one trope we see in the second film… sort of… and we can retrofit a trope into film 1 at a push… but it is my excuse to get the Australian zombie series par excellence on to the blog. My blog, my rules, as they say. So, this 2021 Kiah Roache-Turner helmed flick is the sequel to the fantastic Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. In the first film, Barry (Jay Gallagher) is an ordinary Aussie dad when the zombie apocalypse happens. Both his wife and daughter turn – as anyone not of a certain blood type (A -ve) turns – unless they are able to use gasmasks.

He seeks out his sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradey), and whilst doing so we discover that the zombies expel an inflammable gas through their mouths and gasoline has become inert like water (leading to zombie powered vehicles in both films). The zombies, unfortunately, only expel the gas during the day and use it to fuel themselves at night when they are stronger, faster and more agile. During the day they are still dangerous but less high powered and we can consider this as a trope (at a push) recognisable in the vampire genre if we remember that the novel Dracula has the vampire able to be active in the day time but without supernatural powers. But overall they are still zombies. Anyway, Brooke has been taken by creepy Government types to experiment on and, in doing so, they trigger a hybridisation within her that means she is still herself, despite the zombie side, but is able to control zombies.

drinking blood

So, the sequel starts with Barry and Brooke, along with sisters Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and Grace (Tasia Zalar, Dark Place). It seems Brooke is having trouble maintaining control and the sisters part company with her after she bites Grace (turning her into a hybrid) whilst in a rage. Now, this is where the trope comes in. To calm her Barry has a vial of blood and after drinking it her rage subsides, she ceases to be feral and is human (or in control and sentient, at least) once more.

Shantae Barnes-Cowan as Maxi

The film doesn’t explain why this is the case and it doesn’t go as far as to suggest that it is down to it being the blood type of the blood supplied, though that would be logical especially when we discover the source of the antivirals that none A -ve survivors are using. The concept also feels inconsistent if you give it too much thought as, surely, she is getting blood if she bites someone (as well as flesh). However, in the thick of the action it doesn’t matter. The second film also expands our understanding of the zombie gas by having to feed the zombies to have them maintain the production of gas and, when it comes to the day night aspect, we see light used as an apotropaic by having powerful electric lights used to keep night time zombies at bay.

Bianca Bradey aa Brooke

The sequel does not quite match the brilliance of the first – the marvellous premise of the first, and its splatter punk mentality, is still there but no longer as original, plus the move to make this science based (talking about a virus) doesn’t sit with the surrealistic religious overtone (Wormwood is a star of ill omen from the Book of Revelations) and the inertness of gasoline etc. The primary characters in this are Maxi and Rhys (Luke McKenzie) – twin brother of a character killed by Barry and Brooke in the first film. The performances are very good but the characters not a patch on characters from the first film; Barry, who is somewhat side-lined in this, and (especially) Benny (Leon Burchill) who sacrificed himself in the first film but was a cracking character. That said, this is still a great film and absolutely worth watching if you are a fan of the original movie. The trope connection is thin but the films are great. The imdb page is here.

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon US

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon UK

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A.K. Tolstoy’s “A Taste of Blood” – review

Director: Santiago Fernández Calvete

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

Let me be clear from the off-set this is a review of the Western (US/UK) release of this Argentinean film and may not reflect the film in its original form, released as Sangre Vurdalak. Certainly, the film is listed as Spanish language – whereas the release I have seen is (partially) dubbed and, I suspect, the soundtrack has been changed (though that is an educated guess) and both things bring issues to the release.

However, first things first, the film is based on Tolstoy’s The Family of the Vourdalak and that (excellent) short story from 1843 was most famously filmed by Mario Bava as a segment of Black Sabbath. The film sticks to the broad brushes of the story well, despite being transplanted to Argentina and the modern day.

Alfonsina Carrocio as Natalia

So, the film opens with a car driving and a goth soundtrack. This is issue number one. I really like Goth – in fact the soundtrack CD that ships with the US Blu-Ray is a great collection. However, I suspect this was not the original soundtrack as the distributor is Cleopatra – famous as a Goth music label – and I suspect that they have picked up the distribution rights and retro-fitted a soundtrack from their artist roster and, whilst not necessarily an issue in the opening scene, the Goth rock and darkwave soundtrack actively undermines the atmosphere and fails to fit the mood of the direction and photography. It is, in short, distracting.

Tomás Carullo Lizzio as Alexis

The car gets to a building and the pair in the car, Natalia (Alfonsina Carrocio) and Alexis (Tomás Carullo Lizzio), enter the home of Alexis’ parents. Their appearance causes questions; where did they get the car; will they have trouble from Natalia’s family? They are told they can’t just turn up, they don’t appear to be eating and Natalia suggests that they can answer the questions as they have all the time in the world – and that’s the ending broadcast, with the film being the story that led them to this point and the aftermath following the story. But that broadcasting of the punches is not the biggest issue this scene shows us.

Germán Palacios as Aguirre

Both Natalia and Alexis are dubbed into English, and it is poor dubbing. His father and mother are not dubbed but hard-subtitled. This carries forward to the main film where Natalia’s father Aguirre (Germán Palacios) remains in the original Spanish and is subtitled. I don’t get it. OK over-dubbing is rarely great and can be distracting but, for the most part, once in the mode of watching a film that way there is some acceptance as you watch. However, to part dub a film and, in the same scenes, have some in the original language and some dubbed is just distracting – there is no other word for it. It is also nonsensical – if you are paying for voice-over actors then pay for it all, if paying for subtitling, subtitle it all. Give an option of either to the viewer. But this was just rubbish.

Carmela Merediz as Malena

So, Aguirre runs a country vet practice that only opens during the day and has a household that includes Natalia, his son Miguel (Lautaro Bettoni), Miguel’s girlfriend – I think – Eva (Naiara Awada) and her sickly daughter Malena (Carmela Merediz). He is strict, preventing them from going out after sunset and stopping Natalia from meeting new people generally. When he discovers that she snuck out to meet Alexis he grounds her and locks her in her room. So she uses bedsheets to get out and run away that night.

stalking Natalia

She gets to a cantina in a nearby town, where Alexis works. However, he seems none too pleased to see her and so she leaves. A man, Mesojedec, from the cantina follows her in his car and offers her a lift. He tells her he is related to her father but she has been told they have no family and so is suspicious but he offers details that a family member would know. He is driving her home when he stops and seems to collapse against the steering wheel. He convulses and then looks up with his vampire face, which seems plague ridden. She is rescued by Alexis, though it seems Mesojedec actually lets her go.

Mesojedec vamps out

At home Aguirre explains that the family, in the past (19th century by the photos, or very early 20th century) moved to Argentina from Slovakia to escape the vurdulak – blood eaters who were drawn to prey on family and loved ones. Natalia spots Mesojedec in the photos. Aguirre says he will hunt him down but the vurdulak are cunning hunters and if he does not come home in daylight then they must kill him. He comes home before dawn – seen because Miguel turned on Alexis and chained him outside in case he was a vurdulak and Natalia sat outside with him.


Now this was a bit difficult. The kids believe the story of the vurdulak immediately (ok, Natalia had seen one but Eva and Miguel had not). However when he is there before dawn they do not kill him, as instructed, and allow him entry before the sun comes up. The issue here is tying in the sunlight myth. In the original story the father warns against him returning after a certain period of time and returns right on the stroke of the hour (which leads to confusion). Here they should have either just shot him as instructed or barred his entry; their acquiescence makes no sense (especially given their on-running suspicions).

the vourdalak

That logical flaw aside, one could see how this would be atmospheric enough, if the soundtrack was not misplaced, and it built at least some tension (not is he a vurdulak but when will he reveal himself). However the film had already broadcast the ending, unfortunately, and the dubbing/subtitle mixed economy was not only distracting but also prevented suspension of belief – which buying their actions necessitated. I really want to see a subtitled version of this with no dubbing and, I would hope, a more appropriate soundtrack. However Tolstoy is a favourite, the broad-brush of the story followed the short (bar the sunlight) and I find myself torn. 5 out of 10.

Edit: The Blu-Ray does have a Spanish language version of the film on it (as an extra but accessed through the language menu). However it is not subtitled. I can confirm though that the Goth soundtrack was added to the English dub as the Spanish language version forgoes it.  

The imdb page is here.

On Blu-Ray @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

Monday, May 16, 2022

First Impressions & Crowdfunder: Lords of LA

Lords of LA is a new indie graphic novel and I have been lucky enough to see the completed pages so far courtesy of writer Frank J Zanca. For the art; pencils are by Alex Femenias and inks by Maria Keane.

Having seen the opening, as it were, I can tell you that the graphic novel, primarily, straddles two timelines – one in the 1950s and the other in 2006 – and follows vampire clans who are coded very much as organised crime with a rivalry between Don Cainella and Don Abellino – though it is clear that there are other players in town. There is also Lena Morgan a vampire who blames them both for destroying her life in the 50s by making her undead and is looking for revenge. Neatly the book colour codes the page borders to distinguish timelines.

artwork detail

I mentioned the two primary timelines but we also, for instance, see a flashback to the Roman Empire, giving an idea of the age of one of the players. The story does not shy away from sex or gore, and is definitely R rated. The aimed for length is fairly short, at 48 pages, but the story so far has been intriguing and it feels like there is plenty of room for expansion in further storylines in the future.

As you’ll tell from the illustrating images the artwork uses a bold, one might even say technicolour, style that fits well in a story where the movie industry of the 50s enticed the vampires to set up shop in LA. The art is consistent and looks good.

The project is subject to a Kickstarter campaign, which is ongoing as I post but has already hit its funding goal. As always, crowdsourcing is entered into at the readers own risk but, if you feel like giving this one your backing, you can find the campaign here.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Let the Wrong One In – review

Director: Conor McMahon

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

Horror comedies are an odd thing, they might work but often do not and that can just be around sense of humour differences. My trepidation around this film was lowered because of director Conor McMahon’s previous horror comedy, Stitches, which I particularly enjoyed. McMahon was also the director of the (not comedic) vampire film From the Dark, which proved itself a fine inclusion in the vampire canon.

Let me tell you right now that I was not disappointed, this was a cracking little flick and it managed to endear itself to me right from the beginning.

the hens

The opening shot is a castle, lit up in the night. The film title, the soundtrack, the font when we are told it is Transylvania and the horse-drawn hearse that passes all screamed Hammer and managed to make me a tad nostalgic. Then it comes crashing into reality as a group of Irish hens come barrelling through the scene, one of the hens holding an inflatable phallus. Sheila (Mary Murray, Penny Dreadful) is getting hitched and the Dublin girls are in full flow.


They are being chased by a bouncer (Manuel Pombo) for failing to pay for their drinks and they split up. He corners Sheila, who makes a rather forward (last night of freedom) suggestion that causes him to back off. Another guy comes out of the shadows, reaching for her and then he bites her (the bite incredibly visceral). We cut to Dublin and see Matt (Karl Rice) on the way home with a tray of chips in garlic mayonnaise. On his walk home we get some playful moments with our expectations; a shadowy figure in an underpass soon becomes a drunk passer-by, and we get a shadow moment as he gets home that is innocent but reminiscent of Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens.

Deco in the morning

Cut to the morning and Matt is having to cook breakfast for his Ma (Hilda Fay), meanwhile his brother, Deco (Eoin Duffy), wakes up outdoors, looking worse for wear with bite marks on his neck. As things proceed, we discover that Deco had a drug problem and has been kicked out of the house by Ma but, as he walks down the road towards his brother’s home, he tries to avoid sunlight as it begins to make him fry and the soundtrack plays the classic Violent Femmes' track Blister in the Sun. We are less than five minutes into the film and I’m already sold (and wondering why I can’t recall anyone using the Femmes' track in connection to a vampire movie before). The film just hits the right notes all the way through – for instance, when Deco and Matt discuss his condition there is no prevarication, Matt sees his reaction to sunlight, bite marks and dislike of the garlic mayonnaise on Matt's leftover chips and says vampire.

Henry - vampire killer

The basic story is Sheila was going to get married to taxi-driving train enthusiast Henry (Anthony Head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) but on being turned into a vampire she turned the hens and they are back in Dublin preying on the population (we get a flashback to her attack on Deco), whilst Henry uses his taxi driver network to track them down. The vampires are setting up a new nightclub and intend to build an army to take over Dublin. Matt wants to help Deco but there is no turning back, and eventually the events of the day force them to the opening of the nightclub.


The majority of the gags are based on and around the brothers and range from body humour to family observation. The former is seen, for instance, when Deco strains to turn into a bat and farts, but the body humour gags are not overused and so work. Vampires can, it turns out, turn into bats in this, they must be staked through the heart or burned/put in direct sunlight to kill (there is a partial beheading that does not work). We see a staked vampire dragged into the sunlight and start to smoke, quickly reduced to a skeleton. The vampires have no reflection and to turn someone the vampire must bite and not drain the victim; this happens with a rabbit and sets up a gag for a bat-winged rabbit later (the inclusion thereof understated). Vampires love AB -ve blood.

Deco and Matt

It is primarily Karl Rice and Eoin Duffy carrying the film but they are ably supported by the rest of the cast, especially Anthony Head. It was after the film that I realised that the female characters were pretty uniformly drawn as negative (if not actually villains), with Ma, for instance, drawn as less than a role model. That said the men aren’t drawn much better, with only Matt getting any sort of pass, and there is an element that Sheila’s bloody rampage is partly Henry’s fault (for thinking more about trains than her). However, this was after-film musing and the humour worked, for me, through the film and the characters were a big part of that. There is no shying from blood, and there is a lot on screen at times. I’m glad we have this one in the genre. 8 out of 10, remembering that the subjective nature of comedy means this one genuinely tickled me, your reaction may differ.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Short Film: Crazy Dracula Spring Break Weekend

From directors Matt Granger & Mikey Granger (as the Granger Brothers) comes this 2011 comedy short that runs for 13-minutes.

It starts off at a pool party and Dracula (Matt Granger) is in party mode. We see him in pool fights, chugging beer, using Bronze Stoker's sun block, playing with super soakers, doing shots. When he gets a text from Igor (Mikey Granger, Stan Helsing), as he sits with the dinner he’s prepared, he ignores it. Igor later notices Dracula's photo on social media with new best friend ‘Drinkinstein’ (Trevor Kyle).

Matt Granger as Crazy Dracula

When Dracula gets home he finds that Igor has called his friends and staged an intervention. This is attended by the (balding) wolfman (Peter New, Ultarviolet: Code 044), Frankenstein’s Monster (Aleks Paunovic, Chupacabra Vs the Alamo, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency & Van Helsing), The Invisible Man (Ryan Robbins, also Van Helsing, Blade the Series, Vampire (2011) & Sanctuary) and Santa Claus (Toby Hargrave). Truths will out, such as Dracula being called Drunkula, Vlad the Inhaler, Schnapsferatu, Kiefer Sutherland and dickhead behind his back… but can they get through to Crazy Dracula?


This was fun, neatly put together with some good gags (though Zombie Amy Winehouse (Tristan Risk, ABCs of Death 2 & Rabid) might have been a little close to the bone given when it was released) and definitely worth catching. The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Snow, Glass, Apples – review

Author: Neil Gaiman

Artist: Colleen Doran

First Published: 2019

Contains spoilers

The blurb: A chilling fantasy retelling of the Snow White fairy tale by bestselling creators Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran.

A not-so-evil queen is terrified of her monstrous stepdaughter and determined to repel this creature and save her kingdom from a world where happy endings aren't so happily ever after.

From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, Nebula Award-winning and Sunday Times-bestselling writer Neil Gaiman (American Gods) comes this graphic novel adaptation by Colleen Doran (Troll Bridge).

The review
: A pleasure, always, to feature the work of Neil Gaiman here, I was very aware of the story Snow, Glass, Apples having read it in the original short form and heard an audio version. Gaiman’s story takes the fairy tale of Snow White back to a disturbing, uncanny place and makes it an adult tale that is themed around vampirism and told from the point of view of the Queen. It is both inciteful and macabrely beautiful in and of itself.

This slim, hardback volume takes Gaiman’s story and pairs it with art by Colleen Doran that can only be said to be sumptuous. The art style of Harry Clarke was an inspiration for the illustrations, Clarke a Dublin artist known for his stained glass was both influenced by Art Deco and Art Nouveau and it is the latter that informs this volume. The illustrations add a layer to Gaiman’s vision and this becomes a spectacular adult fairy tale, certainly not one for the children but one that deserves to be in the collection of every vampire fan. 10 out of 10. Thank you to Sarah for getting me this as a birthday gift.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Chapelwaite: Season 1 – review

Director: Various

First aired: 2021

Contains spoilers

Chapelwaite is a series built upon the foundation of the Stephen King short story Jerusalem’s Lot. The short itself is a prequel to Salem’s Lot, King's fine vampire novel, but it is devoid of vampires. Rather it is, I would say, King’s homage to Lovecraft – a story of uncanny atmosphere, eldritch terror and an elder god.

The TV series does not loose that primary focus – it is a tale of madness and a mind shattering terror in the form of an elder god (the worm) – but because it is connected to Salem’s Lot, and features the original settlement, an abandoned mining town called Jerusalem’s Lot, the filmmakers decided they would have to throw in a whole bunch of vampires. It also helped expand the plot as it needed to fill ten episodes.

Adrien Brody as Boone

We prologue with whaling Captain Charles Boone's (Adrien Brody) childhood, and his father’s attempt (in his madness) to murder Charles to spare him from the worms. Boone became Captain of a whaling ship and, in the course of their voyages, met and fell in love with a Polynesian woman, Maya (Lily Gao, Rabid), who he married and had three children with – Honor (Jennifer Ens), Loa (Sirena Gulamgaus) and Tane (Ian Ho). We meet them as Maya dies – but before she does she reminds Charles of his inheritance of Chapelwaite, a house on his estranged family’s side, and encourages him to take the children there to live.

Stephen hung

Reaching the house, he discovers there has been some vandalism as the Boone’s are less than popular in the nearby town. Known to be odd, his cousin Stephen (Steven McCarthy, the Strain) hung himself in the cellar with his daughter Marcella (Acadia Colan) dead at his feet and subsequently Stephen’s father, Philip (Julian Richings, Forever Knight, the Red Violin, the Last Sect, Lost Girl, Hemlock Grove & Blood Hunters), walked into the sea and has not been seen again. However, there is a wasting sickness in town and the Boone’s are blamed for it. When Charles tries to integrate, both his family name and the fact that the children are mixed race causes the town to (sometimes vehemently and even violently) reject him.

Christopher Heyerdahl as Jakub

There are a couple of exceptions – primarily Rebecca Morgan (Emily Hampshire), who offers to become a Governess for the children but she has an ulterior motive. She has been offered a writing contract for a publication and intends to write their story, without their knowledge. As things progress Charles starts to have horrific visions and can hear rats in the walls of the house (though an exterminator says there are none). As the series progresses, we discover that a vampire, Jakub (Christopher Heyerdahl), and his disciples (both vampire and mortal), has taken residence in Salem’s Lot and is looking for a book entitled Vermis Mysteriis. This book is the key that will summon an elder god and plunge the world (universe?) into darkness. Charles is key to finding the book as his family is tied to it and it sends them mad. Stephen and Philip are not gone, however, but are vampires also, after the book for their own ends and really are the cause of the wasting disease in town.

vampire in the sun

As for the vampires, they follow standard rules – crosses ward them, sunlight burns them (and kills them after a few moments of exposure) and they cast no reflection. The heroes have to discover what kills them by trial and error – Charles puts a whaling harpoon through the stomach of one and is nonplussed when it continues to fight, but soon discovers that decapitation will bring true death to the vampire. It is late on when they discover that piercing the heart works. Turning is caused by drinking their blood and it is intimated that, once imbibed, death will bring on the change, no matter how long since drinking.


The performances are strong. Adrien Brody runs an absolute line in stoicism for the most part, with explosive emotions as his handle on sanity slips, however his low intoned dialogue makes him an odd central hero. That’s not to say it didn’t work but it is not dynamic. This, however, fits with the mist shrouded, Gothic atmosphere that the series generates. Likewise, Emily Hampshire’s performance is good but her vacillation between a dependent woman and an independent (rather too modern) woman felt a tad odd and was entirely a direction/script issue. The biggest issue was that 10 episodes felt too long – this should have been shorter in running length. However in the last couple of episodes the pace noticeably picks up… to a point, at least, and had they ended halfway through the last episode the series would have been no weaker for it. The second half was almost unnecessary and whilst there was a very clever aspect that I won’t spoil, there was also an unsatisfying aspect, which made a little less sense.

That said, the atmosphere really made this one work. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK