Sunday, July 17, 2022

Vampir – review

Director: Branko Tomovic

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

Very much a folk horror vibe with this low budget exploration of the vampire, and rightly so as writer/director/star Branko Tomovic wanted to explore the folklore as came out of Serbia. What that essentially left us with was a film that relied more on atmosphere than narrative – though the lack of express narrative is absolutely deliberate and builds into that atmosphere. It has the languid pace, perhaps, that is not uncommon with some folk horror and I suspect that how much a viewer will get out of the film will depend upon how much they like such pace.

walking in to the village

It starts with a view from inside a car as it passes through the Serbian countryside. As it pulls up, we realise it is a taxi. The driver (Dusan Jovic) addresses the passenger Arnaut (Branko Tomovic) but Arnaut does not speak Serbian and the driver makes no attempt at English. However, he does make it clear that he expects being paid and Arnaut to depart the cab. Evidently the driver will go no further and this is, of course, a genre trope we are familiar with.

Gorica Regodic as Vesna

Arnaut walks to his destination where realtor/broker Vesna (Gorica Regodic) awaits him. She speaks English and shows him round the house that is to be his home. As the conversation goes on we discover that he is of Serbian descent but grew up in Germany, where his parents had emigrated to and he had lived in London for some time. The blurb on the IMDb page suggests he witnessed a crime in London and has chosen to move away.

taken for the tour

He is then taken out the back of the house and shown the adjacent graveyard. This is to be the site of his new job – custodian of the graveyard. The locals like to put out offerings to the dead and gypsies have, in the past, stolen the offerings and this has escalated to grave robbing. He is to make his presence known a couple of times a day, to put the thieves off desecrating the graves. The graveyard itself, crowded and overgrown, adds a whole layer to the atmosphere.


Vesna leaves, having told him there are provisions but he finds very little and so walks into the village and goes to what looks like a café of some sort. However, he is told that there is no food and so he orders a beer. The waiter brings him a glass of red wine (as others there are drinking) and he watches a traditional dance. When it finishes the lights go off, the patrons leave and the place is closed.


The film develops by deliberately building an uncanny atmosphere. For instance, he finds a book (in Serbian) which manages to launch itself on the floor and, inside it, he finds a series of photographic portraits but the subjects’ eyes are scratched out (later Vesna comes searching for the book). On the second day he goes into the village and buys (in an ill-stocked shop) eggs, bread and meat. He eats part of the bread going home and it seems fine but, once home, when he cracks two eggs both have large amounts of blood in them and then he sees that the bread is utterly mouldy and the meat in the fridge is rotting and crawling with maggots – all within moments of getting home.

village women

At night things become more disturbing – at one point he awakens to find an old woman (Eva Ras) forcing her stick in his mouth and then bleeding from her mouth into his and, on another evening, she actively tortures him – and yet her smile suggests there is a reason for her attacks. The only English speaker he meets is the priest (Joakim Tasic) who admits that his church is not well attended and might not be the friendly ally he appears to be. The language barrier that Arnaut faces is also faced by the viewer as none of the Serbian is subtitled and this helps generate the paranoid atmosphere underlying the film. Sometime we only have Arnaut’s reaction to rely on – with us not seeing what he evidently sees.

the bite

There is a vampiric attack in this, as the film moves to its climax, but for the most part it is an exercise in atmosphere, be that generated visually through the village/graveyard, through the odd villagers (for instance the three young village women who stare at him at one point), through the odder incidents and in his paranoid reactions as everything builds. Arnaut is left out of touch with the outside world (there is no mobile reception in the village and no means for him to get to the next village). But through this there is no great narrative story and that might put some viewers off, the languid pace might also. If you can enjoy that in a film then this is an interesting folk horror film. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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