Saturday, August 06, 2022

Vamp or Not? The Nameless Days

The Nameless Days is a 2022 film directed by Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon and centres around the Aztec figure of the cihuateteo – though the film doesn’t say as much (only mentioning cihuateteo) the monster is named in credits as Coaxoch (Ambyr Mishelle).

Now, the cihuateteo does appear in Bane’s Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology, which tells us it is “A type of vampiric, demonic demigoddess of the Aztec people of ancient Mexico, a cihuateteo is created when a mother dies in childbirth or a child is a stillborn.” The vampiric aspect is described as “Although cihuateteo will feed off lone travelers who they happen upon as they fly on their brooms through the jungle, they prefer the blood of infants.

Alejandro Akara as Rahui

Of course, things in film do not necessarily conform to Bane's description of the myth. This begins on the Mexico/Texas border with traffickers looking to get people across. There is a small tunnel and they send a young boy through first, who comes out the other end fine. An armed man follows and they hear gunfire from the tunnel then the man re-emerges, holding his bleeding stomach. Something we do not see appears before the group and everyone scatters including Rahui (Alejandro Akara) and his heavily pregnant sister Gabriella (Ashley Marian Ramos).

Nicole and Charlie

Nicole (Ally Ioannides) is on her morning run, along the border, though she’ll deny where she ran later when she speaks to her dad, Charlie (Charles Halford, Constantine, Evil Angel & The First Vampire: Don't Fall for the Devil's Illusions). She stops by her friend’s house and talks to Caitlin (Ali Kinkade). She says that her uncle (estranged from Charlie) has said he can get her into the same private school that her cousins are in and will pay the tuition – they have a top-notch athletics department. Caitlin suggests she must go.

the idol

Charlie’s truck has broken down and his friend Wade (Trey Warner) reckons it’s the alternator. Nicole gets home and is sent to feed the animals – she finds blood and feather from one of the chickens, enters a shed and calls her dad. The remains of a makeshift camp is in the shed, including the (absent) immigrant’s bag. In it they find a stone idol – Wade later discovers it is a cihuateteo, carried to ward the demon off. Meanwhile, Rahui has left Gabriella in some ruins as he tries to lead federales off. We next see him as he breaks into Charlie and Nicole’s house. He runs off when caught and Charlie follows, finding the federales disembowelled.

the cihuateteo

The inevitable meeting, again, of Rahui and Nicole leads to her helping him find his sister and then trying to save the new baby from the cihuateteo. So, what we get for lore is that – as per Bane – the cihuateteo is created by a woman who dies in childbirth. This othering of a woman who has ‘failed’ in her feminine role is the misogynistic background for vampiric creatures such as the kuntilanak. This othering also underpins the Lilith myth (who becomes a devourer of children) and can be seen in Dracula with both the vampire women and the baby, and the hunting of children by Lucy once turned. The cihuateteo can return on 5 days unnamed in the Aztec calendar. She has a habit of disembowelling anyone she comes across (male or female) but is after Gabriella’s baby in particular. We do not necessarily see her feed and the film seemed to intimate that she wants to take the child as her own rather than feed on it

turning to dust

What Wade discovers is she cannot be killed and the only solution is to run, hide and stay away from her until the five days pass. This is put down to it being impossible to kill the dead and her face is skull-like when we see it. I have to touch on (and spoil) the ending at this point as we see her as day breaks and she starts to ‘dust’. As I watched the film I took it that was because the sun had dawned on a named day and her five days were up. However, looking at Bane again we get that they keep “to the dark places, as they were susceptible to sunlight; long- term exposure to it will destroy them.” In fairness this isn’t long-term exposure (it’s fairly short order), nevertheless it can be read as being destroyed by the sun.

Ally Ioannides as Nicole

I rather enjoyed this for what it was, though I have seen reviews that disliked the concentration on Charlie and Nicole, but I thought that worked. I saw one reviewer suggest Charlie was a no-good parent but everything indicated that, whilst he could and would get drunk, he had been a good father to Nicole – taking on full parenting after her mother ran out on them. This actually makes Charlie a mother figure in a film where the creature represents an othering of ‘failed’ mothers and you can also read the immigration aspect as being akin to bad motherhood – with aggressive border controlling being a failure to nurture. As for the ‘Vamp or Not?’ The creature is certainly listed in Bane and in the baseline myth seems to be vampiric. The dusting in sunlight feels vamp (if you read it that way) and the female vampire being anti-mother (notwithstanding the intimation within the text that she wants to be the mother of the new-born) is a trope within the vampire megatext. On the other hand, we don’t see feeding, just killing. This certainly uses tropes and I am tempted to go vamp with it given the myth it rests on.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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