Suck (2009) DVD Review

suckSuck (2009)

Directed by Rob Stefaniuk

Starring Rob Stefaniuk, Jessica Pare, Paul Anthony, Malcolm McDowell, Henry Rollins, Moby, Dimitri Coats, Dave Foley and Alice Cooper.

SUCK is out now in the UK on DVD from Fabulous Films!

Suck follows a rock band called the Winners, consisting of vocalist Joey Winner (Stefaniuk), bassist Jennifer (Jessica Paré), guitarist Tyler (Paul Anthony), drummer Sam (Mike Lobel), and French-Canadian roadie Hugo (Chris Ratz), along with their creepy manager Jeff (Dave Foley). As they tour across Canada and the USA Jennifer is turned into a vampire by Queeny (Dimitri Coats). A vampire hunter (who is afraid of the dark) named Eddie Van Helsing (McDowell) chases them down.

While on tour, one by one the band are turned into vampires. The band grows in popularity but Joey is losing interest in the vampire lifestyle. Joey tells Jennifer that they can become human again but they will need to kill Queeny. As they tour the country looking for Queeny the meet a number of freaks along the way.

Over the years there have been many versions of the blood sucking demon, some are classics like Nosferatu in 1922 right up to the modern day and Edward Cullen in the much derided Twilight. However you look at the way they have been portrayed most have had a new slant attached to them. Nosferatu with the long fingernails or Edward and being sparkly (Stop laughing at the back!). Suck, directed by Stefaniuk, of ‘Phil The Alien’ and the upcoming ‘Anxietyville’ decides to hit the middle ground and go for a more middle of the road vampire which could quite easily be pulled off with a decent budget at your next Halloween party.

suck1Often with low budget horror you have to be spot on with tone. You could potentially get away with a bad cast or script but if tone is not focussed, you will lose the audience. Suck hits it’s tone on the head early and continually gets it right. Focussing somewhere between The Rocky Horror Show and Idle Hands, both classic films. The tone is not too light to not make it scary and its not too dark and gory so you can enjoy it which ever way you like your horror films.

As the main cast are in a band, and sing original songs, another aspect of Suck that is well done is the music. If the songs weren’t catchy, this would drag you straight out of the film, but the music is played dead straight and I could quite easily have the songs on my headphones. In fact, the moment the film finished I checked on iTunes and the soundtrack is actually on there. Money well spent I say.

The main cast, mostly all Canadian actors work well with the material especially the main female Jennifer, played by Jessica Pare of Mad Men and Hot Tub Time Machine, having to play meek and innocent to start and be overly sexual once transformed into a vampire.

Being a metalhead for many years the film has a real kick in it with the various cameos from musicians. Alice Cooper plays an all powerful demon (with wings!), Henry Rollins a Radio DJ (playing well off his spoken word persona he now carries) and Alex Lifeson from Rush. The best of all the cameo s lies with Moby, I wont spoil who he plays but its played for laughs, Moby is clearly game, and runs with the role.

suck2Being a stalwart of the genre Malcolm McDowell plays a vampire hunter called Eddie Van Helsing, what a great name, and he is afraid of the dark. To me McDowell comes across as quite the serious actor, but in this semi-comedic role he plays against type and has fun. When I first heard of this film, I had trepidations. Was this film going to make fun of the two things I enjoy most, heavy metal music and horror, or was it going to enjoy the trappings of both and put a new spin on it? With the way the director shoots the film, the music and the acting I can safely say I was surprised by how great Suck is. I’d highly recommend it, and only wish it was slightly longer.

8/10

Blood Ransom (2014) Review

bloodramson1Blood Ransom 2014

Director: Francis dela Torre

Starring: Anne Curtis, Alexander Dreymon, Jamie Harris, Dion Basco, Caleb Hunt

Running Time  – 101 Minutes

“You kill us in the throat.”

Crystal (Curtis) is a goth stripper on the verge of turning into a vampire. She has seven days to kill a human with a special dagger or, if she changes her mind, have someone kill her with the same dagger. Then she’s kidnapped but rescued by the driver Jeremiah (Dreymon) who she has feelings for. A hitman, a super freaking cool hit man named Bill (Harris) is dispatched by vampire Roman (Hunt) to kill them? Not kill them? Kill the kidnappers? Let’s just say a lot of disjointed stuff happens. All the while the whole movie is being voiced over by Jeremiah’s childhood friend and police officer Oliver (Basco). Painfully, ponderously, voiced over. Oh and Blood Ransom is set in West Covina, which it will remind you of often.

First the good. The film is well acted, well shot and well directed. It was lovely to look at and the casting was diverse. With only one or two outstanding exceptions all the actors were excellent. There are interesting costumes, like Crystal’s goth stripper get-up. The special effects are minimal but look great. The vampires go all black-veins when hungry and the filmmakers used it well. Fun characters abound, from delightfully strange hitman Bill to the Tom Hiddleston look-a-like vampire Roman and Oliver’s cowboy partner played by Clifton Powell. Plus the movie introduces a really unique vampire mythos all its own. And of course VAMPIRES. I love vampires. And I wanted, desperately, to love Blood Ransom.

Blood Ransom 2But what actually happened when watching of Blood Ransom was this:

Phase 1) This is going to be terrible. It’s always dubious when a movie opens with scrolling text explaining the entire plot in advance.

Phase 2) This is going to be awesome! A pretty vampire, a kidnapping gone wrong, and the best hitman since, well OK he’s not John Wick, but dammit, Bill is great and needed to be in his own movie.

Phase 3) When will this be over?

After the first twenty minutes the pacing goes off the rails and slows to an imperceptible crawl as Crystal and Jeremiah go on the run. Oliver’s voiceover continually breaks in for long and morose monologues about his father’s encounter with vampires and the nature of life/fate/God. Roman is barely in it. Oliver adds nothing to the movie. He is supposed to be investigating a murder in a bar and hides the fact that the victims are acquaintances of his. He is covering for Jeremiah all the while trying to find him. But Oliver doesn’t. He’s five steps behind the plot at all times and his voiceover drones on continually.

After a certain point everything stops making sense. Events get sloppy, transitions are sudden, it feels like things happen just to get characters to particular locations. The film also suffers a major identity crisis. It starts off as a supernatural crime drama, wanders off into romance, then ponders the major philosophical issues of our day before wandering back into action movie territory.

Blood-Ransom 1I would ALMOST recommend Blood Ransom to die-hard vampire fans. They might be able to struggle through. The problem is I AM a die-hard vampire fan and I barely made it. Someone out there is bound to like it though. So give at least the first half hour a shot if you really, really, really, like vampires. And did I mention hitman Bill?

Kudos for: The existentialist dread and hit man Bill.

Final lesson: Under the right circumstances you can bring a knife to gun fight.

4/10

Blood Ransom is currently being handled by Devilworks and you can get more info on Blood Ransom by visiting their website here – http://devilworks.eu/projects/blood-ransom-101-min/

Stu Smith’s FILMS OF 2014

Stu Smith’s FILMS OF 2014

2014 has been a bit of a mixed year for horror. Slow to start and producing some absolute howlers along the way, the genre has taken a bit of a battering both critically and at the box office this year. However, as the year went on some genuine gems started to emerge from all corners of the globe proving once more that the genre is alive and kicking.

As is so often the case, life can get in the way of it all sometimes and as such there are still plenty of films such as the highly regarded ‘The Babadook’ that I have yet to see, but for now this is my list of films that I feel were more than worth the time in 2014.

tusk (1)TUSK
Dir: Kevin Smith
A late entry to the list, Tusk proved to be a thought provoking and memorable film from Kevin Smith. Whilst it isn’t entirely successful in its attempts to gel the serious horror aspects to more recognisable comedy beats it is a very unique film that pushes its unusual concept to its limit. The story of an internet blogger (Justin Long) who becomes the unwitting victim of a crazed old man (Michael Parks) determined to turn him into a Walrus it’s a divisive oddity and, Like Smith’s previous foray into horror, Red State (2011) it has been greeted with some scepticism and trepidation with not everyone convinced. There are also those who will say that Smith may be biting the hand that feeds with his extremely acidic critiquing of the internet age and the blogging community in particular. However, despite the sub plots not quite meshing, a sterling performance from Parks and a bold one from Long add credibility to the films bizarre central idea and the film is never less than compelling. Johnny Depp even manages to show up in an extended cameo as a crazy Canadian cop. It may not be Kevin Smith’s masterpiece, but it suggests that he is on the verge of creating something truly crazy and special.

wk2WOLF CREEK 2
Dir: Greg McLean
This belated follow up to 2005’s unnerving and rather brilliant Wolf Creek proved to be just as good as its predecessor, even if it trod a tonally different path. Placing John Jarett’s sneering Mick Taylor at the centre of proceedings from the very start, Wolf Creek 2 jettisons the originals slow burning sense of dread in favour of some dirty, adrenalin infused thrills. Where- as Wolf Creek was a sun burned outback Texas Chainsaw, number 2 takes its cue from The Hitcher and plays a bit like a serial killer’s vision of Mad Max. The first half is more action film than horror featuring big car chases and daring escape attempts as Mick stalks his prey on the open road. Once the film arrives at Taylor’s lair however, things become darker and far more sinister as the true extent of his depravity begins to unfold. Fun and utterly fucked up this deserved far more than a quiet small screen release. Warning: Kangaroo lovers may want to avoid this one as it doesn’t end well for Skippy!

boderTHE BORDERLANDS
Dir: Elliot Goldner
Found footage doesn’t have the greatest of reputations. Thanks largely to the fact that ever since The Blair Witch Project proved you could turn an easy profit with minimal outlay every hack trying to push their foot in the door has used it as a cheap gimmick. However, when it’s done right it can be a truly unnerving and affecting experience, and The Borderlands nails it. The story of a Vatican investigation into a potential miracle at a small British church it is a slow burning tale of religious uncertainty mixed with devilish overtones. The Borderlands is a creepy experience that favours character depth and genuine dread over cheap scares. Its unnerving atmosphere and violent undercurrents build to a genuinely surprising conclusion that will divide opinion, but this is top drawer stuff and shows that you can make this format a success if you understand what drama and horror is all about.

rose1WANDERING ROSE
Dir: Corrie Greenop
This low budget, Scotland set chiller was a real surprise. A carefully, and lovingly made little film it follows the crumbling relationship of a young couple as they visit the Highlands to patch up their relationship. Surreal, unnerving and beautiful it captures the strangely evocative and supernatural atmosphere that Scotland seems to possess, and makes its wide open spaces feel strangely claustrophobic as the characters begin to put together the distressing truth. Brilliant performances and a well -constructed economic script make this far more than the sum of its parts. It is sometimes a little reliant on its scenery to pad out the running time, and it won’t appeal to those looking for quick, visceral thrills but this is a promising debut from Greenop and suggests that he may be a talent to watch.

hboundHOUSEBOUND
Dir: Gerard Johnstone
Housebound is the first of two films from New Zealand on this list and proves that Peter Jackson isn’t the only one with a good eye for mixing up horror and comedy. A witty mix of family comedy and horror hi-jinks it turns the haunted house movie on its head and has a lot of fun with its story managing to be unpredictable, suspenseful and laugh out loud funny at times. It follows Kylie, a teen delinquent who is placed under house arrest with her mother and stepfather. Unamused at being forced back to the family home she soon comes to question her sanity as things begin to go bump in the night. The films wonderfully sarcastic sense of humour along with some brilliant twists and turns make this a fantastic fun- house of a movie. It plays with convention and delights in pulling the rug from under the audience just as you think you have it all worked out.

purgeTHE PURGE: ANARCHY
Dir: James Demonaco
The first Purge movie met with mixed opinion but made a lot of money meaning that this sequel was inevitable. I for one thought the original was okay. No masterpiece certainly, and it rather criminally failed to capitalise on its unique concept, but it worked reasonably well as a home invasion thriller and had some genuinely creepy villains. The Purge: Anarchy moves the action outside and follows a group of people stranded outdoors during the annual purge. Delving deeper into the social implications and the adding a neat sub plot about an anti-purge movement this is more action packed, more interesting and much more fun than the first Purge. Taking its inspiration from Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979) and John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1980) this is a solid B-movie action flick with just enough to say to raise it above the average. It still isn’t quite the ultimate Purge film people seem to be waiting for, but is an exciting and brutal popcorn thriller that I am more than happy to recommend.

GODZGODZILLA
Dir: Gareth Edwards
Gareth Edwards Godzilla met with a lot of disappointment on its release, and there is no escaping that Godzilla is a supporting player in his own movie. But whilst its plotting was sometimes weak, and its ‘human’ stories lacking the film possessed a poetic visual edge and some fantastic set pieces that set it miles apart from most blockbusters. He may not have the screen time we were all hoping for, but whenever this Godzilla is on screen its presence is electric. Like Edwards firs movie, the brilliant Monsters (2010), this one deals with humanities xenophobic nature and its dangerous reliance on things it cannot control. The film doesn’t always successfully balance this with the pressures of playing to a multiplex audience, and is hindered by rather flat human characterisation. But Godzilla and the gigantic MUTO’s make for strangely graceful creatures and whenever they are on screen the film rises up and stands monstrously proud, and Edwards has still created a unique summer movie with a visual verve missing from so many.

ed1 (1)THE EDITOR
Dir: Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy
This homage to classic Giallo thrillers of the 1970’s and 1980’s took me by surprise. The opening film at Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams festival it turned out to be a deranged, riotous yet lovingly crafted film that captured the essence of its influences whilst gleefully sending them all up. The story of Rey (Adam Brooks) a film Editor put in the frame for murder it plays havoc with its own conventions and pokes fun at its own absurdities with a demented relish. Using deliberate technical tricks like bad dubbing, it is likely to confuse those uninitiated in the ways of the giallo’ but for those who know and love the films of Bava, Argento, and Fulci this is full of smart references and homages. It may work for everyone but The Editor is wholly unafraid to go to some very crazy places and is a match for almost any horror comedy released in the last few years.

guestTHE GUEST
Dir: Adam Wingard
Following up You’re Next was never going to be easy, but Wingard and his writer Simon Barrett meet the challenge head on here. The Guest is a tension packed horror/action hybrid that is more than a match for their previous film and stands as one of the very best of the year. When Dan Steven’s Afghanistan veteran turns up at the Peterson home claiming to be a friend of their deceased son, he is welcomed in and seems to be an antidote to the family’s grief. But people soon begin to turn up dead and the sinister guest begins to reveal himself as something far more than meets the eye. Tense, funny and at times ruthlessly violent The Guest is a throwback to paranoid post war thrillers and has a strange 80’s style edge, but mixes it up with a modern sensibility and a visceral eye. Like You’re Next did before it, it takes conventions and turns them around making the film fun and unpredictable. It also proves that Adam Wingard is as deft at delivering high octane action as he is at delivering scares and chills.

wwdits (1)WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Dir: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
When I first read the synopsis for this I nearly skipped it. Another vampire film, and a faux documentary to boot, I just wasn’t interested. Never have I been so wrong, and so glad that I took a chance on a film as I am with this absolutely wonderful piece of incisive horror comedy. From the very first few minutes this is a likeable, smart and side-splittingly funny film about what it is like to be a vampire in the modern world. The second film from New Zealand on the list it proves again that the Kiwis seem to have an incredible wit and humour that isn’t confined to the work of Peter Jackson. Following a group of flat sharing Vampires as they deal with the difficulties and dilemmas of being hundreds of years old in an ever changing world, it captures the fish out of water weirdness of the situation whilst making it all seem strangely normal. Filled with lots of smart observations about Vampire mythology and its place in popular culture, What We Do In The Shadows is an absolute treat for genre fans and I have absolutely no hesitation in declaring it my favourite film of 2014. Its limited theatrical release in the UK means that many people have yet to enjoy this brilliant little flick, but I guarantee that once it lands on disc and VOD it will gather momentum and quickly develop the cult following it deserves.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
The year produced a handful of other films worth a look, and a couple of reissues that stood out for various reasons. The Mirror proved to be another successful found footage film managing to be both frightening and compelling; it missed out on the final list by the smallest of margins. Spanish Exorcism chiller was not quite The Exorcist (what is?) but had enough going for it to warrant a mention. Well- paced and well -acted it was a classy little film with a neat sting in its tale, revelling in its demonic themes and undercurrents. Claire (originally titled Kuru) is a very effective micro budget Brit-chiller that drew favourable comparisons with the work of David Lynch. Both creepily unnerving and emotionally affecting it was also a strong contender for the main list. Away from horror the blockbuster season threw up the unexpectedly good Guardians of The Galaxy and the intelligent yet exciting sequel Dawn of The Planet of The Apes. Along with Godzilla these both proved that blockbusters don’t have to be stupid to be entertaining and effective.

Clive Barker also had a good year as his Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut finally made it onto Blu-ray, and his underrated and under seen Lord of Illusions also took its high definition bow. The director’s cut of Nightbreed has been almost 25 years in the making and didn’t come without a little controversy. European fans were irked that the release was region A locked, but frankly people should be grateful that this has seen the light of day at all. America’s Scream factory have done a sterling job and the film looks great. As for the cut itself it differs from the Cabal Cut that did the festival run and is Barker’s definitive vision for the film. Adding depth to the central relationships, and returning to the original notion that Midian’s monsters are the heroes it is the film fans have been waiting so long to see. After a poor UK Blu-ray release from 101 films earlier in the year Barker’s final directorial effort was given a proper release once again from Scream Factory. Another brilliant release it offers a chance to rediscover a film that deserves more credit than it has received. Capturing the dark whimsical feeling of Barker’s books and stories and featuring his recurring character Harry D’Amour it is an underrated and intelligent work from one of dark fiction’s most unique voices.

QUIETTHE NOT SO GOOD
2014 produced a few howlers that failed for various reasons to make the grade. Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil was an absolute bore that failed to capitalise on a brilliant central idea. Dull and plodding, it goes nowhere slowly. Johnny Depp popped up in Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence, a visually slick but painfully uninteresting film that basically replayed the plot of Brett Leonard’s Lawnmower Man with added pretension. The ABC’s of Death 2 should hopefully be the nail in the coffin for these odd and uneven short film showcases. With very little of interest in its 2 hour run time this is one for die-hard fans of the first film only. I Frankenstein was until very recently the worst of the year. A big budget and confused waste of time, it doesn’t even muster the camp entertainment value of the equally maligned Van Helsing. It takes itself unforgivably seriously and manages to feel incredibly long despite a relatively lean 90 minute run time. But as much as I disliked I Frankenstein it was pipped at the post by Hammer films utterly depressing The Quiet Ones. With The Woman In Black (2012) the new Hammer seemed to have finally rediscovered its stride and was on track for a return to former glories. However, with The Quiet Ones a dramatic step backwards is taken. Mixing found footage with standard third person story telling the film is uneven, unexciting, and at times downright frustrating. It is not often that films annoy me as much as this one did, but it genuinely felt like time I would never get back. So here’s hoping that The Woman In Black 2 gets the studio back on the right track as we enter 2015.

Dario Argento’s Dracula (2012) DVD Review

DRACULA 001Dario Argento’s DRACULA (2012) DVD

Directed By: Dario Argento

Written By: Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Antonio Tentori

Starring: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Rutger Hauer

UK Certification: 18

RRP: £12.99

Running Time: 105 minutes

Distributor: Spirit Entertainment

UK Release Date: 29th September 2014

Mentioning Dario Argento’s output in the 21st century elicits a kind of gnarly reaction of repulsion that you’d expect if you told someone you just defecated on their lawn. Leaving the overlooked Sleepless (2001) out of the equation, Argento’s quartet of misfires that took in The Card Player (2004), Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005), Mother of Tears (2007) and Giallo (2009) are quite a saddening fall from his peak for the man that is undoubtedly the master of Italian genre cinema – just slightly ahead of Bava and a short length in front of Fulci.

It’s a weary heart that sees me rip the shrink-wrap off his latest directorial outing – Dracula. Taking two years to find a home in the UK home entertainment market, it’s taking its bow with a very muffled fanfare. Indeed, an absence of press awareness was picked up on over the various social media forums coupled with Crazy Ralph-esque warnings from those that have seen it. It couldn’t be that bad could it? Argento? The man who gave us Profondo Rosso (1975) and Suspiria (1977)! No, it was much much worse…

BiellaArgento’s Dracula announces itself in an inauspicious manner as we’re faced with a dimly lit CGI laden tracking shot that transports us into Transylvania where we’re introduced to Tania (Miriam Giovanelli), who is about to head for a salacious tryst with her lover Milos (Christian Burruano). As Tania makes her way home from her rendezvous she discovers she is the prey of a sinister shadowy figure, and despite her best efforts to get to safety she’s caught and brutally murdered.

Meanwhile, in another part of the village, Jonathan Harker arrives at the behest of Count Dracula to engage in some employment for the local nobleman. Arriving at Dracula’s castle, he’s welcomed in by none other than Tania who seems to be displaying little of the side effects usually associated with being dead. Harker’s arrival certainly ignites a raw passion in her, and we’re left under no illusion that her new found obsession will struggle to fend off her advances. On hand to interject for now is the brooding figure of Count Dracula, but as Harker records in his diary that evening – there is a sinister air to this Transylvanian locale.

With a clunker such as this, I often find myself trying desperately to eke out a few redeeming features in order to offer some hope for the more hardened genre lover amongst us. Here though, it’s a desperate situation as there are precious few positives in what must surely be the nadir of Argento’s illustrious career. The most pervading annoyance is simply the cheap artificiality of the whole feature – from the opening, to the CGI train station, to the transformations, to the 3D obsessed moments of distraction. With this in mind it’s hard for the film to create an air of quality as this aspect stains the vibe of the picture and prevents it from establishing any real Argento-esque credibility.

DRACULA 003Dracula’s international cast do the film few favours either, with at times a very staccato – almost phonetic delivery “it felt like a nightmare. But I was not asleep” and so forth. Indeed there are moments when you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally loaded Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead & Loving It (1995) into your DVD player such are the caricatures that litter the movie. The thing is, the ingredients were there – with long time cohorts Claudio Simonetti, Luciano Tovoli and Sergio Stivaletti casting their eyes over the music, cinematography and SFX respectively, things shouldn’t really seem as desperate as they appear.

Maybe as a generic half a million dollar budgeted Bulgarian lensed production with a peppering of b-listers, the cause to be so critical may not have been so overwhelming. This though, with its budget ten times that and shot in Italy should demand a higher level of production value. Most importantly – it’s a Dario Argento movie, and even as the Italian master enters his 75th year, the task of critically assassinating another of his features gets no easier, and hopefully for all our sakes the notion of another new Argento movie never materialises.

2 out of 10

Extras:
Theatrical Trailer

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #8 – Avia Vampire Hunter (2005) by Andy Deen

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #8:

The Agony of AVIA – VAMPIRE HUNTER (2005)

avia1It’s Boss-zilla Andy Deen’s turn to drop a vom-bomb over a movie he hates. Step up Leon Hunter’s blood sucking howler Avia: you’re in for a roasting…

When I was first approached about doing this Ecstasy & Agony thing, I did think about ranting about a few films I abhor such as… No, let’s not go there. Anyway, I mulled over all the films I hate and decided I’d go with the worst film I have ever seen. The key word is ‘Agony’ after all, so ladies and gentlemen I give you Avia – Vampire Hunter (2005).

I first came across Avia through an online group where we discussed the joys of low budget horror. A few of the members used to screen films online too which meant we could all watch along at the same time and comment whilst viewing. We had the joys of rubbish like Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), HobGoblins (1988) , Zombeak (2006) and many more. The film that really stuck out though was Avia.

Avia starts with something I have never seen before and that is a trailer for itself. Yes, before the film starts we are treated to a trailer for the film we are about to see! Anyway onwards as two cops are examining a murder scene in the woods , when Avia [Allison Valentino] arrives and shows her hand made badge proving that she is secret service military. So she joins the two detectives as they try and find the killer. They track a man to a house where they discover a vampire in the attic, but luckily Avia is now carrying a 4 foot samurai sword and dispatches said vampire with chilling ease. Next and without any reason, Avia [Allison Valentino] and Detective Guy [Rodney ‘Jamal’ Jackson] move in together, leading to probably the worst sex scene in cinema history as they lie on the bed and ‘love’ each other whilst both being completely fully clothed. You can really feel the passion as Guy caresses Avia’s breasts through her white t-shirt and bra. Cut thirty minutes and some inspiring dream sequences and Guy finds out Avia used to be in a mental and is possibly just a nutter who is wanted for murder.

I don’t really need to go into anymore details about the plot because it doesn’t matter; you won’t be focusing on any part of the strained storyline, with the possible exception of the MAJOR TWIST at the end. Anyway, so what is my problem with Avia? Well, let me start…

avia2Montages. Avia is full of montages – they are everywhere! We have a Samurai practice montage where as Avia trains alone in the woods, swinging her sword to an accompanying sound of metal on metal. But wait… She is just slicing thin air!? There’s mental institution montage, the boat montage, the walking through the forest and up and down steps montage and lets not forget the shadow boxing in the backyard montage. And they’re all as horrendous as the last.

Avia is full of the use of multi camera angles to add dramatic effect; in the first scene alone we’re treat to about twelve different shots of her face as Avia kills the vampire.
The music is totally inappropriate too and is basically made up of fast funky beats, mainly played as Avia walks through the woods doing fuck all (about forty-five minutes of footage then). The only change in the soundtrack is when Rodney ‘Jamal’ Jackson gets a song of his played in the background; it truly is a rapper’s delight…

It’s Jackson who is the definite star of the film. He’s a great, bucktoothed Wesley Snipes wannabe and comes out with one-liners that are never truly meant. So cool is he in fact, Avia’s makers actually spell his name wrong in the opening credits.

The vampires that Avia encounters in the woods are probably as bad a job at making vampires as I have ever seen. They have what looks like breadsticks for fingers, badly fitting wigs and a piece of cloth over their eyes, which is probably used to keep the wigs on. But this is nothing compared to the head vampire who is a guy in a mask, and no-one could even be bothered to put any make-up from his neck down.

It’s this kind of attention to detail that is non-existent. In one scene, Avia is fighting and her top changes colour. On more than one occasion, the films sound is so appalling that the actor closest to camera is deafeningly loud yet the one further back in the frame are painfully quiet; they have to shout to be heard! Aforementioned fully clothed sex scene aside, the films highlight is when Avia is in full ninja gear and carrying a samurai sword and manages to hail a cab, which then takes her to a vampires house. There’s no questions asked or even an eyebrow raised.

photo (60)

A thumbs down and a piece of paper saying *wank* sums up my feelings to this film !!

Avia Vampire Hunter is truly a horrible film. It runs for ninety minutes that, after you’ve removed the endless montages, dream sequences and general forest meanderings, is actually only twenty minutes of real fucking film. Even that is too long! When I decided to watch it again for this article I made the wife sit with me. I was howling through various scenes; I mean even in the first minute when the cops are examining the body you can see Rodney ‘Jamal’ Jackson struggling to put on his latex gloves . But the wife walked out after less than an hour saying “this really is the worst film I have ever seen”, and I really must agree with her. It is agony to watch but – and this is a big BUT – I’ve perversely begun to enjoy it after my multiple re-viewings.

It’s a laugh, and a groaner and moaner; if you’re in the mood for that, you should track Avia down (no easy feat). Watch it with a few friends and beers and marvel at how one person (yes, you, director Leon Hunter) can completely fuck up everything – and I do mean everything – when it comes to making a film.

*****

Read all the previous Ecstasy & Agony pieces by clicking them:

#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

#4 A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

#5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead (1985) by Dave Wain

#6 Cabin In The Woods (2012) by Joey Keogh

#7 Battle Royale (2000) by Mark Pidgeon 

Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) BFI BluRay Review

ntv1Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) – Limited Edition Steelbook (BluRay)

Released by BFI on May 19th 2014.

Director – Werner Herzog

Starring – Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz.

 

The story of Dracula has been told a thousand times before on the silver screen, the characters lasting appeal is evident in the luscious and romanticised interpretations presented across generations; it is F W Murnau’s 1922 expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu which is an undoubted influence on German director Werner Herzog’s reinterpretation of this classic story, his love song to the pinnacle of German cinema’s expressionist era.

Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz, Downfall), a real estate agent from Wismar, Germany is tasked with an ill fated journey through the Carpathian Mountains to close a deal with the mysterious Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, Wrath of God). Despite several bad omens on his arduous journey Harker makes the trip only to discovers all is not as it seems with the count and his mansion.

The Pallid Count, his sickly pale skin, almost transparent exudes an aura in every scene he appears in. Kinski, the driving force here not once feels as though he needs to tread into camp overacting; a feat which is both refreshing and necessary to the story.

ntv2Herzog’s Dracula isn’t your atypical portrayal but this isn’t a typical horror picture, he masterfully creates tension with wonderfully crafted framing and painterly, expressionist imagery. Combined with an evocative and emotive score from Popul Vuh offers a deliberately paced cinematic experience filled with passion and homage – the aforementioned German expressionism movement a driving force in Herzog’s opus – in equal measure.

This film will undoubtedly alienate a large section of the current generation of vampire flick fandom, this is a staggeringly slow paced, character driven and distinctly human tale, the desperate nature of the count and his struggle with immortality a beautifully rich study of the lust and subsequent burden of everlasting life. Herzog presents this as a hindrance to the count rather than a power to be exploited, the usual vampire trope in modern cinema. This is a curious addition to the psyche of the count bringing a moving and thoughtful dimension to the vampire mythos.

Kinski plays the role much like the masters of silent cinema contorting his figure to evolve into the backgrounds strikingly fierce and terrifying at the same time, much like Max Schreck did with Count Orlock in the Murnau production from 1922. The magnetism of the vampire is evident in his scenes with Lucy Harker, upon watching her in her bedchamber wistfully lusting after the love she shares with her husband offers a wisp of longing and is presented here as something that the count is missing, love.

His acting is both meticulously paced and captivating, from the moment he firsts meets Harker to the desperate longing on display when a cut raises the counts primal urges Kinski uses his posture, eye contact and a tremendous intensity to bring the count to life.

ntv3Jonathan Harker is an interesting study into the depths that humanity will go to discover the unknown, starting his journey to the castle his motive, the purchase of a new home for his beloved wife Lucy quickly spirals into a quest to discover the truth behind the counts “ghost Castle” and the occupant, the count an elusive and supernatural fairy tale to the locals.

The supporting cast all work marvellously particularly Roland Topor’s portrayal of Renfield, his menacing and completely insane, mistimed cackling is wonderfully creepy and later in the film he is enamoured with the count his obedience and longing showcase his acting ability. The gorgeous Isabelle Adjani plays Lucy Harker wistfully, appearing almost dreamlike in some sequences, a rich ethereal presence heightened by the surreal and fantastical camerawork makes her a pivotal and seductive character and it is easy to see why Dracula lusts after her.

Opening with an harsh, unrelenting pan of mummified corpses- victims of a cholera epidemic- is jarred with haunting choral music setting the proceedings nicely, this is again coupled with the idyllic surroundings in which Harker journeys, again the accompanying music is hauntingly beautiful as it is throughout.

The film’s set design and lighting are both outstanding with the expressionist era encapsulated in the counts castle design, high angled shots showcase the intricate pattern and designs which were synonymous with the Murnau production and the blu ray showcases these perfectly shadows elicit the dark and expansive emptiness of the surroundings and bring the viewer closer to the feelings of Harker himself.

ntv4The muted colours express the desolation of the journey and an overuse of white reflects the undead nature of the count, everything from the craggy mountainsides with their dark grey and shadowy depths are alienating to the damp, wet countryside and dull, dank landscape shots all add to the feel of the film not guiding or smothering the viewer with a sense of security.

BFI have included both the German and English language versions of the film on the disc; the German language version the superior of the two presentations Kinski’s acting benefits more form this production,his delivery and emotion resonate more in his native tongue than they do in the English version. Both versions are of merit and it is down to personal preference as to which you view.

BFI have included a wonderful new essay from Laurie Johnson that thoroughly dissects the film and touches upon a controversial scene involving a plague of rats, Herzog received a lot of negative press about the mistreatment of animals during both the making of this and throughout his career, she offers a brilliant study of the film and is a highlight of this release. Sight and Sounds review from Tom Milne is included in the booklet as well and offers a fascinating look at the film from the time of its release in 1979, essential stuff.

An on set promotional film from 1979 is included and features extensive candid interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski about the shooting of Nosferatu to see them both talking about the film, film history and continuity.

Watching Herzog direct is a thing of beauty, the working relationship between the two as it has been historically documented and one filled with turmoil. Herzog is a passionate film maker and he comes across as a determined and focussed director with a rich passion for the embodiment of cinema itself, his passion unfolds across the screen a distinct, driven persona.

ntv5Also included on the disc is the original trailer and an extensive gallery of production stills set to the haunting Popul Vuh score these are a great look into the process of the films genesis.

This package from the BFI is both an essential and important release. Hopefully BFI will offer a whole new generation of cinephiles a chance to see a master at work, evocative seductive and intense this is the epitome of vampire films.

9/10

Special features:

• Limited Edition SteelBook

• Newly remastered presentations of the English and German versions

• Original mono audio (German and English)

• Alternative 5.1 Surround audio (German)

• Feature-length audio commentary with Werner Herzog

• On-set documentary (1979, 13 mins): promotional film featuring candid interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski

• Original theatrical trailer

• Stills gallery

• Fully illustrated booklet with a new essay by Laurie Johnson, full film credits and on-set photographs

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #9: Frostbite (Sweden, 2006)

 

fb1Eurohorror Spotlight #9: Frostbite (Sweden, 2006)

aka Frostbitten

Director: Anders Banke

Starring: Grete Havenskold, Petra Nielsen, Emma Aberg

The coach trip, as it were, returns to the cold climate of Sweden for a comedy/horror that seems to be preaching “drugs are bad, mm’kay?”

Its 1944 and in Ukraine, men from the German Army Scandinavian Volunteer Division are under attack and run into the snowy woods nearby. They stumble upon a cabin and break in. It appears empty and they decide to spend the night there. In the night they wake as a previously unseen woman drops down from the rafters and grabs one of the men and climbs up the wall with amazing strength and speed. As the panic about what has happen one soldier falls down a trap door into the cabin’s basement. Down there are dead bodies and a small coffin with Maria written on it. Something from inside it tries to push the nails out of the lid. Scared, the soldiers quickly bury it before anything else will happen to them.

fb2Fast forward to what looks like the present and we see a woman driving a car with a girl, Saga, asleep next to her. They are moving into a new apartment in a region of Sweden that experiences ‘polar night’: no daylight for 30 days. Saga goes exploring the area and a man on a motorbike nearly runs her over. She walks off in disgust but something in the nearby woods is watching them. It attacks the biker. When his body is found an autopsy is carried out and two puncture marks are found on his neck.

Saga (Havenskold), the next day, is at her new school. Everyone is abuzz with the news of the murder. An eccentric student named Vega (Aberg) approaches her and invites her to a party later in the week. Vega is planning to take some pills with her that a friend found in the local hospital. The same hospital where Saga’s mother is now working that also has a ‘patient’ that may be involved in what happened in Ukraine back in 1944.

fb3The movie starts off promising thanks to the intriguing scene in the cabin. The soldiers stumbling upon the child sized coffin will grab most peoples attention, more so once the person inside screams and somehow forces the nails out of the wood, due to the fact there is something horrifying about seeing a coffin of that size. The death of a child is understandably shocking but when it transpires the child within the casket isn’t quite dead then it shocks even more. This imagery is little used as the film takes a slightly frivolous tone thereafter.

This is thanks to the ‘present day’ setting of Saga and the students of her new school. Much of the humour comes from Saga’s new school friends taking a ‘drug’ that does more to them than just getting them high. The viewer is shown what the junkies imagine they see as they start their trip: a talking dog appears frequently telling one character he is a failure. One dog, in the woods, asks if the druggie has “…seen my ball?” Then tells him it doesn’t matter as it runs away. After a while the comedy becomes too much as the plot tries to shift back towards horror. But the drug induced hallucinations and the ‘humour’ they offer still crop up in the middle of the grisly blood shed.

fb4It should be noted the drugs taken actually turn the characters into vampires. As the high passes the user is in great pain and cannot stomach anything. They eventually attack non-users and even animals. This leads to one unsettling scene when a pet rabbit is munched on by a relieved junkie-turned-vamp. The party the students attend turns into a blood bath as those who didn’t take the pills are set upon by those that did.

The setting of Frostbite does lend itself to an eerie atmosphere and environment. Every scene outside appears to be night time due to the location of the town. The vampires are aware of the lack of daylight when they taunt that “…daylight is just a month away!” This idea would later be used in 2007’s 30 Days of Night. The lighting, as a result, leaves many characters semi luminous with many darkened areas around them, ideal for any bloodsucker to make their attack.

fb5The use of drugs turning people into vampires could be an attempt to dis-encourage people from using mind altering substances. People becoming blood thirsty may be an allegory for real life users becoming addicted and wanting more drugs. It is something that will be interpreted differently from viewer to viewer, no doubt.

The film is entertaining although a little frustrating due to its over reliance on comedy. If Frostbite went for ‘all out horror’ it would have been even better.

7 out of 10.

Readily available in the UK on DVD with English subtitles.

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

OOnly Lovers Left Alive (2014)

123 mins

Dir: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tom Hiddlestone, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin

Two vampires Adam (Hiddlestone) and Eve (Swinton) have been in a centuries-long relationship and are reuniting, after time spent apart, in Detroit, where Adam spends his time secluded in his music studio, producing his ‘funeral music’ that has earnt him a huge cult following. The pair face a struggle to find a constant source of pure blood supply as well as the imminent arrival of Eve’s sister, Ava (Wasikowska) who has a history of losing control of her ‘hunger’…

It is a sad fact that it has been a long time since a modern day classic vampire film has emerged. The last truly fantastic example was David Slade’s frankly terrifying adaptation of the ‘30 Days of Night’ series which did a superb job of making vampires a proper image of pure fear once again. There was also the cult-hit ‘Queen of the Damned’ at the peak of the nu-metal craze with its kick-ass soundtrack and heavy emphasis on sex appeal and of course Coppola’s masterpiece in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, with Gary Oldman providing the best ever turn as Dracula (I went there) and the film bathed in gloriously OTT lashings of stylised gothic romance.

O1 So where does ‘Only Lovers left Alive’ come into the equation of vampire films? Simply put, it’s a future classic that officially has set the new bar for vampire films to come. Of course, this is an opinion that will certainly not be shared by all. Indeed, many will simply loathe this film and call it arty hipster pretentious wank and if this review works on any level, you’ll hopefully be able to see precisely how people could have such drastically contrasting opinions!

Possibly the main stickler for many will be the plot or rather, in the negative view, distinct lack of one. My brief synopsis at the beginning only dealt with one particular incident in a film that is far more content to let mood and atmosphere take precedence. On top of this, the film’s main focus is just to stare longingly like a besotted teenager at the deep gothic romance that sizzles between its lead characters. Oh and they’re friends with the still alive Christopher Marlowe (Hurt) and the adorably hopeless Ian (Yelchin) who is Adam’s manager of sorts.

Much time in the film is dedicated to lengthy discussions about famous authors, books, instruments, musicians and great thinkers. Some will derive great humour from the cheeky nods to various pieces of classical culture but this is sure to alienate those who are less ‘cultured’ and certainly to mainstream culture would smack of trying to be incredibly ‘hipster’ for the sake of it. It is debatable as to whether or not the film is actually in on the joke, Adam sternly rebukes Ava when she asks for a digital download of his music (he favours vinyl, of course) and Ian is made to look very desperate when putting on his own pair of sunglasses in a club to try and fit in with the undead trio.

O2 Short of Adam’s dramatic threats of suicide to escape the ‘zombies’ (regular people), a certain nasty incident that befalls hapless Ian and the need to obtain pure blood, there is very little by means of narrative drive. In place of punctual neck puncturing, the film devotes to time to simply following the lead couple as they take in the dark and desolate city of Detroit on their many drives at night. This is certain to infuriate most but the film has this deceptively vampiric way of drawing you in and leaving all desires for tension or even conflict behind. A comparison could be made that is almost as if Nic Winding Refn helmed his own version of the still over-looked ‘Near Dark’, with extra layers of gothic romance turned up to 11.

It must really irk Jim Jarmusch that the perfect tagline for the film has already been inappropriately used by the first ‘Twilight’ film. “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” is much better suited to OLLA as it is the crux of what makes the incendiary onscreen romance between Hiddleston and Swinton so compelling. Yes some may find their constant lounging around in each other’s arms and endless fawning over one another distasteful, but what Jarmusch has expertly captured is the idea that each means absolutely everything in the world to the other. This is the kind of epic love story done on such a small scale that we have not seen in a long time, or certainly not as well conveyed by two of Britain’s most talented actors.

03We are invited by Jarmusch to almost feel like an unseen third party in their relationship, that they love each other so uncontrollably that it can’t help but over-spill and wash over the audience. It’s not all passionate embraces and endless shagging however, the two share their squabbles that remain even after their third wedding but also they, like the film, have a very dry sense of humour about their vampire status. The film’s standout scene is when the two of them share blood popsicles together, yes an easy gag but one that works perfectly.

Hiddleston oozes the vampiric sex appeal of the ‘troubled artist’,  a mess of black hair covers his face and he spends most of the time shirtless but never is he insufferably moody, just an alluring misanthrope who is more than capable of holding your attention with a piercing stare (move over Loki). Swinton provides the ‘brighter’ counterpart, a novel and nature lover who seems to be the only being capable of eliciting a smile out of  Hiddleston and the pair have such a firey  onscreen chemistry that fits together like ying and yang. A PROPER undead romance done properly and one that rivals even Oldman’s Dracula and Ryder’s Mina, that’s how powerful it is!

O4The delicious black cherry on top of the film’s dense trance-like atmosphere is the mind-meltingly perfect moody tones of the soundtrack, helmed by Jozef van Wissem and Squrl. Adam’s ‘funeral music’ is featured heavily throughout as it perfectly encapsulates his doom-laden and nihilistic attitude of life and when things start to go wrong for the characters. When the music transcends from simply being background to a key component of the overall success of the film, again much like with Winding Refn’s work, clearly it’s working perfectly. The moody tones are wonderfully counter-balanced by one scene when Adam and Eve dance to a poppy vinyl track in one of the film’s few outward examples of being even remotely ‘cheery’.

Ultimately, the film’s appeal is aimed directly at those who revel in the gothic romance element of the vampire mythos. Those who prefer their coffin-dwellers with more bite and less navel-gazing had best steer clear but what cannot be denied is that this film has all the makings of a genre classic that will be taken and poured over for years to come.

Verdict: An intoxicating piece of pure gothic cinema, the likes of which we have not seen in many a year. Excruciatingly slow for many but for others, a bewitching, profoundly romantic delight 10/10   

Argento’s Dracula (A.K.A. Dracula 3D) (2012) Review

ad1Argento’s Dracula (2012)
(A.K.A. Dracula 3D)
Dir. Dario Argento

In a post-TWILIGHT world, perhaps there is no better time than now to re-introduce Dracula, as Bram Stoker envisioned him, to the movie-going public. A true Prince of Darkness, his tale should be one of Old World tyranny forged in the flames of war, a noble predator barely able to contain a feral bloodthirst. It should be about animal magnetism thrusting its trouser bulge toward the face of repressed Victorian high society. A beast in velvet.
And what better filmmaker to do so than super-stylish purveyor of violence as art, Dario Argento? What could go wrong?

Quite a bit, it seems. Following an opening sequence whereby a farm girl, Tanja, sneaks off during a storm to rendezvous with her lover, and then get attacked by a giant owl, we move into familiar Dracula territory. Jonathan Harker travels from somewhere (not England that much is clear) to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula. He has been hired to organize the count’s considerable library.

Harker’s first night there, Tanja, whose body had disappeared from the local cemetery, shows up in all her undead bodacious glory and tries to seduce Harker, only to have Dracula interrupt. She tries again the next night, only to have Drac pop in, bitch slap her, and bite Harker himself, he remains a prisoner at Castle Dracula. Meanwhile, Harker’s wife, Mina, goes to Transylvania, looking for her husband, there she meets Dracula, who mesmerizes her. We learn the count has orchestrated the events leading up to their meeting; Mina resembles his old flame Dolinger, who died centuries before.

ad2Mina returns to the home of her friend, Lucy Kisslinger, who soon becomes mysteriously ill and dies after secret nocturnal visits from Dracula. Lucy’s father calls upon Abraham Van Helsing, played by Rutger Hauer, who arrives on scene and makes preparations to slay the Prince of Darkness himself.

Clearly, ARGENTO’S DRACULA takes some liberties with Stoker’s text, which is nothing unusual when it comes to adaptations of the classic novel.  In addition to the dispatching of Harker early on and the reincarnation love story between Drac and Mina (which I am completely sick of seeing), most of the other differences lie in small details. The lunatic servant Renfield is not your fly-eating Dwight Frye, but an utter nutter who bites everyone he sees. Lucy is able to hide her bite marks from her father as Drac has been draining her by sucking on the back of her left knee.

And Dracula is … different. Played by German actor Thomas Kretschmann, he’s neither Bela Lugosi nor Christopher Lee, Frank Langella nor Gary Oldman. If only he had a long white moustache, he might be the most accurate depiction of Stoker’s Dracula I can recall seeing. He is cold yet not wooden, aristocratic in a higher than thou but not a wine and cheese snob kind of way, and possesses a restrained violence when he is not, well, killing people.

ad4He’s like a Nazi commander character without all the goose stepping and Siege Heil-ing. Maybe a bit like Christoph Waltz from Inglourious Basterds if he was centuries old and needed to drink the blood of innocents to live, or at least he is until he starts shapeshifting. Presumably to get the most out of the 3D effects in the movie, Dracula changes into a wolf, a wolf man, an owl, and even a giant praying mantis. Seriously.

Not surprisingly, ARGENTO’S DRACULA lays on heaps on female nudity (Miriam Giavolnelli who played Tanja is a “gifted” actress, as a quick Google search will reveal), violence and gore. One can’t help but smile when a pissed off Dracula, disappointed townsfolk have broken a pact with him, enters a room as a cloud of flies, slashes throats, bites off faces, throws a sword through a near-escapee, and then compels a police captain to blow his own brains out with a black powder pistol.
It’s partial revision of Stoker’s novel, the good pacing, and the boobs and blood, make ARGENTO’S DRACULA somewhat entertaining.

But …
ARGENTO’S DRACULA suffers from its budget. Simply put, it looks cheap.
Yes, Argento delivers some very nice atmospheric scenes with multi-coloured lighting that would make Mario Bava proud.

ad5But these in no way make up for the computer-generated imagery which ruins the film.
Being an avid horror fan, I am no stranger to low budget films, some of which are excellent and perhaps are even better because of their limited budget, forcing the filmmakers to rely on suspense, intimation, atmosphere, and heaven forbid, writing, to make up for the limited effects.

The problem with ARGENTO’S DRACULA is that it looks like a made-for-TV movie. True, a made-for-TV movie with copious amounts of sex and violence but crap nonetheless. Actually watching it in 3D will not save it. Aside from Kretschmann as Deacula, Marta Gastini as Mina, who reminds me of a young Olivia Hussey, and of course, Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing, who here is HOBO WITH A WAVERING ILL-DEFINED EUROPEAN ACCENT, the acting is not good.

The international cast, who hail mainly from Italy, Spain and Germany, is a bit off-putting. They are not dubbed, but because they all have different accents, it’s a bit unclear as to where everyone is from.  This really takes you out of the film. Lucy, played by Dario Argento, is Italian and has an Italian father who would not look out of place on the Sopranos.Then you have a German Dracula, Spanish Harker, faux-Dutch (?) Van Helsing …

ad6In many ways Argento’s Dracula is exactly what you’d expect. The women. The violence. Some stylish flourishes. The plot is barebones, and what is there moves along like a skeleton train on fire, making stops at one violent scene after another. After midnight, and after a few drinks, it might be for good for a few laughs.

But in the light of day, you’ll likely agree that this vampire film sucks.

4/10

Black Water Vampire (2014) DVD Review

bwv1BLACK WATER VAMPIRE (Dir Evan Tramel, USA 2014)

Starring- Danielle Lozeau, Andrea Monier, Anthony Fanelli, Robin Steffen, Bill Oberst Jr.

Released in the UK on DVD from Image Entertainment on March 24th 2014.

 

My second review of 2014 for UK HORROR SCENE and I’m back in the found footage genre again (see my previous review for MUIRHOUSE) and it’s found footage of the usual BLAIR WITCH PROJECT kind, that seems to emphasise a fundamental lack of originality in this sub-genre.

The film follows of a group of amateur filmmakers led by Danielle (Danielle Lozeau), her friend Andrea (Andrea Monier), a cameraman for hire Anthony (Anthoy Fanelli) and their sound guy Robin (Robin Steffen), who are going to film a documentary about the killings in Danielle’s small town of Black Water and try to disprove the guilty verdict of killer convicted of the murders, Raymond Banks (Bill Oberst Jr), who has been convicted of the murders and is currently on death row.

On their arrival in the town we see interview footage with locals, some believing and retelling the tales of the black water vamp, and some saying that they hope Banks burns in hell and that they believe that he is the guilty one. We also get interview footage with the victim’s families and also an interview with Banks, who comes across as a paranoid, wild-eyed stared loony, though could his rants and ravings be true, which then leads into the second part of the film where the group trek into the woods and hope to film at Banks’ cabin and at the murder sites.

Though as soon as dusk falls, and camp is set up, it’s not long till we start hearing strange noises and screams from the outside of the tent, and when dawn comes strange symbols are found on the tent itself, leading the hostility and infighting within the group to arise, and divisions to be formed. Also it doesn’t help that Danielle, is a virgin, believing in abstinence before marriage, which is not good to have, young virgin blood, when their might be a vampire around.

bwv2When I mentioned at the start of this review that this film lacks originality that can so often be seen in found footage, I meant that this film in particular, takes its cues from one of the hallmarks of the genre THE BLAIR WITH PROJECT. The similarity’s are pretty obvious, film crew in the woods, reporting on a local legend that has caused mysterious deaths in the past, symbols being drawn on trees and eventually getting lost in the same woods, and tensions, bickering and arguing between the filmmakers.

The only difference is, is instead of a supernatural entity attacking the group, this time it’s a vampire, which is a neat trick and one that for my knowledge hasn’t been used before, but when it’s placed in the context of woodland area along with symbols associated with the legend, it’s end up being something like the Blair Vampire Project instead.

That’s the disappointing thing about the film, if it was released back in 1999, this would have probably been a superb and original idea, but flash forward 15 years later and it comes off as unoriginal and pretty mediocre, and the concept of a found footage vampire movie, certainly would intrigue me, and I had hopes going in to this one, but ended up finding it more disappointing, that the filmmakers could have done more with the story rather than end up with a laboured running-around-the-woods- in-the-dark shaky camera horror film!

bwv3A couple of plus points, the vampire itself looks pretty cool, and effects wise it’s well done, and Bill Oberst Jr’s one scene performance as the paranoid convict Banks, is good in a scenery chewing sort of way. Overall BLACK WATER VAMPIRE has an idea that could have been approached with some originality instead the filmmakers have opted for a pretty un-original and standard premise which unfortunately does not make the film stand out in the overcrowded found footage sub genre.

3/10