Monday, February 19, 2018

Short Film: Unbitten

This is a 19-minute film that was directed by Dan Magro and released in 2013 and the blurb states: “Three vegan vampires, one water nymph, two sorcerers, and one lease.” The two sorcerers, I assume being Allistair (Timothy Carmello) and Agatha (Margaret Marshall), answered the question as to why these two didn’t seem sun-impacted, when appearing to be just vampires. We need to note that this took the idea of the vegetarian vampire and stepped it up to vegan.

It begins with a narration by aspiring writer Cole (Dan Magro), this narration becomes the tale of an old lady looking for her cat, Mr Furryocious, who has ended up in the hands of Allistair. He and Agatha demand she tells them who owns the big house on the hill. She says no-one, it is abandoned and, in response, Allistair eats the cat and Agatha breaks the poor woman’s neck.

with the cat
Living in the house are three vampires Lucie: (Angie Schlauch), Callista (Alli Kelly) and Aubrianna (Christina Lanni). Lucie has created a plant based blood substitute and the girls are shipping this to vampires across the globe. There is movement outside the house and, avoiding the sunlight, Lucie grabs a sign that has been put on the door declaring the house condemned. This has been put on by Agatha (hence my comment about sunlight, as we see her and Allistair outside). The two sorcerer/vampires enter the house mocking the girls. Lucie confirms they have to stay there, a prime ingredient of the blood substitute has been cultivated there and might take years to successfully cultivate elsewhere. Callista has the idea of taking the issue to a supernatural tribunal.

water nymph
The tribunal do not rule in the girls’ favour but they do give them time to find the true owner of the house. This happens to be Cole, who lives just out of County. They go to him and, donning lingerie, Callista enters his room and offers him his wildest fantasies. He isn’t interested… he’s gay. It is then down to all three to convince him to help and, of course, they can provide him plenty of source material to help him with his aspiration to be a writer.

oompa Loompas?
The short was very well shot, though the makeup effects were quite stagey they played up to these and so when the girls try an experimental formula to protect them from sunlight the subsequent transformation into Oompa Loompas is a nice moment of comedy. There is a lot of background either put or insinuated neatly into the story and it is an amusing watch that could be expanded upon.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Vamp or Not? Tokyo Ghoul (Seasons 1 & 2)

This is an anime series (based on a manga) and run in two 12-episode series (with two OVAs) that were directed by Shuhei Morita. It was recommended to me as both a series and as something that “I think this is very much a ‘Vamp or Not?’” by Ian.

I went looking for it and found a Malaysian DVD set contain the two extant (at time of review) seasons, both OVAs and was in English dub or Japanese with English subtitles (bar the OVAs, which were Japanese with subtitles only).

This is set in a world inhabited both by humans and ghouls. Now lets just cover off the original folklore that has lent the creature name. The ghoul is a creature from Arabic myth mentioned several times in the Arabian Nights, as translated into French by Antoine Galland in the 18th Century. The story of most interest is The History of Sidi Nu’uman, which tells of a man suspicious because his new bride never seems to eat. Long story short he follows her to a cemetery and witnesses her indulging in eating the dead with the other ghouls.

Kaneki is a ghoul, but is he Vamp?
Cut forward to 1821 and E.T.A. Hoffmann published a story entitled Vampirismus as part of his Die Serapions-Brüder. There is every chance that the story title was added by an editor as the story is essentially a reworking, into a modern Western setting, of The History of Sidi Nu’uman. Jump forward a century and Dudley Wright adds the same story into his reference book Vampires and Vampirism and Summers conflates ghouls and vampires in “The vampire, His Kith and Kin” (1928).

ghoul attack
So, that’s the word but typically the ghouls in this Japanese series are somewhat different. Ghouls are either a branch-off from humans (perhaps a mutation, which is mentioned at one point) or a separate species. They can, however, interbreed with humans and I’ll cover that momentarily. They hide in plain sight and, though the series doesn’t say so, the human societal dominance must be down to numbers. They are faster, stronger and pretty darn resistant to mundane piercing weapons. When hungry, angered or feeding their eyes become red in colour.

Whilst they are separate from humans there can be hybrids born from interbreeding, as mentioned, these tend to be more powerful than regular ghouls and only one eye turns red. A hybrid can also be created by transplanting ghoul organs into a human’s body. This happens to primary series protagonist Kaneki Ken (Natsuki Hanae), who goes on a date with a pretty girl, Rize (Kana Hanazawa), only to discover that she is a ghoul (and a binge eater at that). The attack he suffers ends abruptly as materials fall from the building site they are on. He is badly wounded, she killed and the surgeons (not knowing she is a ghoul) transplant some of her organs to save him.

From that point on he is a hybrid ghoul and can no longer eat human food (food tastes foul to ghouls and the only human thing they can consume is coffee) but must eat human flesh to survive. He has also “inherited” Riza’s kagune – her predatory organ. This seems, to me, to be supernatural as much as physical and (according to online sources) is composed of special cells that flow like blood until the ghoul manifests the kagune as a weapon, emerging from the body. Each ghoul’s kagune is different. The kagune can be taken from a dead ghoul and fashioned into a weapon called a quinque – used by anti-ghoul investigators as an effective weapon for ghoul hunting.

What also is evident is that certain powerful ghoul’s can rapidly heal injuries and regenerate lost body parts as well. Food is necessary for both their power, their manifestation of the kagune and regeneration/healing. A difference between these ghouls and the traditional Arabic version is that they need to eat human flesh but this does not necessarily mean the consumption of corpses. There is a “gourmet” ghoul who speaks of eating a still living victim so that the suffering can convey subtle flavours to the meal and another ghoul mentions eating flesh before it spoils.

in the coffee shop
So, very much flesh eaters rather than blood drinkers but we do have the conflation of ghouls and vampires in the genre already. The regenerative aspect would seem to be more vampiric than ghoulish but these are a separate species (or mutation) and very much alive, rather than undead. The kagune is out with both traditional ghouls and vampires and is very much an anime embellishment that allows for spectacular action sequences (though it is story important also).

All in all, I’m not sure. If you accept the ghoul/vampire conflation then yes, this is a vampire series. If not, then the conflation itself is enough to make this of genre interest and the regeneration (and the fact that food is necessary for both power and regeneration) brings vampires to mind also. I’m leaning towards accepting this and it is definitely genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Short Films: Momodoch

Momodoch are a series of short films directed by Caroline Ebner and based on the children’s stories by Brian and Uschi Bagnall. They are narrated by Duncan Galloway and feature the illustrations created by the Bagnalls.

The style is just shy of a motion comic – narrated rather than voice acted and featuring little actual animation. Rather they showcase the wonderfully colourful and rich pieces that, I assume, accompanied the original books.

a new home
They are perhaps light of story but stronger in situational narrative. In the first part, entitled Monsters, Ghosts and other Ogres we discover that the reason we rarely see vampires (and other monsters) was because we ignored them as we became concerned with other (more mundane, one assumes) fears. One vampire, Momodoch – a 375 year old from the East of England – decided to emigrate with his friends.

the blood orange garden
They create a village for themselves named Obstroloch. A chaotic place with little social structure but a pub called the Black Soul. The first film simply establishes this place and comes in at 9 minutes. The second film, Momodoch and his Friends ..or the Soccer Game, begins with a sojourn in Momodoch’s blood orange garden but soon establishes that his birthday is approaching. His friends arrange a party but also need to get him a present. As the vampire collects points, they decide to have a football match with all goals dedicated to him. The second film is the longest at 13 minutes.

vampire frog
The final film, Momodoch's Birthday, is the shortest at 5 minutes and centres itself on the party arranged in part 2. How much of the books are covered I don’t know but these are pleasant to look at, the narration is solid but the films are ultimately based on a kids’ story and nothing more than a curiosity.

At the time of writing I couldn’t find an IMDb page.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Short Film: Blood Bride

This is a short film that comes in at just under 14 minutes and was directed by Michelle Romano. The premise around the film is very simple but it does have a twist at the end of the film.

Corey Tourigny as Mr Grant
Mr Grant (Corey Tourigny) is in the hospital where his wife (Michelle Romano) is not at all well. He is taken through to the Doctor’s office and Dr Baron (Robert Catrini, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) confirms that it is lucky that both he and his wife are type O Negative. As you probably know the blood is a universal blood type (ie all over blood types can be transfused with it) but those with type O neg can only receive type O neg.

something about Nurse Betty
Faced with the situation, Grant is more than willing to donate blood to transfuse his wife and Nurse Betty (Jennifer Jostyn, Vampires on Bikini Beach) is summoned with the release papers. There is something odd about Nurse Betty – both the sub-porn uniform and her attitude. However Grant is soon going off with her.

nurse Nicki has a taste
She leads him to a room and puts him in a chair whilst a bevy of nurses surround him. Yet they don’t seem to be that professional and one, Nurse Nicki (Heather Grace Hancock), ends up in his lap and biting his lip to see if he is ready. Soon they are draining him through multiple needles and running the blood into a cup, whilst fangs are on show. But what about Dr Baron and Grant’s sickly wife? The answers, of course, are in the short.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Honourable Mention: Doses of Horror

Allegedly directed by Hector Kabel and released in 2018 (according to Amazon) this is little more than a clip show with the flimsiest portmanteau wraparound. The wraparound suggests that patients in an asylum were subjected to experimentation by forcing them to watch horror films. The experiment went wrong as they went mad (one would think madness was a prerequisite to be incarcerated in an asylum, but never mind) and there was a bloodbath.

The films have now come to light and this is what we are watching. However these are all clips from old horror films, edited down and (in most cases) looking to concentrate a little bit more on flesh then horror. Some of the edits are quite well done – if you take the first section entitled a Dose of Bee Stings but actually extracts from the film Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), there is at least some level of story viewable through the cuts, though mostly it concentrates on sections with naked flesh it does also add in a tad of exposition. Other sections are much less coherent.

from Vampires Night Orgy
So we get a couple of sections that are lifted directly from vampire films and the section Doses of Peeping Toms and Vampires is actually an edit of scenes from León Klimovsky’s 1972/3 film the Vampires Night Orgy. The section is virtually incoherent – though it does certainly contain a peeping tom and vampires – however, the original film was, in and of itself, fairly incoherent anyway. I will say the print used seemed better quality than the one on my DVD of the film.

John Carradine in Vampire Hookers
There is a sojourn to The Devil’s Nightmare (listed in the filmography shown at the end as 1974, which was the US release date, but it was actually 1971) and this is worth noting because it includes a succubus (though she does little to warrant that name) and was released in the US as Vampire Playgirls despite absolutely no vampire aspect. We also get some clips, and they are more horror based, from Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979). The other vampire related aspect, however, is from Cirio H Santiago’s Vampire Hookers and features a brief look at John Carradine and then slinks off to a bedroom scene from the film.

And that’s it – probably not the best way to spend 100 minutes of your life and, at time of article, I can find no IMDb page.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Short Film: The Vampire Within

By director Richard Poche and released in 2016, this also goes under the name Vampire Vixens but I think the title I’ve looked at it under suits the story better.

We start off with Alice (Halie Islava) clutching her knees as someone searches, calling out for two other persons, and gets whopped over the head and dragged off…

Sarah (Christina Johnson, Money, Vampires & Weed) is speaking to Alice telling her that she *needs them* as she is so hungry. Alice, for her part, suggests that she won’t hurt anyone else again. She suggests that Sarah could get other food; meat or blood, maybe? Sarah responds that Alice knows the meat has to be human and blood on its own is disgusting. She also claims that the air hurts her, so she can’t venture out herself.

Alice and Sarah
This, of course, is interesting as Sarah is our vampire (and named as such in dialogue as well as in the film’s title) and she dislikes blood (sans flesh, anyway). Following this Mr Harris (Cliff Poche, also Money, Vampires and Weed, Crimson & A Candle in the Dark) shows up. He is Alice’s caseworker and the house is a halfway house. She “hurt” a neighbour and has to cooperate with Harris or she’ll end up somewhere worse. The live-in carer, Lisa, is not around and Alice claims that she has taken the other residents out (her van having broken down, she hired one, Alice suggests, explaining why it is in the driveway).

Sarah behind Carolyn
Long story (well, not really, its 31 minutes in length) short and Alice whops Harris with a hammer and Sarah has him, reducing him to bones and leaving Alice to clean up the mess. This is where I started having a problem with the short as then her new caseworker Carolyn (Kendall McCann) shows up. She is sold the beach line without blinking and suspension of disbelief was stretched and snapped as missing residents, workers and a caseworker – whose diary would have been known – have not elicited any form of official response or sent up warning flares.

Alice speaks openly about Sarah – but she is dismissed as an imaginary friend/figment of the imagination. However the more Carolyn speaks to and is around Alice the more she might actually notice that someone else does appear to be in the house… There isn’t much to add lore wise except that we do discover Sarah killed Alice’s parents (assumed to be a robbery gone bad), she seems to be able to appear and disappear at will and seems to want her ‘helper’ as prey sometimes fights back, so she can be hurt.

Despite my reservation around the logic leap in the story the general premise of this is interesting and, with some tightening of the story, it could make a tight little short. That said the filming does look a tad on the cheap side – though the blood effects are nice and visceral.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Vamp or Not? Legend of the Chupacabra

Not to be confused with the later, similarly titled (but pluralised) Legend of Chupacabras, this is a low budget mockumentary from 2000, directed by Joe Castro and distributed on the Troma label.

We are in rubber suit territory with a strong hint for the source of the chupacabra menace – but is it vampiric?

Set in 1997, the film starts by exploring the appearance of the chupacabras through Puerto Rico, Mexico and into Texas. After survelance footage (too grainy to show much) seems to capture a chupacabras a group of university students, specialising in cryptozoology go to the town of Santa Maria to track down the beast. The students are led by Maria Esperanza (Katsy Joiner) whose uncle had lost goats (and from whose farm the chupacabra footage came from) and has been killed – later we discover the chupacabra got him and the police have that footage and are supressing it.

The Curandera and Maria
The others are Pete Cortez (J.T. Trevino) and Daniel Webster (Chris Doughton) on cameras along with George Armistad (Stan McKinney) running security. They have gone to the ranch owned by Lloyd Jackson (Paul Podraza), who has had livestock attacked the night before – however the farm hands won’t allow the carcass to be touched until purified by The Curandera (Sandy Schwartz). She tells the crew they’ll get their answers in the cantina.

barn attack
The sheriff (Lewis Sarkozi) and his deputy (Frank Thomas, A Schizophrenic Love Story) arrive and the Curandera has wandered into a barn. A scream and they run in and are face to face with the chupacabra (Kevin Sloan) replete in rubbery suit splendour. Later it is described as the biggest, baddest chupacabra in the land… so what are they? And are they vampiric?

this tongue is made for sucking
Well they certainly suck – later we discover their teeth are for latching and holding and their tongue has an orifice that can suck the innards of their prey. This seems to include viscera and is not restricted to blood. There are theories that they are supernatural, that they are from space and that they were made in a lab. The barcode spotted on the arm of the creature suggests the latter. DNA testing reveals a mix of primate and lizard. They are said to be cold blooded and lay eggs.

sucked goat
The supernatural side is perhaps bolstered by the pair of witches at the cantina who can show them where the creature’s lair is. A bite from the creature is said to rot the victim from the inside out (and yes one of the students gets bitten) and this, of course, could be natural. However the witches suggest that killing the chupacabra will cure the infection.

There is little other lore, to be honest, and I am tempted to suggest that this creature feature has too little to call it Vamp. It also has too little to call it a good film, with terrible overacting and not much in the way of logical story. The sfx move between silly (the creature), not bad (some of the gore), really poor (other bits of the gore) and somewhat misplaced (the corpses adorning the route to the lair, which seem way too mummified). Not a great film, not really vamp but – being chupacabra – of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.