Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Blood Shackles – review

Author: Rosemary A Johns

First published: 2016


The Blurb: What happens when SPARTACUS meets VAMPIRES? In a divided paranormal London, Light is the rebel bad boy vampire of the Blood Lifer world, with a talent for remembering things. And a Triton motorbike. Since Victorian times he’s hidden in the shadows. But not now. Not since someone hunted him down. When he’s bought by his alluring Mistress, Light fights to escape. Even if he can’t escape their love. But if he doesn’t, he’ll never solve the conspiracy behind the Blood Club...

WELCOME TO THE BLOOD CLUB

Who are these ruthless humans? Who’s their brutal leader? And who betrayed the secret of the Blood Lifer world?

WHERE THE PREDATORS

London, Primrose Hill. Grayse is the commanding slaver’s daughter. The enemy. She buys Light, like he’s a pair of designer shoes. So why does Light feel so drawn to her? Can a slave truly love his Mistress? Especially when his family is still in chains. Will he risk everything – even his new love – to save them?

BECOME THE PREY

Does a chilling conspiracy lie behind it all? A stunning revelation leads Light to an inconceivable truth. To the dark heart of the Blood Club. If he can face his worst terrors, he can save his family and his whole species from slavery.

Maybe he can even save himself.

Blood Shackles is the shocking second instalment in the compelling new fantasy series Rebel Vampires from the critically acclaimed author Rosemary A Johns. Experience a thrilling new twist on urban fantasy with vampires, Rockers and dark romance.

The review: Is hosted at Vamped.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dracula Incarnate: Unearthing the Definitive Dracula – review

Author: Andrew Struthers

First published: 2016

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Dracula has long been considered the most popular horror story ever written, though the origins of the character have never been investigated further than the point of disproving a definite link with Vlad III The Impaler (The Historical Dracula). What if we were to find positive proof that Stoker's story was in fact based on real events which have been hidden within an unholy grail of code embedded in his research papers for over a century. What if we were to find absolute proof that Stoker was indeed acquainted with the infamous shadowy figure they called The "Ripper" and had wrote his novel Dracula as a direct response to this shocking fact? In short, the true identity of Count Dracula has been discovered, and he was not lying alone in his grave!

The review: It pains me to be negative about someone’s book – especially when it is clear that they have poured heart and soul into it. However I can’t help but be negative around this volume – partly through the construct of the book, which I hope that the author will take constructively and also take into account for a further edition, and partly because of the theory.

That said the author has corrected some aspects of Dracula studies in a way I'd agree with. For instance, he identifies the houses in Whitby that Stoker placed some of his characters in and which are often taken to be elsewhere in the town. The only criticism here would be that a map – for those who don’t actually know Whitby – might have been useful. Indeed there are aspects of worth in the opening sections of the book but the book itself has prose and content failings as a reference book.

Prose wise the book is written in a very chatty way – which might make the book more accessible to some, others will find it overly familiar – but often it feels that we are less reading prose and more reading bullet points, unfortunately. The author's overwhelming use of exclamation marks makes the book feel unprofessional, I’m afraid.

The book has no index but, worse, it has no referencing (to be fair some entries regarding Stoker’s notes are at least signposted, but these are few and far between). This lack of referencing is a real issue within the book and frustrating. At one point the author refers us to Leatherdale, suggesting we read his thoughts on a point, but fails to reference which Leatherdale volume he is referring to.

The main area of my concern around the book is the supposition that Stoker knew the identity of Jack the Ripper and encoded his identity within the book. We know that Stoker drew a parallel with the Ripper case due to the introduction he wrote to the Icelandic edition of Dracula. That introduction was not for a straight translation but for the (soon to be released at time of this review) edition entitled Powers of Darkness – where a third party, Valdimar Ásmundsson, considerably rewrote the novel including new characters and plot. Note that Stoker clearly approved the edition but it was Ásmundsson who rewrote it.

However Struthers believes that Stoker encoded things about the Ripper case in his notes and then made four characters in the novel different aspects of the murderer. The latter is problematic if only for the fact that two of these so-called aspects are part of the Crew of Light – Van Helsing’s helpers and co-conspirators.

More problematic, for me as a reader, was the use of Stoker’s notes. The notes are available, however they were not made available by Stoker and one wonders why he would have put encoded secrets for future generations in working notes? Worst still is the shoehorning of anagrams to prove a point.

Let us take a couple of examples from the text and note that the author believes the identity of the Ripper to be Francis Tumblety. The author takes the phrase “Undertakers Man” and rearranges it to ARDENT UNMASKER, suggesting that Tumbelty could be the undertakers man and he is, therefore, being unmasked. However run the phrase through an anagram app and we also gets “Eastman drunker” and “errant unmasked”. Indeed there are hundreds of possible outcomes (the free software I used only gave you the first 400 outcomes). Nowhere is it suggested that there was a key in the notes to allow decoding and so it appears that the author ran phrases from the notes through an anagram programme and then picked the outcomes that would lend credence to his theorem.

Indeed the "meanings" are often cryptic and have to be explained by the author. So “Bells at Sea” becomes SELL A BEAST and this is interpreted as advertising a murder. The author ties the Ripper murders with another serial killer in the US – “The Servant Girl Annihilator”, who allegedly killed seven women (and allegedly injured a further 6) and a man (and allegedly injured a further 2). He then draws attention to part of a line in the notes that says “Rage twice Xmas and midsummer”. The US murderer is thought to have killed two women on Christmas eve 1885 (and seriously injure the husband of one) however the author fails to mention that none of the Ripper victims or those unfortunates in the US were killed in June (midsummer falling between the 19th and 25th of June).

The interpretation of the line would seem to be selective and it isn’t mentioned that the line comes from Stoker making several notes (on that specific page) from Baring-Gould’s Book of the Werewolf and relates to Polish werewolves. The full line from the notes is "White Russian wawkalak is fatherless ww. sent among relations—must keep moving. Polish ww. rage twice Xmas & midsummer p. 114–6". Stoker actually referencing the pages in Baring-Gould that the note came from. As a further point we should mention that Tumblety was not a Pole. In fact, we know why Stoker researched werewolves – it was because he saw no difference between vampires and werewolves and says as much in the Lady of the Shroud.

The author also points out a strange line “Cattle endowed with speech on Xmas night” from the notes – informing us that Tumblety called women cattle (without a specific reference to show that this supposition is true) and thus this is what Stoker referred to. He fails to inform the reader that all the notes on that particular page comes from Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest (the speaking cattle can be found on page 195 of Gerard) and Stoker was listing various Transylvanian superstitions from Gerard, which makes the entry less strange to my mind.

There are many other issues I had with the theory, but the idea that Stoker would present a hidden truth to the world in papers not designed to be seen is an initial stumbling block I can’t get past. The book is further marred by lack of referencing, the prose needs work and the excessive exclamation marks need expunging. 4 out of 10.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Honourable Mention: El Camino de los Espantos

Directed by Gilberto Martínez Solares and released in 1967, El Camino de los Espantos (literarily the way of the scared but also known as The Spectres Road) was a vehicle for comedy duo Capulina (Gaspar Henaine) and Viruta (Marco Antonio Campos). The duo worked together extensively in TV and film between 1957 and 1967 and this was the last production in that franchise. Gaspar Henaine would go on to have a long solo career as Capulina.

Whilst there is some evidence that the pair were really not getting along by the time this was made they had carved a style by this point, which was their own but owed something to Laurel and Hardy – who they emulated quite strongly early in their career – and probably a little to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as well. Viruta was the skinny clever part of the act and Capulina the big and dumb one.

I am possibly really pushing it to give this a mention here.

stranded
This sees a railway station with a group of passengers all desperate to get to the city. There is the businessman Serapio (Mario García 'Harapos') who needs to stop a business deal (why he doesn’t ask for a telegraph to be sent is not explored) and his wife (Consuelo Monteagudo) and adult son (Arturo Ripstein) who have a social engagement to get back for. There are two ladies, Adelita (Elsa Cárdenas, El Pueblo Fantasma) and Valentina (Salome), who have won a competition to audition for a film. Finally there is a cop (Guillermo Rivas) who has captured the infamous murderer Zopilote (Crox Alvarado) and is taking him back to stand trial. The telegrapher (Nathanael León, Santo en la Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiro) tells them the bridge is out and the train won’t come for at least a week.

Viruta and Capulina
Around this time Capulina and Viruta show up to pick up haulage from the train. Serapio begs for a lift in their truck but is refused as they do not have a passenger license. This fact becomes ignored when the businessman offers 500 pesos for their trouble (and that gets inflated to 500 per head). The girls are offered a free lift because they fancy them and the cop and his prisoner a free lift because he is a cop. However, because of the license issue they can’t take the main highway, due to a checkpoint, and must therefore use the Spectre’s Road.

into the haunted house
En route Viruta sees a skeletal apparition and stops the truck, Capulina gets out and is left behind (and menaced by ghosts) and eventually they have to go back for him. This leads to Zopilote escaping and the truck being stolen and, therefore, them heading to an old house they have spotted (as it looks like the trucks headlights were on nearby). The house is – it appears – haunted and here we have the reason for the Honourable mention.

fanged mask
The house once belonged to a reclusive occultist (who believed he had found evidence of oil at the location) and is a vast gothic pile with trick drawers in cabinets and secret passages. The guys soon discover they are not alone but to us the ghosts look like men in sheets with masks on. And, of course, they are... but the masks are as good a quality (for that read really poor quality) as masks used for actual monsters in other Mexican films of the period. Although they are referred to as ghosts, one has obvious fangs. So we have a person acting as a vampire in a fleeting visitation (though never referred to as a vampire).

And that, as they say, is that. The film is passably watchable with Gaspar Henaine’s Capulina stealing the show. The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Vampire Film: From Nosferatu to True Blood Fourth Edition - Updated and Expanded - review

Authors: Alain silver & James Usini

First published: 2011 (4th Ed)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: This newest edition will track the form's evolution from such 1970s reinventions as Count Yorga Vampire and Blacula, The Hunger and Vampire's Kiss in the Eighties, Interview with the Vampire, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the Blade series in the Nineties, through 30 Days of Night, I Am Legend, and the Underworld series in the first decade of the 21st century. All these films plus celebrated international examples such as Thirst and Let the Right One In and the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, New Amsterdam, Angel, The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood are covered in this long-awaited, completely revised, expanded, and redesigned fourth edition that follows the vampire figures, both male and female, through the millennium and beyond.

The Review: Let us start with the blurb. To be fair the blurb I quoted was not from the rear sleeve but from Amazon. Imagine my shock when I saw a series, New Amsterdam, I had not heard of… even more shocking as I had just read the book. The book does not mention the series and, from what I have been able to ascertain, New Amsterdam is a police procedural with a main character who is immortal. He has a rare blood type but there is no vampiric aspect that I can discern. Why it is in the blurb I cannot tell.

I saw someone post on Facebook that this was the best vampire reference book out there. It is a revised 4th edition (the first edition being published in 1976). It is not the best vampire film reference book out there but it isn’t bad, at all.

There are a few glaring errors. When the book was first written, it was hot on the heels of In Search of Dracula and so I can understand the conflation of the character Dracula and Vlad Ţepeş. That has been fairly and squarely debunked down to 'Stoker borrowed the name and a tiny amount of biographical data' and I would have liked to have seen that reflected in this edition (even if it was to refute it). But glaring additions such as Stoker including native earth as a trope (here’s a clue, he didn’t) show that the source material was not well known by the authors. Indeed they also include original sources such as “Vampire of the Fens”, which is known to be a hoax.

Whilst I would like to point out that Homer in Near Dark was a child and not a dwarf as suggested and that the entry on the Nostradamus Series seemed oblivious to the fact that the four films started life, in Mexico, as a serial and therefore the entry lost some of its sense, I do have to say that the errors, whilst there, are not endless and there is much goodness to be drawn from the pages.

However the book has two flaws. Firstly the way it has ordered things is idiosyncratic, to say the least, though I think this is mostly bound to it being revised over the decades. It is indexed, however, and this does help. The other thing is that it is not particularly in depth in its analysis – and again, given its very broad remit and the fact that it isn’t necessarily aimed at academia, allows for that. I was a little taken aback by guest entries, sometimes inserted article like into chapters, rather than the authors adding certain entries into the main text – the entry for True Blood was done in such a way, written by Linda Brookover and tagged onto the end of a chapter (in this case). These sections are printed with red text, rather than black.

It is nicely illustrated, in colour, throughout and does actually pick up on some of the more obscure and indie titles. There is a nice filmography at the end of the book.

So a few errors, a strange layout, but nicely illustrated, covering some obscure titles and worth a look. 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Black Room – review


Directors: Elly Kenner & Norman Thaddeus Vane

Release date: 1982

Contains spoilers


I had spotted a (German) DVD of this but it was a tremendously expensive edition for an obscure 80s horror/thriller. As it was I then stumbled across a video rip with hardcoded Greek subtitles on YouTube and so used that for the review.

The film itself has a TV movie feel but with its sexual subject I assume it was actually a straight to VHS job. It perhaps feels more like it should have been spawned in the previous decade.

Messy Transfusion
The look begins with a couple naked and grinding in the Black Room of the title. The room is windowless with black soft furnishings, mirrors and candles (and a glowing white table). Unbeknownst to the couple they are being watched through a one-way window (when we see the other side of the window, it too is clearly a (small, ornate) mirror that the cast pretend they can see through). They are also unaware that there are secret doors into the room. We see figures (later revealed to be Jason (Stephen Knight) and his sister Bridget (Cassandra Gava)) coming with chloroform and a (large) hypodermic needle. Quick cuts shows us a machine drawing blood, a transfusion that ends with the blood bursting from an overfull vein (!) and the two drained bodies thrown unceremoniously into a coffin and then shallow buried.

Larry in the Black Room
Larry (Jimmy Stathis) is in bed with his wife, Robin (Clara Perryman), but his passion is quickly cockblocked by their young kids. Frustrated, he smokes a cigarette as she settles the kids back down. In the morning Larry gets in his car and sees a classified ad for a room for rent. He goes to see it and it is the black room, available for $200 per month essentially as a place to bring girls back to. Jason arranges that Larry should call ahead, if he intends to come, and in return Jason will light the candles, set music playing and pour out wine for Larry and his guest. Larry tells Robin about the room but puts it in terms of a fantasy, telling Robin he couldn’t do to her what he would do in the room as he loves her.

cut finger
It doesn’t take Larry long to pick up a girl, Lisa (Charlie Young), a student who is hitching. He is upfront about being married and tells her that he will tell his wife everything – as she will not believe him. Larry takes Lisa to the room and Jason voyeuristically watches and takes photos. Cutting back home we get one of the homages to more traditional vampire movies that this film plays with – we see Robin cut her finger and then put the finger into her mouth and suck the blood. It is a scene that has been played with ever since Nosferatu and in this case it does two things. It knowingly tells the audience that this is a vampire film as it plays with the tropes and it also segues into the next scene.

Bridget and Jason
This is one of Larry arriving at the house and meeting Bridget. She tells him that a woman has called and cancelled, puts Larry right in his assumption that they (Bridget and Jason) are lovers and tells Larry about Jason’s rare blood disease. He has Cooley's Anemia, a name for Thalassemia. This is a real world genetic illness that leads to abnormal formation of haemoglobin. Jason clearly has a severe form of the disease as he needs regular transfusions – at one time every 60 days, it increased to monthly and is now twice weekly. Larry and Bridget end up having kinky “toreador” sex.

Sandy in coffin
So Larry is a lure and when he brings a prostitute, Sandy (Geanne Frank), back and then leaves her there for half an hour, she is quickly taken and hooked to the machine. Again, in homage to the traditional vampire, they extract the blood through her neck with a two-pronged needle that leaves a vampire like mark. Sandy actually nearly escapes but ends up buried in the grounds. Meanwhile Larry and Robin’s sex life improves… that is until she finds out that the room and his activities are real. She is tempted into sampling the delights of the room but soon the siblings turn on the husband and wife… and their kids…

drained
Looking at the vampiric elements, whilst this is a true genetic condition that needs transfusions (and Bridget suggests live transfusion direct from the donor is better than the plasma used by hospitals) the film really does equate Jason with a vampire. Indeed, the fact that he is transfused to the point of blood exploding out of overfull veins offers almost a greed of consumption to the process. Beyond this, when we see Jason being transfused we actually see a rapture on his face, again more reminiscent of a vampire consuming blood than a patient being transfused.

Jason the dark seducer
We have noted some of the traits/tropes used and Jason is portrayed as a dark seducer when he convinces Robin to turn the tables on Larry and sample the delights of the room. Much more interestingly is the ending – so massive spoilers coming – Jason is strangled, manages to recover from that and is subsequently repeatedly stabbed with the double needle and left face down in a bath of blood. Bridget is stabbed in the neck and, by the gush, an artery is hit. Both (as the family make their escape) are seen getting up but their movements have more than a touch of the ‘risen dead’ about them. We hear Robin ask if people like that ever really die? Then she supposes that they go on living forever.

Bridget rises despite her wound
This is a supernatural bent to an otherwise entirely mundane worldview within the story, where the homages to the vampire skews into them truly being the living dead and is quite a strange way to end the film. The film is perhaps a little too dated without a truly inspiring performance to lift us beyond that but it is perfectly watchable as a moment in cinematic time. Despite being dependent on sex for its plot, its content is almost demure and we see very little. The reaction of Larry to discovering that his wife has slept with another man is hilarious given that he knows that his indiscretions have been discovered and she has only done what he did – talk about a double standard.

Not the greatest film but it wasn’t that bad and I enjoyed the way it played to the traditional vampire film, whilst ploughing its own furrow. 4 out of 10. The imdb page is here.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Short Film: One for the Road

The Stephen King short story One for the Road had previously been turned into a Bulgarian short film entitled Wrong Way. I noticed a Kickstarter recently aimed at making a further short of the story and, when preparing a piece to highlight that Kickstarter, I came across another short of the story – this time from 2011.

For those who don’t know the story it is a sequel to the King vampire classic ‘Salem’s Lot and this version, directed by Paul Ward, has one distinct difference. Rather than set during a snowstorm, it is set with freezing fog – presumably easier to do on a budget.

Janey and Francis
Having shown us a trio of men in a truck, with a voiceover talking about the fog and the fact that they are heading towards ‘Salem’s Lot, we move into the recent past and a family in a broken-down car. Dad, Gerard Lumley, is going to head out for help leaving mom, Janey (Audrey Walters, Preacher), and young son, Francis (Drew Walters), in the car (note the original King short had the child as a daughter). He heads to a tavern (one hours walk away) that is just closing up for night, staggers through the door and collapses.

the bar
Owner, Herb Tooklander (Reggie Bannister, Bubba Ho-Tep), and last patron, Booth (Adam Robitel), revive the traveller with brandy and then discover where he broke down. At first they try to get the sheriff but the lines are down and there is some umming and arring before they agree to go with Lumley. He, for his part, gets more and more irate as it seems the two men stall but finally they are en route.

searching the fog
We are told that the town went bad, more and more people vanished and those that subsequently moved to the town either left quickly or vanished themselves. Then the town burned down to the ground and things seemed to get better, but only for a short while. Both men have religious items on them and suggest that if the family aren’t in the car they turn around and leave. There is instruction not to talk to anyone and they eventually flat out tell the man the town is full of vampires.

burnt vampire
The vampire design in this owes a debt to the 1979 ‘Salem’s Lot, specifically the look of the Master. Though the colouring is more grey than blue these vampires have front fangs and large-bat like ears. The look seems uniform not altering due to age or gender. The vampires in the fog look rather cool, they are repelled/burnt by the holy items but that is the most we get in respect of lore.

So, what happens? Well if you’ve read the short (and I suspect many of my readers have) then you already know. If not then you can see for yourself below. The imdb page is here.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Sacrifice – review

Director: Ricardo Islas

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

It is always great to stumble, literally, across a vampire film. This was a film I came across on a browse through Amazon Prime and just thought it looked interesting enough to while away a little bit of time. Only when it started running did I realise that it was directed and written by Ricardo Islas. Islas directed the film Night Fangs. Night Fangs is one that many people hate but, despite flaws and a low budget, I really enjoy.

I also enjoy filmmakers reaching out to other countries’ myths and folklore. And that is very much done here. There are issues with the film, especially in the coda scene, but it was still welcome in the variety it added.

stoned
It begins in India and a heavily pregnant woman, Bela Shankari (Lady India), tries to evade some men but she is found, rendered unconscious, placed in a pit and then stoned. One of the assailants is a monk. Over in Chicago, not long afterwards, cop Tony Salerno (Franco Steeves) is preparing his family for the coming school day – badly, or at least according to daughter Antonella (Giuliana Islas, Night Fangs), insisting that they need something for breakfast. Her sister Carla (Grin) is dealing with body image in the bathroom and her mom, Sheila (Elizabeth Abraham), is on a trip to India to visit family, but is due home that day. A note regarding therapist Sheila; in IMDb credits she is listed as Sheila Salerno but in the film credits she is Sheila Khan and is referred to as Dr Khan by characters.

Franco Steeves as Tony
Tony picks Sheila up from the airport and she has her two nephews, Samir (Armaan Bajpai) and Pran (Aditya Krukeja), with her. As Tony takes a picture of them he accidentally snaps a shot of a guy (Max Da'Silva) who seems to be watching them. Sheila informs Tony that the boys can’t speak English. They are there for two weeks and they stop off at a dinner. As Tony orders, the boys spread millet seed (or baajara as the boys refer to it in Hindi) on the floor and the waitress (Liz Bancroft) slips and falls. The use of seed tweaked my vampire radar.

stumbling into the monster
In a building at the airport a baggage handler (Christopher Kahler) realises someone is close by and warns he will call security. Then he notices a pair of naked feet facing away from him under a curtain. We see hair shifting, very briefly, and it made me think of werewolves though we never saw this type of shot again and our monster is not particularly hirsute. He goes to move the curtain and something launches at him, killing him. Back at the Salerno house, Sheila’s assistant Nancy (Jennifer Lenius), agrees to be a short-term Nanny for the kids. However the boys throw millet down in front of her and she picks the seeds up, but she cannot answer how many. When Sheila tries to take the boys’ bag of seeds they panic and Samir calls out “please”. They realise the boys can actually speak English. Sheila then gets a call to say her brother has died.

the churel
So we end up with the boys tracked by two parties. The first is the man – who turns out to be a monk from a tantric cult that the boys' father was a member of. The stoning at the beginning of the film was of a prostitute pregnant with the cult leader’s child (there is also a suggestion later that the cult was one that indulged in child sacrifice, though this could have just been prejudice on behalf of the speaker). After they stoned the woman, she could not rest in the grave and became a churel. This is described in film as a woman who dies pregnant or in childbirth through unnatural means and cannot rest until she has killed all the male line of the one who wronged her. She is said to drink their blood and eat their flesh.

a close-up of the churel
In Bane’s Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology they are described thus: “In India, when a woman dies an unnatural death or in childbirth, she will return as a type of undead... However, if she should do so during the five- day Festival of Diwali, she returns specifically as the vampiric REVENANT known as a churel. Churels are an extremely ugly species of vampire in their true form, having backward-facing feet; a black tongue; sagging breasts; thick, rough lips; and wild HAIR. Beginning with the youngest and most handsome man in its family line, it will seduce him and drain him dry of his blood, leaving only a shriveled husk of an old man behind.” In this she is going through the male line oldest to youngest.

picking up seeds
The backwards feet is part of this but, because of the budget, really shown as her walking backwards. Visually she looks more revenant (or even zombie) than the typical Western vampire. There are other aspects that are beyond Bane’s description starting with the arithmomania, which would seem to have been added to the churel’s lore. We also get a concept that if her body is too damaged she can possess a living woman who is close to her target(s). This leads to an interesting way to kill a creature who, for all intents and purposes, cannot be stopped. I was bemused by her taking the boys back to her lair when she was able to get her hands on them but this is folklore consistent, Bane suggests she will “take him back to its lair in a graveyard. There, it will keep him prisoner, feeding off him a little at a time.” (The graveyard becomes a disused steel mill).

the boys are watched
There were issues and things that could have been expanded on. The issue of sacrifice comes in with Sheila prepared to sacrifice herself by injecting herself with Pran’s blood and tricking the churel into believing she had killed him (the monk actually tries this but uses a cat as the receptical of Pran's blood, the churel seeing through the ruse as a human was not used). That didn’t sit well with her having the means for the actual way they use to tackle the churel nor did it sit well in the family dynamics. Given the level of conspiracy to get the boys to the US (and away, they hoped, from the churel), why wasn’t she aware of the boys’ language skills? There is a rift built into this with Tony (who was unaware of the truth) that needed more exploring – especially as Sheila is openly jealous of his young female partner Stacey (Victoria Flees).

Elizabeth Abraham as Sheila
I had a real problem with the coda to the film, despite the fact that it referred back to events during the film. I just didn’t see why it would be done or exactly what had caused an explosive reaction. The scene where Tony and Sheila are interviewed by a panel of his boss, homeland security, the FBI and an Indian consulate (Meenu Jethi) smacked of unreality, as did a scene that ends up having Tony suspended for police brutality. The acting wasn’t necessarily brilliant (and the sound, in one scene, of the kids screaming was noticeably too loud to the point of distortion) but, despite it all I enjoyed this. Perhaps because it is an Islas flick? Who knows. But for me it was worth the watch. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.