Saturday, December 16, 2017

Short Film: Confessions of a Vampire

As it appears on Amazon Prime, Confessions of a Vampire is allegedly a 2017 film directed by “Old Mill Entertainment”. If that name is familiar they were the company behind the atrocious Ghost bride of Dracula where they took a softcore film and stitched the “story” bits together and added some unconvincing establishment shots.

The difference with this is that the film they have hacked to pieces to make this is a hardcore adult film – in fact there are two films involved but I’ll explain that later. So, the scenes making up this film are from the 2007 Daniel Dakota directed My Girlfriend's a Vampire. There are nonsensical establishing shots of a castle beyond forest and scenes of a POV camera going through said forest, in black and white, non-sensical because the film clearly is set in a city and has establishing shots itself of apartment blocks and a cityscape.

the horror host
After a horror host of sorts (A skeleton with a faux-Lugosi accented dub) introduces the film, and the castle/forest establishing shots already mentioned, we start off with Van (Evan Stone, Haunting Desires & The Lair) and voices in the background. His roommate Donny (Van Damage) comes in wearing a wolfman mask. He is trying to roleplay with a woman but she wants Van gone. Donny give him some money and suggests he goes down the road for a drink, after all it’s Halloween. Once gone the film abruptly cuts away so the resultant sex scene is expunged.

Van and Demonika
Van is in a bar and tries to chat up a woman (Selina Draagen), but she’s a lesbian and blows him off. Another woman approaches him and knows his name (the fact that he looks like a Van is a running gag, apparently). She introduces herself as Demonika Jones (Ava Rose) and takes him back to hers. She sniffs around his neck but realises she really likes him and so sends him away. She goes back to the bar, picks up the lesbian, they get naked, there is an ugly cut (avoiding the sex scene) and she goes to bite her neck.

Wendy, Van and Stan
Van is trying to find out about Demonika and is back at the bar when Wendy (Diana Prince) comes in looking for Demonika and is pointed to Van. She checks his neck and his ass (vampires sometimes bite there rather than the neck) and realises that he is unharmed. Wendy is a witch and she takes him to see Stan the Destroyer (Christian) and we get the arse-about-face lore that you can’t enter a vampire’s home unless invited (or having been there previously). They give him a special dagger to stab her through the heart with but also mention that she must like him and he starts referring to her as his girlfriend thereafter.

having a quick bite
So, will he kill her? It is certain that he’ll sleep with her and that scene will be expunged to try and make a “safe film”. The film is listed on Amazon as being 47 minutes long but all this comes in at under 30 minutes. Back to the skeleton who shows us “another film”. Actually it is a faux trailer (for Easter, the tale of a killer Easter Bunny) and another butchered hardcore film under the title Student Assassin. Both of these come from an adult flick entitled Grindhouse XXX and have no vampiric element.

So, these are scenes cut out from adult movies and the quality is what you would expect. We get a marvellous moment of rubber bat but the film itself is dire – because these were stitching together hardcore sex scenes, not aiming to make an auteur cinema piece.

The butchered version of the film does not have an IMDB page at time of review.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Vamp or Not? SiREN

This 2016 film directed by Gregg Bishop was inspired/spun-off from the segment Amateur Night from the film V/H/S. Now given that I reviewed that, it might seem odd that this is a ‘Vamp or Not?’ However, the short was low on detail and this has much more detail (or at least origin) than that did.

I will say that I received some comments re V/H/S criticising the inclusion of a review for the film on a vampire blog, as the creature was (according to those commentators) a succubus. You know what, that certainly wasn’t clear in the short, definitely open to interpretation. In this there is an opportunity to again look at lily (Hannah Fierman, V/H/S, the Vampire Diaries & the Unwanted) but whilst there might be succubus traits (and the writers might have been influenced by the mythology) there are some aspects that just don’t gel with that. Be that as it may, there are close parallels anyway between the succubus and the vampire.

Justin Welborn as Mr Nyx
So the film begins in a graveyard. The Sheriff, cops and a man named Mr Nyx (Justin Welborn, Psychopathia Sexualis) enter the church. There are bodies throughout the church, a magic circle that Nyx recognises as being incorrectly drawn and bloody footprints across the floor and up columns. When the Sheriff asks if they (the dead) were Satanists, Nyx calls them amateurs. The thing (Lily) attacks the cops but Nyx speaks to her and gently puts a leg iron on her…

the stags
Jonah (Chase Williamson) and Eva (Lindsey Garrett, also The Vampire Diaries) are roleplaying, though it isn’t going too well. He’s about to go on his stag night. The trip has been organised by his ne’er-do-well brother Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan) and involves friends Rand (Hayes Mercure) and Elliott (Randy McDowell) and they go to a strip club in Garden City. The club is disappointing but a man approaches Mac and tells him that he can lead them to a happening place.

welcoming the stags
The guys drop mushrooms and then follow the stranger, getting more nervous the deeper into the countryside they go (though later it seems they aren’t too far out). They go into a secluded mansion where the security are oddly attired, some hidden within black hoods and others with blanks face masks. Led downstairs they sit around the stage and, after the act finishes, Nyx comes out and leads them off. Jonah is taken to a “peep show” and the others to a living room where the price for Jonah's show is given as their favourite memory of their mothers.

escaping with Lily
Jonah sees a girl, Lily, and she starts to sing and he has flashes of various sexual experiences. Afterwards, convinced she is a sex slave, he gets Rand and they break her out. She manages to get her manacle off and starts killing and pursuing Jonah (as does Nyx). So what do we find out about her. Well she is devilish or demonic – summoned into our plane. She can produce bat-like wings and a long, dexterous tail and her hands/feet can transform into talons. She is also strong, for she can carry a man off. There is the obvious siren aspects – the name of the film for one and the song that mesmerises men and makes them relive sexual experiences or see ideal partners. Now Bane (as a source example) does not list sirens as a separate vampire type with their own entry – though they are listed in her encyclopedia as a variant of “mermaid vampires” and a couple of listed vampire types are said to have “siren-like qualities”.

post chomp
Lily is obviously a reference to Lilith, who has connection to both the vampire and succubus myths. Succubi are often eaters of energy through the sexual act – and thus an energy vampire – however Lily doesn’t seem to be such a thing (presumably she consumes flesh, and we do see a couple of neck chomps, but we primarily see her simply killing by tooth and claw). Lily does physically mate with Jonah – indeed she rapes him by singing and making him believe he is with Eva and then penetrates him (whilst she is atop him) with her tail. However Nyx suggests that her kind mates for life, not the behaviour of a standard succubus.

So, we have definitive demonic origin (in V/H/S this was not certain and she could have been another, albeit supernatural, species) but we have the very specific siren song. We have the sexual connotation and yet a monogamous aspect. She is more “with it” than in V/H/S where she seemed more ethereal and appeared to have less of an interest to what was happening around her. In V/H/S she was just there, perhaps using her apparent vulnerability to hunt, in this she was summoned and then enslaved.

That broader knowledge pushes me away from Vamp – though she does have some connections in through Lilith and through the succubus aspects, which makes me place this as something of genre interest at least. Not Vamp.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Short Film: Sirens

Another film I came across on Amazon Prime, this comes in at 13 minutes in length and (especially given the title) I am not overly sure that these are meant to be vampires but given fangs and a flesh-eating propensity I’m going with the flow.

The short was directed by Peter Papas and stars Bill Goutzinakis as a voyeur. When we meet him, he is going around taking surreptitious photos. Firstly of a couple, then of a woman jogger (mainly of her ass) and then he sneaks into the ladies after her (the camera does not follow but we assume he has taken an intrusive photo).

We then go to a mall and he follows a woman up an escalator holding his bag so that his video camera can capture her ass and perhaps even up-skirt footage. He goes to get his photos developed and then goes to his car. The escalator woman is in the car park and gives him a hard stare – though whether that impacts his fate is not revealed.

Three is a magic number
He drives to an alley and is going to pleasure himself watching the footage of the escalator woman. During the film there is a flash of imagery – three women's statues (as per the film poster). Three women appear in the alley. They walk past his car and he gets out, with camera, to follow them. However they appear to have gone into the back of a van and beckon him to go to them.

He does do and suddenly there are fangs and they start taking chunks out of him. They are flesh eaters as much as blood drinkers and the van is rocking away as they devour him, literally. Of course they might be actual sirens as opposed to vampires (they do lure him, although they do not have a sea connection that we are shown) but the fact that there are three of them is also reminiscent of Dracula’s brides and I think there is enough here just to mention the film to you.

At the time of writing I could not find an IMDb page.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Honourable Mentions: The Adventures of Young Van Helsing: The Quest for the Lost Scepter

Well, this was err… special… and not in a good way. A 2004 offering from director Kevin Summerfield it kind of took the characters created by Bram Stoker and turned them into a low rent Relic Hunter.

We start in 1905 with Abraham Van Helsing (Ken Mitzkovitz) who looks remarkably Indiana Jones-lite, has a kid with him in the graveyard and is fighting a vampire… ish, Simon Magus (Joe Zaso, Rage of the Werewolf, Addicted to Murder 3: Bloodlust Vampire Killer & Nikos the Impaler) isn’t a vampire, but for now he has fangs and red eyes and Van Helsing is… American. Yes the Dutch philosopher and metaphysician has been culturally appropriated and turned into an inferior Dr Jones. Anyhoo, as Magus grabs his throat his flesh begins to smoke but Short Round… oops, sorry… wrong film, essentially the same character… manages to lob him a fancy implement (the Sceptre of God) and he stakes Magus with it whilst reciting an incantation. Magus begins to corrupt and falls dead.

it absorbed me
Jump forward to the present day and there is an archaeological dig headed by Professor Arad (Ned Narang). His assistant Estabon (Rabiah Elaawar) sees something on a scan and goes get Arad. They have found it, they say, and Estabon suggests securing the area first – of course, in due time, is the Professor’s confusing response. Meanwhile all the kids working on the dig are huddled round the screen, which shows a skeleton. Arad makes a declaration that it is dormant not dead. The dig continues and the unsuspecting student working near the buried body gets got… How can I explain it, their hands seem to merge and he screams and screams. By the time Arad and Estabon get there all the students are smouldering, charred skeletons and magus (for it was him) is gone.

Keith Jordan as Michael
Arad is to go over to America to find Michael Harris (Keith Jordan). He is the descendent of Van Helsing but, when his parents died, he was sent to live with his Aunt (Lisa Willis) and the family surname had been abandoned as it was too dangerous. He knows nothing of his heritage and is just a high school kid, a bit of a wise guy, in a band and disliked by the Jocks. We later discover that his friend Danny (Tomm Bauer), when a little kid, stole a package from the post office that contained the Sceptre, buried it and forgot where – hence the film title. Magus is after the sceptre, it feels, more than Michael (who could just end up as collateral damage).

Kimberly Cash as Morgan LeFay
So the film stumbles through awful bits with the actors miming to a song (by the Speaks) where they forget that backing vocalists need a mic to be heard, really some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a while and worse delivery (though Michael himself seemed fun) and a flash back to Van helsing getting Excalibur’s Scabbard from an undead Morgan LeFay (Kimberly Cash) and some zombie knights (for no good reason… it was just a bizarre piece). This all culminates in a showdown with Magus, conveniently about five yards from where Danny buried the Sceptre – and followed by them miming to two blooming songs at the school dance.

Magus shot with an arrow
The question can be asked, of course, what is Magus? Well, apparently he was an angel who was Lucifer’s second-in-command in the rebellion against heaven. He made the sceptre when still an angel, for reasons unknown, and can use it to rule the Earth (and bring Hell on Earth). He is described as a skinwalker – he can absorb the flesh off a human and make himself look less demon-like. When he isn’t doing that he can absorb a person’s memory – when he does this to a girl she ends up in a coma, when he does it to Danny there is no side-effect. He is immortal and regenerates lopped off body parts. Given that he was dormant post the VH-fight, no one explains how Van Helsing misplaced his body after defeating him (despite there being a room of crates with artefacts and creatures packed up).

Michael and Arad
So, no vampire but as it features Van Helsing (and vampires are mentioned a couple of times) it gets a mention as it is Dracula related. Sometimes on this blog I am tempted to say, “I watched it, so you don’t have to.” This is one of those times.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture – review

Editors: David Baker,‎ Stephanie Green &‎ Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bieńkowska

First Published: 2017

The Blurb: This unique study explores the vampire as host and guest, captor and hostage: a perfect lover and force of seductive predation. From Dracula and Carmilla, to True Blood and The Originals, the figure of the vampire embodies taboos and desires about hospitality, rape and consent.

The first section welcomes the reader into ominous spaces of home, examining the vampire through concepts of hospitality and power, the metaphor of threshold, and the blurred boundaries between visitation, invasion and confinement.

Section two reflects upon the historical development of vampire narratives and the monster as oppressed, alienated Other.

Section three discusses cultural anxieties of youth, (im)maturity, childhood agency, abuse and the age of consent.

The final section addresses vampire as intimate partner, mapping boundaries between invitation, passion and coercion. With its fresh insight into vampire genre, this book will appeal to academics, students and general public alike.

The Review: Another academic tome with a steep price tag, this proves itself a worthy edition to vampire studies by looking at hospitality (and, of course, invitations), rape and consent and how the vampire film/story examines and explores those concepts.

All the chapters were worthwhile but I must give a quick mention that Chapter 5, Breaking and Entering: Psychic Violation, metempsychosis and the Uninvited Female Vampire was written by Facebook friend Simon Bacon. His chapter was, as ever, inciteful and, as ever, he pushed the bounds of what one might deem a vampire film by including The Host. He likened this to War of the Worlds, which he correctly identifies as vampiric in nature. However my understanding was that the film, based on a Stephenie Meyer novel, was not a vampire film. Worry not, however, I will look at it as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ in the future. If I could offer a suggested further direction to this chapter, however, it is that whilst the Le fanu story the Mysterious Lodger does not contain a female vampire, as Carmilla did (and the chapter was about female vampires), it is an ideal story to look at invitation and consequence thereof.

It was especially nice to see an academic light being turned onto Marryat’s the Blood of the vampire as, whilst it is relatively unknown, it deserves more attention.

There was attention drawn to the Originals, especially around family, and yet none of the contributors considered the classic Tolstoy story the Family of the Vourdalak, which examined familial ties and the undead early in the genre’s development.

A couple of the chapters featured thoughts on Let the Right One In and I really thought they missed a trick. We know that Lindqvist deemed the story between Oskar and Ellie as a love story, hence writing Let the Old Dreams Die as a re-balance after the two films took the idea of the vampire grooming the child as a caretaker. As this was more pronounced in Let me In, I thought this would be a better film to examine.

In her essay, Samantha Lindpop argues that Carmilla was the “first narrative to locate the vampire as somewhat sympathetic and emotionally affected.” However, I would argue that the 1824 novel the Virgin Vampire pre-dates that by just shy of half a century. I also disagree that Katherine in Son of Dracula was gullible as her machinations underpin the film. However, beyond these points I really enjoyed the chapter.

As with any academic tome, there will be differences of opinion between reader and author(s) but the food for thought that all these essays offered was excellent (whether one agreed or disagreed) and the points were well explored. 9 out of 10 (price notwithstanding).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Night Seekers – review

Director: Menetie T. Ejeye

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

So, I spotted this one on Amazon Prime and, if I’m honest, it was the name that attracted my attention. The trailer looked fairly poor and it looked more like a zombie or mutant/diseased type film. But I did some digging and found a review on Black Horror Movies. Having read the review I inwardly groaned as I read these words: “what the “night seekers” are (basically, lazy vampires)”.

So, ‘Vamp or Not?’ it was to be, until I just decided that yes, they are vampires. No, I don’t need to go into a specific examination of the film to discuss that… God it’s awful and I’m going to have to review it and… if you are a vampire genre completist, as I am, you’re going to have to watch it too.

Justin and Tamara
So, we start off with a horrible night shot of running through the woods and the worst day for night type filter I have borne witness to. Then we cut to Justin (William F. Bryant) and Tamara (Kristin Lorenz) and we don’t notice anything other than there is a horrible bleached out filter applied to the picture. Honestly, it’s horrible and is applied through the film. They are getting together with their group of friends decide where they are going on holiday this year. Other than one dissenting voice from Jose (David Santana) for Mexico, they agree on Astro Island – a place that Justin has maps for.

Menetie T. Ejeye as manny
As for the friends, there are four couples, we have Justin and Tamara, – Jose and Cynthia (Bella Favela), Manny (Menetie T. Ejeye) and Tanya (Shah Granville), and Jonathan (Nathan Truong) and Lin (Jeannie Fedorak Cocit). As an aside, notice the poster/cover has the character names not the actor names on it! Justin has arranged all this in two weeks and has booked for them to stay on the outskirts of the city in a house owned by Mimi (Jill K. Allen). When they get there, they are vocal about the smell, Mimi appears to have one room for the eight of them and her sinister man-servant (for want of a better word), Sam Man (John Delaney), takes a mute (it appears) shine to Tamara – causing Justin to declare that she is his.

Shah Granville as tanya
That night the women sleep in the one bed and the guys on the floor – it doesn’t matter because they’re only staying one night – and Justin wakes to find Tamara missing. He goes into a loud search and finds her on a couch – she claims she doesn’t know how she got there (and thus hints at somnambulism). Manny has made a joke about Sam Man taking her, but Manny is one of the singularly most annoying characters in a film... ever. Anyhoo, Mimi warns them about going in a certain direction – it is forbidden and no human or living thing goes there. They meet their tour guide Roberta (Adriana Sheri) who immediately takes them there.

graffiti 101
OK, long story short time. Tanya freaks about going to the forbidden zone, Roberta says there is nothing wrong with the place (and the two bitch at each other ad nauseum through the film) as Cynthia gets jealous of Roberta (cause… Jose) and Jonathan sleeps – he has narcolepsy and falls asleep each scene. (A lost) Roberta pulls up at a cabin (read nicely furnished house) and suggests they break in for the night! The cabin – in the forbidden zone where no human goes – has electricity and food in the cupboards and fridge. They do a lot of driving off and ending up back at the cabin (and running low on gas), unable to get anything but static on their mobiles, whilst Tamara declares everyone doomed and starts drawing a monster picture on the wall in her sleep. Eventually the creatures attack.

Jonathan eviserated
So, they are described as human creatures; part human, part creature… did I mention how bad the dialogue is... No? It’s really poor. I mean, really blooming poor. They break in the house and go for the fridge (I kid you not) until they see someone and then we realise they can speak (in a monosyllabic way). Jonathan is the first to be got and they go for his stomach, ala a typical zombie attack, but with later victims they do bite the neck; however the inference is that they eat all the flesh. The gang hide until dawn… because they are in a film called Night Seekers, I guess. In the AM they go to the woods to find sharp things as weapons, yet we never see them with weapons (or fighting back)!

sleeping upside down
So it is a traipse through the countryside to try and get back to the not forbidden bit, and a desperate attempt not to get suburban America in shot. Honestly, concrete underpasses that are described as caves. A school bus they find, in a car park, with buildings in shot… in the untamed wilderness of the forbidden zone! We discover that they sleep during the day, upside down, like bats – and Tamara starts doing the same. But actually, the Night Seekers are just guys (all black guys, for no explained reason) in boiler suits or hoodies with gunk on their faces to make them “creatures”.

portrait of a night seeker
I mentioned the review I found called them lazy vampires… to be honest I don’t know why lazy, they did traipse a long way after their prey (it was 30 miles from Mimi’s to the edge of the forbidden zone). However I find myself agreeing with the most of that review. This is an awful film. The filters on the camerawork are rank, the stagecraft meant to suggest they are out in the wilderness was laughable, the dialogue was (at every point) ridiculously bad and the delivery thereof shocking. There was little tension, little to no characterisation, no communication of narrative background. It was just poor in all ways. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Love Lies Bleeding – review

Author: Aspasia S Bissas

First published: 2017 (2nd Edition)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: What happens when a predator loves its prey?

Centuries-old Mara is dying a slow death when she meets Lee, a young man whose life has never belonged to him. Thrown together, they're forced to fight those who would destroy them and survive a slew of enemies they never expected, even as Mara falls into a downward spiral of delusion and obsession. Will she make a devil's deal to save both their souls? With pasts like theirs, can they ever have a future?

The review: I am a strong reader, some might suggest voracious. However it is the rare gem that makes me utterly devour a tome disregarding all over stimuli. Love Lies Bleeding is such a gem. Set by its blurb as a supernatural romance it certainly does have a love element to it but that element is dysfunctional, to say the least, and what we have is the coming together of two broken people (one human – and a bloodletter – and the other vampire) and the joy is that they remain broken, that they both carry insecurities and issues with them.

Mara is the vampire of the piece. The vampire world seems fairly split between the Enlightenment, a group that holds a balance of power and eschew hunting for at hand meals from bloodletters, and Primalists, a loose confederacy of those who believe the vampire’s purpose is to hunt, an alpha predator without the need for human comforts. Along with a few others, Mara is an independent, but one who was turned by a particularly vicious Primalist named Dominic and is also being wooed by the leader of the Enlightenment, Nigel.

She hopes her association with Nigel will help keep the obsessive Dominic at bay but finds him a bore and is shocked to discover that Nigel has decided to take her as a consort. Mara is also dying, her emotions fading and turning to apathy but all that changes when Mara is given Lee (short for Liam), a bloodletter who refuses to conform and whose normal hatred for the vampires fails him in the presence of Maya.

The vampirism is interesting in this. Mara suggests it is a virus, though her theory might be flawed, she also suggests that vampires can (in very rare occasions) become ill with more mortal ailments. They can only subsist on human blood (food tastes awful, animal blood fails to satisfy). Direct sunlight hurts them but they can be abroad in daylight and garlic works against them.

What struck me in this was the writing, which was crisp, and strong. Even the more idiosyncratic dialogue seemed natural for the characters as they were drawn. Indeed, whilst the story was ok, strong enough and refreshingly small scale, it was the characters that really made this. Their flaws were beautifully drawn for the reader, their actions logical given the damage and their inherent dysfunctions. Altogether stimulating in a genre where too many authors concentrate on wish fulfilment. 9 out of 10.