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Archive for March, 2010

The Vampires' Night Orgy (1973)

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Even though it takes place mostly during the day and certainly contains no orgies, León Klimovsky’s The Vampires’ Night Orgy (aka La Orgía Nocturna De Los Vampiros, aka Orgy of the Vampires aka Grave Desires (US) (1973) is a fun excursion in Spanish horror from a director quite new to me, but apparently best-known for his work with the late Paul Naschy (and let me tell you, any director who comes out with work entitled The Werewolf Versus The Vampire Woman is probably going to feature strongly in my spending future!)

The film starts with a group of domestics travelling to their new appointment at a remote country house. Yep, I assumed that the remote country house would be the problem – but instead the group’s troubles begin when, exhausted, they decide they are going to take a detour via a town called Tolnio so they can get some rest. Before they can arrive at Tolnio their bus driver dies in an unexpectedly brief, comedic way but, with a tavern awaiting, they decide to leave his corpse on the bus! They don’t get the quick service there that they hoped, though – the whole town is completely deserted. Unsure what to do, they decide to help themselves to liquid refreshments and beds (where Jack Taylor (as Luis) is up to his usual tricks, spying on the beautiful Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska) through a hole in the wall!) and to look for the townsfolk in the morning.

Sure enough, by the next day the town is a hive of activity. The town’s mayor Boris (José Guardiola) apologises for not being able to receive them properly the night before, as all the citizens just happened to be at the cemetery, seeing off a valued member of the community. They are welcome at Tolnio, though – just as well, as their bus will no longer start. Never mind, Boris says: the Countess will look after their needs, and will provide them with any money they may require. Some of the group agree to go and meet this mysterious Countess (Helga Liné, Black Candles) to express their thanks for her hospitality. She is all politeness, not to mention charming. It seems all will be well until they can get their vehicle fixed. But at night there is a different side to the people of Tolnio; now they’re not falling over themselves to help, but to feed. One by one, the visitors are picked off through trickery and become vampires themselves. Soon only Luis and Alma are unaffected.

There’s also a strange reference to cannibalism during the film: because there is no good food to offer to the guests, the Countess decrees that certain of her citizens will offer up an arm or a leg. This takes place at the hands of a strange character credited only as ‘The Giant’ and it’s not hard to see why the town may need new citizens if the old ones are being hacked up. Also, the implications of cannibalising a vampire throws up philosophical and technical questions which the film just doesn’t have time to answer – let’s just assume the body parts were very well done!

Although the film isn’t exactly a novel treatment of an old theme, and does descend into campery on several occasions, it’s all part of the fun. To suggest that it’s all just a pastiche, though, would also be doing the film a disservice. Some of the scenes are good and eerie, and a personal highlight is when the townsfolk lure two of the visitors onto the ‘fixed’ bus and then quite literally rise up to play with their food. There is little in the way of standard-issue biting; only the Countess bites in a ‘traditional’ way and most of the vampirism/consumption is implied, or we just see the run-up to the event. That a lot of what happens to the visiting party is implied makes the townsfolk a lot creepier. The colouration of the film does a lot to help it develop this creepiness. We are told that the vampires can move about by day as the town is always overcast, and accordingly the whole film is shadowy and muted. The daylight hours are as murky as the night.

For some reason best known to themselves, UK second-hand DVD stockists CEX currently have acres of copies of The Vampires’ Night Orgy in stock. But even if you’re not based in the UK and you like oddball European takes on the vampirism theme then you could do worse than own this. It does have a certain charm, and feels very, very Spanish somehow!

Resurrecting 'The Street Walker'

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

It’s really gratifying to me that the team behind the rather brilliant Resurrecting ‘The Street Walker’ (2009) have got a trailer up for the film on IMDb. Also gratifying is that they give my review a brief mention! – up on Sex Gore Mutants for anyone who wants a heads-up on one of the best British horrors of recent years.

Check out the trailer here

The Crazies (remake) (2010)

Friday, March 12th, 2010

I won’t sport with any readers out there by providing an in-depth review of this remake. It just isn’t necessary: you already know the drill. Big budget, surprisingly grisly in places for a mainstream film, some good scenes but ultimately rather formulaic – not sorry I saw it, but wish that a great original horror film had received this sort of release instead [and repeat ad infinitum for pretty much all remakes of this kind].

What IS notable about the film is how it showcases such a large number of modern horror clichés. In fact, if you wanted one neat parcel of horror clichés for any sort of reference, then The Crazies is it. So, instead of a step-by-step review, here we have…

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE CRAZIES

1) The saved-by-the-bell execution. If a mass killer is on the loose, no matter how many victims he/she can get through in any given period of time, he/she will be killed just as he/she raises their arm to kill a Plot Relevant Character. Same goes for anyone who turns out to be pointing a gun at a Plot Relevant Character: they will be killed just as they cock their weapon – thus indicating not only their Badness but that They Really Mean It. There’s probably a mathematical formula for this…

2) If you are having a pensive moment in a room – possibly before leaving the room forever to embark on a new life – look 45 degrees to your right or left. There is someone stood in the corner.

3) This person or persons, no matter how messed up they might be by clinical insanity/zombieism/hideous mutated virus, will have all the prerequisite materials for tying you up.

4) Rescuers, beware! You WILL drop you weapon twice before you get to do your rescuing and there will be a ten-second reaching period for said weapon.

5) All female leads seem to be pregnant. Even if they don’t look it. This is a failsafe method of adding deep, emotional meaning to the plight of a female lead, because when a non-pregnant woman survives, we don’t care. She’s just a person – where’s the fun in the survival of a normal, common-or-garden person? It’s all about the zygotes.

6) The double-bluff ending is alive and well. Whilst I approve of the increased cynicism in Hollywood, you don’t get much more cynical than showing the audience that, even after 90 minutes of trauma, your characters are still going to snuff it in the end anyway.

Bloodlines 2010

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Just arrived back from a genuinely new experience – BLOODLINES at de Montfort University/Phoenix Arts site in Leicester, UK: this was a two-day event sharing an academic platform (Thursday) with a day of films and discussions (Friday), all centred around the British horror scene. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the academia – don’t ask! – but some of the speakers included Jonathan Rigby (English Gothic), David Pirie (screenwriter) and various other notable horror academics speaking on a variety of topics, from incidental music in 70s horror films, to Freudianism in cinematic versions of Frankenstein and the cult appeal of Ingrid Pitt.

The second day was composed of screenings and I was lucky enough to see a rare and beautiful print of Desmond Hurst’s English-Expressionist take on Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart (1934) – a visually-striking film with much more in common with German cinema than British (and, in my humble non-academic opinion, a flawed queerist-reading introduction where a horror of illness and ageing could easily have provided a more dissident critique). It was also a privilege to have the one, the only Pete Walker introduce his film Frightmare (1974) and I had great fun listening to him – a true gent with a demented streak! Afterwards the seminal classic Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971) was introduced by its incredibly humble screenwriter Robert Wynne-Simmons with the welcome addition of some additional material in the end sequence. Also directors Jake West, Johannes Roberts and Steve Shiel participated in an interesting panel on the state of UK horror before Jake introduced his femme-zombie horror-comedy Doghouse (2009), with some insider info on what had been cut from the print – and why (note: film studios do not always, or even often have sound reasons for making cuts to footage…)

To conclude a packed but fun day, director Johannes Roberts (Forest of the Damned, When Evil Calls) returned to show a test screener of his new film, ‘F’ (2010). I’ll hold out on a full review as (should webmaster Al Sex Gore want such a thing) I’d like to offer a full review to the Sex Gore Mutants website but I will say this; I haven’t seen When Evil Calls but I have seen and liked the vampire-romp Forest of the Damned (although it is a standard horror pic). ‘F’ is a complete break in pace and tone and a hugely creditable, progressive piece of work – look out for my thoughts and if you get the chance, look out for the film.

Arrived back exhausted and with that otherworldly sense you get from prolonged cinema exposure – now, time to pass out!