Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bog – review

Director: Don Keeslar

Release date: 1979

Contains spoilers

This is one that nearly went down a ‘Vamp or Not?’ route as what we have is essentially a gill-man type creature (Jeff Schwaab). We have examined such creatures as blood drinkers before, however, for instance in the Horror of Party Beach. Now those were created through radiation and human remains, whilst this is another species, but they both need human blood.

As well as needing human blood to feed on, this creature has another unique connection to humanity, as we will see.

poaching with dynamite
So, the film starts, we are out in the woods and the camera comes to rest on Bog Lake. On the lake is a rowboat piloted by Potter (Dino Stroppa), a poacher. He is using dynamite to kill fish in the lake. As he leans in to pick up the floating dead fish something unseen grabs him and pulls him in. He has awoken something within the lake. On the shore we see that all this has been observed by local hermit crone Adrianna (Gloria DeHaven).

After one of the most god-awful title credit tracks ever put to a film (and one that resurfaces in a romantic moment later) we are back into the woods, driving with Chuck (Rohay North) and his wife Kim (Lou Hunt), along with pal Alan (Glen Voros) and his wife May (Carol Terry). They’ve come camping, with the boys after doing some drinking and their wives less than impressed at being in nature (and rather shrill as well). May spots Potter’s boat where it has drifted aground and thinks it might put a dampener on the boys' plans – but it just provides a fishing excuse. The next day Chuck and Kim take to the boat, whilst Alan and May fish from the bank.

Kim's fate
May is convinced that something is wrong but Alan dismisses her feeling and goes further down the bank, meanwhile something large bumps into the boat. From the boat May is heard screaming; by the time they get to shore, Alan is frantically looking for his wife. Chuck sends Kim to the car as they continue to look. When she gets there the doors are locked and she screams as something looms above her. Now the film did right in keeping the creature out of shot or obscured through the majority of the film – though this had as much to do with it looking really rubbish when we finally see it.

Gloria DeHaven as Ginny
The boys go to the police and are met by Sheriff Rydholm (Aldo Ray, Evils of the Night) and eventually the exsanguinated bodies of their wives are found. The state of them confounds local “sawbones” Dr Brad Wednesday (Marshall Thompson, Fiend Without a Face, It! The Terror from Beyond Space & First Man Into Space) but, after examining them, pathologist Ginny Glenn (also Gloria DeHaven) knows what killed them even though the how is confounding. They have very little in the way of abrasions and cuts but she works out that something was forced down their throats, through the thorax and punctured the aorta. She suggests it is for feeding purposes and wonders if they have a “Dracula running loose out there”, being an example of making Dracula a genus. Later a fragment found in the autopsy behind proves to be organic.

Gloria DeHaven as Adrianna
So… we know what it is (a gill-man) but Adrianna ends up telling us some more details. He (Adrianna uses the masculine) is known by several names (she reels them off but they were meaningless) and is ancient. Dead but alive, she says (so undead), he sleeps in the muck at the bottom of the lake for long periods but when awakened he feasts on blood. Later Ginny discovers that it produces an anti-coagulant (which might be overkill given it is feeding directly from the aorta) and a tissue sample they get suggests that the creature is made up entirely of cancerous cells (this was the pseudo-science kitchen sink being thrown in).

fighting the creature
The creature is on a rampage and so the sheriff’s plan to send a couple of divers into the lake seems a bit heartless (it isn’t clear that he let them know what was going on). More heartless still when they retrieve some eggs, put them in a boat and then are attacked whilst still in the water. The sheriff pulls the boat to shore by its mooring rope and dismisses Ginny’s concern that they’ll need the boat to escape by suggesting they’ll never need anything again. The creature later sneaks (yes, at seven or so feet tall, and slimy, it sneaks) into town and steals the eggs back.

Now… you might be wondering, “eggs?” but Adrianna named it in the masculine. Adrianna seems to be left alone by the creature, despite her hovel being very close to the lake. Later they discover that her blood is very similar to the creature’s and no one can remember how long she has lived out there. She is (or was) human but to breed the creature needs a human female, who he then transfuses (through his blood drinking prong, we assume) with his own blood – changing their body chemistry. Brad reckons it might change their brain chemistry too, making them compliant with the creature. No mention was made of the changes this would entail with regards the human’s mammalian reproductive system.

shadow of the vampire
What else? Well they catch it by luring it with a blood scent generator (and hosing it with some chemical or other). Eventually it has to be killed and fire is the answer. In keeping with showing as little as possible through the film, when the creature steals its eggs back we only see a shadow version of it – which stylistically tied it into the vampire genre (whether this was deliberate is another debate entirely). However the feeding from blood (and the highly specialist adaptation to allow it to get down human throats as it does) and the need to change a woman into its bride through a transfusion of its blood, really shouts out vampire to me.

it's in the trees, it's coming
The framing of shots were surprisingly competent at times and the old stock gave this a great look generally. The cast were essentially reacting with melodrama chops all the way through and it was great that an autumn romance was thrown in. The creature looked really rubbish and the story was so cheesy it was untrue. This is the sort of film you put on in the background with a load of mates around, get drunk and gently mock it. 3 out of 10 is generous in some respects and totally harsh in others.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Honourable Mention: Bad Monsters

So, this was a portmanteau film and the wraparound was directed by Evan Tramel (according to the film credits – IMDb have another director listed), which was released in 2018. The wraparound was in the form of Dracula – or big D – and the Monster sat on Larry the couch as they watched various horror shorts – which we watched too.

The quality of the shorts varied throughout. The best was probably Get Off my Porch, which I had seen before. There was a variant of the “Clown Statue” and babysitter story that has been done a few times as well.

Big D on the couch
None of the shorts were vampire related, so our interest in solely in the cgi wraparound and, honestly, it was fairly blooming awful. The two monsters sit on the couch (which is alive and talks) and speak in crude, puerile ways that I suppose was aimed at being funny but just wasn’t. Not a lot else to say on this one. Being the wraparound, I’ve classed it as a fleeting visitation.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Shake Rattle and Roll 9 – review

Director: Topel Lee (segment)

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

The ninth in the long running Philippine series of horror anthologies, I have to admit that I didn’t watch this with the view of catching a vampire segment. Having read the blurb it didn’t sound that we should be interested in this from a vamp point of view. Then a clearly vampire segment came along and thus we have a review.

So, the three segments run along the lines of: Christmas Tree, a segment about a man-eating Christmas tree, I kid you not, that is silly, fun and features the always amusing John Lapus, Bangungot, which is a surreal little entry about a jealous woman trapping both her and her unrequited love in each other’s nightmares, and Engkanto. Now the engkanto is a traditional Philippine mythological creature that, in folklore, is a spirit that perhaps resembles faery creatures. In this it was definitely vampiric – no ‘Vamp or Not?’ necessary.

Jewel Mische as Tonee
So we begin with a mini-bus driving down a forest road. The driver is Hans (Jojo Alejar), the bus belongs to a goth band and he is the manager. It should be driven by Tikoy (Hector Macaso), who is also the band’s bouncer and (I assume) roadie, but he has hurt his arm. In the bus are Ian (Felix Roco) who is ignoring band member Tonee (Jewel Mische), she texts Drummer Dang (Melissa Ricks) who would seem to be in a shaky relationship with band frontman (and general arrogant asshole) Vince (Martin Escudero, Shake Rattle and Roll 12 & Shake rattle and Roll Fourteen – the Invasion). The last person on the bus, Richard (Matt Evans), does not seem to be a band member, is an artist and is being bullied by Vince. They are lost.

Dang and Vince
They stop at a roadside shop where a drunken man warns them that there is no town ahead and that they should be weary of an enchantress – who is our engkanto (Katrina Halili) – the creature has taken his son (Sam Concepcion). As things continue the ructions in the band increase as Ian thinks Tonee is overtly serious and possessive and Dang discovers that Vince has stolen the band's money from gigs to cut a solo demo and intends to leave the band. Tonee notices they keep passing the same “creepy” tree and they eventually run out of fuel and stumble across an abandoned resort.

sucking breath
Of course, this mystical inability to leave the area is much to do with the engkanto and we get the following lore. Appearing as a beautiful woman she can transform into a creature with a mouthful of fangs and pointed ears. Though she does bite with her fangs the more vampiric element is that she sucks the breath of her victims. It isn’t entirely clear if it is the breath sucking or biting (or either) that then turns the victims into revenants/zombies, who are at her command. She has magical powers and the man’s son is still alive but she has sealed his mouth shut with magic.

fangs on display
Although she is a spirit of nature, technically, she is definitely dark. We do discover that she can fly. She will not enter the sea (presumably because of the salt and not the water itself), nor will her revenants. She is tied to the creepy tree, which has faces in its bark (perhaps her victims) and they discover that burning the tree down ages her to a crone and would seem to kill her at which point her undead victims turn to dust. But could a creature so tied to the local nature actually die because of the death of one tree in a forest?

This was quite good as far as it went. The peril, when we got to it, was handled well but the band members were mostly annoying and one got the feeling that they were play-acting being goth (which, of course, they were). More could have been done round the inescapable forest and more of an atmosphere could have been built around that. The abandoned resort was a great location and under-used to some degree. That said, it wasn’t at all bad. 4.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Honourable mention: Domain of the Damned

Directed by Stacy Davidson and released in 2007 this seems to have appeared and then disappeared and it is a shame as it is flawed, it has bitten off more than it can chew but it was actually a really interesting little effort. Ostensibly about a haunt, it threw in serial killers, zombies, eternal life, a strange little background that hinted at the possibility of making a film with a wider vista and vision.

Of course, what we care about is vampires and we have two fleeting visitations.

However, some background… the film starts with a PI at a crime scene, which seems to be the hideout of the serial killer known as the Angel of Death. We then drop back in time to El Paso in 1983 – an estranged father argues with a mother as the child sleeps in a car and dreams of a dark realm, a purgatory, where personifications of the seven deadly sins reside and try to resurrect a warrior known as the Shadow’s Hand.

Jude Hickey as Jerod
In the here and now a drifter, Jerod (Jude Hickey), sees a sign advertising a haunt and looking for help. He goes there and is let into the building by a gargantuan man who vanishes off. He is stopped as a trespasser but mentions the man (a freak who has got out) and the fact that he is a qualified electrician – something the haunt desperately needs. Despite being somewhat nervous of the haunt, he starts working for them. His dream that night shows us that he is the child from El Paso.

Vampirita poster
Before he settles down for the night he finds bill posters for the freaks – including one called Vampirita. Later when we get owner B D Griffin (Leon Blum) in attendance (on opening night) we discover that there are two haunts. The main one which has opened and a second one called Necrophobia – which isn’t open yet. In the first haunt is a girl acting as a vampire and she is our first fleeting visitation.

Vampirita attacks
B D has a secret, however, he has recreated an amulet that wards off the God of Death and therefore brings eternal life to those there. He uses the blood/fluids of the dead to make a serum that keeps him compos mentis and collects serial killers and freaks and houses them in Necrophobia. Those who die are removed from the area or they will zombify and one of the imprisoned freaks is vampirita (Krystal Freeman) – who would appear to be a vampire (she is immortal in the amulet’s influence, does not look zombified and has fangs, we see her briefly attack and bite someone when the freaks escape and also see her for a moment when trapped in her cage).

acting as a vampire
So, two fleeting visitations – one a person acting as a vampire and the other a vampire.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Short Film: Midnight Workout

This was an Eight Minute short, released in 2017 and directed by Beau Yotty who also plays the male lead – Don Slayer. It is, unfortunately, flawed.

We start with Slayer in a workout session down a local (and empty) gym. Meanwhile we get a POV camera moving at faster than human speed down the road. Unfortunately, the sound effect with the camera actually sounds like perhaps a Segway or RC car perhaps. It is certainly distracting.

Anyway the POV stops at the gym and we get someone looking through the window (who we eventually see is a woman, credited simply as Vampiress (Kelley Anne)). She keeps looking in from various windows, doors and takes her own sweet time going in – meanwhile oblivious Don seems to be on a different piece of equipment each time she looks. Eventually he hears a noise, takes his earbuds out, and walks over to the door.

He looks around, sees nothing but when he comes back in she is inside… and he fails to see her… Indeed she wanders around the gym, presumably stalking him but actually rather aimlessly. Eventually he is sat with dumbbells and she makes herself known, asking if he needs a spot. The scene with a blood-stained towel and his bloodied hand is rather effective, then the camera cuts to his profile, he is unharmed and makes a quip. The camera returns to his hand and the towel and he has a pair of fangs.

Beau Yotty as Don Slayer
And that’s it. It needs the POV sound fixing and perhaps four minutes of pointless stalking removing to work well. But, as we’ll see, it is the start of a venture based around the Don Slayer character, and future episodes might work better.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature – review

Author: James B. Twitchell

First Published: 1987

The Blurb: In his Preface to The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature, James Twitchell writes that he is not interested in the current generation of vampires, which he finds "rude, boring and hopelessly adolescent". However, they have not always been this way. In fact, a century ago they were often quite sophisticated, used by artists varied as Blake, Poe, Coleridge, the Brontes, Shelley, and Keats, to explain aspects of interpersonal relations. However vulgar the vampire has since become, it is important to remember that along with the Frankenstein monster, the vampire is one of the major mythic figures bequeathed to us by the English Romantics. Simply in terms of cultural influence and currency, the vampire is far more important than any other nineteenth-century archetypes; in fact, he is probably the most enduring and prolific mythic figure we have. This book traces the vampire out of folklore into serious art until he stabilizes early in this century into the character we all too easily recognize.

The Review: For context sake, this book must be one of the most oft-quoted books in vampire academia and yet a friend who read it found it overblown and seeing vampires where there are none.

How could that be, I thought, in such a respected volume – but one must critically read these things for oneself, and so I did. And it is overblown, seeing vampires where none actually are (thanks Ida). Not in all things, I actually completely agree that there is a vampire undertone through Wuthering Heights, indeed I probably believe it more marked than Twitchell suggests. Yet in other things I am not so convinced.

There are problems that I would overlook just because of the age of the volume. The conflation of Vlad III and Count Dracula had not been thoroughly debunked in 1987, nor had the conflation of vampirism with Porphyria. Unfortunately, Twitchell’s sources for the former had a vested interest in stretching the truths around the historic Dracula. However, looking at material “quoted as vampire but not” and we get the old faithfuls of Bürger’s Lenore and Coleridge’s Christabel.

With the former I can think of no reason (other than Stoker quoting it over a hundred years later in Dracula) to connect the poem to vampirism. With the latter, well it was the work of Nethercott that suggested that Chrsitabel was a vampire poem (and, flimsily, that Carmilla was a reworking thereof) and I have never bought the argument. Actually, if an argument was made for psychic vampirism I might be more convinced. Twitchell brings little extra to the party but does decide to gender swap the character Christabel (suggesting that she represent Coleridge himself and falls into a pattern of young men seduced by older lamia). I remain unconvinced of both the vampirism and now of the gender swap. There are works examined that I feel I must revisit to investigate the alleged vampirism – mostly around the Poe works that Twitchell ties to vampirism.

Probably the most interesting part of the book was that of the artist/art as vampire. There is a Poe piece here in the form of the Oval Painting. It feels a shame that with regards this section that Twitchell did not include (and possibly did not know) the Vampire by Jan Naruda, which has vampiric artistry/artwork as its basis. Though out of his field of study George Sylvester Viereck’s the House of the Vampire would have added much to this chapter.

So, without going into a very long critical evaluation, what I can say is that there are aspects to this I find very flawed (and clumsy errors, such as suggesting Harker was married when he encountered Dracula’s vampire women) but other aspects that are food for thought or I agree with. It is still an oft-quoted tome and necessary if only for that reason. 6 out of 10.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Honourable mention: Fangs for Nothing

This 2010 film by Andrew N. Shearer (the guy behind Space Boobs in Space) was originally called Fake Blood and was actually a fascinating little conceit.

Taking the role of Edward D. Benjamin, Shearer (who was also in Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches) plays a married man who – when his wife (Cara Lott) was pregnant – was talked into using some of their savings in order to make a vampire movie. The coercion was by his sister Meredith (Monica Puller, Faces of Schlock) and her specialty is sfx – especially fake blood (hence the original title).

Mitsu Bitchi as Veronica
The film was be designed to make money; so lesbian vampires, boobs and blood. Kathy (his wife) is hostile at first but comes around to the idea. They manage to get a soap actress, Veronica (Mitsu Bitchi), as the vampire victim but he struggles to cast his vampire. Eventually he gets a local musician (who’s just been kicked out of her band for, it sounds like, partying too hard) but she doesn’t turn up for a read through. Then he finds out that she celebrated getting the role and accidentally killed herself.

film footage
Meredith has to take the role of the vampire but, when shooting starts, they discover that Veronica is somewhat stranger and more diva like then they thought. What we get is footage from their making of video (bar the odd scene from the production) as the film never saw the light of day…

And that’s it. It isn’t high cinema but it is strangely fascinating watching something you know from the outset will be a car crash go horribly wrong. No vampires, of course, but someone acting as a vampire.

The imdb page is here.