Monday, April 23, 2018

Corbin Nash – review

Director: Ben Jagger

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

Corbin Nash is a strange beast of a film reminding me visually of a grittier Vamp but it felt (to a degree) a little like Pearblossom or, at least, made me want to dig the film out and give it another watch – strange as Pearblossom is in a dessert setting, whilst this is very urban and neon (which is where the Vamp aspect comes in).

It is also an origin movie but leaves too much unexplained and relies, therefore, on some genre favourite cameos to push the exposition forward and just sheer force of main casting to carry the film.

left for dead
The film starts, as a car with a blood splattered boot cruises Los Angeles, with a voice-over from the Blind Prophet (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange, Vamps, Tales from the Crypt: the Reluctant Vampire & Suck) and what a voice-over. McDowell’s voice just oozes over the images like molasses. The car stops, a body is thrown into the alleyway. It is the wounded, barely living form of Corbin Nash (Dean S. Jagger) and he is found by stripper Macy (Fernanda Romero), who (on the advice of the Blind Prophet) takes the dying man in.

Dean S. Jagger as Corbin Nash
Cutting back a year and moving to New York, Nash is a cop and is regretting not taking down a serial rapist who has walked. He’s got two strikes (presumably for violent behaviour), has tattoos of guns and he also boxes. In a cameo heavy scene he is drinking with Jack (Bruce Davison, the Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice & A (Schizophrenic) Love Story), who has known orphan Corbin for an awfully long time. He vacates the table to let a Stranger (Rutger Hauer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Reverend, True Blood, Dracula 3: Legacy, Salem’s Lot (2004) & Dracula (2012)) sit with him.

Rutger Hauer is the stranger
Rutger’s job in this is exposition – telling Corbin that his dead parents were (vampire) hunters, were killed on the job by a vampire called Drake, a member of undead royalty, after they killed Drake's brother – and that his dad wasn’t just a ball player in the World Series, that was a cover! Perhaps knowing this would be, in a story sense, a ridiculous tale for Nash to believe, the Davison cameo is to give him a person he trusts to simply tell him that its true. In honesty, whilst the cameos are welcome, the exposition is crass and heavy handed.

tied to the bed
We cut to Corbin terribly wounded still, clearly with bite wounds, and tied to Macy’s bed, who washes his wounds. His memories goes to him being attacked by vampires. Macy is helping him because he helped her in the strip club once when someone got handsy. We then cut back 6 months and he has moved to LA from New York (without a reason why being offered) and is working on a series of missing person cases. He perhaps is somewhat brutal when it comes to getting information but he and his new partner do end up going after the pair that are taking people from the street and this is where the thing jumps up in sheer entertainment.

Corey Feldman as Queeny
Our primary baddies are Vince (Richard Wagner) and his partner Queeny (Corey Feldman, the Lost Boys, Lost Boys: The Tribe, Lost Boys: The Thirst & Bordello of Blood) – a wonderfully extravagant genderqueer performance that was an absolute delight. The character was over the top, deranged and sympathetic (in a twisted way, given that the character also amorally revels in the vampiric condition). Leaving Nash's partner for dead, they snatch Corbin and he is forced to fight for vampiric entertainment in a ring lined with barbed wire and a mat stitched from patches of skin. It is all portrayed brutally, in an over-the-top way, until he is disposed of and dropped in the alley to die…

Vince, Blind Prophet & Queeny
So, we see a shadowy being, allegedly Drake, but the crux of the film has Corbin chasing down Vince and Queeny. The Drake side is left (clearly there is an aim to have a series here) and it is in the big story gaps (why LA? did he believe the stranger? what will he do next?) that the story splutters. However, for comic book violence, blood and OTT characters the film does exceptionally well. Corbin seemed to be taking a leaf out of the Punisher’s playbook and whilst looking more gangster than cop Jagger’s look absolutely suited the character and I’ve already waxed lyrically about Feldman. The photography and design suited the story. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

But Deliver us from Evil – review

Director: Joshua Coates

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Lilith (Alice Rose) has become linked to the media vampire but let us not forget that this is a fairly recent pairing, and also note that the alleged first wife of Adam (Marsahn Wilson) might be the adoption of Babylonian myth or even just a medieval elaboration to Jewish folklore.

Despite being human (she is made from the same clay as Adam but refuses to bow to the innate misogyny of man), she is then called a demon. Indeed in this she is tied into the myth of the succubus (and, indeed, the gender fluid nature that allows the succubus to become the incubus (James A. Sims)). I would also say that (possibly by accident) the filmmakers have tied this to the lamia – they give her a snake aspect that I suspect is meant to tie into the serpent in the Garden of Eden but such an aspect is immediately reminiscent of the lamia and, if you look at the work of Twitchell, there is an argument, which might be made, that the link between the lamia and the media vampire is actually longer apparent than that of Lilith.

Eric Roberts as  Leigh Warring
So, the film starts off with a biblical quote (from Isiah) that mentions Lilith and a retelling of Sodom and Gomorrah’s story with a Lilith addition. It then cuts to a show (as the credits role) hosted by Leigh Warring (Eric Roberts, Lost Girl, Halloween Hell & Sicilian Vampire), this show seems to be anti-religious or cynical thereof, though the film essentially takes a pro-Christianity position. We also hear about an evangelical ministry run by Robert J Knight (Joseph Gian) and his wife Tammy (Veronica Petrucci) – who are actually doing good in the world.

RJ Konner as detective Reid
We see Knight in a hotel, he goes into a room and a woman is waiting for him (she remains in shadow/silhouette but you wouldn’t lose the bet if you guessed it is Lilith). They end up in bed, she scratches his chest and licks the blood from her hand and then attacks. The police are called to the hotel and lead detective Mckenzie Reid (RJ Konner) is called in. The suspicion is that a specific serial killer has returned. We later discover that hunting the killer had previously cost Reid his marriage.

Jeremiah and Charles
We see social worker Charles (Franklin Ojeda Smith) trying to place Jeremiah (Grant Harvey) with temporary fosters but he is rejected as a youth with no past. This was meant to be a temporary solution before he goes to college. Later we see Jeremiah leaving his room, going outside as he thinks someone is near. He is stopped from walking out in front of a car by Charles. Jeremiah was sleepwalking and suffers from vivid visions, mostly when asleep but sometimes when awake. When he gets to college he is placed in the Jocks’ dorms and his roommate, Pete (Pooch Hall), is less than impressed with being saddled with the weird kid – especially when he has a vision of Pete’s death.

Alice Rose as Lilith
So, convoluted story aside, Lilith is back in the city and is alternatively killing men and also causing unsuspecting men to carry her offspring, that then burst from their stomach. We see this once with a business man, Todd (Dave Shaver), who collapses, is given cpr (which is aborted when a snake comes from his throat) and then something bursts from his stomach. Those around him at the time do not describe it to police, it appears, though it is clear that something exploded from within.

wings on show
Lilith sometimes appears scaled and produces fangs (and bites in a standard vampire way if they are out). We get a moment when she is winged and they are bat wings. A cross holds her back at one point (though she can enter a church/ministry). Jeremiah becomes the focus of her attention when she realises there is something about him and he, in turn, discovers that he is a descendent of the righteous man from Sodom and Gomorrah and his visions are real.

It is quite a convoluted story and one got the feeling that they were pulled in multiple directions as they built the story, with Lilith trying to hatch a macrocosmic plot but that plot was overwhelmed by microcosmic moments in the film. Probably one of the biggest problems was with Lilith and the performance thereof – actress Alice Rose tried her best, I’m sure, but simply did not have the presence to convince the viewer that she was an ancient evil looking to destroy the world and her performance lacked any nuance. Indeed, there were several performances that lacked the conviction this needed – though Grant Harvey tried his damnedest. The effects were passable for a film that was filmed on a fairly tight budget but ultimately I wasn’t convinced. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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.