Monday, March 27, 2017

La Nuit des Horloges – review


Director: Jean Rollin

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers


La Nuit des Horloges, or Night of the Clocks, was the second to last film directed by Jean Rollins and, in many respects, is the most difficult of his films to review – or at least it is for me.

There are many films that can be seen as owing a debt to the works of Rollin, others that are almost a love letter to his output. In some respects this could also be said of his own film Lost in New York but that had nothing on this.

clock in flames
La Nuit des Horloges takes the Rollin mythology and symbology and makes it about himself. In many respects it becomes a paean to his oeuvre, a love letter to the auteur and the works he created. In other ways it is a deliberately disjointed inventory of his own works. The story suggests that the filmmaker Michel Jean (rather than Jean Michel) has died (whilst travelling we later hear, though the coffin was returned sealed and no one has seen his body). We hear of the house of the sinned ones in the time of the clock – of course clocks were an important part of the Rollin symbology starting with Les Frisson Des Vampires. Rollin said, of that, “Les Frissons Des Vampires is my first film where there appears the grand-father clock, serving as a link between two universes and out of which characters appear.” Now they are a link to his various worlds of imagination.

Ovidie as Isabelle
The introduction also tells us of “those who are dead but are not really dead”. Whilst almost vampiric, this refers, I think, to his characters generally. By a disused railway, his cousin Isabelle (Ovidie) walks. She reaches a chair intent on reading a novel he gave her the time she met him as a child. She knows he is dead and that she has inherited his country house and, perhaps, her seeking to know him through the novel and his films is due to the fact that she never met him when she grew up. She notices a novelty head on the floor and picks it up, it is fanged and there is a flash of the vampire queen from Rape of the vampire.

Sabine Lenoël as Black Angel
A woman (Sabine Lenoël) walks from the tunnel, she has black wings and recurs through the film. Later we hear that she was a character in a previous film – Sabine Lenoël was in Fiancée of Dracula – and she resides in a film he never made – in the place of the burned forest. She also suggests that he promised her one more death in a film to come – the actress would go on to play Euryale in his last film Le masque de la Méduse. She tells Isabelle to beware the clocks and suggest that she search for him at Père Lachaise Cemetery – a location, of course, often used by Rollin.

Simone Rollin
There she sees, and sometimes interacts, with a variety of his characters including the Two Orphan Vampires. Following this she travels to the country house. It would be simply too difficult to continue running through the film as that takes from the lyrical value of it. There are certain appearances within the film that should be mentioned. Rollin’s wife Simone appears in the film and speaks, at one point, of being his inspiration and I have no doubt that this was true.

Dominique
Stars of his films appear also. Françoise Blanchard, who was the Living Dead Girl, appears in haunting scenes shot within La Specola, Florence. Jean-Loup Philippe, a stalwart of several of Rollin’s films, appears as himself; though he does not seem to know where his characters end and he begins, and he travels through the clocks looking for a lost Michel Jean film. Dominique – who famously emerged from a clock in Les Frisson Des Vampires plays herself and is amused when Isabelle steps out of a clock. There is footage from many more films than I have listed.

Two orphan vampires
So, what can I say about the film. Simply that I cannot, for once, score it. If you are a fan of Rollin and his work, if you have watched a majority, or all, of his output then I have no doubt you will love the film. If you hate his films, then you will hate this too. If you are unaware of his output then this is not the film to start with, a grounding in the mythology, the symbology and the films he uses is probably essential. And that is the best way, I think, to evaluate this strange and, for me, fascinating film.

The imdb page is here and, as I researched the film for the review I came across this marvellous page on a marvellous site.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Revenge of the Vampir King (Thrones of Blood Book 1) – review

Author: Nancy Kilpatrick

Release date: 2017

The Blurb: Vampires and humans are at war!

Moarte, King of the Vampirii, is a prisoner of his Sapiens enemy. The beautiful Sapiens Princess Valada, believing that Moarte killed her mother, tortures him, even to the point of breaking the bones in his wings so he cannot escape. She intends to incinerate him to ash in sunlight, but Moarte escapes.

Moarte hungers for revenge. When, through an act of betrayal, Valada is captured by the vampirii, his first instinct is to drain her blood and annihilate her. But he realizes he can get revenge in other ways, using her as a tool to gain the upper hand in this conflict. But who is manipulating whom? Both want revenge, and control of the other, and Moarte wants to drink Valada's blood. Dark desires lead down a path neither had envisioned, a threatening spiral that can destroy empires.

Hunter and hunted change places again and again in this novel of twisted, violent passions. Seeds of deception are sown amidst love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, obsession and indifference, in an erotic tale of warring races, foes since the beginning of time, and two unlikely adversaries aligning to battle a common enemy.

The review: Is hosted at Vamped.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Black Kiss 2 – review

Author/artist: Howard Chaykin

First published: 2015

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Nearly 25 years ago, Howards Chaykin brought the '80s to a close, and comics to the brink, with his landmark erotic thriller, Black Kiss. Now, after years of anticipation, he's back with Black Kiss II, telling the story behind that legendary story — like the original, in glorious black and white. And really, now — does it have to be so dirty?

The review: knowing that the second Black Kiss trade paperback was written after such a gap and was a prequel I expected this to be concentrated on Beverley (it is) and her decent into vampirism in the 20s.

The story actually starts before then, highlighting the impact of cinema (and devolving into a strange hentai-esque show in 1906). It then shows how her husband to be, Charles “Bubba” Kenton”, was turned himself – on board the sinking Titanic – as he is raped by an hermaphrodite succubus.

Having established such a backstory (and also established that, like the first Black Kiss, this is most definitely not for children or the easily shocked) I expected the full length of the graphic to follow Beverley (or Eunice, as she is originally called) as she is seduced by Kenton but that happens speedily and the tale is more vignettes moving forward through time – with very little solid plotting – just sex and blood.

Of course, given she was human, I didn’t expect Dagmar to be part of the tale but it turns out that Dagmar was the fourth Dagmar who Beverley kept as a thrall and one lost some of the suspension of disbelief as Beverley found transgendered thrall after thrall who was willing to serve her and become her new Dagmar, and also looked just like her.

The artwork is of the same basic style and the content as wildly deviant as the original but I expected more of a solid plot and was not as impressed with this return to the world of Black Kiss. 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Honourable Mention: Amethyst

Amethyst came to my attention as it was on Amazon Prime and, watching the trailer, I was sure there was a vampire aspect – I was right. But this is an unusual beast and there is no doubt about that. Definitely psychedelic (and given the subject matter that is no surprise) and absolutely dialogue silent and, bar one card that we see the writing on and a warning sign, the film has virtually no intertitles (there is a prologue title telling us this is based on true events and one at the end as a coda piece).

The Jared Masters directed film is indie and relies on filters and effects and has some problems with the photography. Yet I was entranced as I watched it, for the most part.

Ember at the door
So, the film starts with a house and a girl, Ember (Valerie Miller), approaches the door and knocks but there is no answer. She walks to a stone wall and places the box she carries and a card on it. Opening the box she takes a vial out with an eye dropper and drips one drop onto her tongue.

the note
Ember is no longer at the house and another girl, Amethyst (Grace Klich), finds the box and card. She puts down the apple she is eating and opens the card, which is from Ember wishing her a happy 17th birthday. She opens the vial and downs the contents. Then she sees the rider on the bottom of the card “PS Just one drop”. She walks into the garden fascinated by the statues and roses as Ember returns and starts looking for her. At this point I noticed that some of the following cameras were unsteady and juddered slightly and a steady cam would have been preferable.

Grace Klich as Amethyst
Soon the trip kicks in – as the contents are clearly LSD. Amethyst meets a variety of characters under the influence. Ember does find her but, at one point, her face becomes painted with a mask eliciting a violent reaction. Amethyst also meets a character called (in the IMDb credits) the Eunich (sic) Bridgekeeper (Derrick Biedenback), who to me actually seemed more like the Piper at the Gates of Dawn (and the Pink Floyd connection there makes a nice link given the subject). She also meets Junius Licinius Balbus (Jared Masters) – again according to the IMDb credits – and that does not end well.

things turn darker
However, in much of this I could see a young girl’s sexual awakening being explored – however, that does seem that I am reading too much in to the silent narrative. But because of this I was reminded, to a degree, of Valerie and her Week of Wonders. I was also reminded of the work of Chris Alexander, due to the silent element, and also some Jean Rollin, because of the fantastique element. But what, you ask, of the vampires?

a vampire, bound
As the trip turns darker and darker still, Amythyst crosses a “do not enter” sign into a graveyard. She seems to collapse, her eyes suggesting a seizure, perhaps? Then she stands, her dress gone and replaced by a gossamer thin nightdress (of the atypical vampire film standard). She explores the graveyard, whispering secrets to a stone cherub. She sees a cloaked woman (Olivia Yohai) tied to a tree and unties her. As Amethyst does this we get a brief flash of her still holding the flask, in the place where the trip kicked in.

vampire and spectre
The woman starts to follow her through the graveyard and, at one point, we see a hideous spirit moving with her. She eventually vanishes, appears behind Amethyst and bites her, for she is a vampire woman. Following this Amethyst explores more of the graveyard, we occasionally get coloured smoke (coming from graves/crypts) and then Amethyst meets Ember, holding a chalice, which she drinks from. When Ember also drinks from it we see the chalice contained blood.

bite
That is our vampire bit, and in context of coming of sexual age we can see that the vampire often can be used as a metaphor for the blossoming sexuality, virgin to the sexually active. There are obvious budget issues, there was a vial continuity error (that could be explained away by the fact it is a trip) and there was some juddery camera issues as I mentioned. I said it kept me entranced, for the most part, but towards the end the 70-minute film did start to outstay its welcome a little. The soundtrack was really well chosen.

A 70 minute budget exploration of a young woman’s trip with no dialogue won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but we do get a vampire’s fleeting visitation.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Guest Blog: When Your Support Characters Become Protagonists

Today we welcome author Catherine Green to TMtV as she tells us a little about her characters and how they seem to come to life within the writing process. Catherine has written several vampire orientated novels, including the Vampire of Blackpool.

It is surprising the number of characters you will discover when you finally write your manuscript. Originally you might begin with a hero or heroine, and perhaps one or two supporting characters. Then they begin to interact with each other, and they bring in their own friends, acquaintances, colleagues, family members, and before you know it there are a lot more people to write about.

Identifying your characters doesn’t just mean knowing who they are and why they fit that particular story. You have to understand why they developed, what makes them important to you, and maybe sometimes if their story could be told in a separate novel, perhaps as a spin-off.

Take my Redcliffe novels as an example. I have a vampire character called Marcus Scott. Originally he was a vague, supporting character. Somewhere along the line he became more important, both to my heroine Jessica Stone, and to me, the author. As a result I wrote him a separate novel telling the story of how he became a vampire, and what it is that causes him to act the way he does. That novel is The Darkness of Love; a Victorian vampire romance with Gothic undertones.

Ultimately, your characters develop because they are very special people in their own right. Sometimes you have to be strict with yourself and decide whether it is really imperative that you give them so much space in your novel. Maybe you could compromise, and put them somewhere else. Perhaps you could include them in a sequel, and give them the story time they deserve.

Always remember to look at your manuscript from the point of view of your readers. Will they be confused? Will this cause them to give up on your books? Above all, do not abandon a character simply because you don’t know what to do with them. They might give you that big break into the world of fame and fortune… you never know!

Did you enjoy this article? Join my tribe today, and I will send you a fabulous FREE book to get you started… (be warned, my vampires do not sparkle, and my wolves will bite!)

Author’s BIO:

Author of British paranormal romance series The Redcliffe Novels, Catherine Green was raised on books from a young age, and has happy memories of Saturday mornings spent in her small local library, devouring the contents of the shelves. Catherine has always been fascinated by the supernatural world, and it feels natural for her to write about vampires, werewolves, witches and other mystical creatures in her contemporary stories.

If you sign up to Catherine’s newsletter, she will send you a free copy of her Redcliffe short story, It’s Complicated, to introduce you to her fictional supernatural seaside town in Cornwall, England.

More recently, Catherine released her contemporary English Gothic novel, The Vampire of Blackpool. These novels will show you the darker, sexier side of our favourite British seaside resorts!

You can find Catherine in the following places: Facebook, her Author blog, Twitter, the Pagan Housewife Blog & Instagram.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Zombie Emperor – review

Director: Ying Hua*

Released date: 2016*

Contains spoilers

I stumbled across this 1 hour long kyonsi (not zombie) movie on YouTube and at the time of review can find precious little in the way of details about it. There does not seem to be an IMDb page nor the equivalent in the Hong Kong movie databases. I cannot find a DVD release of it on the usual Asian DVD sites. Hence the release date and director details may be incorrect. In fact even the title might be inaccurate.

It was hard-subbed in a Chinese language and English but the English subs were literal and made following the dialogue challenging to say the least. However it was possible to follow the film enough to review it – even though some of the nuance will have been lost in translation.

the swordswoman
It begins with two brothers in a pit arguing over who dug it. They retrieve something that seems to shine and, we discover later, that it is the pearl that holds the soul of the town. They run off with their prize but are chased down by a swordswoman, who kills one brother and is trying to get the second one when a swordsman intervenes. The fallen brother has a tattoo of a swastika (called in subs a black fork and is symbolic of a tantric cult).

swordsman
The two face off (allowing the brother to escape) when a kyonsi in a golden robe appears (there is suggestion he is an emperor but the state of the subs don’t allow me to be 100% clear on the point). He bites the swordsman. Suddenly a monk, Mao, intervenes and puts a prayer scroll on the kyonsi’s head. It doesn’t remain there long as the kyonsi blows it off and escapes. The swordswoman runs off into the night and Mao brings the swordsman back to his hut.

sucking energy
To try and counter the vampire venom Mao administers snake venom and then binds the wound with, what looks like, sticky rice. However the infection is too strong and the swordsman is not restored to humanity until his soul is captured and put back in his body. As for the kyonsi we see him sucking energy (from what appears to be another undead) and he gets stronger and stronger. The three mismatched characters need to work together to get the pearl back (which the kyonsi is tied to). Other than that it is a very simplistic plot.

prayer scroll
It came across as quite silly in tone (especially around the kyonsi, who seemed to have a comedic element) and the plot twist was fairly obvious from the get-go. What I didn’t pick up on was any tangible atmosphere that would raise the film up and its short length didn’t allow it to be too convoluted in any satisfying way. That said I would like to see it again with decent translation. 3.5 out of 10.

At the time of review there is no IMDb page.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mona the Vampire: Brainwash Boogie – review

Director: Louis Piché

Co-director: Jean Caillon

First aired: 2000 – 2001

Mona the Vampire was originally a series of children’s books written and illustrated by Sonia Holleyman and adapted for television over five seasons that ran 1999 to 2003. The Brainwash Boogie DVD takes its name from the first story in the set and consists of three episodes, each episode containing two stories, the first from season 2 and the other two from season 3.

Now, Mona the Vampire is something I have not featured on TMtV before and it was something not falling out of my childhood, thus I had no rose-tinted wish to revisit it, and not something my son particularly watched as a child. However, this was a DVD for sale at a car boot sale in Whitby when my family went there with friends in January 17. I spotted it but ignored it.

Later that day my friend Paul texted me to say he had purchased the DVD with the sole intention of giving it to me so I had to review it. I appreciate the good-natured humour behind the gesture but, you know what, this is vampire material and plays a part in the mainstreaming of vampires – I will explain.

Mona and Fang
The series primarily follows Mona Parker (Emma Taylor-Isherwood), a young girl, and her friends Lily Duncan (Carrie Finlay) and Charlie Bones (Justin Bradley, Eternal & Being Human US). In their play they become Mona the Vampire, Princess Giant and Zapman. Mona’s cat, Fang, wears a pair of bat wings. In these personas they keep their local town safe from evil (such as the vampire Von Kreepsula – who features in a story on this disc). It shows kids using their imagination and this, of course, is important.

the gang
However, from a genre point of view and like Sesame Street character Count Von Count, this brings a vampire character (even if only a make-believe one) into the living room for kids and makes it the character they identify with. This then mainstreams the concept of vampires and the kids who watch shows such as these are hopefully the filmmakers of the future, keeping the vampire alive (or undead at least) in media. Arguably this mainstreaming is also partly responsible for stripping away some of the horror aspect of the vampire figure as well but that is a whole other debate in itself.

Von Kreepsula
The animation for Mona the Vampire is bright and colourful. The voice acting clear and consistent and the stories imaginative (as they should be, given that they are based on the imagination). For younger kids this will be a great little set. However you might find the score a little strange today as I am not giving my normal out of 10 score. After all, the disc was provided, with a tongue firmly in cheek, in order that I would have to watch and review the material and as such I’m going to give it a score of “Paul out of 10”!

The imdb page is here.