Thursday, November 16, 2017

Acid Head: The Buzzard Nuts County Slaughter – review

Director: Tony Watt

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

J. Gordon Melton, I blame you – in the nicest sort of way but I came across this due to some correspondence we had!

There has been an increasing tendency for films, especially blockbusters, to go on considerably longer than the (oft-considered) standard of 90 minutes. Sometimes this can cause a film to outstay its welcome, and the pacing of the film becomes slower, perhaps too slow. At 2.5 hours I might have said the same about this but it had outstayed its welcome after the first ten minutes.

Now, director Tony Watt is no stranger to long films. Currently (at time of review) in my ”to watch” list is his earlier film Frankenpimp, which comes in at an eye-shattering 3 hours 15 minutes. This film has not made me want to hurry up and watch it.

It starts in Ontario and some random wall and door is turned into Bank of Brampton by superimposing the name over the shot. Two characters, the false moustached and bewigged Bo (Luke van Belkom) and Lewis Mercer (himself) rob the bank. Bo has a shoot out with a cop and is shot in the heart. Lewis is given his gun and throws it away, causing it to go off and accidentally killing the cop. He gets away as the camera jerks all over the place in some extremely poor camera work. The off-yellowed tint carries through the film making it look turgid and unappealing.

Tony Watt as Dracula
So, the story is pretty much irrelevant but there is a sorority house that is a front for student escorts/prostitutes. It had previously been the site of the murders by Acid Head (Vivita), a serial killing Goth girl (noted on the DVD blurb to be a blood drinking cannibal) who happens to be making her way back. It later transpires that the house is built over the grave of Dracula (Tony Watt) who makes an appearance a couple of times but is also named as a vampiric poltergeist who possessed Acid Head.

They actually used blackface
Acid Head herself was the daughter of a movie producer and actress. The actress cheated with the gardener and in an intervening fight with her husband acid was accidentally thrown over the daughter's face. Plastic surgery did wonders for one side of her face but there is still scarring hidden by her fringe. However if the film is meant to be an absurdist, misogynistic bad taste comedy (that fails to be funny) I was even less than impressed when they called the gardener Ni**er Charlie and had the actor (credited as Trenchmouth Colitis, a name used by Tony Watt in another production) wearing blackface.

Vivita as Acid Head
Beyond shoddy camera work and the filter from Hell, the SFX is terrible, the blood splatter being layered onto shots afterwards, and the acting and dialogue worse. Ridiculous sound effects are presumably meant to be comedy but are just awful. False moustaches, teeth and ill-fitting wigs are the order of the day. The blurb suggests that this is in a “grind-house style” but really, in this case, that is an excuse for lack of any discernible redeeming feature. This was awful, though perhaps if it had been shorter it would have been a more watchable form of awful – though, honestly, I doubt it. 0 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Monsters and Mutants – review

Director: Various

First aired: 2017

Contains spoilers

With 6 episodes taken from season 5 of the Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this has four episodes concerning the classic monsters and then a double episode called When Worlds Collide (about aliens).

The episodes that concern us contain a mini-arc of a story.

It opens with April (Mae Whitman) and Casey (Josh Peck) walking through the Halloween streets of New York on their way to meet the turtles. Suddenly they are under attack by large wolves and a man appears with rather large canines. A young girl bites Casey. The turtles are getting ready when April calls them and says that Casey is a vampire and after her blood. They go to rescue her but, after using garlic pizza to capture Casey, April is bitten and they become surrounded by wolves, vampires and the Frankenstein Monster (Grant Moninger).

Turtles undercover
They are lifted out of danger by the newly appearing Renet (Ashley Johnson). Renet is an apprentice Time Master – the guardians of time and space. She explains that she was checking on the banished Savanti Romero (Graham McTavish, Preacher & Castlevania) when he managed to get her spare time travelling device and has come through time, recruiting monsters on the way, with the aim of taking over the world. We should note that his name seems to be a homage to Tom Savini and George Romero. Renet wants to take the mutants back in time to try and stop Romero – unfortunately her time staff is low on energy.

vampire turtle
They go through time to his first stop, which is Ancient Egypt, but our interest lies more firmly in the next episode where they go through to Transylvania in the 1300s to stop Romero recruiting Dracula (Chris Sarandon, Bordello of Blood, Fright Night (1985) & Fright Night (2011)). Renet gives the turtles clothes that will help them blend in and they head towards Dracula’s castle. En route they meet gypsies, one of whom turns out to be the wolfman, and Raphael (Sean Astin, the Strain) is bitten becoming a vampire turtle. Let us just say that they are not successful here or at Frankenstein’s castle and have to take the fight back to their own time. At which point Donatello (Rob Paulsen) is also turned (by April) leaving just two turtles to lead the fightback.

The vampires can summon mist, eye mojo, turn into bats and become bat creatures as well. There is a symbol that will ward them (though faith is needed) and garlic will weaken them. Being staked through the heart will kill them, a vampire is not a true vampire until they have drunk blood and its kill the head vampire free the half-vampires (or, indeed, all of them apparently). We are in a one bite and turn situation. The monsters have a hostile relationship/alliance, with Dracula clearly wanting to take command and we do see that the mummy is no match for him. So, what was it like as a vehicle to view.

surrounded by bat creatures
You know it was good fun. You couldn’t fault the voice acting, which was provided by a mixture of big names and veteran voice actors. The animation was cgi and it was deliberately blocky and low textured – I think I would have preferred higher standards of cgi (especially with regards textures) or actually drawn animation but it didn’t do anything too terrible. I must give a shout out to both Alex and Everlost, both of whom contacted me to tell me about the Crypt of Dracula episode (second in the sequence). 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Blood Woods – review

Director: John Reign

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Simply appearing on Amazon Prime on the run up to Halloween, this was one that frustrated me by nearly getting things right and really not. I liked the idea that it became almost a portmanteau – though there is one main feature length film with a portmanteau-like surround. It had some nearly good photography, and yet managed to undermine itself in that regards, and the very strange compositional shots for said photography also undermined it. In fact, I think it tried to be unusual but in being so actually made some really poor compositional choices.

a Bela still
The first mistake it made was having a still of Bela Lugosi at the head of the film with the three legends “Vampires”… “Real Ones”… “Don’t Sparkle”. If I could get (most) filmmakers and authors to do one thing, it is stop the blatant Twilight attacks. At first  quickly shifting from mildly amusing to just kind of sad, like shooting fish in a barrel, now its gone past that. The films were poorly executed but the books were fine for their target audiences and this constant jabbing feels like nothing but jealousy as, after all, no-one owns or defines the vampire genre. But also, whilst once in a while you get something like I Had a Bloody Good Time at House Harker, where the spoofing is actually clever and amusing, mostly it isn’t.

boy-bandish vampire
Worse. This wasn’t even spoofing but a positioning all the more sad because, despite being bald and having rat-like ears (ala Orlock), when we see the vampire (Larry Overfield) and his open shirt and medallion he actually looked like a so-called “romance vampire”, strangely boy-bandish even though that wasn’t the goal. Perhaps it was the declaration at the head of the film that caused this correlation? Who knows… anyway, rant over. So, we start with a trailer and a man (face never seen) enters and there are a couple of tied up girls who he tells to shut up (they whimper) and (after chopping some meat) tries to feed some gore-like slop to. A couple of things I noticed. The photography seemed crisp but the shot choices were poor, like the primary actor blocking shots. Also, ok the girls refused the slop but they’d hardly have eaten it with their gags still in.

advert for Birkett Butcher
Anyway the man leaves the trailer and sits in front of a small TV. There is an advert for Birkett Butchers – the good old Birkett boys crossing over into the main feature as cameo characters. The TV then goes to New Castle After Dark, where the hosts introduce the feature they are presenting: Blood Woods. So the film becomes a film within a film. I did kind of like that as a concept. Blood Woods starts with establishing shots of nature and I’m guessing they were stock footage as they were very crisp and professionally shot. When we then see the photography within the feature that seems crisp, but not as crisp, blurring on motion and these establishing shots undermined it.

the hunter
A truck pulls into the woods and the camera looks at the truck but the driver is hidden within the reflection of trees in the windshield. We get odd angles and compositional shots. The camera lingering on hitching pants, him obscured as we watch him pee, a desire not to show the face and then, showing it anyway. I know there was a point to the composition but I couldn’t gel with it. The man is a hunter. He kills a deer and is then got by the vampire, who hunts at high speed. The vampire drags him off (and it is suddenly night) and then proceeds to tell him that he came to the wrong part of the woods with a really gravelly (OTT) voice before killing him. There is then a slo-mo vampire run to Moonlight Sonata.

We get to a shot of a town and we are already 20 minutes in. The film moves into a bank and in walk three robbers. They have masks on but they are Wolf (Dave Campbell, Fist of the Vampire), Dozer (Tony DeJulia) and Cash (Allyson R Hood). Also in on the caper is security guard Fargo (Jason Howell), who happens to be Cash’s brother. Cops show up at the bank’s drive through and a teller manages to tip them off by mentioning a sister he doesn’t have (though it takes them a while to get it). This leads the robbers to start a shootout as they leave the bank, re-enter, leave through the uncovered back entrance, car jack an escape vehicle (taking the driver hostage) and drive past the cops shooting. In all this they drop the money (!) and Fargo is shot.

Cash and Wolf
There is a pointless scene with the cops in a bar. Honestly, it added nothing and the cops were not important enough as characters to warrant it. All it did was slow the narrative down. Back to the robbers (now unmasked, so the kidnapped car driver can see their faces) and they have broken down. A couple of sisters are walking up the road and one goes to see if they need help, gun in face and a walk to their campsite reveals someone has ransacked their stuff and their car keys have gone. They get back to the car, one says for Wolf to put his monkey on a leash, about African American Cash, which made me wince. Then they spot the smoke coming from a lodge no one had seen before.

he's behind you
In the lodge are mother (Delores Anne Bruce), father (Paul Worley) and daughter (Casey Burke) – daughter seems somewhat disconnected with the real world and her dialogue, or delivery or both, strikes as odd. She has made cookies – special ones for mother as they have her medication in them. The robbers take over the lodge but the vampire has taken an interest in them and he is hunting them down, after warning them to leave…

biting the head
So, lore we get is that sunlight is later hinted to be a problem but the vampire got the hunter at the head of the film in daylight (though the woods could have shaded him). A bite turns but the vampires can be shot and killed (there was a suggestion that they hadn’t fully turned). One of these is a head shot. There is some (almost too subtle for its own good) playing with the invitation rules and crosses will ward off if the person has “complete faith”. So, what did I think…

Honestly I was frustrated. There were some good ideas that were almost lost in bad ideas that they thought were good – such as some shot composition or expanded narratives that added nothing to the film. Those expanded narratives may have worked in a more experienced filmmakers’ hands but didn’t in this. There was some necessary suspension of belief location wise. The acting varied but the best performance, for me, was given by Allyson R Hood. On to the score, and it was so frustrating... 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Little Vampire: New Adventures – review

Director: Christian Görlitz

First aired: 1993

Contains spoilers

Ostensibly following the 1986 series, the Little Vampire, this differed in many ways starting with the fact that it was a wholly different cast. The first series had been a German/Canadian joint production and had been filmed in Canada. This series was solely a German production and was filmed in Germany and Belgium.

I managed to finally track it down in a joint set with the first series, both with an English dub… and the dubbing is atrociously bad but, you know what, it is just as I remember it when it aired in the UK and that dubbing might have been poor but added a layer of nostalgia to the viewing.

Anton flying
Having established the backstory and lore in the first series this series gets down to it without bothering to recap the rules and assuming that the audience realises that ten-years old Anton (Matthias Ruschke) is a human boy whose best friend is Rüdiger von Schlotterstein (Jan Steilen), the little vampire of the title. Anton is in possession of a vampire cloak that allows him to fly (indeed it is the cloaks that power the vampires’ flights as well) and that Rüdiger’s sister Anna (Lena Krüper) is in love with Anton. Reference to Anna drinking milk as she has not decided what age she wants to be is lost, but she noticeably has less in the way of fang.

Geiermeier & Stöbermann
The episodes are self-contained, though they do build to a loose overall narrative as simple as that might be. In the first part of the series the antagonist is vampire hunter Geiermeier (Marián Labuda). He is said to have had some success as a vampire hunter and yet his character is shown as bumbling and easily outsmarted by Anton. When Anton, and subsequently Rüdiger, goes on holiday to the countryside the antagonist is local doctor Stöbermann (Dominique Horwitz). He really is shown as bumbling and quite ridiculous. From a family of vampire hunters he enlists Anton’s help (who is smart enough to act as a double agent and discover his plans) and shows him a picture of his ancestor – actually a still from Horror of Dracula.

Anton's parents with the vampires
Of course there is no sign of vampire attacks and, despite Anton’s fear of the adult vampires they are drawn in a far more comedic way than sinister. One must question their hunting prowess also. At a vampire party in the final episode they fail to notice that Anton and his parents (who have dressed up as vampires to surprise him and believe the vampires to be members of a theatre troupe in character) are human – though Anna has sprayed them all with her favourite (rancid) perfume. However they also fail to notice Stöbermann just a few yards from the vampires as well, and his vampire hunting dog that barks in the presence of the undead for some reason stays silent too!

Rüdiger and his mother
The vampire party proves itself to be a fairly diverse affair – with vampires from many parts of the globe. If the introductions are to be believed, however, Dracula is not amongst them. As he is referred to by Rüdiger’s father (Dietrich Mattausch) and the party, which takes place every 130 years, was instigated by a communique by Dracula one would have thought they would have included the character at the party.

Anton and Anna
There is a dreamy quality to the show – perhaps added to by the VHS print and the fact that the night scenes were filmed during the day and filtered. The matting for things such as flying is, of course, quite coarse now. Often the relationship between Anton and Rüdiger seems forced as they come across as quite antagonistic to each other and, frankly, quite bratish at times. However this possibly owes as much to the awful dubbing; and it is really bad, and yet there is something still rather fun about this – probably down to nostalgia but nevertheless there. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Becoming 2015 – review

Directors: Geovanni Molina & Marty Marrero

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

The blurb on Amazon Prime states: “Angels fall from the heavens. They then turn into Vampires. Only one man can save the world as we know it. The Becoming: 2015 is an explosively campy contemporary vision of ancient End of Days mythology with Vampires.” This is not entirely accurate.

The “angels” are already fallen and are actually demons in service of Satan (Buddy Howard) who, to do his bidding and bring about the apocalypse, seem to possess a person who then seems altogether vampire-like. Are they actually vampires or do they just have fangs and occasionally bite a neck? I guess the answer is that it doesn’t really matter.

So an astronaut floating outside the ISS notices something odd out there (the dialogue was a little indistinct at this point). On Earth Vinnie (Geovanni Molina) is woken as his dogs react to *something* outside. He opens the glass door and is grabbed by the neck and lifted from his feet. He awakens… He lives what seems a perfect life with wife Claudia (Anastasia Kuzu) and kids Steph and Tony. Tony scares his sister with plastic vampire fangs and Vinnie promises to take them camping. They leave the house and Steph goes to get the mail for her parents and is hit by a car, the driver arguing with her boyfriend on her mobile phone.

Steph’s funeral is held. A man passes a cross to Vinnie but he throws it to the ground. As he leaves the cemetery the woman who killed Steph asks for forgiveness but he dismisses her. We see a demon, Satanica (Geretta Geretta), possess the priest (Omar Cardoso), who grabs the cross and passes it to the (vehicular homicide) woman who is branded with a 666 mark from the cross and possessed herself. If that makes little sense, don’t worry, it’ll mean less when we come back to it. For now we’ll cross over to a tattoo parlour.

possessed by Vanity
In said parlour a female tattooist (Dawn Andrews) wants to leave early and her boss (Neil Orlikoff) reluctantly agrees. She goes back to her workstation to continue with the current client when she falls into, what appears to be, an epileptic fit. Suddenly she is possessed by a demon named Vanity and chows down on her client’s neck. Her boss similarly fits and is possessed by a demon called Nemesis. The film never explains why these two are possessed but they are subordinate to Satanica and there to pave the way to Satan’s ascendancy.

asked to kill herself
So back to our possessed (possibly) woman. She receives her boyfriend in her home and has baked him a cake. We see her cut a slice and slip a razor blade in it. In probably the most pathetic murder scene in a film he takes a small piece of cake (smaller than the blade) on a fork, pops it in his mouth, retrieves said blade from his mouth (so it would have cut his mouth, potentially, but nothing mortally significant) and immediately dies. Satanica whispers to the girl to kill herself (so, in this case, possession didn’t cause the loss of the individual and vampirism) and she slits her wrist and writes “the becoming” in her own blood before dying.

showing off fangs
Back to Vinnie. He apparently lost his job two months ago (has the film moved forward two months or was he lying pre-Steph’s death? That isn’t clear). He has pretended to go to work and Claudia sees him in his car drinking. Now bearing in mind that, although he has deceived her about his work situation, he doesn’t act violently or even belligerently due to the brew. Therefore it seems a little harsh that she immediately boots him out until he can sort himself out (hey, later he even passes up a bit on the side because he loves his estranged wife). So, what’s going on?

Jonathan Windt as Gabriel
Tony was born on 6th June 2006 and is therefore the chosen sacrifice to allow Satan to open a gateway to Hell (not that thousands of children will have been born on that day worldwide). Gabriel (Jonathan Windt) comes down from heaven in fetish gear, cuts off his wings with a lightsabre-esque sword, steals clothes (almost ala Terminator) and then has to get Vinnie on a Holy page to save his son and fight the demons. The demons, meanwhile, are making zombies (in one case by putting their blood into shots). There is a meaningless side-story concerning a pimp and his prostitutes. Its all so, well… pants…

It is ill paced, ill constructed pap. The initial idea might be ok (until scrutinised) but the overall film is just B grade rubbish without enough exploitation or fun to keep us interested. I mean, had Satanica possessed or manipulated the woman to kill Steph, for instance, to break Vinnie’s belief in God and make his protection of his son fraught that would have been one thing. However this wasn’t the case and we meandered through seemingly loosely connected plot elements for no other reason that I guess the filmmakers thought they were cool – for instance, picking up the prostitutes and intimating torture but actually cutting that entire (torture) part from the film and their presence having absolutely no story impact.

That said the film did have an earnestness about it, I can totally see that actor/writer/(co-)director Geovanni Molina believed in what he was doing. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Blood River – review

Director: Christopher Forbes

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

Christopher Forbes was the director and creative force behind the film Vampitheatre, a film that generated a soupçon of blog controversy when a one-time commentator stated, “Ignore the blogger's attempt to make this film seem palatable in even the smallest way. It's an insult to the genre.” Ouch – except I rather liked the film and, without sounding too big headed, it’s my opinion that counts on this blog.

You see, the film might have been amateurish, especially around some of the acting, but it was a mockumentary of the band and any awkwardly delivered dialogue looked no more and no less than a musician caught in the headlights of a film camera when it’s not their bag. Unfortunately, Blood River hasn’t got that excuse and needed a more professional level of acting, dialogue and, frankly, story.

We begin with a couple in the woods, with their blanket on the ground… we see they are being observed by a woman, who we later discover is Annabella (Destiny LeDonne). She breaks a twig, causing the girl to start, and then throws a branch. They decide to leave and she pursues them through the woods, acting more like it’s a sadistic game than a hunt. Eventually they meet a cop (Gene Faglier), Annabella appears behind him and tells him to shoot them. He kills the boy but can’t kill the girl – Annabella rebukes him and appears in front of the fleeing female. We see her fall with multiple bleeding marks on her neck.

charred Isabella
We cut to a house and, in what we guess is a basement, we see the cop hanging from a rafter… or at least his upper torso. His legs are missing but he is still alive and the wound doesn’t really seem to gush with blood. It is slow enough for Annabella to casually fill a chalice! She gives the blood to a woman who lies, her body looking like it is charred and burnt. Later we will discover she is Isabella (Jezibell Anat), Annabella’s mother.

Linnea Quigley as Agnes
A car drives down the road and the passenger, Tina (Amber Stalene), performs fellatio on the driver, Todd (William Adams). He breaks suddenly, avoiding crashing. They are approaching “God Boy’s” house as Todd calls his friend Godfrey (Stephen D. Schwartz) and they are due to go to a concert. Godfrey’s mother, Agnes (Linnea Quigley, Vampitheatre and Nightmare Sisters), is concerned about him going to the place of sin and deprivation. Here we have an issue, dressed in the most prudish dress they can find, it is incongruous that she would have a piercing over her upper lip. Linnea Quigley also plays a vampire’s servant in 19th century flashback scenes and the piercing remains and seems just as idiosyncratic.

having a guest for dinner
Talking of which, the film then goes back in time and we see the vampire house, as an establishing shot, looking as dilapidated 150 years before in 1865 as it does in the contemporary scenes. Isabella runs a coven of vampires and they are eating women fleeing the civil war, though pickings have been slim. We note that Isabella and Annabella don’t have fangs, whilst their companion vampire does.

suicide cop
Anyway, Todd picks up Tina’s friend Kat (Kimberly Campbell, also Vampitheatre), Kat’s brother Kevin (Christopher Bowman) and Sally (Melissa Huff), a random woman Kevin picked up the night before. They set off for the concert, become lost due to a shortcut, and almost crash as Annabella appears before them in the road. She vanishes, knocks on the window and asks for a lift. Despite her vanishing act and the fact that she is essentially wearing only lingerie, Todd assumes she is going to the concert and gives her a lift. After a brief encounter with a cop (Who is mojo’d by Annabella and then psychically caused to kill himself by Isabella) they break down and Annabella gets them to call a tow from the nearby town of Blood River. A place where the one guest house is… you’ve guessed it… the same dilapidated house.

vampiric tentacle
I won’t spoil anymore but it apparently takes a long time to heal from blood spiked with holy water – which is what has left Isabella charred, when fed it back in the civil war. Agnes knows something is up and goes to save her boy. The townsfolk are complicit, and why wouldn’t they be when the vampires can cause your head to explode “Scanner” style. But the other thing to note about our day-walking vampires is that, whilst they can turn a person into a fanged vampire, they have two tentacles that emerge from under their dresses to sucker the blood out. However the effect around said tentacle is a bit rubbish.

papier-mâché corpse
This was a consistent problem, to be honest. For every well down “blowing your own brains out” there is an awful looking papier-mâché corpse. But the worst bit about this was the dialogue and acting, which was consistently poor. At least Linnea Quigley appeared to be having as blast as Agnes, chewing up the scenery (probably to get the taste of the dialogue out of her mouth). The whole thing dragged along, bringing its incongruous elements along for the ride. Over all, not brilliant. 3 out of 10 is probably overly generous but Agnes the vampire slayer made me push the score up.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann – review

Director: Jason Figgis

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Hidden very much under the radar, this unusual genre entry was released in 2012 in its native Ireland but for the most part has gone unnoticed. What makes you think through the film is the nature of the vampires. Are they natural, albeit part of a cult it seems, or are they supernatural?

Not that the V word is used within the film at any given point. The film is also a tad over the top. For example the main inspector, John Witham (Neill Fleming), is perhaps more abrasive and, well, out and out abusive than any cop dealing with kids would ever get away with. We’ll come back to that.

Acacius chases
As we start, however, in black and white we see a man’s face. A victim screams as they are fed on and we see a woman, bloodied, running. She is chased by the man, credited as Acacius (Darren Travers), and with the sounds and the look, the gnashing of teeth as he ran, I was more minded of a post-Romero running zombie than a vampire. He seems to be catching up to her. To be honest the first thought was that this was Isabel Mann (Ellen Mullen) – especially as we see her in the next (colour) scene – but I’m not too sure.

getting home
As it is we see Isabel come through her front door, she is covered in blood (how she didn’t leave a little bit of a trail of blood through the house is one of those suspension of disbelief moments). From another room her dad asks if she is alright and she answers in the affirmative and goes upstairs, into the shower still clothed, washing the blood away and sobbing. We see her remember standing before Acacius, though this is a memory in colour.

tears in the shower
Later we see her with her dad. He speaks to her of being the rock holding the family together given that, “Mam’s been gone eight years now.” As he says this we see a photo of her mother (Mirjana Rendulic). Isabel has two brothers, aspiring heavy metal artist Marcus (Kevin Buckley) and younger schoolkid Josh (Killian O'Farrell). At the breakfast table Isabel declares that she is unwell and is not going to school. We see a woman in her bedroom with her.

daughter and mother
So, let us start to look at the weave of strange story before us. When I suggested that it might not be Isabel running across the field from, apparently, the vampiric attack it is because with the photography we see a dark-haired woman but little detail. It is subsequently seeing her in the house that makes us assume it was Isabel. However it might have been Isabel’s mother and if the woman in her room looks familiar it is because we have just seen her photo. Isabel’s mother is one of the vampires and even if she was not the one we saw running it is safe to assume mother and daughter walk the same path. Further, when her father said “Mam’s been gone” the assumption is naturally that she’s dead but it could just mean she walked away from the family?

interviewing the schoolkids
What we do know is when we see Acacius again, in a shot again in black and white, it is Isabel with him and she does feed from the victim and also, in a vampire trope mainstay, from Acacius’ wrist. Let’s leave Isabel for a moment as Inspector Witham and Sgt. Paul Barrett (Matthew Toman) attend the school. Now I said his dialogue is a tad over the top. The man would be suspended from the Garda, I am sure, for his abusive attitude to both the principal (Geraldine McComish) and the one kid we see him interview – who happens to be Aaron (Adam Tyrrell), Isabel’s erstwhile boyfriend. However, the film actually addresses the acerbic nature of his dialogue within the wider dialogue, twice.

Neill Fleming as Witham
This is important as we have entered the story not even half way through but three-quarters of the way through, and the dialogue choices explains to the viewer the urgency of the questioning. 9 children from the school and a bank teller have gone missing. The police have found no trace of them bar blood concentrated at a given spot. No bodies, no trace hair or fabric from victims or attackers. The Garda, frankly, are baffled (so baffled that they don’t have a permanent monitoring of that bit of woodland going on). Witham’s gut is pointing him towards Isabel, however. She was friends with some of the missing, in fact 3 of them were on their way to see her when they vanished. She has ditched her boyfriend and friends and started hanging out with a younger self-harmer.

the family who eat together...
What we see is the unravelling, I guess, but what the film doesn’t offer are answers. Isabel’s mother was bipolar and there is an assumption by the police that Isabel has developed the mental illness. Certainly, in severe bipolar disorder there might be hallucinations and delusions. Is that what the vampires are? Or are they a non-supernatural cult who have initiated Isabel at her mother’s urging? Perhaps they are supernatural? That would explain the fact that they leave no trace evidence for modern forensics and also the return of Isabel’s mother if she died rather than left.

an attack
The film is silent on these things, but the ambiguity is purposefully built into the screenplay and thus something to make you thoughtful rather than frustrated. This flew so low under the radar that I broke a cardinal rule and read the (one) IMDb review before writing this. The reviewer was unimpressed, deeming it another angst vampire film, but is it? The title, the use of the word ecstasy, suggests the polar opposite and yet Isabel doesn’t seem ecstatic. Perhaps because we see so little of the primary story, parachuting in so late in the game. Be it that she is extremely bipolar, being inducted into a cult or turned, we only see the most traumatic aspect of the story and are left to imagine the suggested ecstasy – the ecstasy of blood, the ecstasy of finding her missing mother.

I will also mention, as it gives a clue to our lore, the disdain shown in that review for a kill achieved through a slap. Isabel may have only slapped the victim but she did it with force. We know this because the victim's head hit a radiator and left a trail of blood down it. That is some force. Perhaps part of being a vampire, the strength beyond that of a mortal, perhaps the strength of mania or the delusional belief that all she did was slap when she did more? We do know, by the end, that Isabel, a teenager with a slight build, is able to overpower a grown man. Perhaps I am reading too much in?

feeding from Acacius' wrist
This is a strange entry into the genre. There is a powerful victim/feed montage sequence to music where the music seemed almost inappropriate to the scene and yet one felt that was deliberate too. The need to keep everything off kilter and to do so deliberately, I believe, is what made the film for me but I don’t think everyone will enjoy the ride and feel it is likely to be a love it or hate it. I fell towards the former. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.