“I dreamed you murdered me.”

Bizarre movie. Stumbly, natural dialogue. Inexplicable character behavior and barely-explained story. Trippy dissolves and music make you feel like the whole movie is a dream sequence. I can’t tell if it’s artistic, indulgent, or (probably) both.

Love this shot of saxophonist behind lamp, making it appear that he’s hitting a giant bong, a visual metaphor for this movie:

George Meda (director Gunn) meets Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones, star of Night of the Living Dead), and according to plot descriptions I’ve read elsewhere, turns him into a vampire, but I thought Hess was a vamp all along and that after trying to kill him with an ancient dagger, George shoots himself to death. The shooting works out for Hess, who drinks George’s blood then throws him in the wine cellar.

George suicide:

Ganja:

George’s widow (unbeknownst to her) Ganja (Marlene Clark of Switchblade Sisters) arrives later and makes herself right at home, seducing Hess and being abusive to his butler Archie (Leonard Jackson, title star of Super Spook). Soon they get married (does she have to prove to anyone that her previous husband died?), he stabs her with the knife and they’re vampires together, and now I get it, the knife turns people into vampires? Some sex and blood and nudity later, I think Hess gets a religious mania and maybe kills himself, leaving queen vampire Ganja to find new beaus and victims.

Too many sidetracks, like George telling a horrible story then ending up drunk in a tree, introducing Hess’s son who is then never seen again, and an energetic preacher. But it gets credit for having a completely different feel than other vampire movies I’ve seen, even the similarly dreamy (but far more sleek and story-driven) The Hunger. Gunn was a playwright and screenwriter, also made a never-released wife-swapping movie and a barely-released soap-opera satire. Spike Lee is a fan, remade this as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus last year.

Checked out Tony Scott’s The Hunger for the first time in lovely HD, then watched his brother Ridley’s Alien on blu-ray the same night for a SCOTtober double-feature.


The Hunger (1983)

Cool looking movie with Nic Roegian editing – and I noticed this before listening to Tony Scott’s commentary, where he admits to being Roeg-obsessed. Scott worked in commercials, and brings their slick-as-snails visuals to a noirish vampire flick, opening with a Bahuaus video intercut with agitated lab monkeys. If that sounds like something that might not fly with the public, it apparently didn’t.

The eternally-youthful Catherine Deneuve is a centuries-old vampire living with true love David Bowie. Bowie seems like perfect casting for a vampire movie, but something goes wrong and he starts rapidly growing older (it’s perverse to hide Bowie under age-makeup), trying at the last minute to get help from blood specialist Susan Sarandon, and eating a neighbor kid (soap star Beth Ehlers) in a panic.

Aged Bowie:

Master vampire Deneuve is used to this sort of thing, stashes Bowie in the attic with the other aged corpses of former lovers, and begins seducing Sarandon. But Dr. Susan is too self-aware for vampire life, kills herself, and the zombie lovers rise up to destroy Catherine.

No fangs – our vampires use ankh-shaped knives to bleed their victims. A bit too many slow-motion doves flying but mostly the style works in the movie’s favor. Not according to Ebert, who called it “agonizingly bad” but enjoyed the sex scene. Played out-of-competition at Cannes, where Bowie’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence was competing with L’Argent, The King of Comedy and Nostalghia.

Scott later directed two episodes of the 1990’s anthology horror series The Hunger, hosted by Bowie. Enjoyed seeing Dan Hedaya as a cop but I missed Willem Dafoe’s cameo. Sarandon’s lab coworker Rufus Collins had previous vampire-film experience in Warhol’s Batman Dracula, and her other coworker Cliff De Young starred in Pulse and Dr. Giggles. Writer Whitley Streiber explored werewolves in Wolfen and aliens in Communion.


Alien (1979)

Has that Star Trek: The Motion Picture tendency to slowly bask in its models and space effects. The creature puppets weren’t as dodgy-looking as I remember them (though there’s such a bad edit right before Ian Holm’s disembodied head starts talking).

Spaceship control room looks like a sound booth with Christmas lights:

After watching this and Prometheus on blu-ray within a couple months of each other, I don’t get why people think there needs to be more connection between the two – one seems to be referencing the other pretty clearly to me.

There’s this thing:

And this guy:

And dudes who touch things they should not be touching:

And an android who does not appear to have everyone’s best interests at heart (his orders end with “crew expendable”).

You don’t think of Tom Skerritt as being the first-billed star of Alien, but I guess Weaver was an unknown at the time (or they didn’t want to telegraph who will survive from the opening credits). Veronica Cartwright had been in Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake the year before. Harry Dean Stanton doesn’t do much horror but Wise Blood and Fire Walk With Me might count. Yaphet Kotto starred in Larry Cohen’s Bone and lived through Freddy’s Dead. And John Hurt has appeared in Hellboy, Only Lovers Left Alive, and something called The Ghoul.

Arthouse crapola.

And I don’t say that lightly. I didn’t much enjoy Serra’s Cervantes movie Honor de Cavelleria, so wouldn’t have high hopes for his Casanova-meets-Dracula movie either, except that it made the cover of Cinema Scope issue 56 and ever since Profit Motive, a CS cover recommendation is sacred to me.

Did Casanova even meet Dracula? I don’t know for sure, because either the movie or my video copy of it (possibly the same thing, since Serra shot Honor de Cavelleria on DV) was too dim and low-res to make out most details. But surely Casanova was a character in the movie – and it’s a good thing I read his Wikipedia before watching this or I would’ve got even less out of the movie. He published a book about his escape from prison (Story of My Flight) and an epic posthumous autobiography (Story of My Life), so that’s where this movie’s title comes from, though as far as I can tell he doesn’t die in it. Dracula may be a character in the movie (the Dracula novel was written a hundred years after Casanova’s death, but Dracula is immortal so I’ll forgive this). He isn’t named, but he bites a woman’s neck, and there’s a bunch of neck biting in the last half hour, either killing or vampiring the three women and/or Casanova’s friend Sancho Panza.

I think Serra is a historian and philosophy scholar and that’s fine but I don’t get his point. The most notable scenes feature Casanova shitting (then wiping himself, sniffing his hand and eating a biscuit) and having sad sex with some girl right before a window breaks. This beat Short Term 12 and Our Sunhi and When Evening Falls on Bucharest and Exhibition and What Now? Remind Me and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears for the top prize at Lav Diaz-led Locarno. Fellini’s Casanova is probably not very similar, but I should watch it soon since I’ve read the whole wikipedia article on the real Casanova in prep for this thing. Peranson mentions “over 440 hours of material,” gah!

Slant describes further:

Split into relatively discrete halves, each possessing its own distinct style, it slips from a bawdy, jovial tale of rumpled courtesans and layabout poets to one fixated fully on doom, immured in shadow-clogged compositions within the ancient, chilly darkness of the Carpathians. .. Positioning each [Casanova/Dracula] as the standard bearer for a specific philosophy, the film functions on a macro level as classical allegory, animating the late-18th-century shift from the rational to the romantic.

Serra, from the Cinema Scope cover story that convinced me to watch this:

Where do the characters find the actual satisfaction for their desire? In the mundane side, in the light side of Casanova, or in the more dark side of Dracula? And in the end it looks like Dracula wins, and people feel more pleasure in the pain, or in the guilty things, and perhaps the film is ultimately about the dark side of our lives. I wanted to make a film about the night, and what happens in the night, when real desires appear.

I live-rifftraxed the screening to my audience of birds. Possibly my copy WAS too dark, making the difference between “glamorously underlit” and “woefully underlit,” but that shouldn’t account for how little I enjoyed the movie compared to the rave critical reviews. At least Cahiers called it “as pretentious as it is insignificant,” and claims “Serra filmed in 1:33 and then reframed it in Scope – result, it’s ugly.”

N. Pinkerton’s review was the most fun to read:

As for the Casanova Meets Dracula setup, it’s something from the Jesús Franco reject pile, though Franco had more of an eye for peasant pulchritude, a better connection for castle rentals, and could do dreamy without drifting into the cataleptic. The movie begs comparisons, practically all of them disparaging – and Serra doesn’t help matters by likening himself in interviews to Pasolini.

Serra:

In the art world you have more freedom, and you can do whatever you want … because there nobody knows anything and there is a great amount of confusion there as to what is good or bad, or what is important or not, so I realized that I feel at home there.

Amusing vampire comedy, directed and starring people from Flight of the Conchords. Shot reality-style (the film crew wore crosses), set mostly in the New Zealand house shared by four vamps: Taika Waititi with a sweet Andy Kaufman smile, fashionable Jemaine Clement, rough ex-nazi Jonathan Brugh and a Nosferatu horror named Peter in the basement. They turn a clueless new guy called Nick, who goes around town bragging he’s a vampire, attracting the vampire hunter who kills Peter. But Nick gets to stay because everyone loves his mortal friend Stu. The great ending twist is that the werewolves (led by Conchord manager Rhys Darby) turn Stu instead, which ends up uniting the two groups.

I actually only started watching it because Edge of Tomorrow was gonna take an hour to copy. Didn’t seem like an amazing comedy, just lightly enjoyable, though admittedly much better than a vampire reality show had any right to be. But Slant and Dissolve gave it masterpiece-level ratings and it made the front cover of Film Comment. And now it’s opening in town, which should teach me to wait a few months before watching new acclaimed indie films.

N. Rabin:

What We Do In The Shadows brilliantly juxtaposes the mundane with the supernatural, where superhuman creatures of the night are subject to the demands of a chore wheel and complain about five years of no one doing the bloody dishes (i.e dishes covered with blood). The movie gets terrific comic mileage out of the contrast between the decked-out ghouls and the ramshackle, go-nowhere town where they do their dark yet tedious bidding.

O. Ivanov:

As we watch the vampires make new friends and become reacquainted with old lovers, the film reveals itself to be a thoughtful and moving treatise on aging gracefully. Confronted with endless cycles of loss and regret, the vampires avoid melancholy by embracing the inexhaustible possibilities of love and friendship that life offers to even its unholiest creations.

Not gonna write much because this needs to be seen again. Sort of a surrealist fairy tale, reminding of The Color of Pomegranates and Raul Ruiz. Valerie is stalked by a vampire called Weasel, who may be hitting on Valerie or her girlfriend, and may also be Valerie’s father. She is protected by a boy called Eagle, who may be her brother. The grandmother is in love with priest Gracian, who is also hitting on Valerie. There’s more, involving a just-married neighbor, magic jewelry, self-flagellation and lots of birds.

Learned from the extras: It’s based on the novel by a 1930’s Czech surrealist poet. Director’s name is pronounced YEER-a-mel YEER-esh. Heavily influenced the movie The Company of Wolves, and I am guessing Moonrise Kingdom and maybe Eagleheart.

E. Howard:

Despite this unsettling feeling [that the movie tends to leer at Valerie], the film is a sensual phantasmagoria, exploring the strange netherworld opened up at the junction point between childhood and adulthood. Jireš marries his dazzling imagery to a continually shifting score (written by Lubos Fiser and Jan Klusák) that encompasses tinkling music box circularity, jaunty folk melodies, and haunting religious choral hymns. This mix of disparate musical moods and sources mirrors the film’s uneasy blend of fantasy with a child’s eye view on reality.

D. Cairns:

Some book or other on the Czech New Wave compared the storytelling to Rivette’s fantastical films: you can tell there are RULES to the magic in these films, but you DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE.

“He used to think he was John Luke Truffaut”

My second super-stylish vampire love-affair flick this year after Only Lovers Left Alive. Also my second Cassavetes movie this Shocktober (see also: Rosemary’s Baby). Xan, daughter of John & Gena, appeared in Husbands at age 4. Sleek, sexy movie with great rumbly music, surprisingly shot by the DP of Momma’s Man.

This is more the standard vampire love-affair setup than the Jarmusch movie, though they both have a destructive sister character who shows up halfway through the story. Juna (Josephine de la Baume of Listen Up Philip) meets Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia, Stallone’s son in Rocky Balboa) at the video store and tries to warn him that she’s a vampire, but he’s into that, so she turns him and they move in together. She teaches him to hunt deer, but her sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida, Fat Girl‘s older sister) starts killing every person living nearby (including, presumably, Paolo’s literary agent Michael Rapaport), bringing outside attention that concerns head vamp Xenia (Anna Mouglalis of Merci pour le Chocolat and Garrel’s Jealousy). Nobody directly stops Mimi, but she stays out too late and the housekeeper decides not to drag her inside before the sun comes out.

I love their widescreen house:

I just found out!

Bing & Bela (2010)

Bing Crosby and Bela Lugosi.

Buried side-by-side.

Red lips. White wolf.

She is film critic Kim Morgan, who married Maddin after filming.

Lilith & Ly (2010)

A one-minute vampire short.

Udo Kier aims to steal a vampire woman’s necklace.

Is it supposed to be silent or is my browser messed up?

These last two were part of a shorts series called Hauntings.

It’s a Wonderful Life (2001)

Music video for Sparklehorse.

Silent actors on rotating sets.

Shot in peep-hole-vision!

Berlin (2008)

Footage from Berlin, Ontario in 1916.

Remixed to doom-music.

Sighs & Bosoms (2014?)

Literally that, in a single sepia-toned shot, with strings.

One Minute Louis Negin (2014?)

Single shot of Negin close-up

Perhaps from the rushes of something Keyhole-related?

Spanky, to the Pier and Back (2008)

Spanky is a small dog.

He walks to the pier and back, the camera frantically recording the experience.

Lullaby (or Funerailles) (2013?)

Takes exciting or upsetting moments from films and tracks back and forth over them obsessively, almost Martin Arnold-style. Intense and wonderful. Includes Santo, Tales of Hoffmann, a zeppelin disaster, Dracula, gladiator battles, more.

Sissy Boy Slap Party!!! (2004)

Louis Negin goes off to the store to buy condoms and the sleepy heap of sissy boys he leaves behind immediately commence with some major slapping, while drummers drum and women stand aside unimpressed.

Also on there:
– a trailer for Archangel with the most edits per second of any Maddin work (yes!)
– a bog in Victoria shot on lo-fi color camera
– a bunch of silent 8mm reels I didn’t watch

As Nathan Rabin might say, this film is quite poor.

But look who co-stars:

It opens, as all respectable horror films do, with a tribal ritual sacrifice. Maverick tough guy journalist Michael Moriarty (star of Q: The Winged Serpent) is called back to the States and saddled with his neglected son Jeremy. They head to the country where Mike has inherited a family home in a town full of vampires led by Judge Andrew Duggan (Merrill’s Marauders). Jeremy falls in with the vampires, is sweet on a very young Tara Reid (Bunny Lebowski). The movie’s specific vampire mythology seems unclear, especially where it concerns Jeremy and Tara, even though the Judge tries to explain it to us. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention cuz I was wondering where the blue rubber-mask demon had gone, when Sam Fuller would appear, and what was going on with Moriarty. Mostly he and the movie seem resigned to their crappiness, the straightforward genre plot, but occasionally there’s a spark of life, some Cohen attitude in the dialogue, some fire out of Mike.

Finally, Fuller arrives as a nazi hunter turned game vampire killer. The two guys pretty quickly and easily start slaughtering the townsfolk, killing bunches as they sleep before getting cornered. Fuller fakes suicide – I wouldn’t have advised laying bloody and prone in a room full of vampires, but it seems to work out for him. The kid awakens from his pre-vamp haze and stakes the judge with an American flag.

Bunny:

Shooting the judge in the head does not work:

Happy SHOCKtober! The ol’ blog is running months behind right now, and I’ve posting things out of order, but here’s a vampire flick to kick things off. More to come… eventually.

It’s something like this: rich guy asks mortuary master for help reburying his father. But father is a vampire, kills the rich guy and puts everyone else in danger. Master is arrested for the rich guy’s death and his two assistants try to save the day: attractive young Chor, haunted by a female ghost, and comic buffoon Man, bitten by a vampire and trying to keep from becoming one himself. At the end, no lessons are learned, but the movie is much fun, so it got sequels. Even Master stopped caring about the plot early on.

I spent most of the runtime piecing together Hong Kong’s rules about vampires. They hop, I knew that much from Seven Golden Vampires. You can freeze them and make them obey orders by taping yellow paper with a phrase written in chicken blood to their forehead. You create a barrier/trap or injure the vampire by snapping straight ink lines with a string. Sticky rice (only a certain kind!) draws out vampire poison from bitten people, and damages full vampires. They have long hard fingernails, and standard vampire teeth, but their bite marks come in threes. Fire and certain wooden swords can kill them. My favorite: if you hold your breath, vampires can’t find you.

L-R: Man (Ricky Hui), Master (Ching-Ying Lam), Chor (Siu-hou Chin, later in Fist of Legend)

There’s also a local government baddie, Wai, the nephew of the slain rich man, who is hot for his cousin Ting Ting, but Chor and Man keep making him look ridiculous (including a weird voodoo mind-control scene) so he’ll have no chance. I’m not sure whether the movie kills a baby goat and a chicken or if those are effects/editing, but I’m sure it kills a snake.