Saturday, October 02, 2010


I'll begin my spooky October films with this Philippine vampire thriller, directed by Gerardo de Leon, which is interesting for its visuals and for its lead actor, Ronald Remy, who with his bald head has a Telly Savalas vibe--though sexier than Kojak ever was. Its plot comes off as overly complex, partly because lots of connective backstory is missing. Remy plays Dr. Marco, a vampire who has been experimenting with bringing his lover Katrina back to health (she may or may not be a vampire and we never find out what her illness is). Katrina has a twin sister, Charito, whom their mother, Dona Marisa, gave away when she was an infant (we never know exactly why) and Marco sets his sights on Charito so he can use her blood and her heart (!) to restore the weak Katrina (we never know why he needs a heart). Marco and his handful of minions--a dwarf, a mute hunchback, a sexy young woman, and a large bat named Basra--terrorize Charito, her adoptive parents, and her friends, including a pleasant young man and an old village priest. At one point, apparently because the priest has encouraged prayer (in addition to wooden stakes) as a way to combat the vampires, both Marco and Katrina are suddenly healthy and able to walk in the sunlight (a similar scene plays out in the first Dark Shadows movie). This doesn't last long, however--it doesn't say much about the rather feeble powers of Christ--and soon the film builds to a climax with a band of torch-wielding villagers trying to save Charito from certain death.

The most striking thing about this movie is its use of color. The nighttime scenes are tinted a deep blue, and scenes in which evil threatens (especially involving the big bat Basra) are washed in a bright red. This may have been done to hide the occasional use of black & white film, but not always--sometimes you can tell the colors are provided by the use of filters or gels. It may have been a device to hide a low budget, but it gives the movie an effective, unearthly atmosphere. Basra the bat is a bad effect--a phony, unwieldy thing--but it's one of the few missteps here, aside from the occasional dangling plot thread. Frankly, I became rather fond of Basra, and the piercing theremin shriek that accompanies his presence. There's an amusing scene, though it's played seriously, in which the priest tries to give a rational explanation as to why wooden stakes are effective against vampires--something about their blood being like glue, and wood dissipating it. This little-known horror film deserves a larger audience. [DVD]

No comments: