Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Horror Film Review

Strigoi (2009):  So here's a British vampire flick, touted as a dark horror comedy, that was filmed in Romania and stars Romanians speaking English.  I know what you're thinking...Romania means Transylvania, and Transylvania means Dracula.  Nope.  In Romanian folklore, strigoi are the dead who return from the grave to resolve unfinished business, like zombies who've attended a motivational seminar.  And they're hungry for anything.  Live chickens, casseroles, dogs, pickles, humans...whatever's handy.  To confuse the issue, you don't need to be bitten to become strigoi and you don't even have to die to be one; you can be born strigoi.  Still with me?  Given the unique characteristics of strigoi and the Romanian setting, the movie should be full of atmospheric awesomeness.  It would be silly to squander this opportunity and instead focus on real estate fraud and eastern European politics, right?

The film starts out with angry villagers, under the direction of the local priest, dragging the town's most wealthy couple out to a field and killing them.  This is followed by an odd montage of the villagers pillaging their home and, well, partying. Cut to Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv) a young man recently returned to the village from Italy where he dropped out of medical school.  He's staying with his old and decidedly quirky grandfather (Rudy Rosenfeld) and after searching for his grandpa's lost dog, discovers everyone is acting strange.  And that there are an inordinate number of dead chickens and missing dogs in the town.  The rich dead couple, Constantin and Ileana Tirescu (Constantin Barbulescu and Roxana Guttman) have come back from the grave, of course, but Vlad and the other townsfolk seem more interested in finding certain documents related to real estate ownership.  See, after communism fell in Romania, the land ownership reverted back to the deed holders but only if they could produce the original papers.  Otherwise, the land was put up for sale.  A rich guy like Constantin cleaned up...and pissed off a lot of people, hence the dragging and killing. 

I'll admit, I was lost a great deal of the time trying to follow the story.  There's a thing with a local cop who Vlad tries to enlist in his investigation.  Constantin kills the cop and the next thing you know, Vlad digs him up, cuts out his heart and burns it.  Another thing is that everybody calls Vlad a "pussy" apparently because he didn't want to be a doctor.  Also, it turns out the grandfather is strigoi and drinks Vlad's blood while he sleeps.  At one point, Vlad says, "And stop drinking my blood," to which his grandpa replies angrily, "It's my blood.  I gave it to you."  O-kaay.  We know Vlad's parents and siblings are all doctors but it's not explained where any of them are.  One last thing...the humor.  It's so dry it makes Death Valley seem tropical.  The scene with the jar of pickles did crack me up, though.


Acting:  Paraschiv is sympathetic and convincing as the bewildered Vlad.  Rosenfeld is similarly outstanding in his own, quiet way.  No one else's performance sucks, really.
Story:  Full marks for the strigoi idea.  The execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
Direction:  Disjointed, which may account for the confusion.
Production Values:  Since it was filmed in Romania, authenticity was achieved.  That is to say, the village looks as down-trodden and poor and you'd expect.  Not sure what the budget was but there's no cheap feel about it.  Location shooting hides many sins.
Gore/FX:  There's a little blood...and the open-heart surgery on police guy but nothing overly gross.
Scares:  No.
Ending:  Weird. 
Verdict:  Should you see Strigoi?  Maybe as a socio-political curiosity or a local anthropological novelty but definitely not as a horror flick.  I can't recommend it despite all of the positive reviews floating around out there.  I have a theory about that...if a reviewer doesn't completely understand a film, rather than admit it, he praises it.  I freely admit that parts of Strigoi went over my head but I'm not recommending it simply because it's not a very good horror movie. 

Rating:  2 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment