Archive for October 27th, 2019

by Sam Juliano

Halloween is just days away and Election Day is shortly thereafter in the lead up to the New Jersey Teacher’s Convention, Veteran’s Day and Turkey Day.  As always Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance are leading the way with their extraordinary film writing.  My Caldecott Medal series has been temporarily derailed by my recent (extreme) grief over my father and then this past Sunday my favorite animal in the house, an 11 year-old cat named Dylan who passed away suddenly before we could even enlist a veterinarian.  My daily involvement with this lovable feline, when I constantly referred to him as “the Prince of Princes” has left me gutted on the heels of my Dad’s passing.  Jamie Uhler’s masterful 2019 Horror Fest reviews continue:

Lifeforce (T. Hooper…1985)
Ferat Vampire (aka Upir z Feratu/Der Autovampir) (J. Herz… 1982)
Recently I unearthed a conversation at work that I’ve had perviously herein—the idea that my favorite sub-genre in my favorite genre (Horror) is the Vampire film. I’ve said I find it (quite easily actually) the deepest in the Horror canon, probably two dozen deep in terms of masterpiece level films, and at least that many a slight tier just below that. It was quite wonderful then, when, upon completing the very silly but highly fun Lifeforce, that I thought another bizarro take on the vampire sub-genre could be done and interesting overlaps could emerge. Boy was I not wrong, as clear an indication of the malleability and breadth of the vampire idea as you’ll see should you want to throw an anchor and dive down deep.
Lifeforce is truly something else, a relatively big budget epic (it’d be the equivalent to a $60-65 million dollar picture now) that attempts to wrestle with larger themes, even going so far to be uttered as a ‘thinking man’s sci-fi film’. Nevertheless, it’s a very silly film, made more so because it does think larger and play it all so very straight. This obviously helps immensely, as there is no irony here, and the loving ode/borderline remake to Quartermass Xperiment/Pit run of films for Hammer a few decades prior fleshes itself out that much cleaner. If you know that touchpoint you know the plot; a joint British/US spaceship, the Churchill, finds itself adrift in space near an alien craft that it eventually boards. Finding entombed humans inside it, the crew ‘rescues them’ and brings them aboard only to find that once they’re on earth the humans are actually aliens in disguise, and that they need regular doses of human ‘life force’ every 2 hours to remain alive. Thus, they’re something like vampires, as once you get past the special effect electric hysterics of ‘sucking souls’ you understand them as bloodthirsty zombies meet Dracula, and that London could very easily dip the world into the apocalypse if not properly contained (the film’s final 30-40 minutes deal with just this scenario). 
On the other hand, Ferat Vampire is considerably smaller, but incredibly more bizarre. The tale of the fictitious sports car company, Ferat, who are attempting to seek buyers (and funders) for their new sports coupe, the Vampire. But they’re a shadowy, vile company run by a pale woman looking like death warmed over draped in Chanel, so suspicious takes are warranted. Oh, and the speedy car also runs on human blood, a fact they’re keeping under wraps. It takes our hero doctor and his conspiracy theory loving scientist buddy to unearth the scam as the film unfurls itself as a quite wonderful piece of anti-corporate subversion, which enough nodes to the diminishing returns of branding on our modern world to stimulate this particular lefty to high heavens! You chuckle as you hear, rather matter of factly, that, ‘under an oil embargo, blood is cheaper than gas’. Ha! It has as many issues with how cars mangle and kill as JG Ballard’s Crash does, but it’s darkly funny instead of wholly unsettling, and in the end does attempt to understand the joy that so many have motoring.
Taken together they’re a blast—it’s fun to see Hooper continue the career decline he lived for decades, while still doing almost nothing but highly entertaining trash. Seriously, you start with a genuine masterpiece trailblazer (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and then you just slide, for 40 years, into the garbage bin, but lovingingly never turning your back on the muck and grime you loved as a teen. It’s highly respectable in a way. On the other hand, I’ve loved Herz for quite some time, and not unlike David Lynch, his films are often excursions into the scary or the macabre, but generally never straight Horror works, but here he’s made his sole, definite Horror film. The results, as I’ve alluded too, are terrific, the film is full of glorious sarcastic wit with an artiness that never intrudes, it’d play for the grindhouse about as well as it would the arthouse. In laymen’s terms, that’s about the rarest, and best, of things. 


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