On seeing “It Follows” at The Mayfair Theatre

At first, this was a post to accompany my original ‘yay! I’m going to the Mayfair!” post on Facebook, but after writing so much words, here we are with a bona fide blog post. Also, this is barely a review. Listen to the linked review for that, or go see it yourself. Both are worth it.

To expand: at first, because this was based around sex, I’d thought I wouldn’t want to see it. After ‘Teeth’ and, like, every other sex based horror film I disliked, I wasn’t about to willingly subject myself to another. Thankfully, that’s not it at all. The characters themselves (let alone their intercourse) are decidedly pedestrian (no pun intended) and utterly believable. And likeable. Though very plain, we all know kids/people just like this. I hesitate to say ‘kids’ because they all conduct themselves in a very mature and ageless manner. They drive cars without them being status symbols. They are in out of hospitals without defiance or supervision. They accept in a mostly non-judgmental manner that their absent parents are just that; absent.

They take on this force, ‘it’, alone and without bravado. Very mature.

Their settings are largely bland and lower-middle class which I can relate too. So many of the houses look plucked straight from my hometown. The only thing that left me wondering about their incomes and lifestyle is their cars always had gas. Maybe that’s a Motor City thing? Like Albertans always have gas and beef? It certainly would have broken the spell to see any of them spend money gassing up.

The spell, as it were, is they really have nothing to do. They are likely some of the first to really attempt to fight back at this thing as opposed to hide, spread it further, or simply give in.

Listening in to the Bind Torture Kast review, as I tend to revisit these when I do see a film they cover, reinforced something I thought while watching. Two things actually.

One, they are of a social class some people may typically attribute (in a short sighted and misinformed if not cruel way) to impulsive and reckless sexual behavior. They have nothing better to do. They are all incredibly close and talk openly about encounters, sex, and relationships, and they are young. They drink and have no parental guidance. They watch old sci fi and horror into the wee hours. Sex? Seems to be the last thing on their minds. ‘It’ has barked up the wrong tree, if it’s goal is to spread and kill. No one knows that though.

While watching, I thought of how I would avoid death if afflicted with this force. The only way is to have random sex? Well, I guess it’s best to find someone who is going to pass it on faster than it can walk, right? Dirty idea, but the only way out. Chris (host of BTK) pointed out how the first girl in the opening is of a higher income bracket. True. The boy who passes it to Jay is of a slightly lower income – evident in that he would have been embarrassed by the house he pretended he lived in, and that residing in the house he Actually lives in is his caring and very present mother. The girl he chose to pass this to, Jay, is slightly lower-income than himself.

In a later scene, Paul seems to be moved to spread this among sex-workers, but decides no to. It would have been the inevitable escape. To find an even lower ‘class’ group of people who may be lucky enough to spread this faster than it can walk. I can see why some liken this to STDs or AIDS but I just can’t. If I want to liken it to an epidemic, it’s the spread of apathy toward sex. Sex as recreation or a commodity becoming commonplace. Not that I have an opinion on that, and I don’t mean epidemic in a negative fashion. It is what it is.

Second, being able to see a damn fine horror film in a theatre.

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We are blessed, those that have small repertory theatres at our disposal. Spoiled even. Had I been forced to attend a multiplex to see this, I’d have skipped it. No way would I want it marred with trailers and bullshit, let alone dude-bros praying for tits or hoping the sex would get their dates squirmy. Luckily, I got to see this at my favourite haunt (however I neglect the place too often) with a decent crowd who applauded at the end with actual appreciation. It’s something the review hinged on from start to finish, and I agree. Seeing anything in a multiplex these days is torture. It doesn’t have to be that way. Seeing wide-release horror is normally torture enough (formulaic plot, pretty rich annoying characters, stupid fucking nu-metal and folk rock soundtrack) but add in the plebs and mouthbreathers – a terrible evening for the handful who actually want to enjoy a film.

Apparently there is a sequel coming. Yes, it follows It Follows to it’s origin from what I’ve read. If only in a perfect world they could create the same lightening strike and have a creeping terror of a film, perfect sound, well written and spoken script and direction, with the same kind of organic release based on interest. A girl can hope.

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The Cabin in the Woods

Editor’s Note: Being that the DVD for this little gem is dropping… well… today, we thought it was probably about time we introduce you to Kendra, and finally post the piece she wrote when the damned movie was in theaters. Have at it, Kendra.
– Colum

“This movie is fucking awesome.  Go see it.”

The above was my original review.   I felt that it really got the point across, especially considering that it’s best you know as little as possible about this movie before going in.  But, as it turns out, the powers that be here at Dreadful Tales actually expect more than that.  Well damn.  I think this may be some sort of hazing ritual wherein the newbie gets handed something totally impossible to review, and everyone else sits back to watch them go down in flames.  But what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.  I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything major, but honestly, if you’re touchy about that sort of thing, go see it, and then come on back!

For starters, full disclosure: I am a total Whedonite. A Browncoat. I live in the Whedonverse.  Whatever you want to call it, I love Joss Whedon and would totally have his babies.  As such, I was probably predisposed to like this movie.  But I fucking LOVED this movie, and even if you aren’t usually a Whedon fan, you will too.

The Cabin in the Woods was written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) and Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Cloverfield), and was also directed by Goddard.  The premise seems simple enough:

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (IMDb)

This movie was actually shot in 2009, but was shelved until its world premiere at SXSW in March 2012.  Originally, the studio wanted to convert the film to 3D before its release, which Goddard and Whedon strongly opposed (thank the gods!). Following that, MGM delayed the film indefinitely as the studio went bankrupt, and the rights were eventually sold to Lions Gate in 2011.  Personally, I had assumed this film was destined for straight-to-dvd obscurity, until Chris Hemsworth grabbed a hammer (no, not that one) and Whedon suited up to direct The Avengers. Then they got a little more cred with the new studio, and here we are.

So, in the film, we have five friends (played by Kristin Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) who take off in their RV for a cabin located, you know, in the woods.  After ignoring the creepy ramblings of the local gas station owner, they proceed to settle in to their new digs, in typical swimming/drinking/sexytimes fashion.  Partway through the drunken festivities of the first night, they discover a cellar full of creep, and things go downhill from there.  One quick incantation read aloud from an old journal and their idyllic weekend is completely ruined by the appearance of zombies hellbent on killing the gang in blood-splattery ways.

But that’s about as much plot as I want to give away. The best part of this movie is how it manages to surprise you…especially when it goes completely balls-to-the-wall insane.  I really wish I could give away more; I think I could manage to convince anyone who is on the fence to go see this movie tonight, but doing so would probably take away from the overall experience.  Not that the movie is necessarily scary, but it does pack some solid jump-scare moments, along with a decent amount of gore.  I think the 18A rating has finally allowed these writers to throw in all blood and guts that they have been wanting to use for a long while. I am left feeling cheated that Buffy didn’t air on HBO; it would have been extra awesome!

The acting was pretty stellar all around.  The group of friends has an easy, believable camaraderie that made me want to party with them (although, probably not at this particular cabin).  They are obviously covering the necessary stereotypes of the genre, but they manage to add a little more depth: Hemsworth is a little smarter and less douchey than the average jock, Hutchison is funnier than the usual pretty slut, and Williams’s washboard abs are not the mark of a typical nerd.  Whedon has always written both his female leads, and their comic-relief friends, particularly well, and Connolly and Kranz are no exception.  Connolly shows the necessary vulnerability, but also brings in a fierceness that keeps her from being the annoying damsel-in-distress. Kranz’s stoner was definitely my favourite character, and fans of Dollhouse will not be surprised.  Picture Topher, except even less professional, and a way bigger fan of the cush.  Both of these actors put in standout performances. Surprisingly for this type of movie, you aren’t rooting for the death of any of these characters…although, it’s pretty kick-ass once the bear trap starts a-swingin’!

The direction is pretty remarkable, especially considering this is Goddard’s first time behind the camera. The camera work and cinematography are outstanding, perfectly setting the tone for what’s to come.  Obviously the writing is fantastic, full of trademark Whedon wit (including my new absolute favourite euphemism for a boner – husband bulge!).  This film managed to not only be one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in awhile, but also one of the best action flicks, or comedies.  Overall, it was the most fun I have had in a theatre in ages.


So, this movie is fucking awesome.  Go see it.

Director Profile: The Bearded Wonder Jason Eisener

At the end of May, Colum and Jason left Pat and I to our own devices so they could gallivant around the Toronto ComiCON with chicks dressed like videogame characters and a miscellany of celebrities. Jason chatted it up with the co-creator of REPO! The Genetic Opera stage production and creator/writer/illustrator of The Molting comic book series Terrence Zdunich (check that out here). He also captured a panel with the director of REPO! The Genetic Opera and Saw II Darren Lynn Bousman which you can listen to here. While I was excited for my boys to make those connections and snag some insightful audio, that wasn’t what had this fangirl turning neon green with envy; it was their brush with horror-fan-turned-beloved-genre-director of Hobo With a Shotgun, The Bearded Wonder Jason Eisener.

I first heard of Jason Eisener when he stopped by the Rue Morgue Radio studio to talk about his short film, Treevenge (2008), with Stuart FEEDBACK Andrews. It wasn’t until much later that I finally saw the short film (which is available on YouTube), but his passion for horror and exploitation film during that interview was palpable, so it was a name I didn’t forget.

Eisener, like me, was a child of the 80s who grew up on the five-for-five VHS splatter and sleaze that defined our adolescence. When I listened to that interview I remember thinking “This dude really gets me.” I always wonder why there aren’t more directors like Eisener to come out of that era motivated to change the landscape of horror film and rid fans of the tiresome remakes and Hollywood cash cows. Now, with the cult success of Hobo, horror fans everywhere are singing “One of us! One of us!” Eisener took all the nostalgia of a time dominated by late night VHS viewings and turned it into a sick, bloody, candy-coated exploitation film any grown-up horror kid can love.

As Eisener himself recounts in the panel discussion below, it was the endless hours spent watching VHS tapes with his best friend and Hobo co-writer John Davies that inspired him to become a director. That influence is certainly apparent in Eisener’s back catalogue as much as in Hobo. He revives the punk rock low-budget horror sensibilities of genre gorefather Sam Raimi in his 45 minute short The Teeth Beneath (2006). You got skater punks breaking into a Pro Skateboards shop only to find they’ve awakened an ancient evil from the basement. The storyline is hilarious with some good gags and accompanied by great tunes. While it’s not as tight and mind-blowing for me as Treevenge or Hobo, it is still highly entertaining. You gotta crawl before you can skate-rape, right? Eisener completists can pick up a DVD copy from the skateshop featured in the short film, Pro Skateboards.

Eisener draws from his early influences in his 2008 effort, the 16 minute Treevenge, as well. He infused the short with beloved exploitation tropes including an opening from the incongruously majestic and beautiful theme of cult favorite Cannibal Holocaust. What follows is 16 minutes of pure blood-soaked exploitation bliss. Families tromp through the evergreen lots looking for the perfect Christmas tree unaware that these bristly chunks of wood are about to crack (metaphorically speaking) as they plan to rise up against mankind for deadly revenge. Eisener and crew are not frugal when it comes to buckets of blood and it flows as freely in Treevenge as it does in Hobo. He never holds back which is a quality I love most about his style. You’ll even see Eisener kill *gasp* children! Oh, the horror!

Eisener finally got his over-the-top horror kid heart into a feature length film with Hobo. First as a faux trailer that played before some Canadian screenings of the Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez double feature, Grindhouse. The result is an insane psychedelic mind trip of a rainbowspoitation film starring one of horror’s most beloved names, Rutger Hauer as the titular Hobo. To see this director grow and come into fan consciousness so quickly is truly remarkable. I’m sure the journey for Eisener himself was like a flash as well, but it’s crazy to hear the young director discussing Treevenge one year and a couple years later see his first feature film on the cover of my favorite horror mags, Rue Morgue!

I’ve probably seen Hobo at least 20 times by now. The colors are mesmerizing and the action is unrelenting and completely over-the-top. The soundtrack is a pulsating, punk rock graffiti nightmare reminiscent of Return of the Living Dead. ‘Member how badass that soundtrack was!? Blood seethes from every corner and every orifice in Hobo. It’s ridiculously sick – there’s a child molesting Santa and a school bus full of children get bombed with a flamethrower – and there are more than a few memorable one liners. A couple of my favorites are:

“When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat… with razor blades.”

“Put the knife away, kid… or I’ll use it to cut welfare checks from your rotten skin!”

And of course there is Hauer’s dramatic monologue which opens the official Hobo trailer.

Tiny purple unicorns shitting rainbows dance in my heart when I watch this movie, that’s how much I love it. I know what you’re thinking. What the hell does that mean!? It just means there is something magical that happens when I watch Hobo. It restored my faith in humanity, in movies, and most of all the horror kids. Here’s to the other Eiseners out there exorcising the demons in their minds and hearts to make kickass horror / exploitation for all us fans. “One of us! One of us!”

If you were crying into your pillow while all your friends were hanging out in Toronto for the ComiCON, never worry, Dreadful Tales has you covered. Check out this very informative panel with Jason Eisener, The Bearded Wonder. Or as Stuart FEEDBACK Andrews called him, The Grizzly Adams of Exploitation Cinema. There are a couple of never-before-heard stories and interesting tidbits about Hobo that no fan would want to miss.

Keep up with Jason Eisener via his tumblr, Welcome to Fuck Town, as well. He’s always posting great pics and vids including a series with the original Hobo, David Brunt, called “Be creative with your hands.” Highly entertaining, highly recommended.

Enjoy!

https://dreadfultalesdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/je-panel.mp3

Genetic Profile: Terrence Zdunich

“And it’s my job, to steal, and rob…”

Terrence Zdunich (Zuh-doon-itch) is a name that you’ll hear me praising time and again. He’s an accomplished actor, singer, writer and illustrator. Born and raised in California, Zdunich has always known that he’s a bit creepy. He began drawing at an early age, and never stopped.

Influenced by graphic novels and a burning need to create, Zdunich started his career as an actor, but his desire or more brought him (along with co-creator Darren Smith) to write a play/musical hybrid stage show. In fact, you might have heard of it.

Credits

  • Co-creator of REPO! The Genetic Opera stage production. Also acted as Graverobber for the entire run.
  • Starred in a REPO! short film, that sadly won’t be seen due to legalities.
  • Creator/writer/illustrator of The Molting comic book series.
  • Reprised role as Graverobber in the full-length feature REPO! The Genetic Opera.
  • Co-creator/writer/star of The Devil’s Carnival.

The Molting is currently (March, 2012) sitting at 6 issues, approximately half-way through the concept and storyline that Zdunich has envisioned. The series focuses on Trevor and Joseph, brothers growing up in Anaheim, California, and chronicles their journey of survival while living with an apathetic father and psychologically disturbed mother. I got my hands on the first 6 issues at ComiCON in March, and I tore through them in a day.

Chapter 1, Guilty Susie – The series starts off in the 1960s, Susie is but a girl at this point, forced to live with the terrible tricks that life sometimes plays, as well as her aunt and uncle. I loathed the adults, Zdunich created very simple, yet powerfully despicable characters in the short span of this chapter. Susie isn’t completely stripped of innocence, as she has her big brother to protect her…mostly. The artwork has a deliberately orange/brown/purple hue, the tones warm but conveying the “ugly” feeling of the overall story. The climax is both chilling and shocking, and just what the hell is in the attic?

Chapter 2, The Happiest Place On Earth – The story fast-forwards itself to the 1990s and introduces us to Susie’s dysfunctional family: her apathetic husband Abe, and her two teenage sons Trevor and the new main protagonist, Joseph. Each character is given enough introductory depth to become attached to, and Trevor is one good deed away from being a hero.

Chapter 3, Ootheca – The female characters are the focus of this story, as we get a glimpse at just how disturbed Susie has become. Think OCD with a side of bi-polar. We’re also very graphically introduced to Sandra, Trevor’s chola girlfriend. This story builds tension in the family, as Trevor begins a hero, and ends the story a felon. The characters have now become familiar and the reader has had time to choose which member of the Pryzkind family they’re rooting for.

Chapter 4, Lethal Raids – The artwork takes centre stage in this chapter, the illustrations are vivid and far-reaching, necessary illustrations that forward the smaller plot of the story. Joseph must deal with bullying and a struggle that many artists go through. The reader is also exposed to a much larger degree of Susie’s psychosis, which I believe will divide readers between loving and hating her.

Chapter 5, Mother’s Day – The story takes place at Hallowe’en, and while Susie again brings the crazy, I have to believe that the title is a nod to Darren Lynn Bousman. This story focuses on Susie’s continued inability to provide a proper home for her family, as well as revealing more of Sandra’s personality and true intentions. While there isn’t as much violence as previous chapters, the overwhelming sense of despair and loss at the climax is undeniable, and squirm-inducing.

Chapter 6, Allied Forces – Trevor and Joseph band together to commit a crime, and while it’s atypical of brotherly role models to encourage theft, Joseph and Trevor bond together under the unusual circumstances. Zdunich doesn’t allow that to last, as the seeds of separation are planted, and alliances are truly chosen. This is the story that truly champions Joseph as the outcast of the Pryzkind clan.

The Molting series is much more than a comic, it truly is a graphic novel. The horror is unique and not always visual (a definite feather in the storytelling cap of Mr. Zdunich). The artwork is gritty yet refined, the colour palette evokes equal parts sympathy and misery, and most importantly the story feels real. I know I’m halfway through the series, and issue 7 can’t find my mailbox fast enough.

I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Terrence while he was in Toronto this past March, and he very graciously answered my questions about The Molting, as well as The Devil’s Carnival, his influences and other topics.

I personally would like to thank Terrence Zdunich yet again for that opportunity, as well as for putting up with my prior fanboying. For more information on Terrence, please visit his website. To pick up your copies of The Molting, visit the store. To gain admittance into Hell, visit The Devil’s Carnival.

Genetic Profile – Darren Lynn Bousman

This past weekend at Toronto ComiCON horror fans were treated to an absolutely amazing array of guests and frankly, some of my personal influences. For example: the first thing I did when I met Darren Lynn Bousman was trip over my tongue while fanboying.

Bousman is either most known for his work on the SAW series – he wrote and directed SAW II, and helmed SAW III and IV – or as the co-creator and director of REPO! The Genetic Opera. He began his career in writing, as he himself told me (see below) that he’s always written screenplays, and actually began his career directing theatre.

Born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas, Bousman attended Kansas University as a theatre major for about a year and a half. He moved on to a film school in Florida where the script-writing bug bit him. A short time later he moved to Los Angeles, continuing to write scripts while directing music videos to support himself. It was during this time that he wrote a script called “The Desperate”, which would become something completely different after being introduced to producers Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg and Oren Koules. Those men produced a little movie called SAW, and hired Bousman to direct SAW II, and used his “The Desperate” as the basis for that film.

Filmography

  • SAW II is widely regarded as the most different of the SAW series, as it takes the concept from the first and multiplies it. A house full of strangers being poisoned, all while their captor is held in custody by the police, they must fight time and each other to find the antidotes. Many critics felt that this film didn’t “flow” with the first, however I found it to be one of the best in the series.
  • SAW III sees Jigsaw die, a fact that Bousman initially tried to implement in II, but was able to convince producers that the timing was right.
  • SAW IV has a timeline that runs parallel to III, so the viewer is treated to Jigsaw being both dead and alive through the use of cut scenes. IV doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors, but given that Bousman himself believed the series done after III, IV does a good job of advancing the plot into the focus of new characters.
  • REPO! The Genetic Opera focuses on two dysfunctional families, one who control the futuristic plastic surgery industry through a unique financing system, and the other family torn apart due to disease and deception. Bousman himself regards this film as his masterpiece (as of this writing, at least) and while I am a die-hard SAW fan, I must say that to date, REPO! is by far my favourite Darren Lynn Bousman film.
  • New Year’s Day was an episode of the Fear Itself TV series. Unfortunately I’ve not seen the episode, but knowing that Bousman collaborated with Steve Niles has me very interested.
  • Mother’s Day is a remake of the 1980 Troma classic…that you will very likely never see. Listen to the audio below for the reason. I’ve obviously not seen it, however the remake was given the blessing of both Charles and Lloyd Kaufman, so it’s gotta be damn good.
  • 11-11-11 Follows an author trying to escape the pain of the death of his wife and child. He learns that 11/11/11 is a day of bad omen for him.
  • The Devil’s Carnival will be out in April/May depending on where you live. I had the opportunity to see a trailer for this, and I can’t fucking wait. All I can say is that it’s another goth-opera, but we’re all going to hell.

One little tidbit that I’d like to spoil for anyone other than those superfans out there: REPO! was a stage play long before it became a film. In fact, it was also a short film directed by Bousman (and starring a very different cast outside of co-creator Terrence Zdunich). Sadly, we won’t see it as there’s legal flotsam to run around, and when you hear the audio, you’ll understand that Bousman isn’t a fan of lawyers.

Bousman also has his hand in the literary world, identifying himself as a writer (screenwriter) and is the creator of the comic Abattoir. So far there’s only one issue, but Bousman does plan on getting more out there. In terms of literary influences, I’ll let the man speak for himself:

I’ve said “audio” a few times, haven’t I? Not only was Bousman incredibly accessible all weekend (hence the above snippet), he also participated in two separate panels. Below, you’ll find an hour-long audio clip of Darren speaking frankly with fans about filmmaking in general, as well as brief commentary on some of his favourite (and least favourite) movies, where the hell Mother’s Day is, a little bit about REPO! and his upcoming film project, The Devil’s Carnival.

For more information on Darren Lynn Bousman, visit his website. You can find a brief synopsis of Abattoir here, and I implore you to buy your tickets to The Devil’s Carnival.

Battle of the Lesbian Vampires: Vampyr vs Carmilla

When you pit a film adaptation against the book by which it is inspired or based, you almost always hear the same three words; “The book’s better.” I swear people who haven’t even read the book, as a knee jerk reaction, make that proclamation! Well, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you’re not even comparing rotten apple to apple. Of course, there is the common predicament of paring down the story to fit a feature length film, or the elimination of scenes that are beyond the film’s FX budget or capability. There are also instances when the director is inspired to create his / her own masterpiece, a work wholly unique to the original source material, even though they are inspired by it. Let the Right One In is a great example. I was so intoxicated by John A. Lindqvist’s dark Swedish novel, also titled Let the Right One In or Let Me In depending on the edition, and obsessed with the chilling and graphically violent tone that initially I didn’t like the film. I eventually came to love the movie as its own little piece of visual art, but that is a battle we can visit another day. Point is, I realized that my love for the book disallowed me from seeing the beauty in its film adaptation and I promised to respect these inspired movies on their own merits and, most importantly, with an open mind. The Dreadful Tales’ “Battle of the…“ series is meant to examine the successes and shortcomings from page to celluloid. In some cases, we may even find that the film version is actually better than the original story.

Today, we cozy up with Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s not-so-subtle lesbian vampire, Gothic novella “Carmilla,” part of his 1872 collection In a Glass Darkly, and conversely, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 Vampyr which involves a male traveler caught up in events most uncanny.

In regards to film adaptations, Vampyr is more accurately a film inspired, or what the French film historian Maurice Drouzy called a “pseudoadaptation.” Drouzy goes a step further to say Dreyer was “attaching his own ideas to an innocent third party,” and suggested he owed no real credit to the story. There are significant deviations from Le Fanu’s story, most notably the overt lesbian themes involving our titular vampiress Carmilla and her nubile victim Laura. The beautiful teenager Laura is juxtaposed by Vampyr’s adult male protagonist Allan Gray. And instead of a sly infiltration, he’s the strange visitor pulled into the web of devil worship and bloodlust orchestrated by the village vampire, who is markedly older and devoid of the sexual prowess of Le Fanu’s Carmilla.

The argument has been made that perhaps Dreyer made these specific adjustments in particular to avoid any legal troubles since F.W. Marnau had his own battle with the Bram Stoker estate after his release of Nosferatu (1922). Dreyer scholar, Casper Tybjerg, reveals other striking comparisons between Vampyr and several works of art in his visual essay of the film that prove the director was influenced by more than Le Fanu’s stories. One of my favorite examples Tybjerg uses to make this point is the similarity between Henry Fuseli’s “The Nightmare” and a scene in Vampyr which finds the old lady feeding on young Leone.

Vampyr is utterly frightening, but with Gray as the lead, and the two young daughter victims more secondary to his predicament, all that eroticism of Le Fanu’s racy tale is absent. Gray certainly has more in common with Dr. Martin Heselius, a doctor preoccupied with psychic phenomenon and whose case histories are presented in Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly, rather than the protagonist Laura. In fact, while the isolated castle of Laura and her father is cunningly invaded by Carmilla, it is Allan Gray who stumbles onto this supernatural occurrence through his “aimless wanderings.”

The predator in both stories thrive by the same means; feeding on the blood of children or young adults. In either case, they take hold of the innocent, young victim, eventually infecting the whole family like a plague. Neither isolation nor ignorance from the supernatural, locked doors or protection by guards can keep out the monster once they have their sight set on entering. And keeping with vampire tradition, they are invulnerable at night and both are defeated with a stake through the heart.

In the case of “Carmilla,” a statement is made early on regarding the Governess’ immediate distrust and suspicion of “ugly, hand-dog looking fellows,” while they have an unquestioning acceptance of the beautiful, dewy-eyed Camrilla. Conversely, the monster preying on Vampyr’s Leone is a traditional monster, one easily recognized by a fierce countenance and old, haggard body. The ancient woman uses no subtle beguilement, however instead employs henchmen who have willingly sold their souls to the devil.

The conclusion of both tales is a triumph on the part of good against evil. Each story wraps up nicely with our young women saved, their souls free from the devious clutches of the vampire.

As a battle of lesbian vampires, “Carmilla” is the undeniable winner of course, being the only story that has an actual lesbian vampire and indeed delivering on a dark eroticism shocking for its time. But, as a battle of the original story against that which it inspired, both are true classic masterpieces of vampire folklore in their own right. “Carmilla” is a staple of the literary vampire tradition, introducing an intensely sexual element that is merely alluded to in earlier work of the genre. Vampyr too is a classic piece of horror cinema, utilizing light and shadow to develop a macabre, dreamlike atmosphere.

In a Glass Darkly is an essential horror classic and you’ll have a number of versions to choose from. I couldn’t really recommend one in particular, but if you have a Kindle it’s available for free!

When it comes to Vampyr, I would strongly suggest the Criterion Collection 2 disc set (pictured above). It the most prized DVD in my collection. Not only is the packaging absolutely beautiful, it includes the original screenplay for the film and the short story “Carmilla.” There is a little essay booklet included essays by Kim Newman, critic and film historian Mark Le Fanu, notes on the film’s restoration by Martin Koerber, and an interview with Vampyr’s financier and star Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg. Then, after you get through all those goodies, there is a special features disc with Casper Tybjerg’s visual essay which I mention above, interviews with the director and other filmmaking legends like François Truffaunt discussing Dreyer’s impact on cinema. Anything I know about Vampyr I learned from essays and documentaries included in this film’s features.

Well, that’s it for the first edition of “Battle of the…” I hope you come back again because we’ll have some more cut-n-dry fights to the death to come!