Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review: Angel of the Night

 This film caught my eye because it is "presented by" FANGORIA, the most well-known publication in and about the horror-film industry.  Vampire films have been disappointing as of late (Twilight, anyone?) and have typically focused on the romanticism of the modern vampire icon rather than the horror of an immoral and viscous predator.  I think the last good vampire flic I watched was John Carpenter's Vampires, though I do have several great vampire films in my collection.

 Angel of the Night is a Danish film first released in 1998, but has the grittiness of a film from the early 1980's or even late 1970's.  It is dubbed into English, but the dubbing is done well enough as to not be too distracting.  I assume that because of the dubbing, the US version has some credits digitally inserted into the introduction.  The film opens with a close up of a pewter amulet of a bat dangling from a necklace.  It then moves to a woman looking up at the camera from below who screams when she sees what the viewer is encouraged to assume is a vampire attacking her.

 Not the most original opening for a vampire flic.  And, while the film isn't terrible, the rest of the film comes off as a collaboration of films and stories we are all already familiar with.

 Rebecca inherits her grandmother's estate, and she is going to the property with her husband-to-be, Mads, and their party-friend, Charlotte.  Along with the estate is a book, information about her grandmother's "Association for the Protection of Vampires", and a house full of antique and modern luxuries.  The film is held together by the main characters reading from the grandmother's book, a journal about the history of a vampire, Rico, who Rebecca is apparently descended from. 

 This allows the film to use a technique that I particularly enjoy when it is executed well.  The film is actually a series of vignettes, separate mini-stories within the over-all story-arch. 

 The first story tells how Richard, a married Priest and father of a young daughter, is sent by his church-elder along with the mayor of his town and a third man to hunt and kill a vampire who is preying on the local women.  The setting is Denmark in the 17 or 1800's.  They find the vampire and destroy it using a special, ceremonial stake, but not before the mayor and the third man are killed and the Priest himself is turned into a vampire.

 Not only is the white, blonde, dutch Priest turned into a blood-thirsty creature of the night, but a dark-haired Spanish one at that.  The Vampire Monster was a cheesy latex-beast complete with stereotypical monster laugh.

 We return to Rebecca and her friends, who begin exploring her grandmother's home.  They find a crypt in the basement.  Mad and Charlotte are itching to go out and party, although they are taking Rebecca's obsession a bit more seriously.

 The next story is set in more modern times, and is about Tim and his street-crew.  Tim and his friends are leather-jacket wearing thugs who have become vampire hunter's when the girls at the local strip-club begin to go missing.  Tim and his gang hunt down Richard, who now goes by "Rico", by working their way through his vampire minions.  They manage to defeat Rico's minions, but as each of them have been bitten become vampires themselves and minions of the master.

 Rebecca and her friends find the ceremonial stake originally used by Richard and a scroll in the crypt with the "7 Forgotten Names" which must be read to revive the fallen Rico.  They also find the skeleton of a giant-bat thing.  Mad gets frustrated with Rebecca's insistence on continuing to explore the crypt and he and Charlotte go upstairs with the book.  Mad and Charlotte call for a cab to go out to the clubs, and while they wait continue to read the book while relaxing in an upstairs bedroom.

 The next story is about a woman named Maria who is pregnant and happily engaged.  She has been having strange dreams, memories of the night she was raped by the vampire Rico.  Every 100 years, Rico must impregnate a "special" woman and then drink the blood of his own child to remain immortal.  When Rico's minions, including Tim's crew from the previous story, find out the Maria wants to abort the child, they take steps to stop her.  A Peruvian priest has visions about Maria and the danger she is in and flies to Denmark to protect her.  Rico and his minions kill the priest and Maria's fiance, but she foils Rico's plans by spitting holy water in his face then drinking the holy water to cause a spontaneous abortion of the half-vampire in her womb.  Rico, upon seeing the blood dripping through her pants from between her legs instantly turns into a giant-bat skeleton and falls.

 Down in the crypt, Rebecca seems to become possessed by an urge to read the scroll, which before she couldn't translate.  She reads the 7 forgotten names; Brujah, Toreador, Ventrue, Malakvian, Tremere, Nosferatu, and Gangrel, and uses her blood drawn from the ceremonial stake to wake Rico.  These are the 7 clans of the "Camarilla", a vampire-political group from the role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade.  V:TM was an obvious influence on this film, although it may have been more correct to replace "Tremere" with "Salubri", which was the original blood-line before the Tremere usurpation.  When Rico rises, Rebecca snaps out of her trance and takes cover in one of the crypts.  Rico, now a giant-bat, tries in vain to get to Rebecca, then flies off when he hears music from the upstairs bedroom.

Upstairs, Mad, having forgotten his engagement to Rebecca, is having sex with Charlotte.  Since she is on-top, she has the unfortunate luck of being attacked by the giant-bat.  While she is struggling and being fed-on by Rico, Mad takes cover behind a dresser and is joined by Rebecca.  They attack Rico, trying to save Charlotte, and manage to wound him with the ceremonial stake Rico originally used to kill the vampire that turned him.  Both Rebecca and Mad are thrown out the second-story window, and the wounded and weakened Rico flies off into the night.  Rebecca recovers, finds the stake, and goes off alone to find Rico.  When she does, he tries to seduce her, but this only allows her in close enough to stake the vampire through the heart.  The vampire Rico is dragged into hell by blackened hands coming out of the earth, while the soul of Richard the priest ascends into heaven with his angelic wife.

 Rebecca rejoins Mad, who has recovered from his fall.  The cab he called arrives, and he and Rebecca, bloodied but alive, climb in.  Mad is already over his affair with Charlotte, and doesn't mention it.  The cabby is oblivious to the shabby state of the couple, and as they drive off they look back at the house and see the silhouette of Charlotte, now a vampire, who they decide to simply abandon.

 Any one of the vignettes could have been developed into a proper and interesting vampire film, but instead we have a story that is lacking and at times ridiculous.  The writer and director, Shakey Gonzales, has gone on to create a number of other low-budget horror films, which are apparently stronger offerings than this.  I consider this film a kind of prelude to the Underworld franchise, which is also heavily influenced by the V:TM games though vastly superior.

 The settings were well done, although it is clear that they crew had limited access to the mansion and grounds they were shooting in.  The special effects left something to be desired, and the film might have been better sticking with the vampire make-up and dumping the bat-monsters.  There are two nude scenes; a stripper at the club during Tim's vignette and Maria being "raped" by the vampire (she doesn't put up a fight and seems to be enjoying it, but because she was in a trance, it is considered "rape"... if I had a dollar for every time I read about a woman using the "I wasn't coherent enough to agree" excuse for being sexually irresponsible...).  Where there should have been a third nude scene, Charlotte fucking Mad, there was no nudity.

 Now tell me, ladies, how often do you have sex and not take your bra off?  This always irks me in films; guys want to see nipples and if they are fucking a woman they are going to take steps to unleash the boobage.  Women, I have been told, don't find bras to be the most comfortable garment around, and they know that nude breasts stimulate and titillate (pun intended) their partners.  In other words, if you're having sex, the nipple will make an appearance.  Not doing that in a film robs the scene of some much needed realism.

 Leaving Charlotte behind as a vampire also seems a bit irresponsible.  You killed one vampire and ended his centuries-old reign of terror, only to have another vampire take up were he left off?  Also, if you were Charlotte, who would be in positions 1 and 2 on your list of victims considering the shabby way you were used?  Yes, clearly Charlotte was a slut, but then her "friends" Rebecca and especially Mad aren't much better.

 The best line in the movie is Richard the priest, facing the vampire monster, saying, "As God's Emissary, pay for what you've done!" after which the vampire promptly takes a bite out of his neck.  Being God's Emissary apparently doesn't count for much.

 Over-all, I say if you have something else to watch, watch that rather than this film.  It has its moments, but you're not missing anything by missing this.

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