The Nude Vampire

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Written by Tron Delapp

Jean Rollin is the kind of director the word ‘auteur’ was created for.  Much like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Jesus Franco, Rollins unique visual style and almost completely avant garde approach to film-making permeates every film he ever made, resulting in one man’s unique vision hitting the screen.  You never know what you’re going to get with a Jean Rollin film; he may approach the heights of his masterpiece, The Grapes of Death or you could end up with Zombie Lake or anything in between.  The Nude Vampire, his second film which played at Fantastic Fest this year as part of it’s usual repertory screening falls closer to The Grapes of Death than it does Zombie Lake but it’s definitely not for everyone.  The Nude Vampire is far more of a fantasy than a horror film and crammed to the gills with Rollin’s signatures: extremely low budget, nudity, oblique camera angles, off-kilter plot progression and surrealistic approach to the subject matter, making The Nude Vampire much more of an interesting viewing experience.

The plot goes something like this;  A girl in a sheer orange nightgown (Caroline Cartier) is wandering the streets pursued by several men wearing bizarre animal masks.  She encounters a dandy named Pierre Radamante (Olivier Rollin) who is immediately struck by her beauty and attempts to help her escape.  However, she is shot down before his eyes and carted off to an exclusive club his father belongs to.  When he brings it up to his father, played by Maurice Lemaitre, he is told to mind his own business and continue dallying with the hot twins his father has provided for his amusement (the twins are Catherine and Marie-Pierre Castel, with whom Rollin would continue to work with in subsequent films).  Pierre is angry his father would keep such beautiful women for he and his club mates and is determined to find out what happens behind closed doors, drafting his friend Robert (Pascal Fardoulis) to help him infiltrate the club.  Once they do the find a weird suicide cult where people play Russian Roulette where their bodies are offered up to the woman in the orange nightgown!  They are almost caught and Pierre confronts is father for answers, only to be told that his father is protecting the girl from a rival cult, they wear masks to ensure she never sees their faces as she has never seen a human before Pierre and they don’t want her to know she is different, she eschews sunlight and exists on human blood.  In short, she’s a vampire.  His father is hoping to find someone else with the same exotic blood type as her in order to cure her condition, all the while hoping to uncover the secrets of immortality.  He tells Philip to come back in 24 hours and more would be revealed.  However, as soon as Philip is gone, he rents another mansion outside of Paris and retreats there with his vampire, the household staff and his science pals, leaving his assistant Solange (Ursule Pauly) behind to take care of some minor loose ends, such as misleading Pierre and killing Robert.  Pierre is smitten and won’t take no for an answer so he tracks his father to the new mansion in hopes of getting more answers but instead finds more than he’s bargained for when it’s revealed that the house they’re renting is actually owned by the leader of the ‘rival cult.’  Hi-jinks ensue and the story definitely leads itself away from the trappings of a horror thriller and deeper into the realm of surrealist Fantasy.

The restoration is absolutely gorgeous with Rollin’s wonderful color palette really shining through.  The acting ranges from competent to laughable but with Rollin’s hand at the helm the film does not degenerate into farce but rather makes the disparate elements work together and enhance the surrealism you’re currently viewing.  There is the undercurrent of the lower class rebelling against the exploitation of the corporate classes but it’s so deftly intertwined into the story of a man attempting to save the girl he’s fallen for that The Nude Vampire almost becomes the perfect blending of art and exploitation and make no mistake, there’s enough nudity in this film to definitely be called exploitation.   Yet that is one of the strengths of Rollin’s overall body of work – the bizarre blending of the fantastic, the socially conscious and the exploitative that it’s almost impossible to separate them.  It’s low budget grindhouse meets Dadaist surrealism and it provides a fascinating and often challenging viewing experience.  The Nude Vampire is a much more understandable work than his first effort, Rape of the Vampire but it still shares the same gonzo, free-wheeling sensibilities that made that film such a controversial piece upon release, though I’m sure less people hated The Nude Vampire than they did Rape of the Vampire.

Regardless of the pretentious criticism, The Nude Vampire succeeds as a film that, as stated before, is much closer in execution to Rollin’s masterpiece The Grapes of Death than it is to his lesser efforts such as Zombie Lake (which is by no means the worst zombie movie ever but it’s in the bottom 20% for sure, right next to Oasis of the Zombies).  The film is full of mystery, science-fiction, a little horror and a ton of nudity, all wrapped up in Rollin’s trademark visual style.  The story is secondary to the visuals, the most telling lines in the film occur at the end when two characters are walking away and one asks, “Do you understand any of this?”  The reply, “Not really.”  Rollin is less interested in telling you a linear story than to give you a pervasive sense of mystery throughout the viewing experience and, though this movie is far more understandable than much of his work, that’s exactly what Rollin delivers. The film is definitely not for everyone but if you like a little surrealism with your Fantasy and a little nudity with your vampires, then The Nude Vampire is TOTALLY RECOMMENDED.

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The Top 10 Films I Saw At Fantastic Fest 2017

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As in every year I make a list of the top 10 films I saw at the festival. I put this list in no order. This are the films which define to me 2017 Fantastic Fest. This are short synopsis.  I would later publish full reviews of this films

 

  1. Bad Genius

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The most ambitious film I seen from Thailand. It’s a heist film that takes place in High School. A child prodigy leads a team of students to instead of stealing money; their stealing answers for one of the most difficult Aptitude test in the world. They hatch a plan to get the answers and make a whole lot of money from selling the answers to rich students. It’s a great mix of high school life with a heist film.

 

  1. Good Manners

 

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An epic supernatural film from Brazil. I don’t want to tell you anything about this film. You will enjoy this film the less you know about it. The only thing I can tell you it involves the moon and pregnancy. This film reminds me of those miniseries that are edited down to a feature film.

3.  Tigers Are Not Afraid

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My favorite film of the festival. A story were reality and fantasy meet, The Tigers are not afraid is about a group of children that have been left orphans by the drug war in Mexico. Their parents were killed the Narcos. Now they are trying to survive on the streets. These kids are not safe; they are under great peril This film will pull on your heart-strings.

  1. Junkhead

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An animated stop-motion post-apocalyptic epic about robots and mutants fighting each other in an underground system. This is like if someone made a feature of a liquid television segment.

 

  1. Brawl in Cell Block 99

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The way I would describe this film is if someone made an American version of the story of Ricky. It stars Vince Vaughn as a drug trafficker that has recently being put in jail for a drug charge. Criminals threaten his wife on the outside that they would hurt her unborn baby unless he kills a prisoner in the Maximum-Security Cell Block 99. Vince Vaugh character has superhuman strength and he can break bones like they were made from cardboard. It’s fun action dark comedy.

 

  1.  Haunters

 

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A documentary on Haunted Houses across the USA that is both funny and terrifying. It follows the people who create and work in haunted houses. It has the scariest scenes I ever seen at Fantastic Fest.

  1.  Blade of The Immortal

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The 100th film from Takashi Miike and he hasn’t lost a step. It has a Samurai that was granted the power of immortality; but sadly, for him not the ability to not feel pain. Now he can take an insane amount of injuries and not die. He is on a mission to protect the daughter of a deceased lord from his enemies. The enemies of the lord send an army after him and he throws them back at them one piece at the time.

 

  1. Anna and The Apocalypse

 

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A Scottish Zombie High School film you would want to put in your list of Christmases. It’s the story of a group of kids that are just trying to put on a Christmas play in their High School and at the same type they are going thru the same drama you seen in other high school drama; but then the zombie apocalypse. In between all this horror and drama, you get great musical number. If it wasn’t for all the swearing and gore this would be a Disney Channel musical.

 

  1. Top Knot Detective

 

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An amazing documentary about a little know Japanese Samurai show. The show is about a Ronin detective that walks Japan having adventures fighting such as Penis Monsters and Lesbian Cannibals. Even more interesting than the show is the behind the scenes stories which include sex scandals and murder. One of the best documentary I ever seen about Japanese media and Corporate Culture. It’s also one of the funniest things I ever seen.

  1. Revenge

 

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A great revenge film about a woman who is being hunted by 3 hunters in the desert; because they want to delete the evidence of their crimes against her. She proves to be a tougher prey than expected. You should turn off your logic button as people in this film bleed a ludicrous amount of blood. This people should not be able to walk around with the amount of blood they lose. At one point the hunters are following a trail of blood for more than a mile. This is still a fun exploitation film.

 

 

 

SPECIAL MENTION

 

Best Short

 

The Accomplice

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This is not only the best short I saw at the festival; but probably one of the top 3 short films I seen at Fantastic Fest. The accomplice takes place in the early 90s as it’s the perfect time to the narrative of the story. The film is about a man who has been away from his home on a business trip. He finds his answering machine has 18 messages. He listens and it’s a friend that tells him about the story of a bank heist which our lead is unknowingly part of it. This film has an amazing conclusion. You are listening to a bank heist in a living room from planning to execution. It’s an amazing use of a few resources to craft a great story.

SXSW REVIEW: ATOMIC BLONDE

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      A film from David Leitch one half of the directors of the first John Wick film. A spy story taking place in 1989 Berlin during the last days of the wall. MI6 spy Lorraine Wallace (Charlize Theron) being send to Berlin to retrieve a list which contains the information of all the MI6 and CIA undercover spies in Europe. She has to rendezvous with another MI6 agent David Percival (James McAvoy), he is an agent protecting a KGB defector that has this information inside his head. Now they must get the defector out of East Berlin.

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I first want to highlight the positive things about the film: As expected from one of the directors of John Wick; the fight scenes in the movie are amazing. This fights are brutal; every object nail down or not are use against another human being. You sense the pain characters are feeling in this fights. The other positive thing is the look of 80s divided Germany, it has a great neon look.

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The negatives of Atomic Blonde its poor and generic plot. They are using the tired plot of the list with all the spies information is quite played out. I see in a lot of spy films and most of them lately.

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The other problem is its 80’s soundtrack. I should not have watched this film after seeing Baby Driver; which has an amazing soundtrack. In the other hand this soundtrack fell like they were putting a lot of random 80’s pop hits. This soundtrack felt like one those Totally 80s soundtrack compilation you find in the bargain bin. You have heard this songs a thousand of times and their not bad; their great songs in fact. The problem their not use in a clever way and you don’t find a rare song in this soundtrack. Baby Driver uses Queen’s Brighton Song for an action scene and Atomic Blonde uses Under Pressure for an action scene; this shows you the difference between the 2 films.

Atomic Blonde is an ok film; not one in you should seek out at the theater; it’s better until you can see it at home.

 

SXSW Review: Baby Driver

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       I still think Hot Fuzz is Edgar Wright’s funniest film; but Baby Driver is his greatest accomplishment as a filmmaker. Wright goes reaches a whole new plateau with Baby Driver, in editing and directing. He even surpasses in his use of music on film.

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Baby Driver is about a kid name Baby and he is the best getaway driver in Atlanta. He can disappear from the sight of cops in a blink of an eye. Baby works for a man named Doc (Kevin Spacey) a crime boss baby owes a debt he must repay by doing jobs for him. Baby wants to pay his debt to get out of this life of crime. He has one more job to do and he can go on the road with his girlfriend.

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Baby suffers from tinnitus brought about an accident in his childhood. He listens to music to drown out the noise. He also can read lips; which he learn from his blind foster father who is a deaf/mute. Baby also has a playlist setup whenever he is in a heist. This gives the film a great soundtrack which use effectively to show the mood of Baby. It makes the film also feel like a musical; where none of the characters sing. The soundtrack is so masterfully done that even gunshots in a shootout are match with the songs. I was amazed, I never seen a film use music this way before.

The supporting cast are also amazing. Kevin Spacey as Doc, he is a great manipulative and intelligent criminal mastermind that seems to have connection with every criminal in Atlanta. He plans the heist in which he rotates the people in the teams; with the exception of Baby.

Other crew members are Buddy (John Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzales), a criminal married couple that are mad for each other.  Buddy is one of the few criminals that shares Baby’s passion for music. He is cool under pressure and a total professional. After Baby I found Buddy the most complex character in this film; he will surprised you. His Girlfriend is a beautiful and tough woman deeply in love with her man.

Then there is Bats (Jamie Foxx) the complete opposite of Buddy. He hates Baby and is his primary antagonist in the film. He is volatile and suspicious of everyone. Foxx is funny as always; but he gets to display a bad side of him I never seen before out of him.

The soundtrack for this film is great; a mix of 70’s punk and R & B. There are popular songs in the film; but there are obscure songs such as BRIGHTON SONG by Queen, which is use to perfection in a chase thru a parking garage. They also EASY by the commodores great.

The car chase in this film is a combination of the old and the new. I feel like Wright found the middle ground between fast and the furious and drive. You get both the fancy style of driving and the stealth driving of escaping the police. All this car stunts were done practical; so everything that you see here happen while shooting the film.

I knew this film was going to be good; but this ended up being a masterpiece. Baby driver is one of the must see film of this year. I just hope that the public does not missed it.

The top 10 SXSW films

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Baby Driver

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The new film from Edgar Wright is incredible. A perfect combination of action and music. This soundtrack will be stuck in your head for days after you watch Baby Driver. An amazing heist film. It shows Edgar Wright has reached a new plateau as a filmmaker. A teen driving prodigy makes money from being the wheelman for bank robbers in Atlanta. Now he wants to leave this profession as he has fallen in love with a waitress. His boss played by Kevin Spacey wants him to do one final job and he will let him go.

Free Fire

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Ben Whitley makes a great action film that takes place in one location. An arm deal goes wrong between a gang and weapons dealers and a shootout begins. We get a 25 minute introduction of all the characters and then we move to an hour shootout in an abandoned factory. This film avoids being boring with clever dialogue and great shootout sequences that keep you in suspense.

The Disaster Artist

 

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James Franco adaptation of the book of the same name about the making of one of the worst films ever made; The Room. It’s the funniest film I seen this year so far. Franco gives an academy award winning performance as the excentric Tommy Wiseau. This movie could have easily fallen into a SNL parody; but it actually manages to make Wiseau feel like a human being; which is quite a feat.

Disgraced

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My favorite documentary of SXSW. About the murder of a Baylor University basketball player. The death of the student ends up uncovering corruption in the university. It features one of the most despicable villains at the festival, Coach Dave Bliss. There is a scene which I am amaze it made into the documentary; as it shows how horrible is this man.

Small Town Crimes

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My surprised film at SXSW; It was made by the director of Cheap Thrills. The lead Howard Hawkes plays a disgraced former cop that discovers the dead body of a young woman. He goes on a mission to discover her identity and the reason for her death. His investigation leads to a lot of acts of hilariousness and violence. At the same time there is a group of assassins that are trying to get rid of all the people connected with this girl. A good mixture of laugh and violence. This film feels like a Verhoeven film.

Most Beautiful Island

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A relevant film in the Trump Era. Most Beautiful Island is written, directed and starring Ana Asensio; It shows the trials of an Immigrant trying to survive in New York City with little money and not being familiar with the culture. She goes thru many trials in the big city; living in a roach infested apartment, take crappy job babysitting rich kids, and having to deal with bad roommates. Just as things look bad; it takes an even weird turn and she is hired to take part in a mysterious underground game held by rich elites in an abandoned warehouse. If you want to know what is this game about? You should seek out this film.

Mayhem

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The new film from Joe Lynch an underrated filmmaker. His new film is a mixture of the office and the crazies. The film involves a successful office employee (Steven Yeung) that is caught in office politics which has left him burnout.
In this world there is a virus that causes the people it infects to succumb to their innermost desires; whether be something pleasant or violent or both. There is an outbreak of the virus in his office building and the place is quarantine until the virus dissipates in a few hours. There is also a law that states when you are infected by this virus; you won’t be held culpable of your actions while sick. Now he has a few hours to fight back against the evil executives that are trying to finish him.

68 Kill

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A trailer park adventure ensues when a septic tank worker crazy girlfriend decides to steal the money of one her rich sugar daddies. His girlfriend decides to not just steal the money; but murder everyone in the vicinity of the robbery.
The guy just wants to escape with the money and doesn’t want to be part of his girlfriend murder spree. He escapes with the money and runs into a weirder group that wants his loot. This people are horrible. Everyone in this film is terrible, with the exception of the lead. It makes their death quite satisfying.

Muppet Guys Talking

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A great documentary directed by Frank Oz (the voice of Rover, Miss Piggy and Master Yoda, and many others). He conducts an interview with other muppeteers. They give stories about the characters they played and working with Jim Henson. This is a love letter to all the people that have grown with the muppets. You will be surprised of the amount of characters many of this people play.

Barbecue

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A documentary about barbecuing around the world. It shows all the different styles of barbecuing and how it influences it has in their society. Its amazing to see all the different ways to cook meat around the world. I highly recommend you not to watch this film with an empty stomach.

Fantastic Fest Short: The Stylist

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  A short film from Director Jill Gervagizian. The stylist is played by Najarra Townsend (Contracted). The short is about a hair stylist that has a dark obsession with her clients. 

The stylist cinematography reminds me of Italian Giallo cinema. It captures the Baroque style of 80s Argento that combines gory horror with beautiful imagery. It makes the short look like a dark fairy tale. Najarra Townsend gives a great performance as a vulnerable villain that you want to know more about her story. I also give praise to a small appearance by cute dog that is not harmed in this film. This is a short deserving of a feature film adaptation.

The film won a special mention award at Fantastic Fest 2016 for Najarra Townsend. The Stylist is now available to watch in the Shudder Streaming Service.

Fantastic Fest Short: Dawn Of The Deaf

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A short film that played at the short fuse program at Fantastic Fest. This short was like watching a sneak 10 minute preview of a featurefilm. I mean that it doesn’t have an end, the story just stop in a cliffhanger to get your attention and hopefully it can get word on mouth out there to make a feature film. In my opinion, this does deserve a sequel.
The short follows different deaf people around London. We see this deaf people going about their life, having everyday problems, but then a loud noise is heard. Everyone that can hear it is in pain and then falls down to their death. The twist is that all the people that die from this noise comeback as flesh eating zombies. The short ends just as all the deaf people we been following are about to be attacked by the undead.
According to the filmmakers they cast real deaf actors. Their goal is to make a genre film that would connect deaf and hearing audiences. I would be interested in seeing this angle for a zombie film. It raises a lot of questions that I want to see in a feature film or even a series. How are this deaf people going to survive the zombie apocalypse? Who created the loud pulse that kill everyone? Would all this characters meet?
I hope that the filmmakers get the chance to make a feature for this film as this sound like a great concept to take the now stale zombie genre. All the luck to this filmmakers.