STRIGOI-THE UNDEAD (2009) Review


Directed by Faye Jackson
Written by Faye Jackson
Starring Constantin Barbulescu, Camelia Maxim & Catalin Paraschiv
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Though many won’t have the patience to sit through this somber little vampire film, I was fascinated at the way STRIGOI: THE UNDEAD shed light on a culture that I am completely unfamiliar with. Though we all know that Dracula comes from a setting much like the Romanian township featured in this film, his trek to England is what folks remember most about Stoker’s classic piece of lit. STRIGOI peels away all of the Hollywood glamour often attributed to the modern vampire and tells a straight up tale of the undead through the eyes of the extremely traditional and superstitious population of modern Romania.

I was fascinated by the traditions followed involving death and dying observed in this film. Though set in the modern day, STRIGOI is a somewhat timeless piece of cinema. The horror is almost secondary to the age-old rituals and mores observed by the town. Often played for its ludicrousness; such as sitting with a corpse for a fortnight drinking vodka to make sure the body does not rise as a vampire, the tradition is scoffed at by our protagonist Constantin (played by the deadpan Constantin Barbulescu), but writer/director Faye Jackson never makes fun of the culture. Her lens focuses on the intricacies of this culture’s superstition and how important it is within their day to day life.

This story of a couple murdered by a lynch mob who raises from the dead to enact revenge is a subtle slice of Romanian culture, and thus different than most vamp flicks out there now. STRIGOI: THE UNDEAD isn’t explosive or over the top. The gore isn’t in your face and the actors don’t ape for the camera. But it is an effective little horror film, destined to be overlooked unless you want to take a chance, heed my advice, and check it out.

THE NIGHT SHIFT (2010) Review


Directed by Thomas Smith
Written by Thomas Smith
Starring Khristian Fulmer, Erin Lilly, Soren Odom, Jordan Woodall
Find out more here at Fighting Owl Films!

Fans of recent spoofs THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and ALIEN TRESPASS may want to seek out THE NIGHT SHIFT. Though this film plays things a bit straighter than those two homages to 50’s monster films, THE NIGHT SHIFT has the same embracement of its low budget and love for the genre. The characters in THE NIGHT SHIFT also have that kind of 50’s innocent mentality where our hero Rue Morgan, an undead graveyard caretaker, only wants a date with his boss, Claire, but with the undead rising and causing all sorts of trouble, it’s hard for that to happen.

I couldn’t help but think of other films like DEAD ALIVE which THE NIGHT SHIFT seems to strive to be despite its more modest budget. Or even CEMETARY MAN, which basically has the same premise, but takes itself much more seriously than this one. This isn’t a bad film. Quite the opposite. It actually is pretty charming in the way it approaches the characters in such an innocent manner without making fun of them. The acting is decent, though it seems everyone knows what kind of movie they are in. And though the effects aren’t the best, it matches the 50’s movie tone pretty well.

Where THE NIGHT SHIFT falters is that the version I saw clocks in at around 2 hours, which is way too long. This film is in post production, so I’m sure a lot of fat will be trimmed. I found myself looking at my watch a few times toward the end wondering when things would wrap up. I think an hour in the editing room with a machete and some good whiskey would do this film right. There’s a good film in here, despite the similarities to other films. It’s in good company with THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and ALIEN TRESPASS, two films that jokingly poke at the goofiness of horror without putting it down. THE NIGHT SHIFT does the same in a charming and fun way. I was rooting for Rue Morgan and his skeleton sidekick Herb to save the day and get the girl. And though hardcore horror fans may scoff, I think there’s room for all kinds of takes on horror in this genre. THE NIGHT SHIFT is for those who can laugh at how silly this little horror genre can be.