A beautiful young woman marries the man favoured by her parents, even though she is in love with a mysterious stranger. On her wedding night, the lover reveals himself to be a vampire and attacks the newlyweds. Many years later, a stranded group of tourists take shelter in the remote lodge where it all took place…
Want to see an Argentinian vampire movie? Well, here’s your chance. Buenos Aires-born writer-director Emilio Vieyra gives us his take on the undead two years before he delivered the naughty horror/science-fiction shenanigans of the ‘The Curious Dr Humpp’ (1969). Does he bring anything new, or notable, to the lore or cinematic history of bloodsucking fiends from the grave? Not really, no. Unless you count the seagull.
Beautiful blonde Ofelia (Susana Beltrán) is happily in love with older man, Gustavo (Walter Kliche). However, he refuses to meet her parents and they are keen for her to marry a man they have chosen. She reluctantly complies, but married life gets off to a shaky start when Kliche arrives uninvited in the bedroom on the crucial night, bringing his living dead vibe and pointy teeth. I guess no amount of guidance counselling is going to sort that one out.
Fast forward an unspecified number of years, and we’re straight into a seven-minute montage of some bright young things fooling about at a ski resort. It looks more like some kind of tourist board advert than the introduction of the main protagonists in a feature film. There’s no dialogue or synchronised sound, just groovy music and some very questionable camera angles, and the sequence seems to go on forever. The couples snog, drink, fool around on the slopes and drink some more at a party where one of the girls takes her top off. No judgement here, but aren’t ‘Virgins’ mentioned in the film’s title? It hardly seems as if these young ladies are following an abstemious lifestyle!
In fact, there’s not even any signposting that these are going to be our main characters. None of them is even referred to by name until about half an hour of the movie has passed! And that’s only when the girls go missing, and the guys are calling for them. In that spirit, I believe that their nerdy tour guide is played by Orestes Trucco because the IMDb lists him in the film’s credits as ‘Man of group with beard’. All told, it’s not exactly a textbook way to set up your principals and engage audience sympathy for their plight. None of them has any recognisable character traits or back story either. There’s the handsome one, Raul (Rolo Puente), his girlfriend Laura (Gloria Prat), and then there are their friends who might just as well be designated as ‘generic vampire fodder.’
Trucco’s silly tour guide is present to provide some vague comedy relief (he trips over a couple of times), so it’s no surprise when the group’s van runs out of petrol in the ass-end of nowhere. Of course, it’s the middle of the night, the wolves are howling, the weather’s a bit iffy, and the only nearby shelter is the abandoned old lodge where ‘people see things.’ Arriving there, they find food and drink apparently prepared by the zombie-like servant who no-one sees but Puente. After everyone is drugged, Kliche drops by for a midnight snack, but Puente has wandered off. He runs into Beltrán which provides the director with ample excuse to give us a lengthy sex scene starring her naked breasts. When Puente wakes the next morning, the girls are missing and all a search turns up is one of Prat’s shoes.
Heading to town to report the matter to Comisario Martinez (played by director Vieyra), they get stuck behind another car, which turns out to be driven by the strange servant with Kliche appearing briefly in the back seat. Where is he supposed to be going? I have absolutely no idea. Maybe he likes going out for a drive in the morning? I don’t mind that all this takes place in the daytime; the notion that vampires are destroyed by sunlight is almost entirely a modern one, traditional folklore suggesting mostly that the undead appeared by night because that was their preference. Other mythical creatures were said to be affected by the light, however, so it’s not hard to see how this became a common trope in our modern take on the legend. In the context of this film, though, the sequence is entirely pointless.
There are some other puzzling aspects to the development of the story as well. At one stage, Puente is called to police headquarters because they have detained someone as a suspect in the disappearance of the girls. When he gets there, he finds the station surrounded by an angry mob. There has been no indication that the case is even public knowledge, let alone that it has inspired a crowd to seek vigilante justice. The rabble-rousers beat the suspect to within an inch of his life (I thought he’d been detained?), but it doesn’t matter because we never find out who he is and he never appears in the film again. When Prat suddenly turns up at Puente’s door (I guess she escaped?), she’s put straight to bed, and he calls a doctor. Kliche turns up instead, impersonating a medical man, and gives her an injection of something or other. Why he does this is a complete mystery.
It’s also a curious choice to introduce a new major character with barely half an hour of the film remaining. Tito (Ricardo Bauleo) is Prat’s brother and, despite being only in his early twenties, I assumed that he was going to bring some special skills or knowledge to the table, but no, he’s just a regular dude. Why the climactic scenes feature him as Kliche’s main antagonist, instead of Puente who we might reasonably have come to regard as the film’s hero, is just another in a long line of questions that will probably never be answered. The most obvious of these is: what’s with the seagull? The constant cutting to scarlet-tinted shots of a seabird in flight is a bit of a head-scratcher. Ok, I get that the colour represents blood, but what has a seagull got to do with it? If anything, shouldn’t it be a bat? Perhaps vampire mythology in Argentina is a little different from everywhere else in the world.
Technically, the film is serviceable enough, but the viewer is left with a distinct impression that little attention was paid to either plot or script. There is no back story to the vampire, who is cut from the familiar Lugosi cloth but inhabits a film more reminiscent of Hammer’s take on the genre (with added breasts). The film runs less than 80 minutes, so there may be an extended, more coherent version out there somewhere, but it’s just as possible this was a quick cash-in where the focus was more on what edgy scenes could be put in the trailer than creating a polished final product.
A very minor slice of international horror that ticks all the usual boxes in all the usual ways while feeling severely undeveloped and more than a little rushed.