Wednesday 20 May 2015

Blood for Irina

Rising Vamp

Blood for Irina
USA 2012
Directed by Chris Alexander
Autonomy Pictures 
DVD Region 2

Wow. You know, that old adage advising that, if you don’t have anything good to say about something, you should probably not say it at all? It's one I do tend to subscribe to as a general rule... although there are occasional exceptions. It’s an attitude I support but, due to me having a review blog for the last five years, it’s something I’ve had to wrestle with sometimes. When a film doesn’t have much good in it that I can find to shout out as a positive then the decision, in those kinds of cases, has to be, really, just tell it like it is. There’s no sense in trying to hold yourself to a certain standard of critical insight or viewpoint if you’re going to run away at the first sign of anything bad you have to say and so... it’s in that spirit that I intend to write a short review for this film. Even though I was tempted to just walk away and forget about it.

This one first came to my attention when I saw it on the shelf at Fopp records earlier in the year. Blood For Irina is a brilliant sounding title and this was coupled with a cover showing the lower face of a vampire lady with blood dripping down it. It piqued my curiosity somewhat but it was the price tag of being only £4 which was the real clincher in the deal. So obviously I stacked it on the small pile of visual treasures I was already planning to purchase because, hey, at £4 you can’t really go wrong, right?


If I’ve learnt one lesson from this experience it’s that, even the most seductive looking packaging and lack of expense in a product can sometimes add up to a bad buy. I can’t say I regret purchasing this movie because, if I didn’t, I’ll always be looking out to grab a copy sometime but, honestly, it was a hard film to concentrate on and sit still for.

It opens okay, though, with a shot of blood dripping into water and ultimately, after a while, turning the screen a kind of orange colour. Actually, the director seems obsessed with any shots he can get of various fluids... be they blood or water... dripping into, onto or off of something throughout the entire length of the film,. Then we get the title of the movie followed by a shot of a child’s plastic toddler doll on some pebbles with, I think, a slight and almost imperceptible slow zoom out ... presumably taken on a beach somewhere. We then find ourselves with the vampire lady of the title but... it has to be said, she really isn’t doing much. And she doesn’t do much quite frequently, at the expense of pretty much all else, throughout the film’s short running time of 70 minutes. Irina seems to be a creature existing in two modes... one in where she’s constantly bending over her sink and vomiting up blood, indicating that she’s definitely on her way out as a vampire... and the other where she’s kind of walking around looking for prey and just generally posing in slow motion for her unseen audience.

There’s hardly any dialogue in this film with the only words spoken being occasional voice over; muffled and distorted sound bites from Irina to try and inform the audience... but inform us of what? The rest is, as I've said, mostly just shots of the main character as she walks around a bit. To be fair, the film is trying to convey a certain mood and a lot of it is handled with long, slow, static master shots with cuts to the next set up... there’s hardly any camera movement at all in the opening section of the movie, for example. Then we start getting more slow zooms and some of the shots do have interesting lightning schemes but, almost to counter that, either the stock the film has been shot on (maybe digital video?) or the way the images have been processed really do not help with the overall look the DP might have got with this stuff and ultimately, it has to be said, it just looks fairly cheap, nasty and way too “high definition” for the kind of moodiness they’re going for. At least it seems that way to me.

And, as I said... nothing much happens...

A dead body is found and stabbed with a pole by someone who doesn’t make much sense in the narrative as it stands... possibly a guardian-like figure for the title character? I couldn’t really tell, since there’s no dialogue except the odd, distorted monologue from Irina, as I mentioned above. She might say, for instance... “I remember...” and that’s the way we’re supposed to tell that a particular sequence is supposed to be a flashback... I think. Then it’s the odd shot of the doll on the pebbles again and then more throwing up of blood in the sink. It’s not that the images don’t flow into a linear whole, I think... it’s just that they don’t really say anything or have much meaning, it seems to me, than a bunch of actors posing for a camera because everyone thinks it looks good.

The “deleted footage” which comes as an extra on the disc perhaps provides a clue to why this film is as it is... because the out-takes I’m thinking of are a standard dialogue kind of scene between the main character Irina (played by Shauna Henry) and another actor and... it’s not particularly good. I’m wondering if the director went with the idea of just doing the film as a bunch of wandering visuals that don’t do much because he maybe sensed he was losing the battle in the dialogue sequences and maybe felt he needed to drastically change the shape of the way the movie worked rather than piece together some not so greatly acted scenes.. and then altered the way he was shooting the movie to adapt to this decision. I don’t know if that’s at all true, I might be completely wrong, but that’s my best guess.

And I really don’t have much else to say about the movie. It’s been compared to the cinematic styles of both Jean Rollin and Jess Franco but, seriously, it’s nothing like able to capture any of their occasional magic and if I hadn’t been clued into that then I would never had any way of knowing that this is the kind of thing the director was going for... if, indeed, that is what he was going for.  It’s a bit of a mess, to be honest, which makes me wonder how there’s actually a sequel to this movie been made somehow. I’m curious to see how it could possibly follow on from anything much in this one and, all I can say is, given the strength of this one, I suspect my curiosity will probably roll over and die before I get anywhere near to purchasing said sequel.

Another thing which detracts from this movie, big time, is the musical score by the director himself, which is certainly competent enough as music but it seems to be holding its own against the visuals rather than either working with them or giving them emotional shape... so it doesn’t do the movie any favours.

Ultimately, I can’t honestly recommend this movie to even lovers of vampire cinema. I love the idea of a beautiful vampire lady wandering the streets with no dialogue and savouring the richness of the shot compositions but, honestly, this is not a great attempt at trying to capture the sublime emotional ennui that this style of cinema can, and sometimes does, achieve. I’m sorry this review is so damning... more sorry than I was writing this than having to sit through the thing... so my apologies to all involved because I know how hard these things must be to make. Vampire movies can be a hard thing to get right and this one looks like an honourable try which had some production issues along the way... at least, it looks that way to me. Like I said at the start of this review though, I have to call things as I see them and that’s about all I can do with this one. Move right along... nothing to see here.

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