Strigoi: The Undead
by Jason Coffman
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Vampire movies are becoming nearly as numerous as zombie movies in the realm of direct-to-disc features. Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films, recently specializing in releasing super low-budget genre flicks, made a surprise move when they acquired writer/director Faye Jackson’s 2009 festival favorite Strigoi: The Undead. And congratulations to them on a canny acquisition, because Strigoi is very probably the best film they have released this year, a very funny and highly unique take on the increasingly tired vampire film.
Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv) returns home to a small village in Romania after trying to make a life for himself in Italy. Almost immediately after he returns, Vlad discovers that a popular local shopkeeper has died under mysterious circumstances and no one bothered with an autopsy. Vlad takes it upon himself to find out what happened and who is responsible for the murder, and before too long realizes that the most likely suspect is Constantin (Constantin Barbulescu), the only rich man in town, who may have killed the old man for his land.
Of course, what Vlad does not know is what happened to Constantin and his wife in the film’s pre-credits opening sequence: the townspeople, tired of living under Constantin’s thumb, held an impromptu trial and murdered Constantin and his wife. When Vlad goes to interview Constantin about his motives, he notices that Constantin maybe acts a bit odd and that his wife is constantly devouring anything she can get her hands on, but otherwise they seem like regular weird rich people. It takes quite a bit of investigating before Vlad realizes there may be something supernatural happening to his small village.
Strigoi plays out like a rambling supernatural take-off of a typical mystery, with reluctant protagonist Vlad filling in for the standard detective hero. Vlad unravels just what is happening to the town and learns the truth about the Strigoi and, for the most part, takes it all in stride. There are some very funny twists and character bits that surprise, and the film’s tone is never too dark, even when occasionally indulging in a little gruesome violence.
Perhaps filmmaker Jackson’s one major misstep in Strigoi is having the entire cast speak English, when it is obvious that for much of the cast it is not their primary language. Still, the accents are not impenetrable and most of the cast gets in at least one good laugh. This perceived language barrier may have been one of the reasons it took the film so long to get official distribution in the U.S., but thankfully Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films were willing to take a chance on it. Strigoi: The Undead is a refreshing new tweak on the vampire film formula that is well worth seeking out.
Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films release Strigoi: The Undead on DVD on Tuesday, August 2nd. Special features include a short film by writer/director Faye Jackson and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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