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STRIGOI
DVD region 2. Bounty Films.

StrigoiIt’s rather surprising that so few filmmakers have chosen to explore the East European roots of the vampire myth – or perhaps not, given the obviously more commercial potential of the Bram Stoker-inspired version of the vampire than has informed most movies since Nosferatu. But Strigoi, shot in Romania by British director Faye Jackson, is defiantly old school in its approach.

The story follows medical school drop out Vlad, returning to his village after working in a fast food restaurant in Italy, and finding a mystery unfolding around him. An old man has died, quite clearly of unnatural causes, yet no one wants to investigate, and the local villagers all seem to have something to hide. It turns out that they have killed the local landowner – who has been cheating them out of their land – and redistributed the wealth. The only problem is that the landowner and his wife still seem to be very much alive – a little red-faced and perpetually hungry perhaps, but still…

Strigoi neatly balances horror and black comedy, mystery and political commentary (the villagers have seen their land stolen by the Germans, the Russians and now the capitalists over the years) in a story that develops at a slow pace, allowing the characters to develop and the mythology to be explored. As Vlad finds that Strigoi don’t necessarily have to be dead – and indeed begins to wonder just who is dead and who isn’t in the village – events unfold in a pleasingly original manner – the comedy never overwhelming the story, the horror – including some graphic autopsy footage – never too excessive.

If there’s a fault, it might be that the Romanian actors speaking English occasionally seem a little stilted – but this is a rare occurrence. On the whole, Stigoi is that rarest of things: a truly original vampire story.

The DVD also contains Lump, a ferociously paranoid medical short (11 minutes) from Jackson that is unsettlingly brilliant. A nice little bit of icing on a tasty cake..

DAVID FLINT

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