Review: Vampus Horror Tales

Directed by Isaac Berrocal, Erika Elizalde, Manuel Martínez Velasco, Víctor Matellano and Piter Moreira andwrittenby Diego Arjona, Isaac Berrocal, Yolanda García Serrano, Ignacio López, Víctor Matellano, Piter Moreira and Victoria Vázquez. A sinister gravedigger plays host to four horror stories, each directed by a different first time filmmaker. Starring: Saturnino García, Carlos Areces, Nacho Guerreros, Félix Gómez, Montse Pla and Elena Furiase.

Your enjoyment of this film is likely going to be dependent on what you’re expecting to get out of it, mostly because the tone that Vampus (García) sets is highly comedic, sarcastic, playful and satisfyingly stubborn, but the short films are very different. While its host Vampus is delightful and you could likely watch a whole film of his cannibalistic, apathetic antics, its shorts are quite sombre and focused specifically on relationships gone bad. They’re dark but in a more serious rather than fun way and that’s the key issue, the different tones clash too strongly, you’re expecting something self-aware and somewhat silly but what you get takes itself far too seriously. Not only that but it doesn’t fit what you need out of an anthology, their styles are much too similar, especially when limited to using black and white. There isn’t enough variation to differentiate them from one another, leaving the tone to feel fairly one-note across all of them, despite the stories themselves being completely different.

They also struggle in the sense of being short films, none of them genuinely give you something to invest in, a character to get behind, a suspense to hold onto, a consistent violence or fear to keep you hooked. All of them move at a slow pace, they’re trying so hard to build a tangible atmosphere that it’s completely missing because the over-concentration is transparent. They’re all begging to speed up and play around with the themes more, to focus more on the audience’s enjoyment of them. The writing can be somewhat problematic also, several of them have quite a predatory feel, leaning more towards the attacker’s perspective than the victim, which feels offbeat in an unsatisfying way.

Saturnino García’s performance as Vampus is absolutely fantastic, he’s a joy to watch and his crotchety attitude is perfectly biting. He takes many a jibe at modern living in a satisfying, relatable way and despite being quite clearly an entirely terrible person, he has a Young Frankenstein type feel that’s lovably dark. The rest of the performances are solid, there’s not an actor that stands out both in a positive and negative manner, neither memorable nor boring. It’s a shame to not have any that can match the personality that’s set by Vampus.

Vampus Horror Tales starts out with a brilliant premise and a hugely enjoyable host but the playful tone he sets clashes too much with the more sombre, serious tone of its shorts. The style of each short lacks variety and they tend to move too slowly or lack a more fun, self-aware energy. The basic concepts of its shorts are good but the perspectives they take, their pace and directorial styles sadly miss the mark to keep a strong, entertaining energy going throughout.

Verdict: ✯✯

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