Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Taste of Blood, Based on Tolstoy’s Vourdalak

A.K. Tolstoy (second cousin of Leo) could have been one of the great horror writers of his era, but when The Vampire bombed, he held off publishing the next three supernatural stories he had lined up. Eventually, Family of the Vourdalak became a minor classic that horror fans well-remember as one of the tales adapted in Mario Bava’s anthology film, Black Sabbath. Now, the Eastern European vampire is transplanted to Argentina in Santiago Fernangez Calvete’s A Taste of Blood, which releases today on VOD.

Natalia always chafed under the controlling thumb of her father Aguirre, but she is about to discover why he is so strict. One night, she sneaks out to meet her boyfriend Alexis (who really isn’t such a bad chap), but instead, she encounters a stranger who claims to be a distant relative. Then he tries to kill her. Fortunately, Alexis safely sees her home, where her father finally levels with the entire family.

Aguirre was adopted into a wealthy Slovenian émigré family, who had long been plagued by Vourdalaks. Essentially, the Eastern European vampires are like undead family annihilators, who particularly crave the blood of relatives and loved ones. Aguirre decides to hunt down the latest Vourdalak, giving strict instructions not be let back into the house before sunrise, because Vourdalaks cannot endure sunrise. Yet, he turns up like clockwork, right before dawn, demanding they open the doors, so he can crash.

is a great looking horror film, thanks to cinematographer Manuel Rebella’s striking use of light and darkness, but it sounds awful, because of the almost random mixture of English dubbing with subtitled Spanish. Entire conversations alternate between the two languages, for no reason, as far as viewers can tell.

It is too bad the dialog is such a distracting Tower of Babel, because German Palacios is impressively intense as the wild-eyed Aguirre. He even sort of looks like Boris Karloff in
Sabbath, but he manages add something of his own to the Gorcha-analog. Alfonsina Carrocio also holds up well as the rebellious Natalia. Throughout it all, Calvete maintains a tense, paranoid vibe. Frankly, there would be a fair amount going for this film, but the distributor really sabotaged it with an incomprehensible dubbing strategy.

Choosing to adapt
Family of the Vourdalak was a pretty shrewd strategy. It is not an unknown property, but there are only handful of previous interpretations for Taste of Blood to be compared against (there was also a Giallo film and a TV anthology episode directed by Larry Fessenden). Taste probably would have held up pretty well. Frustrating for reasons outside Calvete’s control, A Taste of Blood releases today (5/10).