Sunday, July 31, 2022

Fantasia ’22: VRDLK Family of Vurdulak

Aleksey Tolstoy died in 1875, but he is on a roll right now. Recently, his novella The Vampire has inspired a feature film, an excellent graphic novel, and now an animated short. As vampire experts know, the Vurdulak (or Vourdalak, spellings vary) is particularly sinister, because it specifically preys on its former family members and loved ones. Fortunately, the traveling Marquis is hard to love, but it is still dangerous for him to encounter one in Sam Chou’s animated short, VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak, which screened at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

While in route to a diplomatic confab in Budapest, the Marquis D’Urfe gets lost in the woods somewhere in Serbia. This is Vurdulak country, so everyone warns him to get off the road after sundown, but, of course, he will not listen. Eventually, the horny braggart winds up at the cottage of old man Gorcha, where he is quite taken with the absent man’s daughter Zdenka. He arrived just before dark, so is shocked when the family refuses to let the freezing Gorcha in.

’s throwback style of animation has its quirky charms, but it gets even more humor from the sarcastic frat boy attitude of D’Urfe. Hammer-style horror derived from classical European sources is usually pretty serious, so it is entertaining to watch Chou and screenwriter Ellery Vandooyeweert mine some humor from Tolstoy’s vampire tale, especially considering how angsty and tragic it is. Yet, they still stay pretty faithful to the original story.

The list of Vurdalak adaptations is relatively short, but distinguished, including those of Mario Bava and Larry Fessenden (for TV). Chou’s briskly energetic take definitely holds nostalgic appeal for horror fans, while delivering plenty of action and blood. Enthusiastically recommended,
VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak had its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia.