In Romanian mythology, strigoi are the troubled souls of the dead, rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. Strigoi are also known as immortal vampires.
Strigoi: The Undead is the quirky debut feature by Faye Jackson. With a rapid introduction of two ex-Communists being accused and convicted of the murder of a fellow neighbor, we get our first taste of the dark humor that makes up this refreshing little number when the means of execution – an old shotgun – jams. The oddball wit is driven a step further as the townsfolk celebrate their murder by dancing.
Of course everything would be smooth sailing if it wasn’t for overly handsome Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv). He has reluctantly moved back to Podoleni Village to live with his grandfather after failing to become a doctor in Italy. A nice nod, perhaps, to the estimated 85% of college graduates that wind up living with their parents. Vlad is constantly out of cigarettes and no matter how many pet dogs he finds for his grandfather, they come missing in the morning. There is a cute repeated action/dialogue sequence between him and his grandfather every time a dog goes missing.
We come to find out that the missing dogs are due to the constant hunger of the strigoi. Scenes of the creatures desperately searching and finding food to fill their bellies have such great foley that it becomes sickening at times. If you are an observant human being, you have noticed at least on one occasion the sounds that come from any type gluttonous fiend. I can mostly relate the over moist crinkling smack and chew of a breakfast burrito eaten by a coworker at 8:00AM to what we excessively hear in this film.
Taking place in Romania with Vlad’s grandfather recounting his life ‘after the war’ adds an element of depth to the idea of tortured souls. Joseph Stalin was a man who was so unhappy with not being able to convince everyone that he was greater than them – that he forced death upon millions through purges, labor camps, famines, forced migrations, and state terrorism. Using this background gives validity to Vlad’s belief that his grandfather could be living strigoi.
The overall feel of the film is a cross between Cemetery Man and Shaun of the Dead. It is extremely well-acted film with a variety of talent ranging from the rough local elected official to the timid housekeeper to the oxymoron of a priest. While the overall relaxed tone sometimes slows the pace, satire and dramatic moments fill any voids. Strigoi: The Undead is distinctive in that it is hard to categorize and barely gives definition even to its namesake, yet explains a plethora through its unique editing and storyline. In the end it is a fun, accomplished debut that definitely deserves any positive attention it receives!
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