14th Feb2023

‘Vampus Horror Tales’ Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Saturnino García, Félix Gómez, Elena Furiase, Montse Pla, Dunia Rodríguez, Nacho Guerreros, Erika Sanz, Federico Repetto, Vicky Jorge | Directed by Isaac Berrocal, Erika Elizalde, Manuel Martínez Velasco, Víctor Matellano, Piter Moreira

Based on an original idea by co-director Víctor Matellano, this black-and-white anthology film opens on Halloween night as children trick-or-treat. Gravedigger Mister Fettes (Saturnino García), preferring to be called Vampus, feels unappreciated for his work. He holds a sour outlook on the world, as established when he reads a news story about a hipster being stabbed 45 times and reacts by saying it wasn’t enough.

Matellano directs the wraparound segments, where Vampus acts as a storyteller to the audience in a manner resembling The Cryptkeeper. He also encounters many people whose lives he ends at the slightest irritation, before feeding them to his ghoulish pet named Toby. It’s constantly entertaining to watch this ill-tempered gravedigger that García terrifically brings alive.

The first story is The Wedding, directed by Manuel Martínez Velasco. Awakening within a bizarre room, bride Marta (Elena Furiase) finds herself trapped alongside her fiancé’s friend, Santi (Félix Gómez). She cannot recall what led to them entering this room, although Santi encourages her to remember what happened. As truths come forth and more questions arise, the situation grows nastier in this effectively told tale which makes a strong start.

Following that up is Birthday, from Erika Elizalde. On a birthday trip at an amusement park, two ladies (Montse Plá, Dunia Rodríguez) find themselves stuck on a haunted house ride. It becomes clear that real horrors are unfolding at this scarcely populated location. There’s promise to this tale, although the execution feels too underdeveloped to have any impact. From the characters to the reveal of what’s happening, more time was needed to flesh it all out.

Isaac Berrocal directs Second Date, the film’s third instalment. Alex (Nacho Guerreros) takes his new date, blind Margot (Erika Sanz), to an isolated house in the country. He says they’re meeting up with friends at his house, although the friends are made up and the house may not be his. The situation leaves Margot trapped in an uncertain location in the middle of nowhere, not fully aware of the dangers she faces. It’s an effective set-up which the execution, unfortunately, cannot match, as tension feels out of reach within this situation that’s too one-sided to work.

The last segment is Lineage, from Piter Moreira. Unfolding in a vampire pandemic, the bleak tone is set from an early radio broadcast which says to sacrifice loved ones as soon as symptoms manifest. Marco (Federico Repetto) transports his infected wife, Cami (Vicky Jorge), to an isolated house where they can hide out. The performances effectively capture the horrifying situation, from the couple reminiscing over what they’ve lost, to the drastic measures the husband must take to locate blood. It’s a tale which knows its endpoint, although the journey there is rocky and full of struggles.

This anthology has been crafted by directors yet to make their feature-film debut, and it feels difficult for them to make their mark with such a uniform style held throughout. Through each tale of unfortunate romance amidst horrific circumstances, connected by recurring mentions of hot dogs, there’s little to differentiate this mixed bag of stories on a creative level.

** 2/5

Vampus Horror Tales is released today on digital and on-demand, from Uncork’d Entertainment.


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