Saturday, November 14, 2015

QUEEN OF BLOOD (2014) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Intervision Picture Corp

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 77 Minutes
Audio: English LPCM Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080i HD Widescreen (1.77:1) 
Director: Chris Alexander
Cast: Shauna Henry, Henry Nivek Ogre, Carrie Gemmel, David Goodfellow 

Synopsis: From writer/director/composer Chris Alexander – the editor-in-chief of Fangoria – comes the ‘spiritual sequel’ to his acclaimed debut feature. Shauna Henry returns as the vampire Irina, now reborn to silently roam a lush countryside quenching her thirst for human blood. But rather than follow standard horror narratives, Alexander instead subverts the genre to explore a crimson-soaked fever dream influenced by the ‘70s EuroHorror of Jess Franco and Jean Rollin. Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA co-stars in this “haunting and visionary” (Cinema Axis) shocker featuring costumes by Alex Kavanagh (the SAW franchise, LAND OF THE DEAD) and FX work from Paul Jones (SILENT HILL, the RESIDENT EVIL films) for an opus of the undead unlike any you’ve ever seen.

A lot of what I said about Alexander's debut film Blood for Irina (2013) holds true for the sequel/prequel Queen of Blood (2014) which again stars Shauna Henry as the ageless vampire Irina. A lyrical tale of vampirism paying homage to the cinematic aesthetic I would compare to Jess Franco and Jean Rollin with a touch of Werner Herzog. Seemingly a prequel to the first movie, this one plays during the American pioneer days, at the start of the movie Irina emerges from the dirty waters of a river at the feet of a woodsman, drained and weakened she is taken back to his rustic home where he begins to mold her into his ideal version of a woman seen in a picture, someone he seems to have lost... that is until she drains him of his blood. I don't think this happened in Blood for Irina, but this time out Irina drains blood not with a set of pronounced fangs but from her fingertips which she sinks into the flesh of those she feeds upon, who seem mesmerized by her, almost offering themselves willingly to her blood lust, which I liked quite a bit. From here she wanders the wooded countryside draining those she happens upon, all the while a degenerate vampire hunter played by Skinny Puppy's Ogre is on her trail, leaving behind him his own body count. 

The images move across the screen with a nice lyricism about them, evoking a combination of a nature documentary punctuated by some occasional bloodletting and onscreen violence, with evocative electronic score that threatened to put me to sleep more than once, which is a bit of a problem when you think about, sure I love me some atmospheric images, but when it's putting you to sleep, there's something missing, some visceral element which would tether me to the story and keep me enthralled, but it's just not there for me. Being low-budget there's are limitations to the cinematography, the exterior shots of nature and wooded areas, which play a huge part in the movie, look great but are inconsistent. There's a palpable sense of artiness and pretentiousness in the way it plays out without the benefit of dialogue, I can appreciate it for the artiness and craft, but this one is not for me. 

The disc from Intervision marks their first foray in Blu-ray, my player displays this is 1080/60fps, not 1080/24fps, so I don't think we're getting full 1080P HD here, which may have something to do with the format the movie was shot on. The English LPCM Stereo 2.0 sounds fine, exporting effects and the score with a nice crispness, as with Blood For Irina this is a wonderful atmospheric score from Alexander and Carrie Gemmel

Onto the extras we have a lively commentary from Alexander who doesn't seem to take a breath for the duration of the movie, it's the kind of commentary that touches on the influences, the concept and the execution of making a micro-budgeted movie, and serves to demystify the process, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I also recommend checking out his commentary on the Arrow Video disc of Contamination, good stuff. Additionally we have a brief video introduction for the movie, some gore outtakes, alternate endings, trailer, and a Q and A with the cast and crew at the Toronto Premiere. A nice bonus is that Alexander's debut film Blood For Irina is included on the disc, making this an arty blood-sucking double-feature, which is a nice value-add. 

Special Features: 

- Gore Gaffes (3 Mins) 
- Directing Ogre (5 Min) 
- Nivek Ogre Introduction (1 Min) 
- Alternate Ending #1 (3 Mins) 
- Alternate Ending #2 (3 Mins) 
- Trailer (1 Mins) 
- Audio Commentary with Director Chris Alexander 
- Cast Q and A from the Toronto Premiere (23 Mins) HD 
- BONUS FILM: Blood for Irina (69 Mins) 

As with Blood For Irina (2013) I think Alexander is making exactly the sort of movie he wants to make, an expressionist slice of vampire cinema loaded with some gorgeous low-budget cinematography, but this is just not own cup o' tea. I always preferred the sleazier side of Franco to Rollin and this is way more Rollin than Franco, a little too art house and not enough Eurosleaze for my own tastes. 2/5