Wild women with steak knives: STRIGOI
Editor’s Note: In each Wild women with steak knives Entrance, author Alexandra Heller-Nicolas examines a horror film directed by a woman that has been largely overlooked or forgotten. Read them all here!
I suspect that if you’re interested in horror films directed by women, you already quite strongly agree with low-budget independent cinema as a larger aesthetic for the simple reason that women often have – Too often – struggling to get the same funding as their male counterparts. Horror comedy by Faye Jackson in 2009 Strigoi for me, it’s almost a masterclass to do a lot with a little; he never tries to disguise the lo-fi nature of his production, and yet never feels cheap. It’s a very tight film that uses every element of its production to its best advantage to produce a truly funny and unapologetically political horror film.
Set and shot in Romania, Jackson employs the folkloric figure of strigoi – a region-specific sort of vampire character – to delve into that country’s history of oppression and corruption in an always engaging, truly dark, and often just plain hilarious way. The film follows a young man called Vlad, played by Catalin Paraschiv who returns from Italy to his small Romanian village, his dreams of becoming a chef abroad collapsing after grueling work in a chicken coop shattered his ambitions and the sent home, tail between his legs. After dropping out of medical school to pursue his dreams and failing big time, he quickly becomes the source of mockery for the small community for even bothering to have hopes and dreams in the first place. But the villagers and the newly arrived Vlad frankly have much bigger issues to face as his return home comes right after a series of strange deaths. Investigating both the bizarre murders and the undeniably peculiar behavior of his neighbors, Vlad is forced to confront the inherent corruption that lies at the heart of pre- and post-communist Romania in a wholly original way. and very engaging.
There’s a whole story here going back to the Nazis and their relationship with Romania, and while Jackson at times only involves the hypocrisy of the post-Communist powers in the country, at other key times it makes it very explicit. In this movie, the bad guys are the ones with the powers; not just politicians, but landowners whose legacy of stealing the homes and livelihoods of their neighbors has a very real impact on the present – economic leeches. The actual execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife which was shown live on TV is quite significant here, so it is good to have some basic knowledge of this event if you are not exactly in the know of your Romanian history otherwise, but even if you’ve never heard of this stuff, the film still works, and performs great – it’s hard to miss its political punch, just like it’s hard to miss its humor. black and deep.
This political advantage, even if you don’t know the real details of what happened in Romania in the 20th century, is where Strigoi is really gaining its power, both in terms of how Jackson uses it in terms of this regional variation of vampire mythology itself, but also the more universal human tendency to insult and demonize anyone but you. don’t love as a political freak. This is what makes it more than an allegory of local history; Strigoi has a lot to say about people and what we are capable of in our darkest and most desperate times.
But let’s face it: politics aside, we’re here for the vampires. I like the way this movie employs strigoi mythology, almost reclaiming the regional specificity of this figure from the far too often milquetoast contemporary version which washed away all the original cultural scent of the figure beyond what could be the odd accent of cartoonish Eastern Europe . Strigoi are really interesting and It is worth considering if this is something for you.; while they most immediately adhere to what we understand as vampires, they also have elements that we might more traditionally associate with the witch figure. Jackson takes this very rich and unique story and weaves it together with issues more relevant to contemporary Romania in a really engaging, really thoughtful, and really funny way. It’s a really great movie, and it’s well worth the effort to find it.