[Calgary Underground Film Festival] Vampire Clay (2017) - Reviewed

Vampire Clay screened at CUFF

It's hard to imagine that a new spin on vampire stories could actually exist, considering the oversaturation of the media market with Dracula, Lestat, and every other famous vampire, glittery or otherwise. They've been scary, they've been sexy, they've been good and evil; no matter the human emotion chosen, a vampire counterpart is there to portray it on the screen or the page. So, imagine a viewer's shock when encountering Sôichi Umezawa's Vampire Clay. This film takes an entirely different look at vampire lore and feels more like visiting Ash while he battles the Evil Dead than accompanying Jonathon Harker to fight bug eaters. To put it frankly, this film is utterly ridiculous and endlessly peculiar, but neither of those things make it bad; and it isn't.

Telling the story of a small group of art students who are using the loft of a recently deceased, eccentric artist after losing their school in an earthquake, Vampire Clay has a mostly female cast, all of whom play their roles believably. Issues created from one student's return from a semester at a big art school in Tokyo not only create the titular clay vampires and the bulk of the story, but also all of the emotional drama and conflict present in the film. Oddly enough, the serious parts of the film are so good they almost clash with the utter insanity that occurs once the action really heats up. The film doesn't suffer for it, it's just quite the contrast when looking at the film as a whole.

The star of the film is undoubtedly Umezawa's incredible special effects. This is some extremely strange, next level weirdness that shouldn't work, but it does; most of it is gross, some of it is funny, all of it is extremely well done. When the clay vampires finally take their true form, they are pure nightmare fuel, which is almost, oddly, unexpected. There is also a seriously cool claymation sequence near the end of the film that is beyond creepy and cool. Practical effects of this magnitude, being executed to this level is reason enough to watch this film, especially if you're a fan of J-Horror, or even just a fan of the bizarre.

Vampire Clay has no aspirations to be like any other vampire work, that much is clear. It's almost fair to argue that the villains found here aren't even really vampires by the strictest definition. Regardless, the film is a unique, entertaining entry into the vampire vault, and it is enjoyable for what it is, for the audience it was made for, though it certainly will not sharpen everyone's fangs.

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-Josie Stec