Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Adrien Beau.
Starring Kacey Mottet Klein, Ariane Labed, Gregoire Colin.
Horror, France, 91 minutes.


Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2024.


Tolstoy’s novella The Family of the Vourdalak, a tale of vampirism spreading through a household and beyond was written nearly sixty years before Bram Stoker’s take on the infernal creature of the night captured the public imagination. It seems that Tolstoy’s tale was undoubtedly an influence and would even go onto make small marks cinematically with Mario Bava taking influence from it for the “I Wurdalak” section for BLACK SUNDAY and Giorgio Ferroni’s THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS, recently re-released on Blu-ray. Now writer and director Adrien Beau provides his own spin on the tale for his debut feature film.


Sticking closer to the original novella than what has come before, Beau’s adaptation follows the Marquis Jacques Antoine Saturnin d’Urfe, a foppish dandy and assistant to the king who has found himself alone in the woods after a raid from invading Turks. He eventually finds shelter with a family whose father, Gorcha, has gone out to pursue a band of the raiders. However, he has instructed that if he returns after six days, he will be dead and should be staked through the heart if he returns after this period becoming a “Vordalak”, a transformation that is all too apparent to Jacques but not to certain family members who are grateful for his return. Jacques bears witness to a widening rift within the family as Gorcha’s all too apparent transformation, brings down a storm of blood and madness.


While it may be low in budget, THE VOURDALAK is high on atmosphere and stands out from the vampiric crowd with the smart use of a full-sized puppet for the Vordalak figure. Operated by Beau, this vordalak looks like it has stepped straight out from the pages of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic. Although it gives the film a stagey edge it never feels like a cheap alternative, instead giving the film a wholly original, otherworldly edge. Its uncanny appearance and behaviour, aided massively by Beau supplying its voice, help carry the conceit of this being a seductive creature of power that can hold hypnotic sway over those who have loved it before its transformation.


Shot on Super 16mm, this French film also carries the air of fellow countryman Jean Rollin with its mist laden location of a near ancient mansion with a mysterious female figure, in this case the disgraced daughter Sdenka who captures Jacques’ heart. Folk horror enthusiasts will also find much to pore over in the films rich and convincing detailing of a time long passed. Like the best period dramas there is much on offer here that offers commentary without sticking out or feeling forced; notions of gender and alpha male behaviour are slyly presented adding to the films smart and always entertaining storytelling.


After making a small number of fantastical short films this is a wholly successful step into full length feature film for Beau. An original, creepy and at times funny, take on the vampire mythos, THE VOURDALAK takes several well-worn tropes and presents them in such an enticing way that could have easily fallen apart. That Beau has accomplished all of this and more bodes well for whatever he has lined up in the future. This is a filmmaker to keep an eye on.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans