What have you got lined-up for Halloween night? Bit of a drag that it’s on a week night, isn’t it? Whilst I’m sure you’re going to go to go to a fantastic fancy-dress shindig the following Saturday (please don’t go as Jimmy Savile, you know it’s not right), I urge you not to stay in on Wednesday the 31st…
You know that it’s just going to be the same old films on telly that are on every year (Halloween, at a guess), and why hang around at home when you can get yourself along to Days Are Numbers’ blood-curdling Halloween horror film double-bill at the appropriately named Satan’s Circus (the spacious and demonically decor-ed back room of the Wenlock and Essex)? We’re calling it Night of the Vampires, precisely because we’ve decided to show two fang-tastic vampire films… Vampires in Havana and Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural.
Why vampires? Well, who doesn’t love vampires? From Max Schreck as Nosferatu (still skin-crawlingly creepy after all these years!) to the sulky teens in Twilight, the far from humble vampire is probably cinema’s number one bogeyman. Now, Vampires in Havana and Lemora may not be the most famous blood-suckers ever committed to celluloid (far from it!), but they’re both top-notch films and – hey! - checking ‘em out beats watching Halloween for the millionth time. Read on to find out more…
Vampires in Havana (Juan Padron, 1985)
What better way to kick-off a double-bill than with a bit of animation (y’know, like they used to do at the cinema)? Although rest assured, this is no run-of-the-mill cartoon caper… Vampires in Havana is a madcap and bawdy* serving of communist propaganda-meets-comic allegory with a pulsating Latin swing! More or less Cuba’s answer to Robert Crumb, director Juan Padron remoulds vampires here as unscrupulous capitalists (literally blood-suckers), but keeps things zany enough throughout that his message never descends into dogmatic preachiness.
After a quick history lesson in which we learn that the world’s vampires have branched out into two separate, opposing families (European aristocrats on one side and North American gangsters on the other), we are introduced to carefree Cuban trumpet player Pepito. But a startling family secret soon upsets our hero’s frivolous world when it turns out that not only is he a stray vampire, but he’s also the grandson of none other than Count Dracula himself! Kept in the dark (or should that be light?) all of his life as a result of the forced application of his mad scientist uncle’s anti-sun serum, Pepito finds himself unwittingly at the centre of both the nascent Cuban revolution and a struggle between the Euro and US vampires to claim this magic potion.
*And not strictly PC. You have been warned!
Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (Richard Blackburn, 1975)
And for our main feature presentation, a darkly simmering serving of Southern Gothic and a true classic of American underground B-horror. Made for peanuts by first-time director Richard Blackburn (and it remains his only credit, sadly), Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural manages to weave a convincingly strange and menacing atmosphere which artfully belies its meagre budget. It also keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek and has streaks of dark camp running through it the way that any cult classic worth its salt should (keep an eye out for the most memorable bus driver in film history!).
As its intriguing sub-heading freely suggests, Lemora is a sinister fairytale-like fable, telling the tale of innocent young church-singer Lila Lee (you can’t get a more southern name than that, can you?) and the spooky shenanigans she encounters after embarking on a mission to save her father. Unlike his devout daughter, dear old dad is a right old sinner – a prohibition-era gangster who is being held at the house of the mysterious Lemora after smashing up both his jalopy and himself whilst on the run from the authorities. Upon arrival young Lila quickly realises that everything is far from how it should be, and that her wayward father might just have found himself in the clutches of a vampire… And one who is now beginning to show a less than healthy interest in his next of kin.
So there you have it! Two largely overlooked vampire films – both equally chilling and thrilling – with which to see in Halloween. There is no admittance fee to our screenings, and we will also be spinning a selection of suitably spooky discs around the films.
We hope to see you there (if you dare, etc.) and have a look at the trailer below for a taste of what’s in store.