“Belgium’s vampire community invites a documentary crew to film one of their families: husband, wife, and two teen children – Georges, Bertha, Sampson, and Grace.” — IMDb
I stumbled upon this one while browsing around for a movie one night and decided it was time for something on the more humorous end of the spectrum. It’s a pretty brilliant take on the “mockumentary” genre — a hidden gem, for sure. It keeps the documentary-style aspect of the movie so spot on that, at times, you almost forget that what you’re watching is a work of fiction, due in part to the relationship that Belgian director Vincent Lannoo had with the main cast and their natural acting abilities.
After multiple failed attempts that ended with film crew members being feasted on by other families, they finally found a family that was willing to be filmed (and able to resist their own primal temptations in the process). They go into the home of Georges (Carlo Ferrante), his wife Bertha (Vera Van Dooren), and their children, Samson (Pierre Lognay) and Grace (Fleur Lise Heuet). It’s a dark, dry look at the life of a vampire family — something that is commonplace — simply living their lives in their home country of Belgium. Rather than framing it as vampires being these almost mythical creatures, they are simply members of the community with their own rules and laws, so we get a glimpse into what happens during the course of their normal interactions, and what happens when they break said laws…
** SPOILERS! **
I think a big part of what I loved about this movie was the fact that they made being a vampire seem, well, almost mundane. Again, it wasn’t meant to explore the mythos… it was showing us a world where vampires are a commonplace part of most communities, living amongst humans, going to work and having relationships and raising families.
Part of that normalcy was the teenage daughter, Grace, being rebellious in the way that many teenage girls are: not wanting to fit in with the rest of her family. She is shown filing her fangs down, applying self-tanner to cover up her pale glow, wearing pink in contrast to the rest of the family’s dull black wardrobe, and, most shockingly in this context, trying her best to end her own life so she can “die like a human” (brother Samson tries to coax her to just go in the sun or eat garlic, but she refuses). In one scene she is shown excitedly dousing herself with gas before lighting herself on fire as the crew runs to safety. It’s become such a part of their routine that dad brushes it off as a phase, though they do surprise her with a pink casket to celebrate her “Deathday” (the vampire version of a birthday).
There’s a couple living in the basement that the family looks down their nose at. Married vampires with no children are not allowed to buy houses, so they must rent the basement and sleep standing up in their caskets due to the lack of space. In one scene they are showing the film crew their keepsakes from their victims “because we are quite sentimental”. Vampires don’t have children in the traditional, biological sense… rather, they acquire them in one of their hunts, but Bienvenu (Batiste Sornin) and Elisabeth (Selma Alaoui) have had trouble not eating their captures. Again, such a horrifying concept for a human to ponder, but fairly normal in their circle.
There’s some (honestly tough to swallow) social commentary on immigration with the vampires talking about how they have immigrants delivered to them for their “Meat” (the name they use to refer to their food — basically, humans that they feed on, either indefinitely or one-time-only), and how they are keeping the streets clean by doing so. In another scene, the daughter complains when she sits down to dinner and it’s a Black person (saying they “taste bad”).
There’s some great scenes of Samson at school learning how to bite, and being scolded in the process for his inability to grasp the technique. The school is a regular school — occupied by humans in the daytime and vampires at night. The principal shows the crew around and explains how they have learned to cover up the rabbit cage and the crucifix before leaving for the day. Just a hilarious detail to throw in — there were so many moments in this movie that made me chuckle and think “yep, that totally makes sense”.
While I enjoyed the majority of the end of the movie (Samson in particular, with his cheerful new busking career and cowboy hat — is hilarious), I thought the scenes with Grace turning back into a human kind of took the movie in an odd direction. Not altogether bad, but it just didn’t fit the overall tone of the movie, and felt like it stuck out as a result.
Ultimately, it takes a favorite of horror lovers and turns it into a well thought out, dry, hilarious spoof on a documentary, with aspects of sibling rivalry, immigration, family dynamics, social etiquette, and human morals all touched on. Awesome!
Rating: 7/10 | Director: Vincent Lannoo | Writer: Frédérique Broos, Vincent Lannoo | Cinematography: Vincent van Gelder | Starring: Carlo Ferrante, Vera Van Dooren, Pierre Lognay, Fleur Lise Heuet, Batiste Sornin, Selma Alaoui
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