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Movie Review: 'The Vourdalak'

French Vampire movie The Vourdalak tiptoes on the edge of horror comedy and bleak tragedy.

By Sean PatrickPublished 13 days ago 4 min read

The Vourdalak (2024)

Directed by Adrien Beau

Written by Adrien Beau, Hadien Bouvier, Aleksei Tolstoy

Starring Kacey Mottet Klein, Ariane Labed, Gregoire Colin

Release Date June 27th, 2024

Published June 11th, 2024

In our very American style of romanticizing things that should not be romantic, we've seemingly lost the notion that vampires are grotesque, horrible creations intended to communicate the ways wealthy elites suck the proletariat dry. Vampires are a symbol of the rich and powerful and how they have risen to power for centuries by sucking the life blood out of the people they supposedly lead and care for.

The French understand this far better than us Americans do. They've also proven to be far better at revolution that we are. After all, the guillotine and the damning phrase 'Let them eat cake' are French creations that symbolize the working class taking vengeance upon the ruling class in no uncertain terms. It makes sense then that a French filmmaker is the one to show us the utter grotesquerie of both the ruling class and the vampire at once.

The Vourdalak stars Kacey Mottet Klein as a foppish French envoy of the King, fresh from court with powdered face and wig and tri-corner hat, lost in the hinterlands. He is the Marquis Jaques Antoine Saturnine d'Urfe and just from that name you can sense the disdain that director Adrien Beau has for his main character. The Marquis has narrowly survived an attack by bandits and is left without a horse or his luggage. He's instructed to seek aid and shelter with a Mr. Gorcha.

Upon arriving in the forest near Mr. Gorcha's estate, the Marquis is transfixed by a beautiful woman named Sdenka (Ariane Labed). He follows her in the forest before mistaking her brother Piotr (Vassili Schneider) for her and nearly getting killed. Piotr likes to wear women's clothes on occasion. After some apologies, all on the part of the Marquis, Piotr brings this stranger back to the estate to meet the Gorcha.

Unfortunately, upon the arrival of the eldest son of Gorcha, Jegor (Gregoire Colin), we learn that Gorcha has disappeared. This is surprising as the elderly man had been on death's door for so long. Now, Sdenka informs her brother that their father vowed to go after the evil Turks who had attacked their home recently and whom Jegor himself had killed all but their leader. Gorcha's proclamation to his daughter is that if he doesn't return within six days with the head of the Turkish leader, consider him dead. Today is the 6th day.

Gorcha does return but not in a welcome fashion. I will stop here as the plot is getting thick at this point and I want you to consider seeing this movie for yourself. The Vourdalak is a vampire myth. According to the myth, the Vourdalak draws strength from feeding upon the people they love. This won't stop them from attacking and killing anyone but they get the most out of plunging their fangs into the people they genuinely love and care for.

Director Adrien Beau's balance of absurdity and bone chilling horror is reminiscent of a young Sam Raimi but with a better budget and resources. He has a knack for drawing dark laughs from absurdity while still terrifying you with his horror touches. The character of the Vourdalak is an incredible creature creation combining the legendary Cryptkeeper, of Tales from the Crypt fame with a heavy dose of Max Schreck's Nosferatu. The creature takes away nearly all of the seductive qualities of the vampires and renders them to the grotesque caricature of the ruling class that they were intended to be.

Star Kacey Mottet Klein does a wonderful job of being the foil for the horror and a parody-comedy character in his own right. With his rat-like features and scared of his own shadow demeanor, he's part French fop and part Don Knotts. He fancies himself a romantic hero but he's outmanned by Sdenka from their first meeting to their last. It's a very funny character whose journey from wimp to hero is as non-traditional as possible. He's selfish and self-involved and even a moment of self-sacrifice is really just him looking out for himself.

I can't say enough good things about the technical aspects of The Vourdalak. Director Adrian Beau has a strong grasp on all of the elements at play from screenplay to cinematography to a very effective use of sound design. The look of the film is reminiscent of films of the 1970s, a hazy coating of sun-baked beige that reminded me of early Ridley Scott in The Duellists in terms of the look. The sound design is the star however with the monster of the movie being introduced to each scene with a squelching noise that unsettles me even as I am just thinking of it.

The sound design is yet another element that robs the vampire of any of the romantic notions Americans have assigned to them. The sound design is undignified and deeply gross. The monster has no pretense of being any kind of romantic figure, no handsome qualities, just pure grotesquerie in every fashion. This is what a vampire was intended to be. It's meant to symbolize how the rich and powerful feed on the lower classes, the way abusers feed upon the people they abuse, slowly and terrifying sucking the life out of them. Adrien Beau gives us the vampire we should be seeing in American popular culture, a figure of pure greedy voraciousness, an insatiable hunger for more, more, more that could not be a more apt presentation of our modern capitalist society.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and more than 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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