A Pleasingly Odd French Vampire Drama

A Pleasingly Odd French Vampire Drama

Vampires are eternal, and so are movies about them. The genre shows no signs of going bloodless anytime soon, even if the oldest texts continue to inspire some of its most compelling entries. Consider writer-director Adrien Beau’s “The Vourdalak,” an adaptation of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s 1839 “The Family of the Vourdalak,” a foundational novella that predates Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” by more than half a century. After premiering in Venice last year, the film arrives in theaters less than a week after the trailer for “The Witch” helmer Robert Eggers’ “Nosferatu” remake dropped — a coincidence, surely, but one that’s nevertheless emblematic of the ur-texts’ enduring influence.

“The Vourdalak” doesn’t exactly announce its blood-sucking bonafides, though the signs are all there. A stranger introducing himself as an emissary of the King of France (Kacey Mottet Klein) loses his way while traveling through a remote village and is refused entry from the first home he asks for help one misty night, though he is given parting advice in the form of a warning not to stop until reaching his destination. The next family he comes across, whom he’s been told can provide him with a horse, is absent its patriarch Gorcha (voiced by Beau himself) after he went off to fight the Turks, though not without a warning of his own.

“Wait six days for me. If, after those six days, I have not returned, say a prayer in memory of me, for I shall have been killed in battle,” are the words recalled by his daughter Sdenka (Ariane Labed of “Attenberg” and “The Lobster”). “But if ever, and may God preserve you, I were to return after six days have passed, I enjoin you to forget that I was your father and to refuse me entry whatever I may say or do — for then I shall be no more than an accursed vourdalak.”

The ominous message raises two related questions: What is a vourdalak, and when will the man make…

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The post “A Pleasingly Odd French Vampire Drama” by Michael Nordine was published on 06/28/2024 by variety.com