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AKAI
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Carlos Gananian

Starring:
Gustavo Arantes
Roberta Youssef

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

An unnamed vampire (Gustavo Arantes) struggles with his lifestyle and his need for hooker meat and blood. The answer to his problems, of course, is in the sea.

Is it good movie?

Now this is a serious vampire flick done right! Okay, that sounds like all the other flicks about vampires before AKAI were off the wall and had the mythos completely wrong, but that's not what I'm talking about. This 20-minute ditty by Brazilian director Carlos Gananian explores the vampire angle from a totally different perspective: the vampire itself. Yessir, it's Otto's wish come true, a story from the vampire's point of view (that's a Simpsons reference, if you didn't get it).

Instead of gore galore and vampire hunters banging down the door, Gananian presents a story centering on a vampire who's torn between himself and his actions. The dude, even though obsessed with escort service ads to get his fix of plasma, is pained by his life and is haunted by what he does. Very psychological, and very compelling. This isn't BLADE or LOST BOYS or anything like that, folks. This is what happens when you're restricted by budget, and forced to cook up a winner, and Gananian does it well.

Besides the unique concept of the short, Gananian takes on a David Lynch approach, showcasing amazing atmosphere with the aid of a soundtrack that relies on ambiance as well as the occasional piano. Of course, this is all with hardly any dialogue at all. Case in point: the vampire's TV, which shows only static, for some reason. At one point in the short, the vampire is asleep in front of the TV, when the static increases in volume, and sounds of his past victims become mixed in. The dude ends up bolting to another room and shutting the door to escape the sound. I know, it's all psychological, but dammit it's a refreshing take on something other than the typical vampire story. Symbolism motherf*cker, do you get it?!

Another great thing about this short is the use of lighting. Too often, this important aspect of filmmaking goes by the wayside, and the product suffers for it. Not here, as the mood, the emotion and the contrast between the living and the dead are amplified because of Gananian's use of shadows. Great stuff! You have to love the shot of the meeting of the first escort and the vampire when he opens the door, or the ending shot involving the sea, for that matter. No dialogue, just wonderfully crafted lighting.

Unfortunately, some of what makes this short so great hinders it. That is, if you walk in expecting blood and boobs. Those who aren't so keen on using their grey matter will be running for the exits, as there's a lack of scares and T&A (though ladies and like-minded guys will dig Gustavo being buff in a bathtub in some shots). Gore wise, there's blood, but it's not exactly Slayer here (that would be 'raining blood'). We also do get a shot of a topless hooker, but she's also missing a lower torso and limbs after the vampire's snacking, so that's gone. The absence of dialogue also leaves it up to the viewer to decipher what's going on, including the ending, which is ambiguous as it is abrupt. Also, there aren't any menus, chapter stops, or anything of that nature. The film simply starts playing when you pop it in. But again, such is the thing with budget films.

Nevertheless, those of you wanting to be a little cerebral in your horror and are looking to see what sort of goodies are coming from South America, you're in for a treat. It's a solid entry for a burgeoning filmmaker, and here's hoping that folks take notice.

Video / Audio

Video: Wow. Even though this is a budget short, and the whole thing is presented in a windowboxed 1:33:1 fullscreen ratio, the use of lighting makes up for it. Gananian also employs a variety of filters and desaturation of certain shots to bring out emotion that really hits home with what's taking place. That said, you do get some interlacing errors and some halos with the edge enhancement, and noise pops up from time to time. Again, it's a budget short, but what's here is great.

Audio: Again, low budget. What's here though is sweet. Frankly, the LPCM Stereo 2.0 sound didn't bother me, as the sound (or absence of) played well with what was here. Very natural, with sounds of floorboards and creaking doors emphasizing what was on the screen, going back to that emotional aspect. There's also no English with this film. Portuguese is the word of the day, though we do get burned-in English subtitles for what little dialogue there is.

The Extras

Nada, despite the fact that the trailer for the film is floating around on Youtube. Go figure.

Last Call

Just as 30 DAYS OF NIGHT presented another take on vampires, so does AKAI, albeit from a different and unexpected point-of-view. This isn't a no-brain film. It's a short but sweet take on the vampire as a tortured individual, with emotion from visuals rather than actions. Even though the DVD is lacking in the audio/visual/supplemental departments (not by choice), this is another great film school flick to see how horror can be (and is) art.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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