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  Angel of the Night Rico's revenge
Year: 1998
Director: Shaky Gonzalez
Stars: Maria Stokholm, Mette Louise Holland, Tomas Villum Jensen, Svend Johansen, Karin Rørbeck, Lise-Lotte Norup, Christian Grønvall, Erik Holmey, Beatte Bille, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Mads Mikkelsen
Genre: Horror, Action, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rebecca (Maria Stokholm) inherits her grandmother’s gothic mansion and brings along her flirty friend Charlotte (Mette Louise Holland) and dim boyfriend Mads (Tomas Villum Jensen) for a night of spooky fun. While exploring the cobwebbed crypt hidden beneath the house the trio discover a dusty old book recounting the life of Rebecca’s ancestor, the supposed vampire Rico Mortis (Erik Holmey). Over a century ago, the monster terrorizes a peasant village until an enraged mob enlist Rikard (Christian Grønvall), a reluctant, inexperienced young pastor to put an end to its evil. Poor Rikard not only fails but ends up hosting Rico’s satanic soul which thereafter returns again and again plaguing a succession of characters throughout the ages. For Rico to prolong his immortal existence, he must impregnate a woman every hundred years and consume the blood of his own child. Upon learning this Rebecca realises, to her horror, exactly why she was brought here.

Vampire movies don’t come much more fun than this lively Danish effort. Chilean born writer-director Shaky Gonzalez went on to carve a niche in low-budget horror and action with notable works such as One Hell of a Christmas (2002), Pistoleros (2007) and The Last Demonslayer (2011). For his 1998 debut Gonzalez crafted a loving homage to vampire films encompassing almost all the genre’s varied permutations down the years, from Hammer gothic to post-punk poseur pics like The Hunger (1983) and The Lost Boys (1987), and the Hong Kong influenced kung fu vampire hunter films of the late Nineties, dropping nods to action auteurs John Woo and Robert Rodriguez and reuniting Ulrich Thomsen and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, stars of cult Danish thriller Nightwatch (1994) along the way.

Angel of the Night is virtually an anthology horror film given Rebecca’s story serves largely as a framing device interwoven amidst stories of other characters battling Rico Mortis throughout the century. Following the eighteenth century origin story, the plot picks up as street punk Tim - whose gang of gun-toting, shades-and-leather clad hotheads includes a young Mads Mikkelsen! - gets into a turf war with Rico’s coven of Eighties New Romantic-styled vampires. It inevitably ends in a spectacular bloodbath amidst much gun-fetishism, posing and laddish sex and violence. Modelled too closely on From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), the sequence is trashy fun but pointless, hindered by the fact Tim and his crew are far from sympathetic characters.

Thereafter the focus shifts several years down the line onto Maria (Karin Rørbeck), a young woman engaged to smug yuppie Alex (Ulrich Thomsen) but haunted by hazy memories of a sexual encounter with Rikard/Rico. Discovering she is pregnant, Maria finds herself torn between her pro-life beliefs and the need for an abortion. Meanwhile in Peru (?), a psychic premonition compels a shaggy-haired priest to race to her aid. Playing somewhat like a vampire version of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) by way of To the Devil a Daughter (1976), this story sports a few inexplicable plot twists but weaves a heady paranoid atmosphere driven by an engaging, spirited performance from Karin Rørbeck and builds to a heartening climax.

Despite the occasional wobble, Gonzalez handles the Hammer-esque hokum with considerable style, staging his rubber monster effects, shootouts and gory martial arts battles with impressive verve. His sincerity and ingenuity overcome the limitations of a low budget and transform the hackneyed plot into an endearing comic book romp. It is campy and knowing, with protagonists dropping references to Fright Night (1985) and Batman (1989), yet genuinely ambitious and often cleverly refashions characters into taking on new roles in subsequent stories. Working with cinematographer Jacob Krusk, who went on to shoot Danish television sensation The Killing, Gonzalez delivers some striking gothic imagery abetted by a lush romantic score from composer Soren Hyldgaard. The idea of switching between two different actors in the role of Rico Mortis proves interesting as does the concept of the vampire’s appearance morphing down the years from giant talking rubber bat in period costume (!) into more recognisably human as he increases his hold upon the mortal world, ending with a pleasing return to Bela Lugosi territory complete with satin cape. Things come full circle in a predictable punchline with Mads and Charlotte shagging in the parlour unaware something is stirring in the crypt with Rebecca but the fairytale climax is wonderful, both visceral and surprisingly poetic.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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