Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Crowley (1987)

Directed by:
Ricardo Islas

How does a 1980s camcorder-shot vampire movie made by a 16-year-old from Uruguay sound? Well, whatever you're thinking, this is certainly bad but it's not nearly as bad as it could have been under the circumstances. In a small, coastal colonial town, a clawed, drooling, pasty-faced vampire rises from the ground near an old cemetery. He immediately gets to work dispatching a necking couple by tossing the guy over a wall and punching the girl in the face, sending a hilarious stuffed dummy flying across a field. He then punches her in the face some more until he crushes her skull and sucks out all her blood. The bodies are found and then taken to a coroner's office, where the doctor does a thorough examination, not only discovering the girl has been completely drained dry but also that there are puncture wounds and traces of human saliva on her neck. He takes his findings to his police inspector friend (Mario Fernández), who's already been to the crime scene and discovered a freshly-dug grave near where the bodies were found as well as muddy footprints leading from it up to the crime scene. After another girl is attacked and killed in the same manner, the two men ponder whether the killer is a human psycho who only fancies himself a vampire or the real thing. Even more bloodless corpses turning up all over town and a funeral home reporting a coffin being stolen fail to convince them one way or another.








Doing a much better job investigating the murders than all of the adults is a shy, geeky college student named Andres Gutierrez (Juan C. Lazzarini). Andres studies up on vampires and starts researching local history at both the library and a church where he learns that back in the late 17th Century a strange European man by the name of Adrian Crowley arrived in the area when it was still a tiny Portuguese colony. There, he took a maiden named Maria as his lover and, being a vampire, fed off the locals until he was caught by townspeople and hung. Before dying, he vowed to return 300 years later not only to get his revenge but also be reunited with his lost love, who has been reincarnated in the present day as a teen named, you guessed it, Maria (Fanny Bertinat). All it takes is one brief run-in with the vampire in an abandoned house to make Andres realize that the local legend is indeed true, though he doesn't have an easy time convincing everyone else of that.







It isn't until Crowley (who's played by director Islas) kills and drains another young girl and slaughters four punks in a park (including stabbing a guy on the top of his head with a switchblade and crushing a head in his bare hands) that the cops start taking Andres seriously. The Inspector, his assistant Martinez and another officer then go to check out the vampire's tomb. They end up encountering the vamp and only the Inspector gets out of there alive, though one of his officers does at least manage to shoot the vampire's eyeball out before being disemboweled. Crowley then heads out after Maria. After stabbing her best friend Marta (Sandra Casagna) through the throat with a kitchen knife and drowning her boyfriend Jorge (Daniel Lacoste) in a toilet (though he manages to survive the attack), Crowley finally gets his claws on her and whisks her off to some tunnels located underneath the school's campus. Can Andres and Jorge get to her in time?







Pretty much all of the technical aspects of this one are as bad as they get, from the horribly overdone lighting to the blurry and frequently out of focus videography to the poor continuity all the way up to the amateurish acting, cheap gore fx, ragged editing and opening credits drawn with markers set to stolen music from The Amityville Horror. However, this demonstrates a general competence when it comes to basic storytelling and a surprising maturity considering the director's age. The plot is easy to follow, the characters are adequately established and this never really crosses the line into being laughably incompetent regardless of how cheap it is. It's merely an ordinary, unoriginal story done about as well as it could have been done given the nonexistent budget, the shooting medium and the inexperienced cast and crew. Though far from good, it's still ambitious and oddly impressive given the director's age. There's a tendency for young filmmakers stuck working with little money to fall back on self-mocking dumb laughs as some built-in apology for making you sit through their dumb / cheap film. Islas, on the other hand, takes his film completely seriously and is at least sincerely trying to make something decent.








This is quite possibly the very first feature-length horror film ever made in Uruguay. If it's not, it's the first (and one of the only) to show up on an IMDb title search. Islas' crop of early work (which were all screened on, and partially financed by, Channel 3 TV, Colonia del Sacramento) includes the short Possession (1986) and the features Feather Pillow (1989) and Crowley's Ashes (1990); a follow-up to this one. He continued to make films in his home country until a trip to Chicago in the mid 90s, where a movie of his was being screened at a film festival, found him falling in love with the city and relocating there permanently. Since then he's made a good number of low budget horror films, including Headcrusher (1999), Night Fangs (2005), To Kill a Killer (2007) and Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011).

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