Vurdalak Vamps

A.K. Tolstoy’s A Taste of Blood (Sangre Vurdalak in its native Argentina) is a compelling little vampire thriller, offering a new and rather fresh twist on the vampire mythos which isn’t actually that new. The Spanish-language horror from Argentina offers chilling frights and intense performances from its leading cast.

Based on an 1839 Gothic novella by Aleksey Tolstoy, filmmaker Santiago Fernández Calvete crafts a gripping tale of suspense and frightening vampires which partially borrows from another horror genre with success. The rampant paranoia of a zombie flick, in which loved ones have to wait around on edge if their own family turns undead, gets smoothly reworked for vamps in A Taste of Blood. It drives the potent conflict and unnerving survival challenge which lies at the movie’s core.

A Taste of Blood is excellent genre entertainment

A Vurdalak is a creature based on Slavic folklore. It’s a special breed of vampire that must feed on the blood of its living relatives and family for sustenance. In all other regards Vurdalaks follow the traditional European vampire mythology – supernatural creatures of the night who shun daylight.

It’s an intriguing concept relatively unexplored by movies and television, always welcome in a field mired by derivative tropes. The great Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath had one segment adapting Vurdalaks and Supernatural on the WB/CW network once used them.

Aguirre (Germán Palacios) is an overly protective father who has sheltered his children, living practically off the grid in a secluded rural estate. His kids are now young adults and looking to move beyond his controlling ways. His daughter Natalia and son Miguel, Miguel’s wife Eva, Eva’s sickly daughter Malena, they all live together as a very close-knit unit under the stern and secretive Aguirre.

Natalia has a love interest, Alexis. He is Natalia’s only connection to the outside world, but he’s viewed with suspicion by her protective father. Natalia secretly leaves the compound, venturing into the outside world. She’ll soon encounter the terror her father has been protecting her from since birth. As an outsider, Alexis becomes immediately distrusted by the family.

The taut, highly suspenseful screenplay offers a smart, unique approach to vampires dripping with horrifying tension. Aguirre warns his family of the danger they face and it creates a wonderfully palpable sense of dread. Everyone begins suspecting everyone else, producing creepy jump scares. Weaving the family’s internal drama into the plot reveals the fault lines which ultimately destroy the family from within.

A Taste of Blood is excellent genre entertainment, a well-executed take on an intriguing and fresh premise for vampires. Solid VFX and some top-notch performances from the leads, especially Germán Palacios, help elevate what could have been just another vampire thriller.

Video

Cleopatra Entertainment has done something fairly unusual for A Taste of Blood, they’ve made separate AVC encodes for the Spanish-language version and the shoddy English dub on a single BD-25. All screen shots are from the slightly longer English dub running over 90 minutes, though I don’t believe there are any differences between the two versions other than longer intro and end credits.

Including two separate encodes on a BD-25 leads to a sloppy 1080p presentation. Chroma noise and other artifacts of bit-starved compression creep into the 2.00:1 video. Soft and noisy, the film’s murky shadow delineation and uneven lighting produce erratic HD picture quality. A Taste of Blood’s palette is desaturated and drained of bright primary colors. Exteriors provide more typical definition and clarity. The transfer is unfiltered, revealing excellent fine detail in the sharper close-ups.

The indie vamp thriller oozes a dark, moody atmosphere and aesthetic, even if budgetary limitations hamper the video at times. This is serviceable picture quality but a clear step below most North American productions.

Audio

Two less-than-perfect audio choices are found on this badly mismanaged Blu-ray edition. The original Spanish soundtrack, by far the best option, is offered in 5.1 Dolby Digital… with no English subtitles. If you aren’t fluent in Spanish, it’s a useless addition.

Cleopatra Entertainment’s curious choice here is giving us a partial English dub in 5.1 Dolby Digital with some characters speaking in their original Spanish with burnt-in English subtitles, while other characters receive a choppy English dub. It’s a bewildering decision as certain scenes include both English and Spanish.

As mentioned before, there are no subtitles whatsoever on the original, all-Spanish audio track. The forced English subtitles for the Spanish bits heard in the “English” dub appear in a white font.

The lossy mixes reflect a limited, low-budget sound design and overdubbed English dialogue which doesn’t mesh particularly well with the soundstage. The original Spanish audio was more consistent in tone and dynamics, though the English dub provided a stronger musical presence with the addition of hard rock tunes tastefully added by Cleopatra Records.

I’ve never really heard anything like the so-called English dub for A Taste of Blood. The audio experience will likely undercut some viewers’ opinions of the film. If you speak Spanish, no doubt go with that choice.

Extras

Cleopatra Entertainment is a division of the L.A.-based Cleopatra record label, specializing in goth and dark rock music. Like most of their earlier Blu-ray releases, they include a CD for the film’s original motion picture soundtrack, most of which aren’t actually used in the film. The CD serves more as a sampler for the record label’s acts.

The Blu-ray is coded for all regions.

A Taste of Blood Theatrical Trailer (01:55 in HD)

Image Slideshow (02:19 in HD)

Cleopatra Entertainment Trailers (HD & SD) – A variety of unrelated horror offerings from the label are included for fans.

CD Soundtrack Listing:

Rosetta Stone – Valiant Try

Christian Death – Haloes

Big Electric Cat – Orchid Dreaming

Children On Stun – Cats or Devil’s Eyes

Corpus Delicti – Noxious (Demos Game)

Leather Strip – Evil Speaks

Electric Hellfire Club – Baptized in Blood

Razed In Black – The Endless

Witch Of The Vale – Trust The Pain

Jyrki 69 – Blood Lust

Blood Handsome – Give

Crying Vessel – Breaking The Spell

Synaesthesia – Ambience

Vile A Sin – Taste The Blood

The Sweet Kill – Closer

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how all review material is handled, please visit our about us page.

A Taste of Blood
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

An original premise and suspenseful storytelling make this indie vampire thriller from Argentina worth your time.

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4 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 60 full-resolution, uncompressed HD screenshots ripped directly from the Blu-ray: