Saturday 3 September 2022

Shudder Saturday: So Vam (2022)

Let's rip the band-aid off straight away, quickly and with the aim to minimise any pain. So Vam was co-written and directed by Alice Maio Mackay, who seems to have made the film when she was 16. It absolutely feels like a clumsy and technically-incompetent movie that was made by a 16-year-old. That's a shame, because I really enjoyed her short from a couple of years ago, Tooth 4 Tooth (which I am now realising she must have made when only about 14, which is crazy).

I don't want to be vicious or rude to anyone involved with this film, despite the paragraph I have just written, so I will try to mention some positives in amongst the many negatives here. It's difficult though. So Vam is REALLY bad.

The main premise concerns Kurt (Xai), a young gay man who finds his life changed forever when he is attacked by a vampire. On the downside, he's a vampire. On the upside, he gains new friends, new confidence, the ability to deal with those who have been bullying him, and the powers that come with being a vampire. It's a pretty great deal, and the vampires creating their own "family unit", helping one another and accepting their "other" status, really works well as an obvious metaphor for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community finding other individuals coming to terms with their sexuality and gender views.

That's the best part of this movie, and feel free to just repeatedly read the previous sentence. The script, co-written by Mackay and Benjamin Pahl Robinson, doesn't work well when it comes to the actual dialogue, but the use of vampirism as a positive, the way vampires can be used to show any "outsider" having their chance to finally figure out just where they want to be, is excellent.

Sadly, the praise must end here. The movie then seems to do what it can to spoil the appeal of that central idea. Even at such a short runtime (it's about 70 minutes, but almost 10 minutes of that is spent showing some stage performances), it overstays its welcome. There's a lack of decent gore, the humour throughout never quite works, and the interactions between many of the characters are awful, not helped at all by a cast who deliver the most consistently dire performances I have seen in anything outwith a primary school stage play.

As they are the lead, Xai can be singled out as a prime example of the poor acting on display. The fact that I'm not going to list everyone else in the cast is down to a) me not wanting to be overly rude to the people involved, and b) me not wanting to expend extra energy on writing out a list of names of people I suspect are unlikely to carve out memorable careers in the movie industry (I could be wrong though, it wouldn't be the first time). You probably think I am exaggerating, the film can't possibly be void of ANY decent acting. I'm not exaggerating, sorry to say, and Mackay isn't savvy enough to come up with any tricks to distract viewers from her cast.

It gets one bonus point for the central idea, but that's it. I'd love to have found more reasons to praise this, (being a horror film made by, and featuring, many from the LGBTQ+ community doesn't mean that it can serve up any half-baked and amateurish nonsense) but there aren't any. I can only hope that Mackay, who has already created such great opportunities for herself at such a young age, takes some time to hone her craft a lot more before eventually working on a film that can explore an idea with much more care and polish.


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