Vlad Cozma (Catalin Paraschiv) is a medical graduate who is returning to his home village in Romania after time in Italy. But what he finds on his return is a succession of odd things. Old man Florin is dead in what everyone claims was an accident, yet clearly has strangulation marks around his neck. Elsewhere, the wealthy, much-hated Constantin Tirescu (Constantin Barbulescu) sits alone in the dark, complaining of endless hunger. What are the villagers hiding?

Strigoi are the original vampires, the Romanian myth on which Bram Stoker’s Dracula was constructed. Around them have formed many traditions, some of which are still practiced today. It is this world that the movie is set in, of peasants caught between the modern world and its hunger for resources and land, and the old ways.

The movie is populated with quirky, earthy characters who react to troubles in a laconic way. As Vlad tries to find out what has happened in his absence, he is greeted with muted indifference or awkward attempts to hide secrets. The film has an offbeat, low-key sense of humour as the disbelieving Vlad has to deal with the distinct reality of vampires wandering about his village.

Strigoi has an obvious affection for its characters and setting, the narrative happy to meander around. This languid pacing is the film’s Achilles’ heel, however, after a promising introduction, the narrative gets bogged down with Vlad going back and forth between the same locations to see the same characters and ask the same questions. While the humour is gentle, it is not entertaining enough nor frequent enough to carry proceedings through their sluggish pace.

This is compounded by the fact that the central conspiracy around land ownership is, frankly, not that compelling. Touted as a horror-comedy, the movie is neither scary nor particularly funny.

Overall, Strigoi is an original take on the vampire mythos and is well-shot, but lacks the narrative drive to be interesting enough to sustain its running time. Mild enough, but it smacks of wasted potential.

The only real extra on board is director Faye Jackson’s previous short film, Lump. It is a neatly paranoid medical piece about a woman whose repeated surgeries on apparently benign lumps in her breast raise her suspicions that something else is going on.

DIRECTOR(S): Faye Jackson | COUNTRY: UK | YEAR 2009 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Monster Pictures / Beyond Home | RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 | REGION: R4 / PAL | DISCS: 1

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