Sunday, March 25, 2007

Carnal (2007)

Carnal is an Argentinean film that takes a very realistic approach to the subject of vampires (think Romero’s Martin) and succeeds in building a very suspenseful, richly atmospheric film.

Patricio (Guido Krolevetski) and Eduardo (Federico Benzenzette) take a break from a big project they are working on to go grab some pizza. Being new to the Buenos Aires neighborhood, they soon get lost and end up meeting two women who invite them back to their place. Patricio is excited at the opportunity of getting laid, even though he has a fiancé, but Eduardo just wants to get back to the project.

Nonetheless, Patricio convinces Eduardo to come along to the women’s house. Once there, the guys notice some odd things – they see the women lugging around heavy bags, the fridge is full of plastic baggies with a red substance in them and the women won’t eat or drink with them. The guys just brush these strange occurrences off and focus on having a good time. Before long, though, they find themselves in the midst of a world of vampirism, dead bodies, harvested organs and torture.

This low-budget feature from Argentina takes a very plain, realistic approach to vampires. Don’t expect any high-flying hijinks a la Underworld or Blade; this film is low on the action but filled with dread and atmosphere. Its lack of action in no way harms the film, but its focus on the slowly-building dread actually enriches it.

From the acting, you would never be able to guess this is a low-budget film. Each of the actors does a wonderful job at conveying each character. Mara Said and Alexia Zamparo play the vampires as, funny as this might sound, humanly as possible. I appreciated how the vampires were realistically portrayed and how the filmmaker didn’t feel the need to dress the women in bondage gear and parade their blood-soaked bosoms about. They just looked like normal women. The other actors, Benzenzette and Krolevetski, also did a fantastic job with their characters with performances that felt very natural and believable.

While the story is very straight-forward and simple, writer and director Fabian Forte creates an atmosphere of ever-growing dread as the film progresses. It reaches its climax when the two men are separated, drugged and paralyzed, and stuffed into a closet chock full of other dead schmoes. The rest of the film is pretty chilling and tense as we get a peek into the organ black market.

The pacing is pretty slow in this film, especially the first 45 minutes, and I’ll admit that even I got a little antsy for the film to get going. Still, the atmosphere is well-worth the wait, as dread slowly begins to creep up your spine. Most of the film is filmed in one location, the women’s labyrinth-like house, and it’s amazing to see how much tension can be experienced from this one setting.

The film is very grainy, but this only adds to the experience and I wouldn’t want it cleaned up at all. Most importantly, the audio is very clean and the subtitles are easy to read. The film does have an English dubbed track, but I didn’t even bother checking it out. Stick to the Spanish language track and read the English subtitles for the full experience.

As for the gore, it is nicely done, even with the small budget the film had. There is a lot of slicing and dicing, a fair amount of blood-letting and plenty of dead bodies! Gorehounds, don’t look for an all out flesh-feast here, because the gore is limited. Still, it was enough to tickle my fancy.

Carnal is a nitty-gritty look into the world of vampires that could be living just next door to you. Next time you see someone with a fridge full of blood baggies don’t stick around to find out what’s in ‘em!

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