Dark business is afoot in an isolated Romanian village. There are inept executions in the dead of night, and the whole town seems to be in on something. All in all it’s a bad time for faint-hearted local boy Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv) to return from Italy and start poking his nose into a local drunkard’s death. The local priest (Vlad’s father) is involved somehow. The local cop seems more concerned with his marijuana supply. His grandfather is clearly barking. Vlad appears to be on his own, but any conspiracy is going to be impossible to maintain if the bodies refuse to stay buried….
Faye Jackson’s winningly offbeat vampire/zombie picture is a welcome addition to the genre, functioning more as a dry-witted magic realist mystery than a conventional horror film. The strigoi are quite chatty for the undead and seem to have a hard time grasping the ramifications of their state. They are florid of face and incessantly hungry, and the cause of some consternation among the villagers, who quibble about folklore and seem more concerned that the inconvenient buggers are upsetting the boat than anything else. Jackson foregrounds the small-town politics and the inability of anybody to get to grips with the problems that rise out of the communist past, inherited through land and blood.
Anybody demanding the kick-ass kung fu or CGI splatter scenes that have dominated the vampire flick over the last decade or so will be disappointed. But Strigoi is more interesting than all that guff, with a tone closer to Whisky Galore! than The Wicker Man. It keeps you on the back foot with eccentric characters and cat-and-mouse dialogue, odd visual flourishes and strange situations. As when a terrified woman spends the whole night feeding a ravenous strigoi all the food in the house to stop the creature from supping on her, a scene that’s weird and funny and domestic at the same time, and typical of a film that’s playing a different game to the one you might expect. It’s a UK/Romanian co-production in English, and the DVD comes with a Faye Jackson short, Lump, a queasy little medical tale. Well worth a look.