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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Catalin Paraschiv, Camelia Maxim, Constantin Barbalescu
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Faye Jackson
MPAA RATING
NR (Equiv. to "R")
RUNNING TIME
106 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Breaking Glass Pictures/Vicious Circle Films (DVD)
DVD EXTRAS
Featurette "Lump"; Trailer

 "Strigoi" Review 
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Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv) is a 20-something Romanian who is forced to move back to his grandfather's old farming village after failing to make it on his own. The village appears, at first glance, to be your typical Eastern European village. However, a mysterious death thrusts Vlad into, of all things, a murder mystery with the trail leading to the Tirescus, an ex-communist couple and also the village's richest land owners. Determined to confront them, Vlad instead discovers that these two blood suckers may, in fact, really be blood suckers.

Strigoi: The Undead does a sort of retro take on the vampire genre by taking it all the way back to its Romanian roots and actually setting the story in Romania (where the film was also actually made utilizing an English speaking cast). The myth at the heart of the film is that of Strigoi, the belief that people who have been wronged can rise again after death to seek justice and satisfy a thirst for blood.

Written and directed by Faye Jackson, Strigoi captured the Vision Award at the 2009 Toronto After Dark Film Festival while also playing at a couple dozen festivals around the world from the more obscure (Flimmer) to the incredibly well known (Austin Film Festival, Cinequest) and picking up quite a few other awards along the way.

With photography by D.P. Kathinka Minthe that brings back memories of Shaun of the Dead, Strigoi beautifully blends past and present Romania and, with rather remarkable intelligence, explores the heart of contemporary Romania in connection with its mythological and political history. While there's little questioning the film's coatings of horror and fantasy, at its very heart Strigoi is a culturally relevant pitch dark comedy with rich characterizations and a humorous yet insightful journey through centuries of what it means to be Romanian.

Strigoi could have so easily gone wrong, yet it never does. While it may not necessarily breathe new life into a rather tired genre, it is one of the most artistically satisfying and stimulating indie takes within this genre in quite some time. The film very much depends upon the performance of its lead, Catalin Paraschiv, to sell the entire friggin' story and Parschiv delivers the goods with a performance that is spirited, earthy and frequently quite funny.

Strigoi is in English, though it is worth noting that Jackson utilizes a largely Romanian cast and, at times, the accents can be a bit challenging to decipher. That said, this is a film worth paying attention and a film that will hold your attention throughout its 106 minute running time. Strigoi has been picked up for an August 2, 2011 DVD release on the horror arm of Breaking Glass Pictures, Vicious Circle Films. For more information, visit the Breaking Glass Pictures website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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    The Independent Critic is proud to support Indy-based Heartland Film by committing to the 50/50 x 2020 Pledge - By the end of the year 2020, The Independent Critic will achieve gender parity in its reviews of both shorts and feature films. Furthermore, The Independent Critic also pledges support for the Ruderman Family Foundation's call for authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and actively commits to leverage its journalistic influence to effect genuine change in the film industry by calling for and actively promoting authentic and inclusive casting and hiring of people with disabilities.

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