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Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Carriage, or Dracula and My Mother (2013)

Director: Ben Gordon
Stars: Charlotte Gordon, Ben Gordon, Laura Mayoral, Cloe Gordon and Francisco Aguirre
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
It has a great poster, I'll give it that. It also has quite a few artistically interesting shots and some freakily cool effects work. However, I utterly don't understand why the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival judges voted it the Best Horror Short of 2014. It wasn't my least favourite of what was screened but it was a lot closer to that than my favourite. In fact, when I screened it again later as a submission to a different festival, I didn't even select it for my two sets of shorts. Maybe it's because I'm not finding myself on the same wavelength as Ben Gordon, who wrote and directed the film and starred as its lead actor, alongside other people with the same surname; so presumably that's his real mother playing his screen mother and his real wife playing his screen wife. In fact, the entire cast play characters named for themselves, so it's no stretch to assume that there's a statement of some sort here, presumably one about filmmakers that Gordon phrased in a very personal way. The question is what.

The titles refer to the two threads of the story. One revolves around an awesome looking old horse drawn carriage which mysteriously appears one night at Char's house. She doesn't know where it came from or how it got there, but she laughs about how it's sinister enough to have Dracula inside. Of course, she's a lot closer than she might believe. The other revolves around Char herself, as it's her rather than the thing in the carriage that we see most of. She's Ben's mother and naturally she calls her son to talk about what this carriage might mean; he naturally shows up with his wife and daughter to see it, to film it and... well, to let it take over his mind, apparently. Why else would he wheel his baby daughter in her pram right up to the carriage and retreat to the other end of a long rope? He's clearly using her as bait, but we're never given the reasons as to why. There are a lot of cool visuals here, well framed static shots or neatly edited montages, but there's never much of an attempt at explaining why.
Gordon keeps dropping more and more hints, but never explains any of them. If the feel wasn't so firmly artistic, I'd think there was nothing here, but I can't lose the feeling that everything he does here is for a reason and I just need to figure it out. Why do we keep getting distracted from the object of the title, for banal alternatives such as decorating the Christmas tree, stuffing a turkey or talking about nothing. What is the meaning of the vampire, if he even is a vampire? The delightfully odd and quirky Francisco Aguirre certainly plays him like one, even if he pulls back from the Star of David rather than a cross, but the end credits call him a demon. All I could find in the film was that the cinematic arts are a vampiric entity that hypnotises artistic souls into doing things that jeopardise their relationships with their families, but that's a heck of a stretch. If it isn't that, I have no idea. Fortunately there's much here to enjoy, even if we can't make sense of the film, especially visually, but the lack of engagement ended up leaving me very dry.

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