A Taste of Blood (2020) Review

A Taste of Blood, not to be confused with the recent Canadian cannibal film of the same name, or H.G. Lewis’s 1967 splatter epic, is a new vampire film based on an old story, Tolstoy’s 1839 short story “The Family Of The Vourdalak” to be exact. It’s been filmed a few times over the years, most notably as a segment of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath, starring Boris Karloff.

This version, shot in Argentina under the title Sangre Vurdalak was filmed by writer/director Santiago Fernández Calvete. His credits include The Second Death and Intimate Witness, as well as co-writing the recent release The Exorcism of God. Can his experience working in the genre make A Taste of Blood easy to swallow?

Natalia (Alfonsina Carrocio, Another Story of the World) lives in the countryside with her father Aguirre (Germán Palacios, You Shall Not Sleep, Grey Eyes) as well as her older brother Manuel (Lautaro Bettoni, Hunting Season, The Silent Party), his wife Eva (Naiara Awada, Terror 5, Hypersomnia), and their little girl Malena (Carmela Merediz). Her father forbids her to leave the farm, let alone have friends or date. But that hasn’t stopped her from meeting Alexis (Tomás Carullo Luzzio, Black Snow) or from sneaking off to see him.

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A Taste of Blood opens with a prologue that’s meant as a framing device, but unfortunately also acts as a huge spoiler for the film. You may want to skip past the first four minutes to avoid it. There’s also the matter of some characters speaking in obviously dubbed English, while others are subtitled. It’s annoying and pulls you out of the film when a character speaks to their father in English and gets a reply in subtitled Spanish.

Despite this, Calvete gets some mileage out of the father’s odd behaviour. Why is he so terrified of non-family members coming near the house? Or so resistant to dealing with the outside world, he won’t allow anyone to go to town, even to get medical help for Malena. Or why Manuel allows him to treat Eva like he does.

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Eventually, after Natalia has an encounter with an odd stranger who claims to be a relative, Aguirre takes his gun and goes off into the night. He tells them if he returns before morning to kill him because he’ll have been bitten and be one of them. He returns well before morning and demands to be let in, leaving the family and Alexis divided about what to do.

Obviously, A Taste of Blood would be a fairly short film if he hadn’t been bitten, so the suspense hinges on how long it will take before someone lets him in. And what will happen after they do. Needless to say, suspicion and paranoia run very high and everyone’s humanity comes under suspicion.

Things actually do manage to get quite tense at times but A Taste of Blood’s soundtrack undercuts it repeatedly with utterly inappropriate songs. As much as I like Children on Stun, Rosetta Stone, Big Electric Cat, etc., their dance floor goth sound is totally at odds with the atmosphere A Taste of Blood is trying to establish and maintain.

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The bands are all artists signed to Cleopatra Records, the distributor’s music division. So whether they had a hand in the film’s making or just dubbed these in after they picked up the rights to it, I can’t say. But the fact none of the reviews of the film from its festival run mention the songs, and the original trailer is entirely subtitled, makes me suspect meddling by the distributor.

The result is a film with some good moments and solid effects that looks like it was a lot better in its original form. Left entirely subtitled and without the out-of-place songs, A Taste of Blood would have been a superior entry in the vampire genre. As it stands, it’s watchable, but that’s all. I’m tempted to suggest waiting to see if the original subtitled version turns up on an import DVD.

Cleopatra Entertainment will release A Taste of Blood on Blu-ray and Digital platforms on May 10th.

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