Strigoi Review

Opening with a montage of sequences that recall the ‘Previously on…” style recaps that are ever so popular on American television, Stigoi throws the viewer into the Romanian village in which it is set with swift and enthusiastic vigour.

These scenes also introduce us to the bulk of the central chracters, a group of Romanian villagers, who seem intent on killing a local wealthy landowner and his wife. Another quick cut and we’re into the opening credits and the villagers drink, rejoice and loot the dead couple’s belonging, all to the strains of ‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Doctor & The Medics. A fun and narratively economic opening that won’t necessarily be to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly ensures that the film hits the ground running.

As the opening credits end the film settles into what is its usual pace for the remainder of the story, a slow burn and a slightly meandering pace. This is not a problem though as Writer/Director/Editor Faye Jackson manages to introduce enough intrigue throughout to keep the film steadfastly moving forward.

Providing our entry into this unique world of Romanian villagers is Vlad (Catalin Paraschin), a local to the area but one who has been away for some time. Returning from studying medicine and travelling around Europe, he arrives to find that one of the villagers has died and that his name has been put on the death certificate. Those involved simply assumed that he would remain out of the country for some time and so would be none the wiser. His interest sparked by this forging of the death certificate he begins investigating, amateur sleuth style, and uncovers a dark and possibly supernatural side to the village.

Rooted in the Romanian folklore idea of the Strigoi (an undead being) the film unsurprisingly moves more and more into the horror genre as the story develops, with the walking undead attacking people and recently buried corpses being uncovered by Vlad, but descriptions of this as a vampire film or indeed a horror could miscommunicate what Strigoi really is. More a wry black comedy at times and a subtly observed character piece at others, Strigoi is not a vampire flick with gushing veins and elaborate make-up (in the special effects or Twilight sense) and anyone expecting a stylised and thrilling horror will need to look elsewhere.

Strigoi even goes so far as to criticise the vampire film lover’s obsession with the rules of vampirism, as the villagers sit around a corpse drinking they point out that what’s going on doesn’t really follow the laws of the Strigoi myth and therefore the undead may not actually be ‘Strigoi’. It’s an amusing scene and the way in which it never suffers from an unsubtle wink at the camera is a welcome change from too many recent self-referential but ultimately pretty bland entries in the horror genre.

The script is generally very good with an attention to tone and a witty approach that makes the film feel pretty unique but there are a few pacing issues which result in the Strigoi feeling far longer than the 101 minute runtime would suggest. The dialogue is also a little too heavy on exposition in places but the actors are very engaging and manage to deliver some of the more clumsy lines with enough conviction as to make them feel more natural than they probably did on the page.

A slightly different version of this review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.