The Vourdalak

June 27, 202460/1006 min
Starring
Kacey Mottet Klein, Ariane Labed, Grégoire Colin
Written by
Adrien Beau and Hadrien Bouvier ( written by) Aleksei Tolstoy ( short story
Directed by
Adrien Beau
Run Time
1h 31min
Release Date
June 28th, 2024
Overall Score
Rating Summary

Vampires have been the source of stories in both novels and films for well over a hundred years. You could argue they are the pinnacle of horror, with their physical form and their need for blood. Most people know of Dracula, who was brought to life by Bram Stoker in 1897 and has haunted our nightmares ever since. But have you heard of The Family of the Vourdalak? Written by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy as a graphic novel in 1839, Vourdalak is a distortion of words referring to vampires, so you might guess just what The Vourdalak is about.

In a hostile forest in an unnamed land, the Marquis Jacques Antoine Saturni (Kacey Mottet Klein) is lost after he and his guide are attacked, leaving him roaming the forest, looking for help. We don’t see this attack, but we are introduced to the Marquis as he knocks on a door seeking shelter. He does not receive any but is instead told to seek out a man named Gorcha, who will provide food and a horse for the Marquis to return home. The Marquis does indeed locate the home of Gorcha by meeting Piotr (Vassilli Schneider), Gorcha’s son, who takes him to their home. Gorcha is not at home, but his oldest son Jegor (Grégoire Colin) welcomes the Marquis and says that when his father returns, he will be able to help the Marquis get home. Also at the house are Sdenka (Ariane Labed), Gorcha’s daughter; Anja (Claire Duburcq), Jegor’s wife; and their son Vlad (Gabriel Pavie). Eventually, Gorcha returns, but things are a little off, and soon unsettling events begin to unfold, leading the Marquis to wonder if he will not just make it home, but make it home alive.

Written by Hadrien Bouvier and Adrien Beau, with Beau also directing and providing the voice of Gorcha, The Vourdalak has an odd story filled with eccentric characters and a final act that is quite ghoulish. Don’t expect a lot in the way of jump scares; instead, The Vourdalak relies much more on atmosphere and imagery to make your blood turn cold. I wouldn’t say the film is scary, but it is disturbing, somewhat chilling, and even occasionally funny in a dark kind of way. The Vourdalak does take its time to get going, but once it hits its stride, it’s hard to take your eyes away, as horror fans will be satisfied with the gore that is given.

The Vourdalak is a beguiling adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel that seems to be in the shadow of Stoker’s Dracula. The set design is simple, and the execution feels fresh, as Beau shot the film in gorgeous 16mm. The Vourdalak is not for the mainstream, but those who fall under its charm will love its bizarreness and the elegance that feels outdated. There are some excellent performances, but they are overshadowed by the puppeteering of Gorcha, who is a life-sized marionette and quite creepy. For all that I loved, The Vourdalak isn’t flawless and, again, not scary, but thanks to a disturbing atmosphere and the gorgeous presentation, anyone who loves arthouse cinema will adore this one.

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