Chris Alexander has tak­en a pas­sion for film and trans­formed it into a mul­ti­me­dia career: stints edit­ing the mag­a­zi­nes Rue Morgue and Fangoria are his best-known achieve­ments but he’s also writ­ten books, start­ed his own mag­a­zi­nes, run a web­site, record­ed com­men­tary tracks for cult fave hor­ror titles, tak­en part in film BloodDyn-poscon­ven­tions and record­ed sound­track-inspired music (he’s per­formed that music in con­cert, too).

That said, mak­ing movies is the ulti­mate prize for the cin­e­ma-besot­ted and Alexander has cranked out a series of micro-bud­get hor­ror films in recent years.  They wear their influ­ences on their sleeve, specif­i­cal­ly a love for the nar­cotic artsi­ness of Jesus Franco, and down­play tra­di­tion­al nar­ra­tive film­mak­ing niceties like dia­logue and plot­ting in favor of an all-encom­pass­ing atten­tion to mood expressed pure­ly through visu­als and music.  These scrap­py, seat-of-the-pants affairs tend to divide fans of cult and hor­ror fare with their insu­lar, film-fetishist take on Euro-hor­ror motifs.

Blood Dynasty is Alexander’s lat­est ven­ture down this path and con­tin­ues his explo­ration of the char­ac­ter of Irina (Shauna Henry), a ghost­ly female vam­pire.  At the film’s out­set, she emerges from the waters of an anony­mous city in decay and takes up res­i­dence in a seedy motel with a young wom­an (Cheryl Singleton).  She ini­ti­ates the wom­an into vam­pirism and uses her as a go-between to select new vic­tims. A cycle of stalk­ing and feed­ing is ini­ti­at­ed that is as close as this film gets to a plot­line.

Like Alexander’s oth­er Irina films, Blood Dynasty is a per­son­al­ized cat­a­log of obses­sions — female vam­pires, water as rebirth, emp­ty city streets, squalid motel rooms —  that forces the audi­ence to decide how much they want to get engaged in its impres­sion­is­tic, drug­gy rhythms.  It also con­tin­ues an inter­est­ing quirk of Alexander’s Irina films: despite being inspired in part by the fleshy, car­nal­i­ty-dri­ven work of Franco, it avoids nudi­ty alto­geth­er and care­ful­ly skirts its way around any kind of overt sex­u­al con­tent.

BloodDyn-01

That said, if you’re inter­est­ed in exper­i­men­tal hor­ror, Blood Dynasty shows Alexander sharp­en­ing his aes­thet­ic approach.  The pho­tog­ra­phy shows a new care­ful­ness in how shots are framed and com­posed.  The edit­ing dis­plays a sharper com­mand of rhythm, with cer­tain shots and pat­terns of shots art­ful­ly revived through­out the film like the visu­al equiv­a­lent of motifs in a musi­cal com­po­si­tion.  The score also has a new sense of grandeur, with some score cues hav­ing a heavy, prog-rock feel that brings a sur­prs­ing oom­ph to cer­tain sequences.

As for per­for­mances, Alexander’s most­ly silent approach — there are exact­ly two words of dia­logue in the entire film — aids the film in main­tain­ing its dream­like feel and allow­ing the cast to fig­ure as visu­al­ly intrigu­ing ciphers rather than tra­di­tion­al char­ac­ters.  Henry remains the key fig­ure amid a group of alter­na­tive-look Canadian ama­teurs.  She seems to enjoy the “dark force of nature” role and brings an unnerv­ing inten­si­ty to her work.

Both Henry and Singleton deserve kudos for how they han­dle the vam­pire feed­ing sce­nes, which Alexander lav­ish­es lots of atten­tion on: the lov­ing­ly-filmed sequences of neck-bit­ing, blood trick­ling down skin and blood passed from mouth to mouth sug­gest this is the filmmaker’s way of express­ing the sex­u­al­i­ty of the vam­pire film.  Cast and film­mak­er give the­se moments the kind of fever­ish focus that com­mu­ni­cates that idea with vig­or.

BloodDyn-02

In short, Blood Dynasty is every bit the spe­cial­ty item that Alexander’s pre­vi­ous vam­pire films are — but if you find that style of avant-hor­ror appeal­ing, you’ll notice how he is bring­ing a new speci­fici­ty and style to his aus­tere aes­thet­ic.