In this era of micro-bud­get gen­re cin­e­ma, it’s sur­pris­ing that more film­mak­ers don’t try to emu­late the low-bud­get mood­piece approach of Jesus Franco and Jean Rollin. It’s quite pos­si­bly the most cost-effec­tive style of gen­re film­mak­ing imag­in­able: all you need is a few actors, a loca­tion or two and a love for the slow and dreamy sto­ry­telling rhythms of this cin­e­mat­ic approach. That said, this style requires a cer­tain obses­sive min­i­mal­ism that only a select group of gen­re film­mak­ers can real­ly get into.

As Blood For Irina reveals, Chris Alexander is per­fect­ly at home in the realm of obses­sive min­i­mal­ism. This visu­al­ly-dri­ven film revolves around the exploits of the title char­ac­ter (Shauna Henry), a vam­pire who lives a weary exis­tence in a rot­ting urban motel. She wan­ders out at night for vic­tims but has got­ten to the point where she can no longer keep the blood in her sys­tem after­wards.

As Irina drifts between her night­ly rit­u­al and flash­backs to how she became a vam­pire, she inter­acts skit­tish­ly with a human sub­ject (David Goodfellow) who watch­es over her and devel­ops an obses­sion with Pink (Carrie Gemmell), anoth­er night world wan­der­er who reminds her of her­self. As is usu­al­ly the case in the­se min­i­mal­ist hor­ror items, it’s inevitable that the dream-like nar­ra­tive will cur­dle into a night­mare before the cred­its roll.

The result­ing mood­piece ful­fills some expec­ta­tions and defies oth­ers. The cam­er­a­work and edit­ing evoke the dreamy haze in an effec­tive way: the slow zooms and gen­tly drift­ing pans of the cam­er­a­work give the onscreen action a rhythm that is best described as “weight­less” while the edit­ing has an ellip­ti­cal ebb and flow. The brief snip­pets of nar­ra­tion fall flat, tak­ing a lit­tle too arch a tone, but they are kept to barest pos­si­ble min­i­mum so they’re easy to tune out.

The com­bi­na­tion of grit­ty urban loca­tions — includ­ing a real, gen­uine­ly decrepit motel — and cheap, off-the-rack video cam­eras are actu­al­ly used as an aes­thet­ic here, bol­ster­ing the film’s down­mar­ket vision of the vam­pire gen­re. Deliberately som­nam­bu­lis­tic per­for­mances com­plete the mood, with Henry adding an eerieness that gives her the edge amongst the cast: her pierc­ing stare is pret­ty haunt­ing and the film­mak­ers cap­i­tal­ize on its effect.

The big sur­prise with Blood For Irina is that it side­steps the overt sex­u­al­i­ty that Eurocult fans asso­ciate with the Franco/Rollin-derived style of film­mak­ing. Indeed, the film doesn’t fea­ture an ounce of nudi­ty or explic­it sex. The horn­dogs in the hor­ror crowd might take issue with this but it’s a choice of design here: Blood For Irina is more inter­est­ed in its trag­ic take on vam­pirism and the ugly, repet­i­tive nature of a vampire’s life than the dual­ism of sex­u­al­i­ty and vam­pirism you often see in Rollin and Franco films. The film’s main char­ac­ter is tak­ing a slow, tor­tur­ous path to an inevitable bad end — and the film does a suc­cess­ful job of using its aes­thet­ic to the put the view­er in her shoes. 

What you get out of Blood For Irina depends on your lev­el of inter­est in that Eurocult-y style of drowsy, dream-styled hor­ror. An objec­tive appraisal of this work will reveal Alexander and com­pa­ny do an effec­tive job of ful­fill­ing that style, replac­ing some of the expect­ed obses­sions with their own. The results are a good choice for view­ing at that late hour of night where your con­scious mind is relaxed enough to give way to the inter­ests of the sub­con­scious mind — and it’s proof that gen­re film­mak­ers can do chal­leng­ing work on a slim bud­get rather than the usu­al fan­boy-ser­vice fare.