Dead But Dreaming
review by Mike Haberfelner
La Paz, Bolivia, the early 1800’s: A series of killings in which the victims’ throats are brutally torn open shock the city that’s already on edge due to a brooding rebellion against the Spanish crown, and the ever-growing fear of a uprising of the oppressed indigenous population. Officially, the killings are attributed to either of these causes, but nobody really believes this.
Father Ferenc (Jorge Ortiz) has a different explanation altogether, its work of the Lamia, the vampiric descendants of Lilith, first wife of Adam. This sounds so fantastic that father Ferenc doesn’t even dare to voice this in the open, only to his niece/foster daughter Varna (Claudia Moscoso), officially a nun in training, but actually a very strong and independent woman. Not even she believes her uncle … but he’s right of course …
Varna has other worries, she wants to help the rebels, and her friend, the Irishwoman Moira (Amy Hesketh), who’s tasked to get the rebels a bunch of cannons … but she eventually disappears, and when she re-appears it’s in the hands of authority, who publicly strip, flog, shame and ultimately strangle her.
Now what have the two stories to do with one another?
Well, one night, Moira was found leaning over a man with his throat torn out, and she was promptly arrested for it – even though it was the work of an actual vampire, Aphrodisia (Mila Joya), who has made a successful getaway though. Now one would think the story might end with Moira’s death, but it’s only the beginning, because Moira has been chosen to become the companion of vampire Nahara (Veronica Paintoux), who vampirizes her once executed of course.
Thing is, Aphrodisia is the companion of another vampire, Asar (Jac Avila), who has been made a vampire by Nahara 10,000 BC, and since then the two have waged a war against one another and are determined to have a showdown (one of many) in La Paz – with Moira, Varna, Father Ferenc and even Aphrodisia serving no more than pawns in the game.
In writing (at least in my writing), Dead But Dreaming might sound as overcomplex and incomprehensible as can be, but on screen, despite constand flashbacks (also to ancient Greece) and the like, the film comes across as rather easy to follow, and despite being epic in scale, it features an actual and very tense story arc. And without being brain-heavy, the film features a novel and very interesting approach to the vampire genre as such. Now add to this a very elegant directorial effort (that still features all the violence, torture and nudity you’ve come to expect from Jac Avila), very nice sets and locations (not only for a low budget film like this) and a great cast mainly made up from Pachamama regulars, and you’ve got yourself a pretty great movie.