A great review of Olalla

OLALLA, THE ABSTINENCE OF BLOOD
By Carlos Gutiérrez A. (cultural journalist and literature professor)
Published on Monday, 25 July, 2016 in the Sucre newspaper: Libertador

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American filmmaker Amy Hesketh, living in Bolivia, just premiered her new film at the Mexican Film Festival FERATUM (showcasing horror and science fiction films). This film has received good reviews. It’s an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story given a Bolivian flavor. Although it has a Victorian style, it does also include very subtle Andean signposts: La Paz of the 1950s and Potosi of the nineteenth century. Here in Bolivia, the film premiered in La Paz and it has also been shown in Europe. It could be classified as a vampire genre film.

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The film smells of death (if we could say it has a smell), and when I say “smell”, I mean it reeks of death. The characters shamble along through the rooms (as sensory perceptions become blurred). These vampires don’t suffer from photophobia. They have learned to tolerate sunlight. However, they cannot contain their bloodlust.

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The film is an homage to the eternal and sinister Dracula of Bram Stoker, and all manner of gothic creation. It may be a more melancholic vision but it preserves the dark prince’s left motif. We can clearly see Dracula’s ghosts on parade starting with Nosferatu, to vampires that don’t wish to consume blood (Lucy Liu in Rise), and as an added spark, the work of Edgar Allan Poe, even occasional glimpses of Edward Scissorhands in the character played by Alejandro Loayza.

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INCEST AND OTHER DIRTY GAMES

One can’t watch this film and not think of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher (incest among siblings) as it is also happening in a kind of sealed sanctuary.

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The villagers reject this “damned breed” (Olalla and her family). While they don’t do it publicly, they do so through bated whispers. Is there terror in the film? Yes, but for who? In very much a Bradbury sense, we are faced with an improbable paradox, incongruous, unimaginable but possible. The audience bears witness to the first lynching and witch hunt.

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The tragedy of these beings lies in that they do not possess supernatural powers. They cannot transform, fly away, etc. These walking dead are fragile and everyone knows where they live. They are the terrified ones. Like the characters in Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, it is the Martians who are attacked; Fahrenheit 451, the firemen burn books, they do not put out flames and The Visitors (a short story), where a family of vampires has an ill child (he doesn’t like blood).

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One could almost say that the audience breathes in the gunpowder, and no one knows at what time the bomb lying under everyone will go off. How terrifying it must be for a vampire who has fallen on hard times, demystified, falling into parody and humiliation, living in fear of being lynched.

 

A vampire would have to die under a certain hierarchy, with a stake driven in by Van Helsing as the great enemy. In other words Olalla has been humanized by her creator. In the style of Richard Matheson, who in his famous novel I Am Legend comes up with a great scientific reasoning for the origin of the chiropteran humans (1).

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EROTICISM, ANOTHER MANNER OF BLOODSHED

The film reaches its zenith with the sadism and masochism practiced by the sisters and their uncle. The paraphernalia includes whips, sodomy, lust, etc. Even during Olalla’s lynching one can see a kind of collective and justified morbidity. Dracula becomes the exaltation for the greatest expression of eroticism: the sucking of blood, the biting, even cannibalism itself, etc.

 

There is, however, in Amy’s eroticism a sadism that flies like leaves in the wind. The isn’t, as is said in Law, a teaching. There is, however, a flirtation. Her hands tied, Olalla is chastised by her uncle and the whip, but with the force one would use to swat a fly. Later she is punished like a misbehaved child on her father’s knee.

Few scenes enliven their eroticism through such incongruous means. It is similar to the shower scene from Psycho (2). One is unsure if to be excited or terrified. How can violence conjure eroticism? That is this filmmaker’s contribution to Bolivian cinema. Gothic-Erotic horror cinema. Francis Ford Coppola showed us his version of eroticism in Dracula, but this was a macho eroticism.

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The film also has the ghost of David Lynch wandering around (3). He rears his head during the film’s grotesque final dance.

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Symbolism

The identifying element in this picture is blood. Blood as virtue or as vice. If we’re talking about a Judeo-Christian tradition we can agree that it is Jesus Christ who had to spill his blood to save mankind, and so he died on the cross. In this case it is for gluttony (or hunger?) that Olalla’s mother is condemned to death (redemption?).

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The unguarded appetite and from it, an interesting element, which is – if you will – a tenet of the Bible: The apple. The forbidden fruit. The host and Olalla cannot resist and so they fall into disgrace. Fernando Sabater says it is exaggeration, unbalance, which transforms a habit into a deadly sin (4). Olalla, meanwhile, is curiously tempted by an apple.

 

Blood, the cross and the apple are biblical references embedded into this story. Christ existed as a mere mortal, as did Olalla. One could also say that, if gluttony is present, so is abstinence. Olalla must abstain from drinking blood in order to live (against gluttony, temperance). She fails. Christ fasts in the desert for 40 days and the achievement of this brings him closer to virtue, to his condition of divinity.

This film touches on vampirism from a female perspective. Amy Hesketh has chosen well what work to film. This is not the classic Dracula. Olalla and her mother suffer in their condition of being women. The mother cannot escape the villagers who wish to lynch her for the love of her daughters. Olalla rebels and would rather die than be oppressed.

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The only supernatural or natural power they have is seduction. They both attract their victims through their charms: The mother is shy and a book lover.

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The daughter is more uninhibited and shows off her attractive skin. But there is one common characteristic that identifies them. Fragility. They are both seen as so fragile and helpless that one wishes to blindly offer their throats to them. And why not? If she seems to be an alabaster angel, an Eve wandering through paradise in bare flesh. So, it has to be said, this is a way of canonizing these traditionally reviled beings.

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THE FILM

The first shots grant the film an intimate atmosphere. It seems the sanguine angel and her sister are confessing secrets to one another at church, or a library. The audience has no choice but to lean in to listen. I would have preferred more gothic and nocturnal spaces, but the director preferred daytime settings with a lot of sun. This gives the film a natural tension without needing special effects. The merits are found in the acting and makeup.

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Is it vice or virtue that condemns us to a death in society? Is it gluttony or girth, the sacrifice of love, wrath followed by violence, lust and sex. Who are the true monsters who are unable to control their appetites? Must we all die on the cross or have we already?

As far as the storyline, it develops with entertaining tension. More than one suitor will fall like a fly into Olalla’s web. The eroticism pulsates even in Olalla’s mother’s death. Rage surrounded by morbidity? Is the lynch mob furious, or are they aroused?

An homage, as I said, to Dracula and from the pen of that great writer who in all his brilliant dissidence struck a blow against stuffy Victorian puritanism, a fact you can see in the film. The purest and most genuine exaltation of lust or the carnal appetites that dwell in every human heart. A wide-eyed manifestation of liberal instincts. The abolition of senses that are being repressed at this time in Bolivia and the world. Women who lived in that suffocating hypocrisy and repression of their desires. It is a fine way to paint this fresco of horror and beauty.

  • (1) Matheson Richard, I Am Legend
  • (2) Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock
  • (3) David Lynch, The Elephant Man
  • (4) Sabater Fernando, The Seven Deadly Sins.

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New Podcast with Amy Hesketh

A promotional still from Olalla
A promotional still from Olalla

Amy Hesketh just did her second podcast with John HorrorDude Ginder for A Horrorfying Blog. In it, they discuss Olalla, Bluebeard, and Dead But Dreaming. Their chat ranges from caring about one’s actors, to *gasp* nudity in the films, and everything in between. So grab a beverage, crank up your heat/cooling, and have a listen!

Amy Hesketh on a Horrorfying Blog podcast

Enjoy!

You can also listen to Amy’s previous podcast with A Horrorfying Blog right here!

Great things are happening with Olalla!

The first review of Olalla has come out, and it’s great! Here’s an excerpt:

Thanks to its totally unconventional approach, Olalla is one of the most interesting vampire movies of late – these are not your typical bloodsuckers, but a typical old-fashioned family with a strict hierarchy, its black sheep (Olalla) and forbidden fruits (Ofelia), its enforcers (Felipe) and eccentrics (Erix Antoine as Uncle Bruno) – but all of this isn’t played for laughs (though there are a few) but as a drama with its gory, its violent, its sexy and its fetishistic bits, all set in rather beautifully decorated sets betraying crumbling decadence, carried by a first rate ensemble cast.” (Re)Search My Trash filmsite

Read the full review here!

And here’s a great interview with Jac Avila, producer and actor, about Olalla, in which he reveals all sorts of marvels of the making of this macabre film!

And there’s more, an amazing video from Germany, featuring the music of Andreas Gross (website here) has just been released, featuring images from Olalla!

 

You can buy Andreas Gross’ album Goodbye Mainstream at this link!

The download of Olalla is available here! And the DVD is available on our site at this link!

The DVD of Olalla is here!

Olalla Official Poster
Olalla Official Poster

We are so very pleased to announce the limited DVD release of Amy Hesketh’s new film, Olalla!

It has been a beautiful struggle making this film, and we’re so grateful to the contributors of the IndieGoGo campaign, and our wonderful fans who helped to make this exciting and ambitious film a reality.

We went even farther in post-production with the special FX, professional color grading, and a professional sound mix. This film is amazing on all levels! You can use the links below to order your copy of the DVD today!

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That’s a wrap! Olalla finishes production

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1880s family portrait: Olalla

We have great news, on May 25th Olalla wrapped its production. All of the scenes have now been shot and we’re well into post-production.

Amy Hesketh, the director (and protagonist) has lots to say about it on her blog, which you can read at this link right here.

We’ll have more news as the post-production progresses, and don’t forget you can see lots of pictures and updates on Olalla’s Facebook page here.

In other exciting news, it looks like Amy’s next film, Debutante, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, will be going into production soon. We hope to have more news about that in the near future!