Strigoi is an indie comedy of a certain type. It’s set in a tiny rural village where the few residents are quirky, they’re very involved in one another’s lives, they enjoy their grain alcohol and their folk music, and are embroiled in a bitter fight over a financial transaction. Basically, it’s Local Hero, but with vampires.
Vlad (Cătălin Paraschiv) takes on the role of the outsider through whose eyes we see the insular little town, although he is a native who has just returned from living in Italy. On the eve of Vlad’s return, the villagers murder a rich man and former occupying Communist, Constantin (Constantin Bărbulescu), as payback for a murder he committed. They also kill his wife (Roxana Guttman), and they bury them both right away. But they didn’t take the proper precautions, so Constantin and his wife become Strigoi, or undead.
Now, as I learned from the classic documentary In Search of Dracula, there are more ways to become a vampire in Romania than there are not to become a vampire, and these people sure as hell should have known that too. But even though they now have vampires on their hands, they’re still more concerned about keeping the suspicious Vlad from bringing the police in, and of course, the land dispute everyone was murdered over in the first place. Besides, in this film, there is more than one way to become a vampire. One can be a living vampire and not even know it!
Strigoi is a mix of comedy and horror. Most of the humor is dry and sarcastic, but hilarious; however, you have to pay attention to get all the jokes, because the British director (Faye Jackson) used Romanians who speak English and they all talk like Bela Lugosi. The horror is of the gross-out body horror kind. The vampires and their victims are covered in weird sores, and there are some chest dissections and oozing mouth liquids. Also, as in our old friend Buio Omega, there is some gross eating of normal food. That disgusted me far more than the taxidermy in that movie, and I feel the same way about it versus the actual gore in this one.
The real story here, though, as in any horror movie that is this well crafted, is not the horror itself, but something more: in this case, the Communism. Vampirism is here to represent the effect on the farmers in the village when the Communists came in and made them continue to work their own land but not for themselves anymore. Now, even though the country has been “free” for many years, the effects of being figuratively bled for so long are still apparent in the people’s paranoid attitudes. The vampiric life lived at night evokes the secretive way people necessarily became used to operating when everyone lived in fear of being turned in by neighbors for some real or imagined crime against the State. I highly recommend Strigoi for one of those nights when you feel like sinking your teeth into a story; however, you probably shouldn’t eat while you do unless you have some anti-nausea meds on hand.