Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Mrs. Amworth' is a decent vampire tale

Mrs. Amworth (2007)
Starring: Magenta Brooks, Jim Nalitz, Daniel Ross, and Christy Sullivan
Director: Frank Sciurba
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Recently widowed Mrs. Amworth (Brooks) returns from years abroad to take possession of her family home and lands in the quiet town of Wilton... and soon mysterious deaths start occuring. Is it coincidence, or, is she, as the town doctor (Nalitz) comes to suspect, or is she one of the walking dead--a vampire? And if he's right, will he be able to stop her from destroying a young photographer (Ross) and his journalist wife (Sullivan)?

"Mrs. Amworth" is a vampire movie that's worth seeing for its very strong feeling of a classic vampire tale. In fact, this film conveys more of the tone, feeling, and subtext of Stoker's "Dracula" novel than any movie adaptation of it I've seen, including the one titled "Bram Stoker's Dracula".

The film a bit slowly paced--there are a few scenes that I'd even accuse the director of arranging the way they are because he was padding the film's run-time--but it's because of the pace that it captures the feel of traditional vampire stories so well. It also brings to the screen more effectively than any other vampire movie I've seen the underlying fear of The Stranger/Foreign that so permeated Stoker's novel. In this film, Mrs. Amworth is the outside corrupting influence that enters into a peaceful community and happy circle of friends, bringing death and terror.

For all my talk about "Dracula", this film is actually a loose adaptation of E.F. Benson's vampire story "Mrs. Amworth." The film contains some of the key scenes from the story, but they aren't set up very effectively, and they feel like they're included almost to make sure that there's more left of original source than its title. For example, Mrs. Amworth's apparent death by car accident is set up in the story from the beginning, and it could easily have been done so in the film, but instead it just sort of comes out of left field. (The film also has a different ending than the short story, one that I supposed was devised partly due to budget, partly to not make the film COMPLETELY traditional as far as vampire stories go. Being something of a traditionalist myself, and given that this movie feels VERY traditional to me, up until the ending, I wish they'd gone with something closer to the short story.)

In the final analysis, "Mrs. Amworth" is a decent, if unspectacular, vampire movie. The actors in the film are okay, although no one in particularly stands out; they all do a creditable job. The same is true of the cinematography and overall direction of the film... it's a solid bit of work, but nothing particularly spectacular. The script could have done with a little more polish, as some of the dialogue is flatter than pancakes, and, as mentioned above, some of the scenes feel like they've been padded.

As low-budget vampire films go, "Mrs. Amworth" is a good effort that's worth checking out.

(You can also read the short story upon which the film was based at my Fiction Archive by clicking here.)