El Conde

This vampire satire drinks some fresh blood.

“El Conde” is the third vampire movie I have seen this year, after the charming “Renfield” and the boring “Last Voyage of the Demeter.” I’ve seen vampires in the forms of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt (“Interview with the Vampire”), teens (“The Lost Boys”), gangsters (“Innocent Blood”), cartoon characters (“Hotel Transylvania”), and even one wearing a chador (“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”), but never in the form of infamous dictators.

In this case, it happens to parody Chilean general and dictator Augusto Pinochet, who in real life was born in 1915 and died in 2006. But in a parallel universe, he became a vampire, who has faked his death on various occasions, and is now 250 years old. Let co-writer/director Pablo Larrain handle this historical figure in his own way. And let it be a black-and-white movie to reflect on the pure horrors of how Bela Lugosi first played Dracula.

I never expected to see anyone lick the blood of Marie Antoinette from the blade of the guillotine. I never expected anyone to put a heart inside a blender, let alone keeping them in fridges. And like perishable foods, they do have expiration dates. No labels required.

Of course, to keep himself alive, Pinochet (Jaime Vadell), or as the film calls him “El Conde,” has to go on a killing spree, one that requires him to stab people and then rip out their hearts. Seeing him fly with his cape and captain general uniform without indulging in the CGI effects looks just plain creepy, especially when shot in black and white.

The story is a hit-&-miss with most of the hits coming from Pinochet’s choices and his own Renfield, and the misses coming from his family.

Pinochet becomes so disillusioned with his life and what he has become, that he decides to finally die. He doesn’t know why he can’t die.

At least, he has the common courtesy of not turning his children into vampires, so they can die according to life. They’re more interested in his money than his immortal powers.

He refuses to bite his spiteful wife Lucia (Gloria Munchmeyer), but he bites his loyal Russian butler Fyodor (Alfredo Castro), because of his previous evil records. Given his nationality, he puts vodka in his heart drinks. And both he and Lucia have an affair in the house. It doesn’t bother Pinochet, as long as they don’t get his money.

And there’s also a young French nun named Carmen (Paula Luchsinger), who appears to the house as their accountant, and looks delicious to Pinochet. It’s either in the sexy way or the nourishing way.

“El Conde” happens to be Larrain’s first movie to deal with Pinochet since “No,” and it’s charming the way he depicts the dictator as an undead creature without relying on CGI effects or wall-to-wall gore to save the show. Yes, there are bloody moments, but it’s wickedly entertaining the way we see how Pinochet and Fyodor share their love for blended hearts.

Vadell and Castro respectively deliver their characters with the right kind of charisma. And while he doesn’t have the perfect story with help from Guillermo Calderon, Larrain still directs the film with timing and creepy vibes, and he also has the right cinematographer (Edward Lachman) to make it look like an ideal satire.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday

Streaming on Netflix September 15

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: comedy, Fantasy, Foreign, History, Horror

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