“It’s my blood. I gave it to you.”

Unlike some of my fellow Morlocks who often express their disappointment in modern horror films (I’m winking at my good pal Greg Ferrara who recently complained about the lack of good ghost movies) I happen to think we’re currently undergoing an impressive horror film renaissance that’s largely being ignored or has gone unappreciated. While Hollywood continues to pummel us all with over-hyped, self-conscious and all too predictable and derivative movies like CABIN IN THE WOODS, Tim Burton’s recent DARK SHADOWS remake or the ongoing SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series, independent or smaller budgeted films made in Europe, Britain, Asia and Australia as well as the US are exploring new ground and turning the genre on its head.

Unfortunately these films rarely make it into US theaters outside of New York or Los Angeles so horror fans like myself are forced to wait until they’re released on DVD to see them. It can take years for some of these movies to find an appreciative audience and in today’s fast-paced world they all too often get overshadowed by lesser films with larger advertising budgets. A great example of this ongoing problem is the popular TWILIGHT franchise, which has gotten an unprecedented amount of press here in the US while the most interesting and innovative vampire films are being made outside the country and include the highly acclaimed Swedish production LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) as well as Chan-wook Park’s Korean horror opus THIRST (2009) and Claire Denis’ French thriller TROUBLE EVERY DAY (2001).

Another good vampire film that has largely gone unnoticed is STRIGOI (2009). STRIGOI was the brainchild of Faye Jackson, a British filmmaker married to a Romanian film producer, and although the movie was featured at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and walked away with the Vision Award for best independent film, it didn’t find its way onto DVD until 2011 and has received very little press in the US. I finally caught up with STRIGOI this week after discovering it streaming on Netflix and was immediately inspired to jot down a few thoughts about this very funny, surprisingly original and strangely touching vampire film.



STRIGOI tells the story of Vlad Cozma (Catalin Paraschiv), a lanky young Romanian man who returns home to his small village after dropping out of medical school and working at a fast food restaurant in Italy for a brief time. His return is marked by a series of strange events that eventually lead him to discover that his boyhood home is being overrun by vampire-like creatures known as strigoi who leave large pustule type bites on their victims. These undead creatures are also linked to various property disputes that have plagued the village since the communist takeover of the country during WW2 and the government’s eventual collapse in 1989.

The film’s focus on Eastern European politics and social concerns will probably confuse a lot of indifferent viewers but I personally found the film’s unique approach absolutely fascinating and that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m married to an American-Latvian man and I’m generally interested in European history. Like Romania, Latvia suffered greatly under communist rule and issues of land ownership are commonplace among countries that were occupied by Stalin’s government. It’s not uncommon to hear Latvians venomously discussing communists much like the Romanians do in STRIGOI so it was refreshing to see these conflicts dealt with in such a funny and thoughtful way but the film is also concerned with universal truths that we all struggle with.

In STRIGOI, Vlad comes to epitomize the well-worn phrase, “You can’t go home again” as he tries to make sense of the people and the places he left behind. Like many young people today, he’s forced to return home due to his lack of financial stability but Vlad also lacks personal motivation. His family and fellow villagers constantly remind him that he’s seen as a failure (or as they like to phrase it, “A pussy.”) in their eyes for his inability to become a doctor due to his weak constitution (he can’t stand the sight of dead bodies). At the same time, Vlad is generally disgusted with the world and the corruption, poverty and outdated beliefs he’s forced to confront. As director and writer Faye Jackson explained in an interview, the vampires or strigoi in her film represent the people you can never get rid of, even after they’re dead. These monsters are Vlad’s family members and friends and they haunt and torment him in unexpected ways. The film generates its gentle scares from Vlad’s general disappointment at the hand he’s been dealt in life so don’t expect too many jump out of your seat moments in STRIGOI. This is a dark horror comedy with a big heart, much like Guillermo del Toro’s CRONOS (1993), and its best moments are often the amusing and thoughtful conversations Vlad shares with his grandfather (Nicolae Cozma) and his female neighbor (Camelia Maxim).



Faye Jackson spent a lot of time in Romania (aka Dracula country) with her husband’s family before making the movie and STRIGOI benefits from her well-defined vision and personal insight. It was shot by cinematographer Kathinka Minthe and I have to mention how well these two women worked together. STRIGOI is a great looking little movie that manages to beautifully evoke the rural image of a small Eastern European village and its inhabitants. The film also benefits from a great cast of Romanian actors that had to speak English in the film because Jackson’s limited understanding of the Romanian language forced her to write the script in her native tongue. Last but not least, STROGOI also has a terrific soundtrack that includes numerous songs by the talented American band Beirut as well as traditional Romanian music performed by Zoltan and his Gypsy Ensemble.

The movie’s languid pacing, black humor, concern with Eastern European politics and lack of gore won’t appeal to everyone. But discriminating horror fans looking for something truly unique to watch might find the film as rewarding as I did. This low-budget independent gem is currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon and it was released on DVD by Breaking Glass Pictures, Vicious Circle Films.

Further reading:
- The Official Site of STRIGOI
- STRIGOI reviewed by Kurt Halfyard at Twitch
- Toronto After Dark 2009 – “Strigoi”
- Strigoi at Billy Luvs Stu

34 Responses “It’s my blood. I gave it to you.”
Posted By Cary Watson : November 1, 2012 3:47 pm

I saw this one just over a year ago and was pleasantly surprised. As you say, no one should expect a scarefest, but it’s definitely a solid piece of filmmaking that has quiet humor that’s quite engaging. Here’s my review from last year:

http://www.jettisoncocoon.com/2011/09/film-review-strigoi-2009.html

Posted By Cary Watson : November 1, 2012 3:47 pm

I saw this one just over a year ago and was pleasantly surprised. As you say, no one should expect a scarefest, but it’s definitely a solid piece of filmmaking that has quiet humor that’s quite engaging. Here’s my review from last year:

http://www.jettisoncocoon.com/2011/09/film-review-strigoi-2009.html

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 1, 2012 7:38 pm

It really was a surprise and breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see what Faye Jackson does next.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 1, 2012 7:38 pm

It really was a surprise and breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see what Faye Jackson does next.

Posted By tdraicer : November 1, 2012 8:26 pm

>self-conscious and all too predictable and derivative movies like CABIN IN THE WOODS,

I couldn’t agree less, as Cabin was my favorite film (not just horror film) of the last year (admittedly I saw a fairly limited number of new films). I certainly didn’t predict the ending. As for being derivative, that’s rather like calling Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead derivative of Hamlet; technically true, but rather misses the point.

Having said that, I’ll be interested in checking out Strogoi.

Posted By tdraicer : November 1, 2012 8:26 pm

>self-conscious and all too predictable and derivative movies like CABIN IN THE WOODS,

I couldn’t agree less, as Cabin was my favorite film (not just horror film) of the last year (admittedly I saw a fairly limited number of new films). I certainly didn’t predict the ending. As for being derivative, that’s rather like calling Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead derivative of Hamlet; technically true, but rather misses the point.

Having said that, I’ll be interested in checking out Strogoi.

Posted By Gene : November 1, 2012 8:53 pm

I’ve heard of Strigoi, and will have to seek it out. I couldn’t agree more that Hollywood, for the most part, is cranking out worn out and trite horror. Cabin in The Woods had 15 minutes of excitement before the abysmally cliched ending. Dark Shadows should never have been made. It was a blotch on the classic TV serial as well as Depp and Burton.

Posted By Gene : November 1, 2012 8:53 pm

I’ve heard of Strigoi, and will have to seek it out. I couldn’t agree more that Hollywood, for the most part, is cranking out worn out and trite horror. Cabin in The Woods had 15 minutes of excitement before the abysmally cliched ending. Dark Shadows should never have been made. It was a blotch on the classic TV serial as well as Depp and Burton.

Posted By tdraicer : November 1, 2012 11:55 pm

>Cabin in The Woods had 15 minutes of excitement before the abysmally cliched ending

Yes, it was just like the ending of…what exactly?

Posted By tdraicer : November 1, 2012 11:55 pm

>Cabin in The Woods had 15 minutes of excitement before the abysmally cliched ending

Yes, it was just like the ending of…what exactly?

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : November 2, 2012 5:45 am

That looks very good.Thanks for the Information.
Never heard about it before.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : November 2, 2012 5:45 am

That looks very good.Thanks for the Information.
Never heard about it before.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : November 2, 2012 10:43 am

Strigoi is a movie I was, up to this moment, completely unfamiliar with. But then, that’s why I count on you and Peter Nellhaus to fill me in on these things.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : November 2, 2012 10:43 am

Strigoi is a movie I was, up to this moment, completely unfamiliar with. But then, that’s why I count on you and Peter Nellhaus to fill me in on these things.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:42 pm

tdraicer – CABIN IN THE WOODS was a huge audience & critical hit so obviously you’re not alone. Its detractors are few & far between. To me it just felt like a film made for folks who didn’t understand that EVIL DEAD 2 and CABIN FEVER were comedies. I like a more subtle approach to horror comedy I suppose and CABIN IN THE WOODS was beating me over the head with its jokes while screaming at the audience, “DO YOU GET IT? AREN’T WE CLEVER?” In the end it just felt like a bigger budgeted & better directed addition to the SCARY MOVIE or SCREAM franchise. I think calling the movie self-conscious is a massive understatement. But there have been other posts here at the Morlocks that write affectionately or appreciatively about CABIN IN THE WOODS such as this one http://moviemorlocks.com/2012/04/08/cabin-fever/ so again, you’re not alone but the movie just didn’t work for me.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:42 pm

tdraicer – CABIN IN THE WOODS was a huge audience & critical hit so obviously you’re not alone. Its detractors are few & far between. To me it just felt like a film made for folks who didn’t understand that EVIL DEAD 2 and CABIN FEVER were comedies. I like a more subtle approach to horror comedy I suppose and CABIN IN THE WOODS was beating me over the head with its jokes while screaming at the audience, “DO YOU GET IT? AREN’T WE CLEVER?” In the end it just felt like a bigger budgeted & better directed addition to the SCARY MOVIE or SCREAM franchise. I think calling the movie self-conscious is a massive understatement. But there have been other posts here at the Morlocks that write affectionately or appreciatively about CABIN IN THE WOODS such as this one http://moviemorlocks.com/2012/04/08/cabin-fever/ so again, you’re not alone but the movie just didn’t work for me.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:50 pm

Gene – STRIGOI was probably made with the CABIN IN THE WOODS catering budget but I found it much more funny, innovative and even touching. It might have a small budget but it also has a huge heart and I admire that a lot. The film is eclectic and won’t appeal to everyone but I think it’s well worth a look and hopefully it will reach a wider audience.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:50 pm

Gene – STRIGOI was probably made with the CABIN IN THE WOODS catering budget but I found it much more funny, innovative and even touching. It might have a small budget but it also has a huge heart and I admire that a lot. The film is eclectic and won’t appeal to everyone but I think it’s well worth a look and hopefully it will reach a wider audience.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:50 pm

Ghijath – You’re welcome. Hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to see it.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:50 pm

Ghijath – You’re welcome. Hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to see it.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:58 pm

Greg – It’s a shame that films like STRIGOI go unnoticed while the TWILIGHT franchise continues to suck all the life out the vampire genre. What bothers me the most is that in this day & age when we have an unlimited amount of news sources, film review sites, etc. films like STRIGOI still struggle to get noticed. Even the critics I respect seem to be bypassing foreign and indy films now and focusing more attention on Hollywood. The amount of hype surrounding films like CABIN IN THE WOODS and DARK SHADOWS just boggles the mind. Or at least my mind anyway.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 2, 2012 1:58 pm

Greg – It’s a shame that films like STRIGOI go unnoticed while the TWILIGHT franchise continues to suck all the life out the vampire genre. What bothers me the most is that in this day & age when we have an unlimited amount of news sources, film review sites, etc. films like STRIGOI still struggle to get noticed. Even the critics I respect seem to be bypassing foreign and indy films now and focusing more attention on Hollywood. The amount of hype surrounding films like CABIN IN THE WOODS and DARK SHADOWS just boggles the mind. Or at least my mind anyway.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : November 2, 2012 2:19 pm

I never was a big Fan of the whole Dracula Mythology,but i always
had a weak Spot for some of the Stranger Vampire Movies like
“Near Dark” and “Let the Right one in”,so i guess i will like
this if i get a Chance to.
Also i really love that Eastern European Flair very much.
While in the Heart of Europe,Romania is still a,let´s say,very
exotic Place,where all kind of Strange Things happen.
There was a Case of Exorcism,not long ago,that ended with the
Death of a young Girl.In some Parts of the Country,People still
believe in Ghosts,Witches and Vampires.And the Devil,of course.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : November 2, 2012 2:19 pm

I never was a big Fan of the whole Dracula Mythology,but i always
had a weak Spot for some of the Stranger Vampire Movies like
“Near Dark” and “Let the Right one in”,so i guess i will like
this if i get a Chance to.
Also i really love that Eastern European Flair very much.
While in the Heart of Europe,Romania is still a,let´s say,very
exotic Place,where all kind of Strange Things happen.
There was a Case of Exorcism,not long ago,that ended with the
Death of a young Girl.In some Parts of the Country,People still
believe in Ghosts,Witches and Vampires.And the Devil,of course.

Posted By Doug : November 2, 2012 3:51 pm

I will look for “Strigoi”-I’m always up for interesting movies-I enjoyed “Cabin in the Woods”, even with the cliched stereotypes/characters.
Must be something about Romania-in the spec features of “An American Werewolf In London” John Landis talks about working as a PA on “Kelly’s Heroes” in Romania; his friendship with a local interpreter became the genesis for American Werewolf. He and his friend witnessed a ‘Gypsy burial’ where the corpse was interred standing up…to make it harder for it to crawl out of the grave.
Kimberly, if I had money/time to travel, I would stop in Latvia on my way to visit some Lithuanian friends that I made years ago.

Posted By Doug : November 2, 2012 3:51 pm

I will look for “Strigoi”-I’m always up for interesting movies-I enjoyed “Cabin in the Woods”, even with the cliched stereotypes/characters.
Must be something about Romania-in the spec features of “An American Werewolf In London” John Landis talks about working as a PA on “Kelly’s Heroes” in Romania; his friendship with a local interpreter became the genesis for American Werewolf. He and his friend witnessed a ‘Gypsy burial’ where the corpse was interred standing up…to make it harder for it to crawl out of the grave.
Kimberly, if I had money/time to travel, I would stop in Latvia on my way to visit some Lithuanian friends that I made years ago.

Posted By Gene : November 2, 2012 6:37 pm

tdraicer – Like any episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I liked quite a bit. I’m just tired of making horror films into sarcastic parodies, a la the Scary Movie franchise. If you like it, that’s great but I was disappointed save for the truly magnificent mayhem which was exciting and well done. To paraphrase Eliot, the movie ended not with a bang but a whimper ….

Posted By Gene : November 2, 2012 6:37 pm

tdraicer – Like any episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I liked quite a bit. I’m just tired of making horror films into sarcastic parodies, a la the Scary Movie franchise. If you like it, that’s great but I was disappointed save for the truly magnificent mayhem which was exciting and well done. To paraphrase Eliot, the movie ended not with a bang but a whimper ….

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : November 3, 2012 1:37 am

Strigoi. On the Netflix Instant queue, and I can see it on my TV screen rather than on my laptop. For people intrigued by a ghost movie about movie watching ghosts, Netflix Instant currently has The Screen of Kamchanod, a Thai movie not available on US DVD.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : November 3, 2012 1:37 am

Strigoi. On the Netflix Instant queue, and I can see it on my TV screen rather than on my laptop. For people intrigued by a ghost movie about movie watching ghosts, Netflix Instant currently has The Screen of Kamchanod, a Thai movie not available on US DVD.

Posted By Mark : November 30, 2012 11:44 am

Kimberly: I like your comments on Cabin in the Woods, even if I don’t agree with them. There’s a huge difference between Cabin and MAD magazine-style parodies like Scary Movie, and more than one way to make a comedy on the subject of horror movies. I’d say it has more in common with a movie like Inglourious Basterds, which is about WWII movies rather than about WWII. Apart from that, I go along with Roger Ebert’s idea that you just can’t argue about comedy — it either makes you laugh or it doesn’t.

Posted By Mark : November 30, 2012 11:44 am

Kimberly: I like your comments on Cabin in the Woods, even if I don’t agree with them. There’s a huge difference between Cabin and MAD magazine-style parodies like Scary Movie, and more than one way to make a comedy on the subject of horror movies. I’d say it has more in common with a movie like Inglourious Basterds, which is about WWII movies rather than about WWII. Apart from that, I go along with Roger Ebert’s idea that you just can’t argue about comedy — it either makes you laugh or it doesn’t.

Posted By cbmurphy : December 4, 2012 10:37 pm

I’m a big horror fan and I think people forget there are many different types of horror. Sometimes I want to watch alone and try to get scared (Silent House). Sometimes a group wants to laugh at a reliable one (Evil Dead II). I did like Cabin in the Woods, which was more of an homage than anything else. I watched it with my son and we paused it and tried to name all the movies the monsters came from. There are other categories. Fun Schlock (and 1950s monster movie). Smirky (Slithers) et al.

Posted By cbmurphy : December 4, 2012 10:37 pm

I’m a big horror fan and I think people forget there are many different types of horror. Sometimes I want to watch alone and try to get scared (Silent House). Sometimes a group wants to laugh at a reliable one (Evil Dead II). I did like Cabin in the Woods, which was more of an homage than anything else. I watched it with my son and we paused it and tried to name all the movies the monsters came from. There are other categories. Fun Schlock (and 1950s monster movie). Smirky (Slithers) et al.

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