One Vampire and One Witch Equals One Big Mess

On one particularly warm February weekend, the 14th annual Oxford Film Festival came to town. Opening night was Thursday, Feb. 15 and lasted until Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. The Oxford Film Festival was founded in 2003 by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and by 2008 became an independent non-profit organization. Private and public donors sponsor and help fund the event.

The yearly festival celebrates the art of independent cinema in over 130 films from all over the world. It features both film shorts and feature length movies. Movie categories include animated, experimental, new media (including virtual reality), documentary and narrative features and shorts, LGBTQ, music video, and Mississippi local documentaries and shorts. Because of the broad spectrum of categories, the film festival attracts all ages and even features a mini kid’s film festival. It is both entertaining and educational with events, panels, awards, and workshops to learn from industry professionals.

The Hybrids Family (2015) is an adventure/family/horror film featured at the kid’s film fest on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. at the Powerhouse. Powerhouse served Rice Krispies, Goldfish, gummies and cold waters for guests. The PG-rated movie lasted for an hour and 35 minutes. It was directed by Tony Randel who is known for his work in Hellbound: Hellraiser II and the screenplay by Tony Schweikle who was recognized for his work with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The film got a 7.1/10 rating on IMDB and earned an estimated $1.5 million at the box office.

The movie starts off with “the count,” played by Paul Sorvino — known for his roles in The Firm and Goodfellas — explaining the feuding history of vampires and witches. He then goes on to explain that over time, one witch, Valantina (played by Anne Leighton), and one vampire and his son, Todor (played by Philip Willingham), go on to defy the ancient norms of the vampire and witch feud, and decide to get married and bring two hybrid children into the world. Blaz, the son, and Valana, the daughter are sheltered by their parents in a dark and dreary castle isolated from other teenagers because their parents fear people aren’t ready to coexist with their powerful hybrid children — despite acting like normal kids. Their fears become reality when Blaz is out one night after being in the library searching for film schools, he is then attacked by two large men and almost kidnapped, until he uses his abnormal strength to overpower the kidnappers and get away. All orchestrated by evil Professor Prater who was once cursed by Valantina. Blaz has dreams of going to film school so he searches schools across America and finds one he is stuck on: Exeter in sunny and warm Palm Tree City, Florida. Valana just wants to sing.

After almost being kidnapped and telling his parents confirming their worst fears, Blaz has had enough and decides to run away to Exeter along with his sister. When they get there, Valana finds a job at a local pub to earn enough money to find a decent place to live. The pub also has an open mic night she plans on singing at to kick start her dream of becoming a recording artist. Blaz goes to watch her one night along with his friend, Maria, from film class and Maria decides to use Valana’s song for her and Blaz’s film. 
Todor and Valantina soon discover they are missing and decide to go to Italy to Valantina’s mother Aradia — played by Carolyn Hennessy, known for her roles in Cougartown and Revenge — to see if she can help locate their missing kids. While there, she uses a few different methods including a crystal ball and a sort of teleportation to locate and bring back their kids. Unfortunately all efforts fail and she is forced to contact Todor’s dad, the count, to collaborate and use all their power to help. With the extra power, they find the kids and then the parents are off to get them. Meanwhile back in Italy, the count and Aradia are bonding over wine, homemade dinner and classical music. They soon discover vampires and witches can live and love in harmony after all.

Back in Florida, Maria, Blaz and Valana are all on set to film the last little bit of the movie when their parents show up to take them home. The teenagers then argue back and forth about going home and soon prove to their parents that they have found love, made friends, fit in just fine and have been successful on their own. Then it ends with everyone watching the finished film on a couch in Italy and the count giving another monologue on how everyone can actually coexist peacefully. Overall a good children’s movie about love and living peacefully with all sorts of people.

I liked it because it was a new take on vampires and witches that I had not previously heard: “We wake up in the morning, look at ourselves in the mirror and eat garlic just like everybody else,” says Todor to Blaz — Blaz takes this piece of information to challenge why they can’t go out like everybody else too. There was also a comical sense to it. For example, Valantina mentions how her mom once turned Todor in to a frog to protect her from the evil vampires. I enjoyed how it combined the two best aspects of film into one that kids can get into also: love and humor.

I did notice that there were a few things that children probably wouldn’t pick up on. One being that Aradia used the word “bigot” when referring to the count. Most kids would not know what that means and probably wouldn’t question it either. It was really just an example of solidifying the prejudice between vampires and witches. I do like that it was a minor yet mature point in the film for any adults watching. There was also a very adult joke made but once again, kids wouldn’t think anything of it. It was when Aradia took out her crystal ball to help locate the kids. When she pulls it out, she mentions that she calls it Princess Sofia. Todor then goes on to say, “Do you name all your balls,” with which she replies, “only the ones that matter.” Now, if you’re a Rom-Com fan like me, you would maybe recognize “Princess Sofia” is what Kate Hudson names Matthew McConaughey’s genitals in the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Maybe I just have a dirty mind but then again the correlation is uncanny.

What I did not like about that movie is that there are a few unanswered questions. For starters, in their castle they all sleep in coffins, even the witch, all in the same room. Why does the witch sleep in a coffin too? If they live in such a big castle, why do they all sleep in the same room? Another question I have is, where were they in the world when they traveled to Florida when their family history started in Transylvania? Where were they in between? Also, how is Blaz paying for film school when they can’t even afford a place to stay? How does no one know that they are staying in a “for sale by owner” house when it is being shown all day by realtors? And last but not least, what curse does the old guy have? See, just too much left unsaid.

The acting was a tad amateur and the film parallels an R.L. Stein Goosebumps movie that is shown on cartoon network. As for the actual filming, it was high-grade and good quality. Looks like there was a decent amount of money put into it along with experienced producers and special effects editors. IMDB gave it a 7.1/10 but I think I would have to go with about a 5.5/10. Good, but not an eye-opening cinematic experience.

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