Why Finally? As I told someone when I put this adaptation of the E.F. Benson vampire story in my Netflix queue: “God, I hope this doesn’t suck, ’cause I’m gonna watch it anyway.”
(For fellow spook-story fiends, I also wanted to note the 1975 British adaptation with Glynis Johns as the titular lady. That one is very close to the original story, even down to making us watch bored villagers play cards.)
The Premise (Original Story): Friendly, larger-than-life widow Mrs. Amworth livens up the town she moves to after the death of her husband, though a plague of anemia sets in following her arrival. It seems there may be a case of vampirism afoot, and only the narrator’s crank of a brother-in-law can save the day. That makes it sound silly, but it has some genuinely creepy moments, including a floating-outside-the-window scene à la ‘Salem’s Lot.
The Premise (Movie I Am Actually Watching): Elegant refugee from one of those fantastic ’20s-style Edward Gorey drawings Mrs. Claire Amworth moves to a small country village and falls in with the locals: washed-up photographer Jed, his reporter girlfriend Sarah, her editor Lee, and the town doctor. Oh, and the handyman Mrs. A. is draining of blood… From there, she cuts a bloody swath through a town which will surely soon be investing in a new “Population:____ ” sign.
Mrs Amworth ’07 is a little goofy, perhaps, but not unwatchably so. It suffers from the common ailments of low-budget horror: the video quality is a little off, the acting a little stiff, and the special effects not all they might be. One of the biggest changes from the original (other than some gore) is the depiction of small-town life. The Benson story gave us tea and card games; this gives us a whiff of sexual intrigue that hints at a more Twin Peaks version of village social dynamics, and I don’t object to that. I’d rather watch people make out than play whist if those are my options.
The Verdict: Pretty good. While I do try to find the best in everything I write up for Fridays, I’m surprised how much I liked this movie. It differs from the source material, but in a way consistent with updating an early 20th-century story into a horror film; I even enjoyed some of the soapier bits. And honestly, anyone who adapts a Benson story (or M.R. James or to some extent Lovecraft) gets 10 extra points of goodwill from me just for caring enough to do it.
Where this movie shines, though, is its heroine. This Mrs. Amworth takes Benson’s vampire, who was sort of a normal person plus 10% extra(vert) personality plus bloodlust, and adds to the character touches of the traditional movie vamp and callbacks to the time the original story is written. If your horror doesn’t have to be polished, there are worse ways to pass an afternoon.
Might go well with: Cheese and crackers; old British ghost stories. (If you’re very squeamish, you may want to do your eating in the first hour.)
Random Note: I love this movie for giving the world the line “What are you afraid of? Vampire fish?” Can a SyFy movie based on this be far behind?
Next time: Jade and the Quests are on the case.