So Vam (2022) Is So-So Horror Comedy
Title: So Vam
First Non-Festival Release: June 21, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Alice Maoi Mackay
Writer: Alice Maoi Mackay, Benjamin Pahl Robinson
Runtime: 73 Minutes
Starring: Xai, Chris Asimos, Emma Bleby
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Kurt (Xai) is mercilessly bullied at school for not conforming to gender norms. His dreams of leaving the small town he has spent his entire life in are stymied when he is attacked by a predatory older vampire, Landon (Chris Asimos). Before he can succumb to the wounds inflicted by the mysterious man, Carly (Emma Bleby) saves him from his twisted fate. In doing so, however, Kurt is transformed into a vampire. Soon, he finds himself fitting in with the group of misfit vampires but also discovers this new life is not without danger.
So Vam is low budget horror with heart that unfortunately misses the mark in humor and horror.
Much of the social commentary has been done before, making So Vam feel redundant. This is especially seen its desire to explicitly state the subtext that bubbles underneath other traditional vampire, and other monster movies, films throughout history. The cartoonish portrayal of homophobia, while valid in the fact that it does exist, makes it difficult to take the film seriously. The lack of nuance behind the hateful characters makes them feel less real and not as threatening as they truly are.
So Vam operates better as a story of found family. In the most difficult times of Kurt’s teenage life, he is met with love and care by an intimate group of friends who will live and die for him. This sentiment is much sweeter when juxtaposed with the history of queer suffering at the hands of the ignorant. The undertones here make the film one easy to root for and allow for Kurt to truly grow into a character that goes beyond his sexuality and passive attitude about life. In the end, much of Kurt’s longing for a different life doesn’t eclipse his desire to pursue his passions and live authentically. It’s also nice to see So Vam lean away from the usual, boring, tropes surrounding this sort of coming-of-age experience. Kurt’s dad pays no mind to his sexuality but struggles to accept his other son may be a predator, and his new boyfriend’s only hang-up is the angst from having to abandon his previous clan.
Despite this indie’s best efforts, it’s difficult to look past its flaws when trying to enjoy it for what it is. The cast's performances are rough, and even the most charming of the novice actors cannot bring the energy needed into the film. This could be due to the limp characterizations and awkward editing, but it is distracting enough. Clunky fades and unexpected cuts make the film have a distinctly disjointed and amateur veneer. This causes many of the scenes to play slowly due to the grinding pace of the action.
This isn’t to say it is without its merits. There are some interesting shots and lighting choices that elevate So Vam slightly above its fellow low fi films. It is very clear that writer/director Alice Maoi Mackay has a strong sense of vision and is not afraid to commit to bold stylistic choices. It’s also suitably campy. For a queer indie horror film, there is a certain expectation of the material to be at least a little fun. Explicit social commentary aside, So Vam isn’t afraid to have fun with its silly premise and pose as a love letter to the queer community that helped spawn its existence.
Commendable low budget horror effort proves that intent doesn’t always equal impact. Broad themes of challenging societal norms showcase how horror can be used both as a refuge and a weapon for marginalized communities. So Vam isn’t camp enough to distract from the limitations set forth by the paltry budget and flat cast. It’s clear that there is talent behind the film as there is a distinct vision, both in writing and direction that come through the screen. Fans of unabashed queer horror and independent filmmaking will find much to celebrate here and will likely find themselves taken by the charms of this indie vamp flick.
Overall Score? 3.5/10