According to the bible of all things quite possibly true, Wikipedia, a strigoi is a product of Romanian mythology. Specifically, it is said to be the restless soul of a dead person who was wronged when alive. They usually come in the form of vampires ...

And so, the action begins in "Podoleni Village, Romania � last Wednesday". A body lies dead in an open field. The God-fearing villagers are quick to pin the blame on a local couple � Constantin (Constantin Barbulescu) and his wife Ileana. They form a Kangaroo court and take them into the nearby fields, where they dole out a fatal punishment of their own.

Enter Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv), a villager who travelled to Italy to study medicine but has returned after being disillusioned by having to make ends meet there by frying chicken. He has his own reasons for eschewing his parents upon his return and staying with his Communist-hating grandfather instead.

One of the first things Vlad does is try to catch up with old friends. When he calls in on mate Rasu, he finds him and several others drinking and being merry around the cadaver of the aforementioned body. He quickly realises that this is a custom related to local folklore: people must stay with the deceased�s corpse for three days, to ensure it does not become a vampire. The exercise is also an "excuse to drink", we�re assured.

Vlad becomes fascinated by the details of the dead man�s mysterious death and determines to investigate it further. This leads him to probing firstly into the local church, and then more specifically into the business affairs of land-owner and all-round unpopular Constantin and his wife. But they�re no longer as human as they used to be ...

At times, STRIGOI recalled the Gothic flavour of CEMETERY MAN. I also felt early frissons of CRONOS in its visual warmth and almost fairy tale-like unravelling. But it�s also very much its own beast: a highly original vampire film, in an age when the genre is at risk of being sucked completely dry by anaemic crap like the TWILIGHT franchise.

Writer/director Faye Jackson impresses with a canny sense of humour, understated for the most part, but capable of imbuing a slowly unfurling plot with enough human realism to constantly engage. She also has a keen eye for striking compositions, resulting in a film of rich aesthetic value.

As a horror film, less forgiving fans may find it falls a little short of what they�re looking for. But for others, they will be rewarded by a quirky, intelligent script that explores its characters and builds deliberately towards some truly creepy moments � as well as providing a thriller element which stays satisfyingly unpredictable.

Performances are generally good, however they�re hard to gage due to the cast being Romanian but speaking in English. They cope well though, and happily Jackson doesn�t dumb her script down to accommodate them.

Infused with lots of good, unexpected moments � funeral revellers dancing to "Spirit In The Sky"; Vlad�s conflicted thoughts on his hometown after witnessing more of the world; the intriguing observations of small-town Romanian life; the suggestion that villagers may sell a deceased belongings on eBay � STRIGOI is witty and attractive, and genuinely does offer a fresh take on a tired concept.

Small wonder that it won the award for Best Independent Feature at the 2009 Toronto After Dark Festival.

STRIGOI comes uncut on Bounty Films� DVD. It�s presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been enhanced for 16x9 TVs. It looks great, with strong colours and stable blacks throughout. Detail is fine; depth is impressive.

English 2.0 audio is clean and perfectly balanced for the duration of the film, offering as much of a problem-free playback as the picture.

Optional English subtitles are provided for the hard of hearing, and for those who can�t get their heads around the accents employed by the English-speaking Romanian cast.

A static main menu page leads into equally static sub-menus. These include a scene-selection menu allowing access to STRIGOI via 12 chapters.

Extras are limited but fun for what they are.

They begin with Jackson�s excellent earlier short film, 2006�s LUMP. A lean 12 minutes of very peculiar, very British paranoia, this tells of a young woman (Lara Belmont) who keeps being readmitted to surgery for the removal of re-emerging lumps in her breast.

Each time she�s told the extracted tissue was benign ... and that another lump has been found in its place.

Part claustrophobic meditation on deep-rooted womanly fears, part recurring nightmare, LUMP is quirky, dark and oddly unsettling. It�s also very well shot and performed, again benefitting from Jackson�s adroit editing.

It plays in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for 16x9 television sets, with English 2.0 audio.

A 1-minute trailer for the main feature is the only other bonus feature on offer. This is a zesty little number which successfully evokes the left-of-the-middle vibe of the film.

Bounty Films (an underling company of Eureka � so we�re in safe hands here!) have done a good job here, bringing a relatively unknown genre film to UK DVD in such an agreeable presentation. A commentary track from Jackson would�ve been a marvellous addition to the package, such is the main feature�s enigma, but don�t let the lack of one put you off.

STRIGOI comes recommended.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Bounty Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review