Of all the treasures in the world, few are more rare than inspiration. Without it, one might say that we would have no art, no invention, no religion…
Fortunately, the occasional breath of the divine fills us up and sparks our minds and fires our imaginations. Inspiration has given us the sonnets of Shakespeare. Inspiration has given us the Apollo moon rocket. Inspiration has given us chainsaw-wielding maniacs, knife-fingered, dream-dwelling child molesters and trap-building madmen.
What? You didn’t think inspiration only gave us sunshine and bunnies, did you? No, sometimes inspiration gives us things like “Red Victoria”.
The first feature offering from writer/director Tony Brownrigg, “Red Victoria” is the story of Jim (Brownrigg), a put-upon screenwriter. Jim writes pseudo-intellectual, high-brow screenplays that his agent cannot give away for love or money. Finally, his agent suggests that Jim comes down off his literary high horse and write something that will sell – namely, a horror script. Horror, though, comes about as naturally to Jim as knitting does to fish. Jim needs a little inspiration and it comes to him in the undead form of Victoria (Arianne Martin). Zombie? Demon? Devil? Whatever she is, only one thing is certain: she is there to educate and inspire Jim in the fine art of horror.
Let the madcap mayhem begin.
While initially it looks like we’re going to get a fairly pedestrian trip to Horrorland, it then takes us down paths that owe more to the works of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez than it does to the works of, say, George Romero and John Carpenter. Brownrigg has crafted not a horror movie, or even your standard horror-comedy. What he’s made is really a screwball comedy dressed in horror togs. One can easily see the influences of movies like, “Bringing Up Baby” just as easily as one could see the influences of “Scream” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. It gives it a light and quirky feel to it – even when Victoria is busy twisting someone’s head off or flaying the pizza boy. Sometimes however, I felt like it doesn’t have an exact grip on what it wanted to be. Along the way, it seemed like Brownrigg got caught chasing butterflies exploring the relationship between Jim and Victoria. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it did give the film a bit of a meandering feeling.
Additionally, the film is bookended with an interview scene that felt like it was added on as an afterthought. I think it was supposed to provide a stinger at the end but it just left me flat and seemed completely out of step with the rest of the film.
One thing that definitely worked, though, was the casting. Brownrigg, wearing one of his many hats in this film, worked well as the exceedingly high-strung artiste, Jim. Edward Landers, in his first role, charmingly breathed life into the stereotypical horror fan, Carl. Likewise, newcomer Christian Taylor made the most of his sparse screen-time as Jim’s impressively pretentious friend, Blake. And then, of course, there’s Martin’s Victoria. If the plan was to make her an endearing and homicidal giggle-pixie of death, then she gets full marks for her portrayal. In fact, I think they need to clone her and distribute her to struggling horror writers everywhere.
“Red Victoria” might not make the best choices from a horror standpoint, but it certainly hits where it’s aiming from an entertainment standpoint. Genre writers – myself included – may find themselves wondering who exactly do they have to kill to get a muse like that.