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“Lilith’s Awakening” – An artistic twist on vampire films

Lilith's AwakeningBack when the earliest horror movies were released to the public I’m sure that the filmmakers of that day did not expect their works to be regarded as “artistic.” Even today when film critics watch the 1931 Dracula it is looked upon fondly because of its beautiful set design and cinematography. And while horror films today, especially vampire films, are approached in a way that either appeals to the “gorror” fan, or to the teenage girl with sparkly vampires, filmmaker Monica Demes has come forward to give us something that can stand alongside those wonderful horror films of the 30’s with the black and white art film Lilith’s Awakening.

Starring Sophia Woodward as the repressed Lucy, the setting is some tired mid-western town that is extremely religiously conservative. This creates an unhappy life for Lucy as she spends her day working for her oppressive father, only to then go home to her husband John in a completely loveless marriage. Her world is cold. Black and white. It is only when she tries to break free of her bonds that the movie gives us a little bit of color on her face in her black and white world. The contrast is startling, but the message is clear. We also have a newcomer to this sleepy little town in the form of Lilith, played by Barbara Eugenia. She is our vampire, and the use of black and white, when focused on her face, accentuates her haunting features. At times the camera trains in on her eyes almost allowing for the viewer to become totally lost in them. Shortly after Lilith arrives people start to disappear, and when this happens it forces Lucy down a path that is both terrifying and alluring at the same time.

While the cinematography is at the heart of this film, the standout performance by Sophia Woodward must not be overlooked. Her repressed performance is so well controlled that it never feels forced, and yet we get the impression that she is liable to completely burst from all the pressure that is building up within her. Barbara Eugenia, on the other hand, approaches her role with a sense of coldness, but at the same time there is a feeling that there is something very fiery burning inside of her. As for the cinematography, in addition to the brilliant use of black and white film, Demes constructs each shot much the same way Ansel Adams would compose his photos. Demes thoughtfully frames each scene and character, which does more than to just tell her story. These scenes ARE the story. While one setting can come off as strikingly beautiful, another might give the appearance of something cold and dead, only to be followed up with a framed shot of a particular character that it could only give the viewer an intense feeling of unease. Her night shots are also spectacular, as she will place what appears to be a single light on her subject amidst the blackness of the setting, creating a sense of both emptiness and claustrophobia at the same time.

Lilith’s Awakening has a number of amusing Easter Eggs for the keen watcher. Various characters are named after classic roles in Dracula, and the service station where Lucy works is even named Helsing, showing that Demes also has a slightly macabre sense of humor.

Lilith’s Awakening is a very different type of film than what one might expect from mainstream horror cinema, and while I initially found the film a bit daunting on its first viewing, it was when I sat down and re-watched it that I was then able to appreciate and enjoy the movie for what it truly is. Again, this film is not for your casual vampire/horror moviegoer. Most movies today use the scenery to drive the story, but Demes uses artistic imagery to CREATE her story. Instead of form following function we now have function following form. Her stories are born out of the scenes she envisions. So, while Lilith’s Awakening can be shown in theaters, this movie is so beautifully filmed and acted that, if it were possible, it should be hanging in the Metropolitan Museum.

If you want to listen to our interview with Monica Demes, you can hear it in TG Geeks Webcast Episode 75. To learn more about her film just go to Lilith’s Awakening, and the film will be having its world premiere on June 11, 2016 at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA at 11:45 PM. Tickets can be purchased here.
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