When it comes to vampire movies, it seems increasingly difficult to subvert this trope in an original way. In a post-Twilight era, we seem to have had our fill of bloodsuckers and creatures of the night (although Boys From County Hell may beg to differ). In response to this new lack of fresh meat, Igor Legarreta‘s All The Moons gives us a whole new side of vampirism to sink our teeth into. In just 100 minutes, religious suppression, war, and the corruption of innocence are placed under the microscope in the only Basque entry to the Fantasia Film Festival this year.
Starting off 1786, at the pique of the Third Carlist War in northern Spain, an orphan (Haizea Carneros) is dangerously wounded. She is rescued by an ‘angel’ (Itziar Ituño) and healed overnight. Little does she know that she has been turned into a vampire and must now cower from the sun and drink the blood of animals. When she is separated from her ‘mother’ in the chaos of war, she must fend for herself for years on end. Eventually, she finds herself in the care of Cándido (Josean Bengoetxea), a farmer in a remote Basque village, where she is given the name Amaia. From there, she must face the isolation of a hostile community and religious ostracism.
First and foremost, it is staggering to encounter such depth in a performance from an actor of Haizea Carneros’ age. Such complex emotions in an outlandish context are portrayed so effortlessly in her facial expressions, suggesting not only a natural actor in our midst but also careful and considered direction from Legarreta. It is through Carneros’s acting that we can understand the scenario at a painfully profound level. Stuck in a cave, she damages her skin in the sunlight just so that she can draw on the walls with her blood. Although a morbid and disturbing idea, it is clear that her immortality has preserved her childlike innocence. She is not an angel or a demon but merely stuck as a child who wishes to be found and loved by someone.
The relationship that Amaia builds with Cándido is one that has been seen often before. The isolated and emotionally damaged hermit must rise to the challenge to care for a little orphan girl that he never wanted in the first place. However, Carneros and Bengoetxea capture a heartfelt earnestness that makes their makeshift father-daughter relationship as touching as its predecessors such as Silas Marner and Jakob The Liar. Cándido’s affection for Amaia grows stronger as he continues to age without her and shakes off his entire community who fear her thirst for blood and inability to literally stomach the eucharist wafers.
The success of the actors’ authenticity is in no small part thanks to Legarreta and Jon Sagala’s beautiful writing and cinematography. Amaia’s journey through the Basque Country is accompanied by a twilight spectrum stricken with tree branches to swelling orchestral melodies. Amaia’s journey is not one to recoil at in horror, nor is it one to fear, it is simply the odyssey of a child trying to find a home that she has never had and can never have again. The repetition of imagery such as the blunt glow of burning wrecks from the Third Carlist War to the Spanish Civil War means that there is no exhaustive dialogue. There are lengthy scenes without any speech, but the cinematography alone shows a little girl’s exhaustion with immortality.
One of the few criticisms you could have is the lack of explanation for Amaia’s scenario. For the first ten years of her new life as a vampire, she cannot expose herself to the sunlight without giving herself excruciating burns. However, one morning she wakes up and she can suddenly walk around in the sunshine without hurting herself anymore. It’s a small tidbit but it does lay the groundwork for the rest of the plot by the second act. Overall however it doesn’t seriously damage All The Moons, which is a heartfelt film with a refreshing take on a familiar subgenre.
A plothole here and there is no match for an extremely earnest and genuine piece of filmmaking that offers something new to what was so nearly an exhausted corner of fantasy and horror. All The Moons is a beautiful new addition to the vampire genre.
All The Moons is currently streaming as part of the Fantasia Film Festival 2021.
Words by Elizabeth Sorrell
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