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Review - TF8 - Night Kaleidoscope by Taliesin

Original article by Taliesin

Night Kaleidoscope, which originally had the ironic working title of Land of Sunshine, is an odd duck. I really wanted to like it a lot more than I ended up doing (and of course I shall explain) but it was an effort that in some respects belied the approximately £4000 budget.

The music as the credits ran seemed to be a paean to the synthesised soundtracks of 80s horror, we saw images within of an occult nature (bare feet walking what looked like a circle). As we went into the film proper the music took a darker ambient turn and we see a girl attacked by a man and woman, never named but in the credits are Carrie (Kitty Colquhoun) – whose character is named Emma on IMDb at the time of review – and Lewis (Jason Harvey). There seems to be a man sat calmly as they kill her, we discover this is Fian (Patrick O’Brien). The images are confused, deliberately.

Set in Edinburgh, in the less affluent areas of the city, it had a definitive urban decay vibe going on, with a deliberately drab colour scheme, but it was within the narrative that I became disheartened. I relish a film that makes you think, that makes you connect the dots and dig into its form, structure and narrative to find the answers. In this case I more felt like I was left to guess, and it was within the audience guess work that the validity of the narrative stood or fell.

Daytime in the flat and a cop, Pollock (Craig-James Moncur), waits for Fian. Fian arrives and there is talk of doubling his fee. Fian says he needs to be alone with the body and Pollock makes a snide comment about him enjoying this one as she is his type. Fian lights a rolled cigarette, later revealed to be a herbal concoction designed to help his natural visions, and we see the murder again. This time it is still a confused jumble of images but less so and we know that there is feeding on the blood. The act of seeing appears to hurt him.

So Fian is a psychic investigator, using a gift that has passed along his paternal line (we later hear). The confused nature of the visions is deliberate, one feels, letting us see the patchwork that the investigator “sees” but also allows for some covering up of the budget restrictions. There are two interesting things here. As we go through the vision twice (and he appeared to be there in both occasions) did he have a vision before the case was given to him? Perhaps. More interesting is the fact that Carrie sees him this time. Is the vision non-linear (ie does he project himself back in time so she sees him during the event) or does she share the vision at that time? The film doesn’t tell us but she definitely sees him (and mentions it obliquely later) and later she sees and interacts with him as she is with a potential victim, the interaction with his spirit projection (if we can call it that) impacting his physical body.

As he leaves the flat the night he sees is like a kaleidoscope (hence the name I guess) as filters obscure shots – again I’d guess a budget thing as much as an aesthetic. Fian’s home looks more like a squat, he reaches straight for the whisky and we meet his contact, Harry (Robert Williamson), who sells him his vision herbs and some binding herbs (he is told to throw them over whilst saying the words to freeze his enemy). Fian asks Harry about anyone new in town and how he kills them and Harry refuses an answer suggesting that he is more scared of them then he is of Fian.

On the streets he spots a girl, Isobel (Mariel McAllan), who is also following the couple and whom his vision draws him to. He follows her but is intercepted by Lewis. Fian forces the binding herbs into his mouth (I didn’t notice him saying the words) and paralyses the man but he is soon up, pushes Fian away and legs it – Fian angrily confronts Harry about the herbs not working. Isabel is warned off following them by Lewis, but the next day Isabel finds Fian and they start working together. This causes Carrie to send Lewis out in the daylight to find her and sort it. He seems weakened and Fian captures him.

So, they are vampires and a lot of the film is seeing them, through visions, attacking and killing. As well as drinking blood they gather it in syringes (to drink from later) and it appears they have contacts in high places. We are told that they have been around as long as humans hunting in places of despair, making me at first think that they might be a separate species until there is an offer to turn. Lewis seems affected by sunlight (weakened and pained when his shades are removed) and also weakened through lack of feeding. Fian doesn’t know how to kill them but ascertains they are flammable (threatening to torture Lewis with fire, something that doesn’t happen). It is Harry who offers a clue on how to finish them, which I won’t spoil. We know that she, at least, has a psychic aspect and seems to psychically attack Fian at one point.

However, the narrative is as scattered as the visions, making the viewer work to piece it together and some things are just not answered (or at least, if they were, I missed the answer within the scattered narrative). For instance, despite the struggles of the first victim, most victims do not seem to fight back. We see one girl dressed as a cat (Ashley Sutherland) whose stomach is cut but she just sits there. Do they mesmerise or somehow immobilise the victims? It would appear so but the film didn’t reveal how exactly. Indeed, I think one of my issues with the film was I didn’t get a sense of power from the pair and thus wondered why there was no fight back (even when Carrie beats Harry I was left wondering). I think this needed something within the overall narrative to help us understand.

On the other hand I really was quite taken with Fian as a character and, given the nature of the narrative, it had as much to do with Patrick O’Brien’s performance as anything. Stoic, damaged but interesting. The dark ambient soundtrack with moments of 80s synth carried us pulsing forward, there were visually unusual moments that intrigued as well as those moments that confused. There would have been room for less filters and effects but that may have betrayed the budget, we did though get a feeling that feeding was a visceral activity. I was left knowing that I wanted to like the film more than I did as there was something in there that was definitely interesting. 4.5 out of 10.

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