[Review] VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak [Blood in the Snow Film Festival]: Animated Short Brings a Fun Vibe to a Tolstoy Horror Tale

Can a skeptical marquis be made to believe by a family of commoners that a vampire attack is inevitable? The answer is yes, if a comely young woman is part of that family unit and the marquis is a bit of a rogue, at least in director Samuel Chou’s fun animated horror short VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak (Canada, 2022).

The short, with a screenplay by Ellery Van Dooyeweert based on Aleksey Tolstoy’s 1839 novella The Family of the Vourdalak, finds Marquis D’Urfe traveling through Serbia during a nighttime winter snowstorm on his way to a meeting in Budapest. Viewers learn of his skepticism toward the supernatural and religion when he scoffs at the warning from two men of the cloth that he should seek shelter inside their church immediately before vurdalaks come creeping.  Readers who have seen the excellent 2020 Argentina/Singapore coproduction A Taste of Blood (originally Sangre Vurdalak and AKA Vurdalak Blood or the segment “The Vurdalak,” starring Boris Karloff, from the 1963 Italian/French classic Black Sabbath know that a vurdalak is a vampire that feeds on its own family members. And skeptical though he may be, the arrogant marquis will soon find out that these creatures are very real indeed.

He takes shelter with a family of villagers in their home, trying to talk sense into them as they relate that their elderly father has missed his deadline to return home and therefore is a vurdalak. When the aforementioned young woman, daughter of the suspected vampire, makes her presence known, the marquis softens his stance a bit. When the vurdalak comes knocking, he finds himself a sudden believer in the supernatural.

Van Dooyeweert’s screenplay balances comedy with horror well, as the marquis is presented as a brash, lusty know-it-all who finds himself smack dab in the middle of a horrific occurrence. When the savagery starts, the humor takes a temporary back seat as Chou’s impressive throwback animation style features some gory attacks, and not even young children or animals are safe. Dan Bierne’s vocal performance as Marquis D’Urfe is amusing — the dialogue for his character gives him plenty to work with — while the supporting voice actors all give solid, believable performances.

I had a blast watching VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak, and give the short a strong recommendation to fans of classic horror, classic animation, and fright-fare fans of all stripes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak screens as part of Blood in the Snow Film Festival, which takes place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from November 21–26, 2022, with a Super Channel lineup on the same dates. For more information, visit https://www.bloodinthesnow.ca/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.