Pablo Larraín’s black-and-white horror spoof “El Conde” is based on a ferocious sight gag: the previous dictator Augusto Pinochet hovering into the night time on a quest for human blood. Navy cape flapping about his thighs, Pinochet flies together with his again as straight as an early Superman serial — a tip-off that Larraín (“Jackie,” “Spencer”) wants the viewers to play alongside together with his cheeky reimagining of the despot as a 250-year-old vampire.
This Pinochet, performed with imperious cruelty by Jaime Vadell, was as soon as a rebel-eating French royalist who sailed to South America in quest of recent meat. It’s a comic book premise — what, is that this a part of the “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” prolonged universe? — besides Larraín is just half-laughing. Historical past’s Pinochet oversaw the execution or disappearance of 1000’s of Chileans. Larraín’s model of the person did that, too, with only one tweak: He blends his victims right into a smoothie.
The director has been sharpening his instruments for this confrontation. Born in Santiago three years after Pinochet seized energy in 1973, Larraín earned early acclaim from the interval items “Tony Manero” (2009), “Submit Mortem” (2012) and the Oscar-nominated “No” (2013), a trilogy of satires that used Pinochet as an unseen boogeyman. The director shifted his consideration past Chile with two psychodramas that punctured the iconography of Jacqueline Kennedy and Princess Diana and turned political movie star right into a waking nightmare. He’s circled dwelling, he has mentioned in interviews, as a result of he believes his country remains divided — and haunted — by not simply Pinochet’s crimes but additionally his impunity. The ex-president efficiently dodged trial till his demise in 2006. And Larraín has resurrected him to tug him into the sunshine.
Our setting is the current the place we discover Pinochet hiding out in Patagonia, a shivery excuse for exaggerated mists and merciless winds that howl beneath each scene. (Ed Lachman’s gothic cinematography pairs nicely with Juan Pablo Ávalo and Marisol García’s violent strings.) The movie begins as a collection of dialogue-light flashbacks: Pinochet licks Marie Antoinette’s blood from a guillotine; he usurps the birthday of his spouse, Lucia (Gloria Münchmeyer), by faking a coronary heart assault; he struggles to play useless whereas a protester spits on his coffin. At first, the dehydrated vampire is just too thirsty to do greater than reminisce. Whereas inert, he’s lavished with adoration by his Nazi butler (Alfredo Castro) and the British narrator (Stella Gonet) who does her bloody greatest to bludgeon the viewers into agreeing that Pinochet is a nationwide hero.
Larraín and his longtime writing companion Guillermo Calderón are delighted to place a Hammer horror spin on scenes that time towards the information as usually as they fib. Caught with a corpse in an 18th-century brothel, the younger vampire makes use of the identical protection the true Pinochet gave when requested if he headed Chile’s secret police: “I don’t bear in mind, but it surely’s not true. And if it have been true, I don’t bear in mind.” The road will get fun, however the stinger is our consciousness that we’d fairly grapple with Pinochet’s predations as camp than somber docu-reality.
The plot doesn’t kick in till Pinochet’s 5 grasping grownup youngsters arrive at his rural property for his or her lower of his fortune. They’re aggrieved that he refuses to die, and equally piqued that he squirreled his cash in so many hidden accounts that they want a monetary whiz, an inquisitive nun named Carmen (Paula Luchsinger), to uncover his hundreds of thousands. Carmen’s Joan of Arc crop is a clue she considers the household’s mortal members to be bloodsucking parasites.
There are solely so some ways to serve the movie’s simply digestible metaphor. We get it: Most people are merely chum for the elites. Simply because the joke is starting to put on skinny, Larraín expands this universe with a shock cameo (take into account it his tackle “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”) that will get a giggle plus a understanding nod of concern. However whereas the filmmaker has the gall to caricature tyranny, he’s too cynical, or too trustworthy, to wrap up “El Conde” with a satisfying decision. Larraín has lastly confronted his monster — however he can’t carry himself to drive a stake by his coronary heart.
Rated R for ghastly spurts of black-and-white blood. In Spanish, with subtitles. Operating time: 1 hour 50 minutes. Watch on Netflix.