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BWW Review: Dark Shadows Surrender to Love's Light in HYBRIDS

(The 22nd Annual Sedona International Film Festival is up and running through February 28th, featuring more than 160 films, including documentaries, features, shorts, animation and foreign films. The following is one of a series of reviews of selected films from the Festival.)

Love conquers all, even the eternal conflict between vampires and witches. Best evidence is the wedlock of Todor (Philip Willingham) and Valentina (Anne Leighton). The fusion of their spirits has yielded the prototypical nuclear family ~ a son, Blaz (Mojean Aria) and a daughter, Velana (Leanne Agmon). Well, perhaps, more proto than typical. The kids are hybrids, and their friendless life in the castle and constricted bedtime in caskets aren't quite cutting it. Using their power of teleportation, they relocate to Palm Tree City, Florida to pursue their dreams. Blaz hooks up with Maria (Lauren Lakis), a college filmmaker who aspires to compose a modern horror fairy tale. Her project, Shadows and Light, refocuses (thanks to Blaz's input) on the forbidden love between a zombie and a human. (Getting the picture?) Velana, meanwhile, gets work at a bar, waiting for her special moment to belt out the song within her.

For a campy and rib-tickling ninety-five minutes, Tony Schweikle's HYBRIDS follows the teenage fugitives' quest for self-fulfillment; the desperate effort by their parents to retrieve them; and the hot pursuit by the mysterious and hideous Prater (Charles Noland) to reverse a curse.

Director Tony Randel has a sure eye for comic effect and gives free rein to his ensemble to mug it up for the camera.

If anybody's having a grand time of doing so, it's Paul Sorvino, who performs a classic turn as The Count. Channeling Lugosi, Sorvino is the reluctant patron un-saint, called upon, when all else fails, to rescue the situation. His lines keep rolling like the rapids. He's resentful that he's been awakened from his three month nap and pulled away from his hand-carved French sycamore silk-lined casket with memory-foam pillow. He avoids witches like the plague. When's he's advised that every effort under the sun ~ telepathic communication, dematerialization, molecular projection, and second sight with a crystal ball ~ has been used to locate the wayward spawn, he goes modern and goes online. Sorvino has his romantic moment as well while slicing a tomato and cutting up an aria.

Randel and ensemble clearly have a hoot of a time with this apparently silly tale, but not without leaving a serious message about the importance of family connection and cross-cultural understanding. Whether it's different cultures or ethnicities or, yes, vampires and witches, somebody's got to get the ball rolling on building bridges rather than barriers. Hybrids may be the first proof and vanguard of that possibility.

HYBRIDS will be screened twice at the 22nd Annual Sedona International Film Festival ~ first in a special presentation to school kids on February 25th and then on the 27th for Festival attendees.

Photo credit to Cameron Doane Photography

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