El Conde

Verdict: Pablo Larrain's satire is a darkly funny and gruesome vampire movie that drags out its idea

Pablo Larrain’s dark satire imagines a world in which Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is still alive – and a vampire.

In real life, Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, died in 2006.

Pablo Larrain’s new film El Conde, or The Count in English, imagines a world in which the fascist dictator is still very much alive – and a 250-year-old vampire. Finally fed up with eternal life, Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) decides to stop drinking human blood for sustenance.

His five human children show up at his decaying mansion with their eyes on their inheritance – but Pinochet’s finances are all over the place and they need an accountant to straighten them out and figure how much money there actually is.

Catholic nun Teresita (Paula Luchsinger) shows up at the remote ranch posing as a accountant – but she has an ulterior motive.

Pinochet takes a liking to the young nun and finds a new reason to keep on living, much to the disappointment of his family.

El Conde, which was shot in black and white, is a gruesome satire with an audacious premise. High-concept films tend to have a lightweight plot and this is very true for Larrain’s latest. Not that much happens – yes, we see vampires flying around Chile and eating hearts but we actually spend most of the runtime watching Pinochet grumbling about his shameless children and reputation in his decrepit mansion.

The movie needed to level up and go beyond its initial idea but Larrain doesn’t take it much further, so although the script is darkly funny, the narrative ultimately started to drag.

Thankfully, our mysterious narrator (voiced by Stella Gonet) shows up towards the end and reveals her identity, bringing the story some much-needed energy in the final stretch. The third act is absurd, bold and grisly and the strongest part of the film.

Mixing gory horror and socio-political wit, Larrain’s El Conde tries to stretch one idea out for 1 hour 50 minutes and the novelty eventually wears off.

On Netflix from Friday 15th September.

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