Lesbian Vampire Horror
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14th Oct 05
A passing motorists is lured to an isolated country house inhabited two beautiful but mysterious woman and becomes immersed in their free-spirited sexual lifestyle. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems.
Review (Part of Anchor Bay's Box of Blood)
Heavily influenced by the 70s lesbian vampire flicks of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco, and capitalising on the recent success of Hammerís Carmilla series in the UK, Jose Ramon Larrazís risquť Vampyres pushed the concept a little further than most (outside Italy that is), and a little too far the British censors. Way back in 1974, this movie was originally cut by three whole minutes, and when you watch the newly restored Anchor Bay version, itís quite easy to see why. But despite using the filmís baroque and gothic setting to squeeze out as much sex, blood and heavy breathing as possible in the movieís admittedly short running time, Larraz clearly has another agenda, musing regularly on lust, curiosity, life and death, and demonstrating once and for all that if there is a weaker sex itís certainly not the female of the species.
Or at least thatís what I think heís trying to do. The underlying problem with this and many a late 60s and early 70s movie, especially those filmed in Britain, is undoubtedly the pacing. Back then horror movies were all about brooding atmosphere, smouldering gazes and not much else. Plots were flimsy, or should I say simpler, and expectations were lower on the main part, plus you could go a long way with a couple of sexy ladies in long black cloaks. But to dismiss this kind of film off hand is a mistake as they do have their own sense of style, a quaint sense of doomed expectancy and often some examples of very eloquent cinematography. Itís not about the script or the conversation; itís about the look and feel, which is helpful in this case as Larrazís script (written under an alias Ė his wifeís name in fact) smacks of being written by a Spaniard who only has a limited understanding of the English language.
The plot, what there is of it, is very straight forward. The film opens with two lesbian lovers being shot by an unseen third party, in a hard to identify time period. Then the film skips forward to the then present day and Ted (Murray Brown), the sort of hero, checking in to a country hotel. The receptionist recognizes him, despite Ted protesting that canít be as heís never been in this neck of the woods before. Okay.
Next we witness possibly the dullest couple Iíve ever seen. John and Harriet (Brian Deacon and Sally Faulkner) are on a caravan holiday in the English countryside, where all they plan to do is fish and paint, respectively. Their chosen place to camp is on the edge of the grounds of a spooky old house, where Harriet keeps noticing two robed women prowling around at night. Sheís spooked but John regularly dismisses her observations and tells her to go and make them both a nice cup of tea instead. I love it when Brits in movies ask for a nice cup of tea Ė why do we always think thatíll solve everything?
Anyway, the prowling around is the two leads Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (playboy centrefold Anulka) looking for male motorists to lure back to the house for wine, sex and a bit of death, and on the night in question the lucky guy is Ted, although strangely this time, and despite Miriamís protests, Fran just canít seem to bring herself to kill Ted, so instead just bleeds him a lot. But why canít she do it? Is her hunger for lust turning into love this time? Is Fran the lesbian vampire lover jealous? And how many cups of tea can John and Harriet drink? Well, if youíre looking for answers to these beguiling questions you will be sorely disappointed, as sadly very little is resolved at the end leaving you completely none the wiser.
Mind you, thatís not really the point with lesbian vampire movies. Films of this kind are built on gorgeous use of the British countryside, beautiful ladies, and finding that right balance between erotica and sleaze. On those counts this does impress: Harry Waxmanís cinematography (on a roll after The Wicker Man the year before) is as attractive as the vampish leads, and believe you me these ladies are attractive. Yes, you do get a lot of semi-soft core sex romping going on (the lesbian shower scene being a particularly bright example of that) but it does come across as more erotic than it is sleazy and exploitative, so this flick is much more watchable than many of its kind, although in the general scale of things the plot narrative is very slow, and the pacing slower, so you have to be quite forgiving to make it through to the end without boredom kicking in.
But I guess itís all a matter of taste: take the level of gore as an example. There is a lot of blood in the sharp death sequences and Iím sure it would have appeared grossly shocking on its initial release thirty years ago. With years of horror since then, itís not hard to spot that the blood on the victims doesnít exactly gush from wounds but is more like smeared on the skin, obviously because thatís what they actually did. Is that scary? No. Is any of the film scary in fact? No Ė but thatís not what this film is about.
On the simple level of a seventies lesbian vampire flick, this is probably the best of its kind. Whereas many horror aficionados lap this kind of stuff up unconditionally, many simply donít and get bored easily. If itís any guideline this reviewer doesnít much care for this type of film, but I found Vampyres strangely endearing, mainly because itís no where near as unintentionally funny as it sounds. Despite a thin plot, and script, the general mood displayed evenly throughout is almost entrancing, and as far as Hammer style horrors go this film certainly holds its own. At the end of the day if you like lesbian vampire flicks youíll love this, and if you donít you might just rate this as okay. And of course you also get those naked lesbian vampire romps as a bonus, so letís be thankful for a few small mercies and stop all our whinging.
4th Oct 04 With its fine blend of dark humour and shock horror, you will barely be able to avert your gaze from the screen; from the opening sequence on the desolate moors, to the thrilling finale in Piccadilly Circus.