J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Vampyres: Remaking the Vampire Exploitation Cult Favorite

Based on vampire lore, death need not curb your sex drive. In fact, most post Lugosi vampires are downright voracious—especially the lesbians. At least, that is how filmmaker-dudes like Jean Rollin and Jess Franco envisioned them. Joseph [José Ramón] Larraz also contributed to the softcore Sapphic blood-sucking tradition with the 1974 cult classic Vampyres. It wasn’t exactly a complicated narrative, but Victor Matellano remade it anyway. Faithful to the original, Matellano’s English language Vampyres (trailer here) releases today on DVD and VOD.

Fran and Miriam are your classic lesbian vampires, who lure horny male victims to the gothic abode for a night of hedonism and feeding. Harriet assumes several of her friends are just running late for their camping trip, but the vampy vamps have already picked them off. Not exactly proactive, she and her other two grudgingly platonic pals will just wait around for someone to find them.

It turns out they will have a ridiculously long wait. Fran has just picked up Ted playing the lost, waifish hitchhiker. However, the young Brian Dennehy-looking fellow is apparently her type. Instead of dispatching immediately as per their standard procedure, she keeps him alive in a sex-stoked, blood-drained haze. Meanwhile, Matellano periodically checks back in at the inn where Ted spent the night, just so he could cast British horror icon Caroline Munro in meaninglessly tangential scenes.

There is plenty of sex and nudity in the re-upped Vampyres as well as a good deal of blood-letting, so Matellano covers all the mandatory bases. However, it is nowhere near as successful creating an atmosphere of mystery or critiquing gender roles as the thematically similar Blood of the Tribades. Frankly, the remake just sort of looks cheap, which is a bit of an unfair criticism given its severe budget constraints, but it is still fair to point out the original looks better, even though it was produced under similar circumstances.

Vampyres is not exactly an actors’ workshop either, but Marta Flich’s potent presence gives us a hint of the sort of lushly indulgent guilty pleasure could have (and should have) been. There is also something weirdly compelling about Christian Stamm’s half-delirious dad-bodded Ted. To her credit, Munro manages to almost convince us she isn’t completely bored as the hotelier, because she is a total professional.

Spelling “vampyre” or “womyn” with a Y always seems perversely contradictory, since the whole intention is to convey the lack of a Y chromosome, but so be it. While we’re in a pedantic frame of mind, it also seems rather negligent for a vampyre couple to have a loaded crossbow affixed to their wall, like some kind of decorative object. At least we cannot accuse it of being “Chekhov’s Crossbow,” because it will be used eventually. If you are in the mood for a lesbian vampire film, the 1974 original or either version of Embrace of the Vampire will probably better satisfy. However, if this is your thing then have at it, when Vampyres releases today (10/18) on DVD and VOD, from Artsploitation.

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