I should confess up front. I love me some vampires. You might think this would mean I’d be more charitable towards any vampire-related film, but in fact the opposite is true. Because I am such a fan of the genre, I’m actually tougher on movies, novels, etc. I have higher standards where vampiric entertainment is concerned than I do in general. It isn’t fair to go into a viewing with preconceived notions, though, so before I sat down to watch VAMPYRES I had to mentally set all that aside. I had to keep an open mind. This flick sure didn’t make that easy, let me tell you.
There’s a sort of unspoken rule of cinematic criticism. If a movie shows nudity within the first five minutes, it’s a tip-off that the movie won’t be any good. Likewise, Joe Bob Briggs, when asked once about the many mistakes to which newbie independent filmmakers most often succumb, lamented the tendency towards clichéd subject matter. Lesbian vampires was at the top of his list of those played-out clichés, second only to zombies. VAMPYRES opened with nudity, with a sex scene with lesbian vampires. This doesn’t bode well, I said to myself. Still, it wouldn’t be fair to judge an entire film based on its first thirty seconds, so I had to mentally set all that aside, again, in order to keep an open mind.
Within the first five minutes, though, there was a hokey kill scene. A guy got his throat cut, and the FX were so cheap, and the expression on his face so fake and unintentionally comical, that I had to pause the film and, for a third time, mentally set all that aside. Again, in the interest of fairness, because it wouldn’t be fair to judge a film by its first ten minutes. By the THIRTY minute mark, though, when the movie still hadn’t grabbed my attention, I felt I’d been fair enough. After that, I was just marking time till the end credits.
There was a lot of nudity in VAMPYRES. A LOT of nudity. It seemed, in fact, that the script was written for the express purpose of getting the two vampire babes naked as often as possible. As was the case with SHOWGIRLS, though, after a while the nudity became boring. (And if I’m mentioning SHOWGIRLS in relation to a film’s quality, that for damn sure ain’t a good sign.) There were other characters, naturally: three friends, two guys and a chick, who may have been a three-way, or the girl and one of the guys may have been a couple, or the two guys may have been a couple and she their third wheel; honestly, the characters were never developed sufficiently for me to tell.
There was a guy who looked like the ugly offspring of Stellan Skarsgard and Bill Pullman, who one of the vampires apparently took a shine to. Other than that, I have no idea who he was or why he was there. There was a third vampire at some point, though she was never seen again and I have no idea what the deal was with her. There was some old guy with a scythe. No explanation was ever given as to why he was there. Could that have been the filmmaker’s sloppy attempt at symbolism? The movie did end in a way that I didn’t foresee, which would have been kinda cool—at least I THINK it ended that way; I couldn’t be sure—if I had still had it in me to care by that point. Alas, I did not.
I really wanted to like this movie. I won’t say that VAMPYRES was ALL bad. The cinematography was quite good, the location filming atmospheric (that old house they used was tres CREEPY), and some of the visuals were sumptuous. There was this one kill scene, involving the naked lesbian vamps chewing on a hapless victim (I have no idea who he was), that was downright beautiful in a horrific way. In summation, then: VAMPYRES is pretty to look at, but that’s about it. Oh, and the score (not to say the soundtrack) was lush and effective.
I did learn after viewing the film that it is a remake of a 1974 film by the same name. Despite my love for all things vampire, that is one that has managed to slide under my radar. I’ve heard of it, but never got around to viewing it (and I didn’t automatically place this new version as having any relation to it because, let’s face it, there are dozens of flicks with some variation of “vampyre/vampire” as their title). At first I thought this a potential disqualifier for me. Perhaps if I’d seen the original I might have judged this one more favorably, I thought. Upon further rumination, though, I feel it is better that I have never seen the original. I was thus able to critique this version as its own standalone picture. As such, sadly, it falls flat. It is quite possible that, as a remake of the original, it is a rousing success, only the ORIGINAL was a crappy movie too. If that’s the case, at least VAMPYRES is faithful to its source material.
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