It took Artsploitation Films, responsible for some outstanding indie horror in the past few years, to get me to not only watch a remake about lesbian vampires, but to go back and watch the original from over 40 years ago.
When it comes to horror from the first half of the 1970s, I’m a Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark/The Exorcist/Trilogy of Terror/Black Christmas kind of guy. Horror that was contemporary and highly influential for its time. The Hammer-like takes on classic monsters that ran rampant in that period were painfully dated to me, and when filmmakers threw in the softcore Euro-sleaze vampire trend geared toward heterosexual male desire, there was little for me to like.
Somehow, Vampyres 1974 defied having all the cards stacked against it. I was pretty fricking entertained by this one, and knowing I was about to get a modern remake made it even more alluring. After viewing both, I have to say, there’s very little difference between the films. The 2015 remake is strikingly faithful to the original, while giving it just that extra bit of EEK! And EW!
The general plot is about a lesbian (more like bi) vampire couple that lives in a creepy mansion in the countryside, where they lure unsuspecting men driving by into their home for some sex and blood. But they take a break from their regular routine to fuck with a traveling salesman and some campers that show up at around the same time and begin to suspect the truth about their devious existence.
For me, Vampyres is the perfect mix of highly erotic, horrific, and gothic. Even the score doesn’t have that bad early 1970s melodramatic sound – it’s as chilling as the atmosphere of the film.
If anything, the main problem with Vampyres is the various plot holes, which make it seem that the goal was more to deliver gratuitous sex and gore than to tell a cohesive tale. The biggest, most glaring issue is with the opening, which serves no purpose but to entice with immediate lesbian sex. A blonde and brunette are in bed exercising their tongues when an unseen person comes in and shoots them.
Next, we meet a couple that is coming to the countryside to stay in a camper. For whatever reason, their camper is right near the creepy mansion. The woman is an artist, so the scenery is her subject. But she keeps spotting the two women moving through the woods. Oh yes. These vampires aren’t afraid of the sun. They are always out in the daylight. Not conventional lore for sure, but it does add a creep factor knowing that even in daylight, victims are vulnerable. At one point, the artist encounters the vampires face-to-face and one of them makes reference to knowing her from the past. What does that mean? Was she the one who shot them at the beginning of the film, when they were presumably mortal? Don’t expect an answer, because neither plot hole is ever addressed. In fact, the intro scene has no bearing on the film. Neither does this camping couple, for that matter. They serve no purpose to the plot other than to serve as targets for the lesbian vampires later on.
The real main character is the salesman, but even his story flounders. He checks in at a hotel, a completely unnecessary plot point, because shortly after, he’s driving down the road, gives the brunette vampire a ride (that’s their modus operandi) and pretty much ends up crashing at her mansion from that point on. Sure, he has sex with her nightly, but he’s convinced someone else is in the mansion with them.
Naturally, it’s the blonde vampire, lurking in the shadows. While a strong conflict could have been developed in which the blonde is jealous of the relationship the brunette seems to be developing with this particular victim she’s keeping alive, the lesbians just keep going about their daily routine of snagging other men and feasting on them immediately. It is a gruesomely horrific process, as demonstrated in one grisly scene.
The salesman and the camping couple cross paths and they all eventually end up in the mansion, at which point the lesbian vampires go fucking insane! There’s some great savage vampirism, but there’s no satisfying resolution to anything because, well, the plot didn’t deliver a whole lot to resolve. It’s pretty much just a movie about a lesbian vampire couple having their undead life disrupted for a few days by a pesky salesman and some campers.
Like I said, this is virtually the same exact movie, with a few minor changes and some enhancements.
For starters, the opening scene is a much better, more traditional horror movie appetizer. The death of the lesbians is scraped completely for a kill scene that lets us know some bad shit is going to go down on that road. The sight of one victim being carried off after a motorcycle accident is disturbing.
Instead of a couple in a camper, this time it’s three friends – 2 guys and a girl – in a tent. Why do people just keep setting up camp in someone’s backyard? Anyway, the girl this time is a photographer, not a painter, and she is onto the lesbians’ game after scoring a book about vampires – at least that gives her character a bit more motivation. Considering this is Artsploitation Films, which is to be commended for its inclusion of gay themes in many of its horror films, I’m surprised that her two male companions aren’t presented as a gay couple. The relationship between the trio is oddly sterile (two straight guys and a girl go camping just to camp?), so that would have added some dimension to them all being together. It also would have been notable to have a normal, happy gay couple to counteract the lesbian vampires. Let’s face it– if you break this film down, especially the original, it’s basically the classic portrayal of homosexuals as vile, degenerate, outcasts that prey on and destroy heterosexuals!
Once again, the traveling salesman checks in at a hotel for no good reason. This time, he hangs around a bit longer, because he has a chat with the hotel owner, played by scream queen Caroline Munro (Dracula AD 1972, Maniac, The Last Horror Film).
Her presence is pretty much a reminder of just how pointless the hotel scene is, for aside from adding horror icon cred to the cast, all she does is make suspicious expressions, comment on how there’s something weird about that old mansion, and plant the seed of knowledge in the salesman’s head as to what might be going on inside…before he even goes inside!
Another scene that makes you wonder why the salesman would stick around involves an eerie encounter in a hallway.
You’d think no one would wait for a third sign that coming to the mansion was a bad idea, however, it does also suggest that the salesman is probably under the brunette lesbian’s spell – he’s her bitch.
While the original features a scene of the lesbians showering the blood off their bodies, the remake goes one better. The lesbians pull an “Elizabeth Báthory” by bathing in the blood of a victim. Great scene. And the replication of the scene in which they devour a male victim is equally as grisly as in the original.
But, when it comes to dealing with the photographer, they are even more sadistic in this remake (to keep up with the torture porn times), playing a particularly psychotic and cruel game involving the photographer’s tongue (their favorite part).
As in the original, all hell breaks loose, and while this remake manages to cut out those dangling plot holes from the original while adding more slaughter and a better body count, in the end you still get the sense that all Vampyres manages to do is give us a snapshot of a day in the undead life of a lesbian vampire couple. But in both cases, it’s a bloody and sexy good time.