Review by Corinna Tomrley
This is gonna be full of spoilers blah blah blah. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Vampyres is one of those films that I came across and could not believe I had never even heard of it, let alone seen it. How the hell had this passed me by? Dunno.
A British film – originally distributed by Rank, no less – it’s of the soft soft soft porn genre that sprung up in the early 70s on the back of the collapse of censorship. The studios basically needed to make money, and sex and gore – previously creatively and/or prudishly presented – was all the rage and all over the place. Tits and orange blood, basically.
This one is more porny than the Hammer films; that probably explains why the acting is so shit. It’s often billed as an ‘erotic horror’.
Props must go to a great credit sequence of slomo flying bats and a great score by James Clarke.
Starring Marianne Morris, a Mayfair centerfold, as Fran and Anulka, a Playboy Playmate, as Miriam, the women simulate lez sex fairly well considering the constraints, ie they’re not going to actually show mouth-to-puss but they do suggest it in rather lovely angles. It’s more than the usual above the waist mouth and neck kissing with the occasional boob peck that we come to know and love in Hammer. When they do simulate going downstairs, as was usual with early lez sex scenes, it’s ‘handless’. But the eroticism (yes, eroticism is actually there and it’s possibly more erotic than porny if we’re being nuanced about it) comes from the mix of sex and blood lust. Drinking blood comes on the back of sex with their male victims, either alone or together as they drink and fuck. Yummerz.
They’re not traditional fangy vampires, they cut and stab and drink from the wounds. This almost makes it sexier in that it’s more ‘real’, I guess, and certainly amps up the horror. And their victims are suitably terrified (apart from the one who is almost passed out each time it happens to him so he wakes up clueless with a sore arm and strangely lacking a lot of his blood). The vamps’ turn on isn’t from a seductive neck bite but their frenzied attacks fuel their sexual appetites as much as their supping from the wounds.
Still, these are no mortal vampires. And here’s the thing. It seems to be a straightforward story with a bit of a twist. But I couldn’t quite get the link between the opening scene with what is revealed as a twist. So, this is what happens. It opens with the ladies getting it on in their bedroom of this big house. Just sex, no blood. A strangely dressed man enters and shoots them. This bit is never explained in any way. Was he a husband avenging their lez affair? Who the fuck knows. Is he weirdly dressed to suggest olden days (cuz they basically look like two seventies chicks doing soft porn)? Again, WTFK.
So when we cut to a bloke called Ted turning up at a nearby hotel and an old guy saying he remembers him from years ago and Ted is like, no, don’t know what you’re talking about mate, it kind of plot point infers that he’s the guy who shot them..? You’d think…
It’s even more confusing as to whether Ted actually knows what hotel man is talking about when Ted meets Fran and he says she reminds him of someone he knew long ago. So, you wonder if he knows who she is and if he’s enacting revenge or if he’s having a déjà vu thing. But he never brings it up again, so… what the actual is going on with that plot line? There’s a sort of possible reference to it in the final vaguely twisty scene but we’ll come to that.
It should be mentioned that there’s this through plot involving a couple in a caravan, John and Harriet. They see Fran standing by the roadside. But the woman also sees Miriam hiding behind a tree. John doesn’t spot Miriam and thinks Harriet is imagining things. She becomes obsessed with the women and why one was hiding. He is really patronizing and a dick about it.
They park their caravan up near the house, which does little to dampen Harriet’s fixation on the women. She starts to see and hear things (male screams, a bloody hand on the window). He’s a bigger asshole about it all.
Although the couple are kind of central to the plot in that they interact with Ted when he comes to them for help (not telling them that his wounds are from sex with his new gf up at the house) and Harriet’s obsession and voyeuristic fascination with the women and their house draws the audience in (except we know what’s happening up there, she doesn’t) it doesn’t really go anywhere either. Fran and Miriam come across her once and Fran suggests they’ve been waiting for her but that doesn’t really lead to anything. For a lot of the film we forget about the couple and then, oh there’s a shot of the caravan or them having it off or her walking around in a woolly hat, nosing about. I expected her to happen upon Ted enslaved and bloodless on the bed. But she doesn’t nose that closely. Instead, she does a painting of the house. All this vagueness makes it even more shocking when the couple are killed. When John’s killed, sure, that’s a convention. It makes her terror greater. And he deserved it, the dick. But when Harriet is slaughtered, it becomes reminiscent of the kind of killing you’ll see in later period horror than that of the early 70s. One of the ‘innocents’ usually survives, especially a woman. Her death is really full on ‘real’ too. Still can’t quite get over it.
This brings me to the other murders and blood drinking in the film. Bodies of men are being found all over the place and even though the police are obviously involved we don’t see them investigating. You know, is it a coinkidink that all these men are found on a stretch of road where two birds are hitchhiking every day. For that’s why Fran and Miriam are hanging about on the side of the road, you see. Sometimes Fran will get picked up on her own (with Miriam lurking behind the tree), Miriam will pick someone up or they both will. It has to be said that this makes the tree-lurking even weirder. Why don’t they both always do it together or maybe the other one have a lay-in? What guy is going to be put off by two hot chicks wanting a ride? Yeah, sure, you can get in but your nubile lesbian gf with her tits showing will have to walk…
So, anyway, they pick them up and smile at them and, not surprisingly, by the time they get to the house the guys are up for sex and wine. Cuz the girls have a cellar full of amazing wine. If hot chicks won’t pull you, then a nice vintage will. They get the men so drunk that by the time the girls are thirsty for blood the men have no chance. Perhaps it makes the blood nicer, too. You know, like with a stew.
Fran picks up Ted and takes him to their house. Ted asks if she does this with all of her ‘dates’ inferring she’s a sex worker but he basically becomes her bf or bleeding sex and blood slave for the rest of the film. Because this one she doesn’t kill. He wakes up with a massive gash on his arm and blood on the bed, feeling really weak. But instead of going, oh shit what happened I must get away, he hangs around. He waits for her all day (she’s nipped off to bed in the graveyard), sitting in his car. He’s pissed off and moody when she returns but she’s like, oh shit sorry I had to nip out, and he goes alright and goes back in the house with her. They did seem to have pretty hot sex (even if his wet tongue was quite gross to watch), so no wonder really. But I assumed he was hanging around because he’s onto who she is and he’s like a Van Helsing or something. Oh no. He just goes back for more and more, getting weaker and weaker and gets pissed off with her disappearing and bringing other blokes back – one of whom he sees dead in his car on that stretch of road – but still he stays. But then she’s a vamp and she’s hot and he’s getting some and in the end he can hardly move anyway.
There’s a bit where Fran and Miriam are having a shower together, washing off the blood before they nip back to their grave. Again, not trad vamps as running water is a definite fatal no-no, btw. Instead, they have sex with Miriam going down on Fran. The camera POV is as if they’re being watched through some plants and I thought we were to assume that it was Ted. But we don’t get a shot of him and if it was he’d know what their game was. So it would seem that this bit of camera work suggests that the voyeurs are us. I think this is probably just a porn trope because we’re voyeurs for the whole bloody film and the camera’s not suggesting lurky peepers for the rest of the movie.
Miriam (whilst going downtown) admonishes Fran for not killing Ted outright and it’s never really explained why she doesn’t. Is it cuz she’s getting good sex? Is she relishing weakening him and having a play toy on hand? Is it because he’s the male lead and we get to see them having it off a lot and it is after all an ‘erotic’ film? And one is usually bled dry whilst the others die outright in a vamp film plot…
Ted somehow finds the strength to leave the house and goes to the couple for help. They get killed and he drives away. But the sun is coming up so the vamps have to get back to their graves. It’s either they perish in daylight (presumably, though the film is playing fast and loose with vampire tropes and they hitch in the day time so who the fuck knows anymore?) or he gets away.
He’s found by an estate agent almost passed out in his car with an empty bottle of wine. TWISTY TIME!!!!!!! The estate agent is showing an older American couple around the estate. It’s empty and up for sale; DUH DUH DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! They ask about ‘the rumours’. Estate agent is like, oh yeah two women were brutally murdered and it’s made it hard to shift the place. There’s fear the killer will return and their ghosts are said to haunt it but it’s obviously bullshit, of course. The older couple are delighted. How cute to have an English pile with a ghost! Oh, how lucky for them that two chicks were shot to death there. Fun!
And that’s it. Bloke gets away but who’s gonna believe him, I guess? Despite the tons of dead bodies everywhere. Although will he tell? He hasn’t before. AND WAS HE THE ONE WHO SHOT THEM AT THE BEGINNING? WHO THE FUCKING HELL KNOWS????? Is that the inference to the killer returning? It’s so vague and, really, this is so hit you over the head with everything else that I don’t think vagueness is part of the aesthetic.
Btw – the lady of The American Couple is Bessie Love who goes back to silent days, pretty much worked up to her death in the 80s when her last film was another lez vamp flick – The Hunger. This is my fave picture of her.
So, yeah, Vampyres.
Great lez sex and blood drinking film though so this film gets a very bloody vampy thumbs up from me despite plot holes and shit acting. Actually, that adds to it all really. Two bloody thumbs up.