Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vampire Junction – review

Directed by: Jess Franco

Release date: 2001

Contains spoilers

When I first heard about this movie I was filled with nervous trepidation. There is a vampire novel called “Vampire Junction” by S.P. Somtow and the concept of Franco trying to piece together a movie of that novel, with its deep Jungian symbolism, was too much for my poor mind. A quick check, however, put my mind at ease – only the name is the same.

So what is it, other than a fairly modern Franco film? Imagine for a moment ‘Salem’s Lot filmed with the surrealist overtones of Twin Peaks, put into a Western setting with more than a heavy dose of nudity and sex. Pictured it? Good. Now throw that picture in the mental dustbin because, whilst that might be what Franco was trying to produce (conceivably), what he actually made was an incoherent mess.

There seems little point in going through the plot, as there wasn’t really one… but I live to accept challenges such as this, so here goes…

We start with a car, it is raining. The film then hits all sorts of weird filters over the driver’s face, the driver being the journalist Alice Brown (Lina Romay). A discordant avent-garde jazz soundtrack overlays. Images appear of naked female vampires and a male vampire (Viktor Seastrom) in cowboy hat and cloak. The vampiric imagery is also in the strange, psychedelic filters. The filters might have worked, over the introduction piece, but Franco smears such effects through the film in a haphazard and sloppy manner, making you wonder which moron let him know you could do such things.

A male voice overdubs, it is the voice of Dr Spencer (Steve Barrymore). He was a family doctor and travelling salesman who got lost in the rain and ended up in the desert town called Sh*t City (I kid you not). He has been there five years, we later discover, in a town controlled by the vampire Father Flannigan (whom we never see).

Alice is there to interview him, why we never discover, but he seems depressed and, when she goes to get her bag out of the car, he is sent to his room by his wife, who is a vampire, until Alice leaves. So, we have the makings of a mystery, perhaps, a lone doctor trying to stem the tide of vampirism… you wish.

The next time we see Spencer he is dead, ostensibly stabbed by a statue of a native American chief – or so it appears. Strangely we get another voice over by him after his death, but there you go. Anyhoo, Alice doesn’t seem that bothered by the fact that he is dead and the plot kind of peters out at that point.

There is an attempt later to bring plot back in, when Alice’s laptop types itself to her and tells her to meet Father Flannigan in a nearby forest. We could ask what a forest is doing near a desert town, we could ask why it is made up of palms in a nice, organised, garden like manner, we could ask why there is a tennis court in it. But why bother. She doesn’t meet Flannigan, but does meet his messenger who tells her that Flannigan fights his nature so sometimes is a vampire and sometimes is a saint. She is also told that he can be contacted through his website (the address is given but it doesn’t work in real life – a shame as that might have been at least a little interesting). Nothing more is said about Flannigan and nothing more appears regarding him plot wise.

We discover little about the vampires other than they can disappear and reappear, they have a liking for eagles (rather than bats), they have reflections, they can go out in daylight and they have yellow fangs. Ok, comedy fangs are one thing but fangs that look like they were bought at a bargain Halloween sale is quite another!

One thing the film does have is sleaze aplenty. Oodles of naked female flesh is on show and it is hardcore compared to most non-adult flicks with several extended girl on girl scenes. However it is too artsy to be called pornographic and lacking any form of sensuality also bars it from being called erotic. It is sleaze, no more and no less. It also made screenshots of this movie rather tricky to get.

This is Franco at his very worst. There is no narrative within the film, when there is dialogue it is poor and badly delivered – though in fairness I don’t think English was the first language of most of the cast. The soundtrack works, in an odd way, in that it fits the movie – thus it would fit little else. This is one for completists (either collectors of Franco’s work or vampire movies) but there is little other reason to waste your time and eyes on what amounts to one great big WTF moment.

1 out of 10, reflects that the filtering at the beginning worked before it was overused and the fact that the soundtrack worked with the unintelligible mess on screen.

The imdb page is here.

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