Monday, July 07, 2008

Embrace of the Vampire – review

Director: Anne Goursaud

Release date: 1995

Contains spoilers

This is an infamous little film as many a person has ‘found’ certain clips of it on the internet due to the nudity of a certain Alyssa Milano during the film. Yet how many have watched the actual movie? Probably not that many. I know of a few who call it a shameful little secret as, when the truth be told, as a film it does very little.

Whilst the story could be described as static or maybe even non-existent, the film contains some unique vampire lore. It’s just that… well I’m not to sure that the unique lore works as there is no rhyme nor reason to some of it. We shall see, of course, as we explore the film.

We start off with the vampire (Martin Kemp) – who has no name in the film and is credited only as the vampire – in a clock tower of a college building writing in his diary, using a quill for said purpose (the film is also known as the Nosferatu Diaries). He explains that he was in love once. We cut back in time. She (Rebbeca Ferratti), was royalty and he a nobleman. They used to meet surreptitiously and lounge on a riverbank by the looks of things. The memory represents the last time he saw her.

After she left, he lay there until night fell and then we see creatures crawling towards him. They are credited as nymphs, though clearly they are topless vampires. They crawl over him in a very ‘Harker and the 3 Brides’ way and then place an ankh upon him. It glows. Then they start to chomp upon him and we note they all sport a dagger shaped tattoo on the top of the breast.

Let us stop there for a moment and consider the ankh and the tattoo. First the ankh. Quite often used in vampire films the ankh is the Egyptian symbol meaning life – we can thus see its logical connection within vampire films (ignoring the fact that for the Egyptians it was a sun symbol). In this it is obviously magical and is important in the turning process (for reasons unexplained). Later a character will also mention that it has sexual powers – this ties in with some theories of its shape, a combination of Osiris (the cross) and Isis (the oval). The tattoo is a stylisation that all the vampires seem to bear in this film.

Cutting forward to the clock tower and the vampire explains that after centuries he has found his love’s soul once more, in the form of Charlotte (Milano). However it is just three days before he will die (or enter an endless sleep) and only her viriginal soul can save him. She is in love, he will split them up and make her love him. Why on earth he will die in three days is not explained at all and this is a problem as it is a crux point of the film. The reincarnated soul of a lost love is a staple lifted from the works of Dan Curtis.

He calls to her in her sleep and she sleepwalks, ala Dracula’s Lucy, wandering up to the clock tower. As she leaves her dorm the phone goes. It is her boyfriend, Chris (Harold Pruett), who decides to come over when she doesn’t answer. She is embraced by the vampire, literally not with fangs, and given the gift of an ankh whilst he whines on about breaking the bonds of love. Chris arrives, finds her asleep on the college steps and carries her in and into bed. The ankh is on the steps.

She awakes next to Chris, a tad confused. He has slept still dressed, honourable and frustrated. It turns out that they have been together over a year and they are not yet sleeping together. He puts it down to her upbringing in a convent – her mum had her board there. His frustrations probably stem from the amount of teasing – probably innocently. After all she strips off and changes but only tells him to turn his head – cue first bum and boob shots of Miss Milano in the film.

Pretty much this is a story of sexual awakening. The vampire seems to want to stoke the powers of lust within her and then keep her pure for his own nefarious, toothsome needs. This involves plenty of erotic dreams. Others seem to want to awaken her sexuality, there is Chris, so in love he is ineffective. There is also her friend Nicole (Rachel True), who sets Charlotte up for a potential rape – from which she is saved by the vampire (unbeknown to herself), who then kills the guy, Nicole’s partner and Nicole.

There is also Sarah (Charlotte Lewis), casually called the college nympho, she is a photographer who tries to seduce Charlotte herself – in the infamous scene that many know and is softcore, before you ask, and aborted at the last minute by Charlotte. Finally, as well as some random horny guys, there is Eliza (Jordan Ladd), who hates Charlotte and spikes her drink – causing her to have an erotic trip where everyone at a party seems to fall into a softcore orgy with vampire overtones.

As for lore. We have the dying if he doesn’t turn his reincarnated love by a certain date. Frustrating as we don’t know why it is suddenly important to put the bite on his erstwhile love. It was probably meant to be symbolic of awakening to adulthood, as the moment he dies she turns eighteen, but the film does not carry itself as a portrayer of archetypes that well. We have also mentioned the ankh, which may or may not be casting a psychosexual spell on her. I hope it was as her conversion from virgin to sexual tease seemed out of character.

The vampire holds a cross, Charlotte’s that was a gift from Chris, at one point and it smokes in his hand. Rather than burning him it melts to nothing. He also seems to have developed a tazer like ability, with blue lightning sparking from his fingers that stun his target. He can invade dreams and communicate in daydream moments.

At one point a frustrated Chris is approached by a seductive vixen, Marika (Jennifer Tilly). Having lured him off they start to get it on and we notice she bears the dagger tattoo. When he rejects her she becomes the vampire for a moment. Was she another vampire under his control, was she the actual vampire transformed in order that he might try and break up the relationship? The answer could be either.

The film looks good enough but the story is lacking and goes nowhere quickly. Acting wise Milano straddles virginal and seductive well enough. Lewis’ character need only be gorgeous, which she is. Tilly acts the vixen well enough but the weak link is Kemp, I’m afraid. There is no presence to the vampire, he is a whinging sod and we have no sympathy nor any real antipathy or fear. The dialogue does not carry the film and the delivery by Kemp was feeble.

This is worth a look if all you want out of a film is some softcore scenes and a view of Milano’s naked flesh. In that, it works well enough. If you want a dynamic story and well thought out vampire lore, with a satisfying conclusion, then look elsewhere. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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