Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Night Shade – review

Director: Fred Olen Ray

Release Date: 1996

Contains spoilers

Fred Olen Ray is at it again, mixing softcore sex scenes into a vampire story. This one doesn’t shy away either – indeed it showed a heck of a lot of nudity and flirted along the periphery of hardcore – not straying into that arena, but only just.

It begins… with sex. A couple, Scott (Tim Abell) and Jennifer Travers (Teresa Politi), making love. They finish and lie on the bed and then she vanishes… just like that. He wakes up, having fallen asleep in front of his laptop. There is a message on the screen and we see the word nightshade. He visits Jennifer’s grave and it becomes apparent that she has only recently passed away. He has been off work for a month and is going back the next day.

Jennifer Burton as Alison
Work actually weren’t expecting him for another week. I got the impression that he was an architect – certainly he is a partner in the firm. He is approached by another partner, Alison (Jennifer Burton, Dead of Night), who is clearly coming on strong – he narrowly dodges her advances. When he gets home he phones his friend Jack (Don Scribner), a PI. Jack asks about the messages from the mysterious Electra – including the one that says nightshade – and warns him that curiosity killed the cat.

Gabriella Hall as Stacey
There is another message and he decides to go to the address it mentions. It turns out to be a strip club and nightshade is the password in. He watches one of the dancers, Stacey (Gabriella Hall), and we notice that the doorman (Peter Spellos) and a blonde woman, Charmagne (Tane McClure, Revamped), are exchanging looks that sees a free drink brought over to him. We also notice that Charmagne wears an ankh pendant – but inverted.

masked dancer
He watches the next act involving a woman (Misty Rain) in a spider’s web and a masked dancer, after which he decides to leave but the masked dancer comes over and introduces herself as Electra. She wants to explain why she contacted him but not there, she asks him to go to the private area with her. At about the same time Stacey takes another patron (Robert Baldwin) to a private area.

Stacey's fangs
Electra reveals that she is Jennifer to the incredulous Scott. The reunion with his dead wife is interlaced with Stacey having sex with her client that culminates in… fangs. Of course Jennifer doesn’t explain (at this point) that she is a vampire. She cries, he’s angry as she can’t or won’t explain how she came to be alive after he watched her wither away from a mysterious virus and die. She needed to see him once more but they cannot meet again. He wakes up in his car.

Tim Abell
He tries to explain things to Jack – who was at the funeral and doesn’t believe that she is alive. So Scott determines to prove she is still alive. He does that by going back to the club, talking to her, buying her a drink and stealing the glass. He gives said glass to Jack to check the prints – Jennifer was a bank teller so her prints are on record. That act brings him to the attention of Charmagne and his life is in mortal danger.

Alison has been dealt with
The film then sees Scott under suspicion for the murder of Jack – who goes to the club himself – and Alison, whom Jennifer kills after Alison threatens Scott with a sexual harassment lawsuit (because he rebuffs her advances again). The killing of Alison was odd for a couple of reasons. Much play is made of a necklace Scott gave Jennifer (rather than an engagement ring). It is found at the scene of the murder but nothing else is done with it. Also the attack seemed to be there to underline that Jennifer is a monster – but her act of approaching him, just to say ‘hello, now bugger off’ seemed much more monstrous.

hungry like the wolf
Vampire lore wise we discover that the vampires are very fast and strong. Charmagne starts one of her acts in the form of a husky (I suppose it was meant to be a wolf) and then transforms on stage into human form. Jennifer seems to float into shot at one point, casts a reflection and she also demonstrates a low level telekinetic ability. We do not discover how she became a vampire, other than the vague comment about a mysterious virus. A stake/crossbow bolt through the heart can kill a vampire as can sunlight – though the result is an unimpressive fade into nothing rather than bursting into flames.

Of course the strip club is quite a clichéd location for setting a vampire film. The film seems to recognise this and when Jennifer is asked why she now lives and works in a strip club, she responds that it comes with the territory. None of the performances stand out but, given that many of the cast were more used to starring in adult films, none of the performances are too offensive either.

Tane McClure as Charmange
What let this down was the lack of story. We don’t know why she is a vampire, we don’t know why she has let her man in on the secret and we don’t know how she came to be with Charmagne. We get plenty of flashbacks to their relationship as man and wife, but mostly these are used as an excuse for a sex scene. And that is the bottom line – the film exists only to have sex scenes and show naked ladies and, in that, it succeeds.

Actually I didn’t mind this one. 3 out of 10 – it would have been higher if they had bothered to put in any single bit of back story that explained the whys and wherefores and thus gave the film a point beyond nudity. The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

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