Saturday, April 02, 2011

Vamp or Not? Def by Temptation

Def by Temptation was a film recently suggested for ‘Vamp or No?’ by Halek and rightly so as it has been a film that has caused debate in the past. Despite the tag of “a terrifying tale of vampires and lust” the 1990 film directed by James Bond III is actually the tale of a succubus known only as the temptress (Cynthia Bond).

Of course the succubus myth (and the male equivalent of incubus) has a great deal of crossover with the vampire. A demon, the succubus sleeps with unwary men and, in many versions of the tale, feeds through the act. Be it through the semen or life energy, there is something vampiric about this.

This tale starts with a bartender, who is obviously a player. He meets the temptress who invites him back to her place. The house seems, as we see it, opulent and she has one thing on her mind. They end up in a shower together when suddenly the water turns to blood. He runs naked and terrified through the house – the rest of which seems much less opulent – but reaches a locked door. From the other side of the door we see blood oozing.

Let’s stop for a moment as this scene underlines the difficulty in pinning the film down. She is a succubus and so acts in a sexually powerful way – but then, more than often, so does a vampire. The shower pours blood, which would seem a waste for a vampire (unless it was of the blood bathing type) but such symbolic motifs do run through some vampire films. There has been heavy petting but no sex and the temptress, at the very least, eviscerates the man. There is no apparent feeding through sex in this scene.

Grandma and Joel
Moving on, we cut to North Carolina and a preacher (Samuel L Jackson). The only person in the church is his son Joel (played as a child by Z Wright). The preacher sees a shrouded female figure rise behind his son. He sends him to stay with his grandma (Minnie Gentry) and then, as he and his wife drive along, they see the figure in the road. He drives at her and the car crash kills them both. It seems to be a dream for Joel (played as an adult by James Bond III) and we hear that he is undergoing evangelical training.

A married man (Rony Clanton) walks into a bar and removes his wedding ring. Within minutes he is ensnared by the temptress. They end up back at hers, having sex. During the sex she produces a knife but whilst she draws blood she does not kill him. He awakens and gets dressed. In the mirror he notices a bite at his neck but we see the claw marks down his back. She tells him that what she has given him will consume him. In another mirror he sees weals appearing on his skin. In this case she seems to have killed through some form of plague – perhaps closer akin to the plague spreading nosferatu than a succubus.

K's daydream
Whilst it doesn’t seem that he is having doubts as such, Joel wants a sabbatical to ensure that the life of a preacher is what he wants. He calls his friend K (Kadeem Hardison) – once a trainee preacher with Joel, K is now a reasonably successful actor in New York. He readily agrees to Joel coming and staying. Before Joel is due to arrive he goes to the bar and meets the temptress. He actually daydreams a romantic dream regarding her but leaves her to find Joel. He later tells Joel that he thinks he is in love with a woman he has just met. However the next time they meet she ignores him, denies knowing him and aims for Joel.

blood tear
Why Joel? It is something to do with him being a preacher, something to do with being the last of his line. She suggests—talking to a snake that may be a pet or may represent the devil—that it will be over soon. What? The film doesn’t tell us but we note that she cries a blood tear at this point. That is a very vampiric image but there is more that seems vampiric rather than demonic.

sex and violence
She casts no reflection in a mirror – once again a staple of the vampire genre. K says that he thinks she might have been dead before – leading us towards vampire as a succubus is a demon and not the undead. One of the barflies, Dougy (Bill Nunn), is actually an undercover cop who deals in the supernatural (!) he suggests that they “decompose the body” with holy water, then cut out the heart whilst it is still beating, and then bury her on hallowed ground. All of it sounds vampiric. Holy water in her drink hurts her (though I imagine a demon should be affected similarly).

demonic form
We see her in daylight, so sunlight is no issue. Beyond that, and what seems more demonic, is her causing one of the characters to be eaten by a TV, that then spits his bones out. This is not a standard vampire power, of course. That said, some of those killed return and sport a maw of fangs as does the temptress at times. All in all it is a real mismatch of lore and imagery but I do think there is enough. She certainly goes for flesh as much as sex, the effects of holy water, the lack of reflection and the fact that she seems to be able to create others (and they are male, so either she can create incubi, vampires or something else entirely – the path of least resistance would suggest vampires). I’m going Vamp.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you; Def By Temptation is definitely vamp. It's is full of very memorable vampiric-demonic imagery that is often quite eerie, like Temptation menacing the boy in the church. (Shades of Carmilla - stalking the protagonist in childhood.) The final reveal of the fate of Temptation is reminiscent of the coda of at least three other vampire movies. A superior, and unique, genre movie.

On the topic of succubi/incubi, there's a very good movie called Ink (2009) that features characters called 'incubi' which are different from traditional incubi even though they are still associated with nightmares. I wish I could make the case that Ink is close enough for a Vamp or Not? but I really can't.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Halek - now you mention it, yes there is a light sahde of Carmilla to that moment.

Any others suitable for 'Vamp or Not?', that you think of, feel free to mention.

Anonymous said...

I just thought of another one: Hourglass (Joe Piscopo) from Superhero Movie is another energy leech who rapidly ages his victims. But nothing else about the film or character is remotely vampish.

(While most of the "______ Movie" films are pretty bad, this one is actually quite funny.)


Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for that Halek, I must admit I haven't watched any of the series (unless vampires suck comes under that series)

Anonymous said...

Correction: Hourglass is played by Christopher McDonald, not Joe Piscopo. Sorry about that! (I suppose they do kind of resemble each other.)


Fra Moretta said...

While agree that in the movie there is a strong mix of vampiric and demonic lore there is something that point me more towards demonic. In the book "Le Streghe: Roghi,Processi, Riti e Pozioni" ("The Witches: Burnings, Processes, Rites and Potions") by Vanna De Angelis there is a chapter about incubi and succubi, in wich is reported the story of a hermit that failed to resist a succubus. After having sex with the demon, the hermit died consumed by plague and honestly this remind me a lot of a scene in the movie.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Fra Moretta. Of course there is also a connection between vampires and plague - as exploited in Nosferatu.

I do run a wide definition of vampire and agree that this is more succubus, but still vampiric in activity.

Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment - its always appreciated.