Friday, September 01, 2017

Lust of the Vampire Girls – review

Director: Matt Johnson

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

I find it difficult to know how to take Lust of the Vampire Girls. Despite it suggesting on the DVD case that it is “an homage to European exploitation of the 60s and 70s” I would argue it is not – or at least it fails to be that. Had it suggested to was a tribute to US grindhouse or even straight-to-vhs horror then I would have accepted that is what they set out to make. Part of me wonders if the film is post-ironic?

There is certainly plenty of the grindhouse to it but the film is too puritanical (ironically) to be part of the European oeuvre it claims to homage – it does however have vampire girls and Nazis and a nonsensical plot that dares you to consider it logically.

lost in the woods
The film runs in a non-linear format (to a very minor degree) and so we start with a girl (Amy Savannah) wandering through the woods, alone, clutching at herself. I will mention here the sound effects of night insects along with the chosen soundtrack piece successfully conspired to offer the viewer a sense of anxiety to match the girl’s. She wanders on to a road and a car stops, she is offered a lift but the couple in the car seem *off* - the female passenger seems to have blood on her cheek though it is never referred back to. At one point the lost woman clutches her head, screaming but eventually she wanders to a house and tells the woman (Desiree Haymond) inside that she woke within the woods. Despite feigning concern for the girl, the woman's smirk to camera, at one point, suggests she is a bad’un and the tea she gives the girl is drugged. She awakens tied in a cellar with a random blonde vampire leering out of the dark.

the vampire girls
We see a church like room, with a masked congregation. A man (Victor Medina) comes in wearing a more demonstrative mask than the others. He takes a seat as a group of vampire women wearing sheer chiffon come in and start hissing at the world in general. The congregation turn to stare at the man – note that neither of our main characters are credited with a name – and it is stated that he shouldn’t be there…

Victor Medina as the man
Back in time and we see the man and woman out together. She wants to go to a party but he is not interested in hanging out with her loser, stoner friends (honestly, he comes across very much as a misogynistic dick all the way through and thus struggles to garner our sympathies). He talks her into a picnic but at the picnic the argument continues and she stomps off leaving him with the wine. She goes home, rolls a joint, showers and then goes to the party anyway – which is held in a house where two women in gasmasks flank the door.

Dave Nilson as Gunter
Given what he said about her friends, when he comes home a tad drunk he is less than happy to see a joint, which he then lights up and smokes; yes he embodies all kinds of hypocrisy. Then he phones a booty call (and is rejected) suggesting the unseen lady comes to his and his girlfriend’s house. At work he takes a break and tells his co-workers that she is missing and undertakes to find her – never once considering calling the police! Eventually he gets a tip about someone called Gunter (Dave Nilson). He confronts Gunter, then follows him to gasmask house and it is there where the film catches up with the scene of the man wearing a (stolen) mask.

a vampire girls
So, what is going on… well Gunter is a Romanian who was in a concentration camp and chosen to work for Mengele (or so it sounded, but clearly he converted to the Nazi cause if that is the case). Mengele was experimenting with a formula that could revitalise flesh even after death. Unfortunately, it only worked on women and caused a lust for blood. Most of the research was lost when the Soviets liberated the camp and so Gunter is back engineering the formula from his vampire girls and the girl who has been kidnapped is being experimented on. Chronology wise the film doesn’t really give us much in the way of clues, but the phone we see is rotary so perhaps it is set in the 70s?

distorted visuals
The sound was a tad off in this, when it came to dialogue against the background noise, and there was one scene that was filled with horrible visual distortion. Giving the benefit of the doubt, this may have been deliberate to summon that grindhouse feel (or accidental but kept for the same outcome). I’d hate to think it was anything less than that and should you think of the film in those terms it works quite well. Certainly not a great film, and less than a great script/story unless it was designed to do what it does. Think about it too much and it makes little sense (he is led to Gunter by the flimsiest premise, he doesn’t alert the cops when his significant other vanishes without a trace etc…) He is also absolutely unlikable.

screen splatter
As for the vampires… well they are created by science, all female and have a Jean Rollin-like propensity to wear chiffon (but also to wear underwear beneath, which the late great auteur would not have stood for). They can be destroyed with a bullet to the heart (incidentally our ‘hero’ appears to be a fantastic shot), have fangs and the process can create feral versions. There is little else to say about them really. There was some gore involved, achieved mainly through lens splatter, and I would have liked to have seen some more visceral gore effects around the vampires feeding/attacking.

I’m going to stick my neck out, assume that the issues within the film were deliberate to summon a grindhouse aesthetic and give this 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Alex. G said...

Didn't know this was out. Saw the trailer years back and was impressed with Jean Rollin/70s horror-inspired visuals.

Unless Gunter is a vampire then this must take place in the 70s yeah, cause the actor doesn't look old enough to have been around in the 1940s.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Alex... I do think it is 70s based but the film does little to establish it.

I think my issue was, for example, vampire girls in chiffon is very Rollin but the use of obvious underwear almost chickens out of going full Rollin inspired, hence me feeling it had more of a US grindhouse feel.