Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet
Lust of the Vampire Girls
Produced and directed by Matt Johnson
Some Hero Productions / Wild Eye Releasing / MVD Visual
77 minutes, 2014 / 2017
As with everything else, there are multiple levels of cinema: the big budget and the lower end. This was also true of the Euro-trash films of the late ‘60s into the late ‘80s. For every Dario Argento there was a Jesse Franco. This release models itself more after the latter than the former.
There certainly is a trend over the past few years to mostly honor and sometimes lovingly mock these now classics, be it the ones that were so-good-it’s-good or the so-bad-it’s-good. Most of these, though filmed before its fame, came to prominence in the Western Hemisphere with the rise of (i.e., a quick need for new product) video stores during the 1980s.
Most of the more recent batch of “throwback” style to Euro-horror is over the top in dialogue, in reading by actors and in style, such as purposefully putting in extremely obvious errors like the sound boom in the shot, or a crew member being in the background. A superb example of this is Richard Griffin’s recent Seven Dorms of Death.
While Lust of the Vampire Girls [LothVG] also does a lot of that, it does it a bit more subtly, so it actually looks like errors, rather than a nod-nod-wink-wink shared with the knowing audience. As I will describe later, it actually took me a while to catch on that this is what they were doing, so kudos to the production team.
|Victor Medina and Amy Savannah|
The basic story is that Pretty Girl (Amy Savannah) and Man (Victor Medina), as they are billed in the credits, are having a fight. She wants to go to a party, and in a very douchey and controlling way, he refuses, insisting she should be happy spending her time just with him. She goes anyway, and apparently her “friends,” all of whom wear party masks, are a cult led by a Romanian Nazi named Gunter (Dave Nilson) who worked beside Mengele in the camps. While there, Gunter invented a serum that turns women into snarling (there is a lot of snarling) vampires who do not age. The drug only works on women, but Dr. Gunter is still working on it.
Pretty Girl is kidnapped by the group, and Man goes to rescue her, in a passive-aggressive manner (“I’m here risking my neck for her tedious ass”). Meanwhile, Man falls for one of the more sentimental vampire women, Lead Vamp Girl (Ashely Eliza Parker).
|Ashley Eliza Parker|
One of the many interesting choices made by the director is to have one of the camp’s growling, nightgown clad (very Hammer Films style) vampires be African-American; note that I use that specific term because even though they were supposed to become vamps while in a Polish concentration camp, this was filmed in Utah. Don’t remember hearing much about people of color in the camps. But I digress…
The film takes place somewhere in the late-1960s or very early ‘70s, considering the cell phones, typewriters, and magazine covers (e.g., Look magazine from 1986…yes, I do my research). There are some anachronisms, though, such as a nose piercing or modern artistic tattoos on the backs and wrists of more than one character.
Now, when I started watching this, I thought perhaps they were trying too hard to get the feel of the style, with bad acting and one lead character that is a creep and another that is too – err – girly, but about a third of the way through, I had a realization that changed my mindset and actually made this film make more logical and additionally fun. Now, I’m not sure this is intentional, but simply put, I was comparing it to the likes of Italian releases by Argento or even Franco, but in actuality it makes more sense to see the likeness in the even lesser B-versions, if you will, such as Spanish/Mexican films starring Paul Naschy. Not as low as the Luchador ones with, say, Santo or Mil Mascaras, but yet not quite classic giallo.
One thing that is consistent with Italian giallo, though, is the humming and stepping-on-nerve soundtrack, which is more like an electronic pulse. There are also some intentional errors (again, I’m assuming), such as occasional shots that are actually in reverse (is there a reference for that for which I don’t remember?). Then there is the time padding of other clips, such as long and drawn out bits of said snarling vampire women, or someone walking through the woods.
Relying on the macho/feminine ethos of films from the period this is supposed to take place (i.e., when it is supposed to be shot), the gendered roles are heightened and exaggerated in hyper-sexualized ways: think of Jane Fonda in 1968’s Barbarella or Steve McQueen in…well, just about anything).
For example, Man comes home to an empty apartment and complains that Pretty Girl has smoked a joint while at the same time he came drunk and carrying a bottle. Then he smokes the last of her joint! He’s very controlling, not wanting her to see her friends. It’s hard to like him: he’s clearly unfaithful and ambivalent about rescuing her. He also falls for Lead Vamp Girl way too quickly. She’s unlike the other vampires in that she’s sweet, needs a man to love her, and is a bit too clingy and needy, unlike that damn Pretty Girl who has a mind of very own and wants something beyond the company of Man. The nerve! Damn those feminists (yeah, this is sarcasm on my part, and arguably on the film’s, as well).
The bad guy, Gunther, has a haram of vampire women that he created with his formula, like a Nazi Superfly; that is devotion-wise, rather than prostitution, though the vampire women definitely show their cleavage and beauty with their flowing nightgowns, as mentioned earlier.
The extras are a bunch of Wildeye Releasing trailers (always fun), including for this film, and a 4+ minute short showing how LofVG’s storyboard translates into the film. Not very deep, but fun.
My uptightness as the film unspooled was because of my own blindness. LotVG is so close to what it’s trying to reflect, that it took me a while to realize what it was doing. That is not the fault of the director, but of my own subjectivity. That is the reason I started it over after about 15 minutes, to watch again with a new set of eyes, as it were. I smiled a lot more, and it was much more of an enjoyable experience. Fans of either Euro- or Mexi-horror are bound to find much to like, especially if you are familiar with the paradigm Johnson used to build his story.