The ambitious but creatively bankrupt Spanish-lensed remake of Jose Ramon Larraz's vicious and fleshy VAMPYRES hits DVD stateside courtesy of Artsploitation Films.
Following the structure of Larraz's British X-certificate original, VAMPYRES opens with hooded and cloaked vampire femmes Fran (Marta Flich) and Miriam (Almudena León) causing a motorcycle accident by their appearance on the road rather than using road accidents to dispose of their exsanguinated victims: in this case, Peter (Fele Martínez, TESIS) and Ann (Alina Nastase) who were on their way to meet up with trio Harriet (Verónica Polo), John (Anthony Rotsa), and Nolan (Víctor Vidal) who have set up camp beside an ominous old house while searching for artistic inspiration to illustrate a book about the local legends ("This isn't a good place to disappear," warns Harriet when teased about the "witches of the forest"). Also arriving in the area and stopping over at the local inn – run by CAPTAIN KRONOS' Caroline Munro and TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD's Lone Fleming – is broody Ted (Christian Stamm) who picks up hitchhiking Fran who takes him back to her empty house for a night of sex that leaves him drained in more ways than one. Fran's decision to feed off of Ted gradually is disturbing to Miriam to disposes of her meals on a nightly basis, leaving them vulnerable to discovery when Ted seeks medical help from Harriet. As John is drawn to the house by a trail of black roses, Harriet tries to convince Nolan that the mysterious women who live in the abandoned house may have had something to do with the disappearance of their friends and others in the area.
The creepy mansion inhabited by the vampires is hardly Oakley Court but reasonably atmospheric; the photography, however, is too slick to give the house, the grounds – which include bare woods, a cemetery, and leaf-strewn lake – or the sexualized bloodletting to match the humid, sweaty, grainy, gritty intensity of Larraz's original film. With the thick accents and stilted English-language performances of its two vampires, the film instead reveals that you really do need more than just two naked and bloody women groping each other after forty years of lesbian vampire films to distinguish this effort from the likes of a Seduction Cinema DTV film. Stamm makes for an even duller lead than Murray Brown (Dan Curtis' DRACULA) – who at least had a repressed air about him that made him more satisfying prey for the likes of Marianne Morris (THE AMOROUS MILKMAN) and Anulka (LISZTOMANIA) – and the revelations about his character make him seem even less likely to stumble into their trap. The camping trio – who undeservedly liken themselves to Shelly, Byron and Polidori – is just as incidental to the "story" as Sally Faulkner (PREY) and Brian Deacon (A ZED & TWO NAUGHTS) were in the original. The ending throws Larraz out the window in favor of some out-of-place stuntwork before the nonsensical restaging of the Larraz film's coda (which here allows for cameos by THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF's Conrado San Martin along with May Heatherly and Hilda Fuchs from PIECES). Besides recreating images from Larraz's film, there is also a nod to VAMPYR (with Jess Franco regular Antonio Mayans as a scythe-wielding caretaker standing at the edge of the lake in silhouette) while the abattoir-like basement setting and some torture inflicted upon the heroine during the climax recall the more savage moments of Jean Rollin's FASCINATION and THE LIVING DEAD GIRL if only vaguely. Director Victor Matellano's debut feature effort was the Spanish horror throwback WAX with Jack Taylor (THE GHOST GALLEON), but he had previously helmed the documentary ZARPAZOS! UN VIAJE POR EL SPANISH HORROR and the short TIO JESS with Jess Franco and Mayans.
Artsploitation's dual-layer DVD features a progressive, anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen encode of this digitally-lensed production that is more than serviceable given the videography. Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options are included with the surround mix only slightly more active, along with English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles. In addition to the Spanish horror stars guesting in the film, the included making of (12:29) is narrated by Jack Taylor who provides context of the original Larraz film for the novice viewer – and the finished film pales beside even the promotional stills of the original used to illustrate this segment – before correctly asserting that the film's , aesthetic concept and cruelty, are more akin to the slasher genre in the remake (while also mentioning that the boat scene at the end was meant to be a nod to Larraz's WHIRLPOOL rather than FRIDAY THE 13TH, although I thought it was a homage to LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH). Taylor also highlights the Eurohorror talent, including Munro and effects artist Colin Arthur (who did make-up on the original) for providing the link to the Hammer horror tradition. The interview with actress Munro (3:32) was shot before her first day of work and conveys her anticipation about doing the film based on her impressions of the original and Matellano's previous work. The disc also includes the film's trailer (2:05) and previews for FEVER, THE PERFECT HUSBAND, OBSERVANCE, THE FOSTERING, COUNTER CLOCKWISE, and DER BUNKER. (Eric Cotenas)
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