The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - VAMPYRES | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - VAMPYRES

vampyres review
A pair of undead lesbian lovers feed off the blood of the men they lure to their doom.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: José Larraz

Starring: Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Murray Brown, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner

vampyres poster

If Hammer's Karnstein trilogy (The Vampire Lovers; Lust for a Vampire; Twins of Evil) is the commercial entry point to the world of '70s vampiric eroticism, and the films of Jean Rollin the esoteric ultimate destination, Vampyres lies somewhere in the middle, a British horror with a very continental sensibility courtesy of Spanish director José Larraz.

vampyres review

The movie opens with two female lovers - Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska) - gunned down after being caught in the throes of passion. Cut to some later point and Fran and Miriam are now the undead, living in an abandoned country manor and surviving on the blood of the various men they lure with the promise of sex (a promise, it must be said, they fully deliver on).

Most '70s sexploitation movies have all the erotic charge of Donald Trump holding hands with Theresa May, but if Vampyres doesn't stir your loins you probably have even less of a pulse than its undead stars. Morris and Dziubinska are an entrancing double act, and they genuinely seem enchanted by each other during their intimate scenes - there's none of the awkward fumbling seen in many erotic horrors of this period. This may be down to the contributions of screenwriter Diana Daubeney, who was married to Senor Larraz at the time. Many of the key horror movies of the '70s - Halloween; Suspiria; Messiah of Evil - were co-written by their directors' romantic partners, and the female input here lends Vampyres a verisimilitude largely lacking elsewhere in the lesbian vampire genre.

vampyres review

Morris and Dziubinska may have been chosen for their striking looks, but both give subtly impressive performances here. Watch the cheeky little glances they give each other while a victim-to-be delivers a mansplaining lecture on the finer points of wine.

It's difficult to justify calling Vampyres a feminist horror movie, given it was made primarily for an audience of men in raincoats, but I don't think it's a coincidence that we root for Fran and Miriam as they dispatch a series of male plonkers, only changing our allegiance in the final act when they turn their attention to a potential female victim.

vampyres review

Shot in the scenic surrounds of Oakley Court (also the setting for Hammer horrors The Brides of Dracula, The Reptile and The Plague of the Zombies), Vampyres offers one stunning image after another. The cinematographer here was no less than Harry Waxman, whose CV includes such British genre classics as The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Nanny and The Wicker Man, and Vampyres ranks among his best work, looking particularly gorgeous in its recent restoration. The sound design is also a standout. Eschewing an oppressive score, Larraz instead accompanies his atmospheric scenes with an eerie effect that sounds like wind blowing through a metal tube, which I suspect may have been borrowed by Ridley Scott for Alien later in the decade.

Vampyres is on Shudder UK now.