Pros: hm...Alyssa Milano naked is a generally good thing.
Cons: The film has a really weak script, flat direction, and uninspired performances.
Embrace of the Vampire: New Line Cinema
Rating: USA: R/ Unrated/ UK: 18/ Australia: MA
Poor vampires?of all of horror?s archetypal monsters, none has been more abused than the nosferatu. Sure, things started out well enough?Dracula was named after a ruler with a penchant for impaling his enemies on stakes?but ever since authors like Anne Rice have come along, the traditional bloodsucker has mutated from a seductively intriguing monster to a whiny fop crying about lost loves and the agony of eternal life. And if all that weren?t bad enough, you?ve got every two bit hack author in the universe working on his magnum opus vampire novel (which almost invariably features a vampire who was someone famous in a historical context, or gives the undead member of the legion of darkness a traditional job?like as a cop or a reporter). Simply put, the vampire has become the Rodney Dangerfield of horror?they don?t get any respect. And I?m here to tell you that perception won?t be changing after watching Embrace of the Vampire--yet another film with a wimpy vampire and a plot more interested in cheesy romantic musings than any kind of bloodletting.
Martin Kemp (who was in the pop group Spandau Ballet) is the vampire of the title (who spends the entire film without a name?and without any kind of clearly defined motivation for his actions as well). After a long and tedious voice-over segment (where Kemp explains how he became a vampire after falling asleep in a forest and being seduced by three topless vampire chicks?in a scene pretty much stolen from Coppola?s Dracula) we learn that Kemp has found his lost love from the past reincarnated in the present day. He must seduce her and drink her virgin blood in three days (and no, the film never tells us why there?s a time schedule for this) or he?ll die (and no, they never tell us why failing to do this will cause him to die, either).
His new love takes the form of Charlotte (Alyssa Milano), who, as fate would have it, looks pretty darn good. I thought the film might have been more interesting if Charlotte were played by someone like Charlotte Rae (Mrs.Garrett from The Facts of Life)?I?d love to see our lovelorn vampire have to struggle with the idea of seducing someone like that?but, I digress. Charlotte?s new on campus, and since she?s been raised by nuns, she?s pretty uptight. She?s got a boyfriend (the dull as dishwater Harrison Pruett) who really wants to have sex with her, but doesn?t pressure her because he?s a nice guy.
Soon, though, our vampire is giving Charlotte lots of weird dreams and causing her to sleepwalk all around campus. Charlotte undergoes a sort of ?sexual awakening? and finds herself having a half-hearted lesbian encounter, imagining orgies all around her, and engaging in a fantasy-tinged threesome. All of this leads us to the climactic showdown, which is hardly climactic and really not much of a showdown, either.
Of course, no one sees Embrace of the Vampire for gore, or a good story, or for the vampire anyway?no, people see this movie for one reason: Alyssa Milano gets naked (and shows off her surgically enhanced breasts). Milano, who set the hormones of p*bescent young boys ablaze each and every week on ABC?s Who?s the Boss apparently accepted this role for one reason?to shed her good girl image (she did Poison Ivy 2 not long after this one?just in case there were people who didn?t get the message the first time through). Yet, even in this regard, the film misses on more notes than it hits. Milano does the virginal Charlotte part well (for the most part), but completely bombs when Charlotte undergoes her metamorphosis during the third act. But, to be fair, this is probably as much the script?s fault as Milano?s.
Which brings us to the script?or the few notes about a story that Rick Bitzelberger and Nicole Coady scribbled on a bar napkin after a night of binge drinking (I can see the notes now?pansy vampire?pansy boyfriend?Alyssa Milano gets naked every 10 minutes?lesbians?the end). I couldn?t even begin to regale you with all the plot holes and unexplained occurrences that fill this film, but here are a few: When Charlotte?s friend is killed by the vampire, no one really notices that she?s disappeared, nor is anyone very concerned about finding her. Our vampire has the ability to shoot some kind of blue electricity out of his hand, he doesn?t have to avoid sunlight, and crosses don?t seem to bother him much either. Finally, he?s also pretty dumb?otherwise, I doubt he?d wait ?til the third night at five minutes ?til midnight to start drinking Charlotte?s blood. If you go into this expecting tight plotting, you?re gonna be really let down.
The movie itself seems far more indebted to Anne Rice?s school of whiny and wimpy vampires than the Stoker school of monstrous bloodsuckers. Kemp is a compete wimp, running around lamenting his sad fate for most of the film. He does at least turn in a performance that?s enjoyable in a campy sort of way?his hissing vampire voice is so cliche that it?s almost amusing, and his melodramatic dialogue will leave you in stitches.
The rest of the performances are either forgettable, or the roles are so small that they?re hardly worth commenting on. Rachel True (The Craft) has a small part as Charlotte?s friend, Charlotte Lewis plays a lesbian photographer, and Jennifer Tilly gets a few minutes of screen time as a trashy barfly who?s really part of Kemp?s entourage. All three characters seem to have been written in as afterthoughts, particularly Tilly, who just sort of shows up, then sort of disappears. Yet one more example of how bad the script for this film truly was.
Oddly enough, despite the film?s exploitational roots, Embrace of the Vampire was actually directed by a woman. Anne Goursaud handles the directorial duties, and well, it?s not really anything to write home about. Ultimately, Embrace of the Vampire looks like just about every other erotic thriller out there. The film takes place on a limited number of sets, none of which are very impressive, the direction itself is perfunctory at best, and even the erotic scenes suffer because they?re largely devoid of any kind of real passion (or even a somewhat realistic facsimile of real passion). The softcore sex scenes have a very staged, ?going-through-the-motions? air to them, and it ultimately hurts the film far worse than the lack of a good script, credible characters, or good acting. This movie exists for one reason?to titillate an audience?yet it generally fails in even this regard.
The film?s been released on DVD, complete with the R rated cut and the Unrated one and little in the way of extras. The picture and sound are decent (particularly when you consider that this was a low budget cult film), and if you?re a fan of the film, this is probably the best format to own it in (I?ve heard that the laserdisc?s picture is a little soft overall).
Overall, there?s not much else to say about Embrace of the Vampire. It?s fairly obvious that Anne Goursaud had some elaborate ideas about making a vampire film with a romantic and erotic tone to it, but she?s really missed the mark here. Had anyone other than Alyssa Milano (who has since gone on to say that she?ll not do any more films of this nature) starred in it, this film would be sitting on the video store shelf collecting dust instead of sitting in a place of honor next to the porn collection in every frat house in America. If you want to see Alyssa Milano naked, then this flick is for you (although, you could save yourself a few bucks and just look around online?this film?s lesbian and orgy scenes have been vidcapped to death). If you?re looking for a legitimate vampire flick, or even a vampire flick with some erotic and romantic undertones, then look elsewhere (I?d recommend The Hunger).