Fangoria’s #334/July 2014 (mentioned a couple posts back) had more to offer vampire enthusiasts than just its excellent interview with filmmaker Werner Herzog about his 1979 remake of F.W. Murnau’s classic Nosferatu. Editor Chris Alexander also penned a full page update on yet another vampire film remake, Spanish director Victor Matellano’s soon-to-release version of countryman Jose Ramon Larraz’ cult-classic Vampyres from 1974.
Several years after its release, I had the pleasure to see that film on a big screen in, of all places, a huge old downtown movie palace, by then on its very last legs and running a truly bizarre bunch of films before it finally closed its doors. I won’t say that Larraz’ Vampyres is a ‘great’ piece of cinema. I’ll leave filmmaking analysis to the film studies students and qualified critics. But, speaking as an ardent fan of vampire films, I’ll definitely say that Vampyres is a truly memorable film, even if it accomplished this as much by happy accident as by its artistic merit. It lured me into its web (as it was intended to) and then genuinely shocked me (also as it was intended to), and re-watching it on the small screen a number of times since hasn’t changed that one bit. (Skip back to my multi-part post on that 1974 exploitation classic — ‘My Guiltiest of Guilty Pleasures’ posts from September 201)).
As for the remake…well, I really don’t understand remakes at all. In this case, are sexy naked omni-sexual vampires really so unique a concept that a filmmaker couldn’t just come up with his own scenario, slap together a script and start shooting?
Director Matellano explains that Larraz’ original is a “cult-movie masterpiece, and the reason it has resonated so greatly is that, for its time, it was incredibly transgressive. Vampyres set aside the traditional canons of the vampire genre, providing more realism and explicit sex…” Fair enough. But still…why a remake? Matellano provides no explanation. He did co-write the screenplay with the original’s maker, Jose Larraz (who passed away in September 2013), and in it, they tried to provide some character motivation and coherence that the original lacked (the original’s screenplay was cobbled together in 6 days, which may actually be a leisurely pace for Euro-sleaze sexploitation films).
The remake apparently tries to out-do the original in some aspects. Matellano notes, “The big contributions of the first Vampyres were the sex and the blood. This version preserves the sex, the blood and the perversion, but we tried to go beyond. This one is more violent, gorier and very sexual…watching footage in the editing room, I wondered if we had gone too far.”
Do get your hands on a copy of Fangoria #334 (July 2014) and read the full article for yourself.
For me, Larraz’ Vampyres was memorable for its blend of dreamy yet explicit eroticism set amidst beautifully shot Gothic settings (one of the same estates and grounds Hammer and other UK horror filmmakers used, in fact), all of which would be violently and shockingly interrupted by some incredible acts of vicious vampirism. Seeing it the first time, and raised on revered but comparatively tepid Universal, Hammer and sundry other vampire films, I was genuinely shocked, and I’m not easily shocked. But it’s not 1974 anymore. Nearly forty years of horror cinema have rubbed our noses in virtually every conceivable bit of gratuitous violence and gore, aided and abetted by continually refined digital EFX that enable filmmakers to show things that were impractical, if not even inconceivable, forty years ago. As for ‘sex and perversion’? I don’t know if mainstream cinema actually has advanced much further in that realm, but a lazy scroll through On-Demand and DVD horror films can provide anyone with an overabundance of redundant boobs-n-blood non-theatrical release vampire films that are little more than soft (or hard) core sexploitation flicks with mail-order fangs, blood-smeared breasts, and boy-girl, girl-girl, girl-boy and boy-boy blood-drenched oral sex, whether its relying on victims’ menstrual blood for the vampires’ sustenance, or using the gents’ privates like a handy pop bottle straw. Frankly, I’ve pretty much given up on even trying them any more, unless I’ve read something encouraging online or in the horror press to recommend a new low-budget vampire flick.
The original’s stars, Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska don’t even get cameos, though for some reason, 70’s horror icon Caroline Munro has a part, though I can’t imagine what it would be from my recollection of the original film’s cast of characters.
Somehow, I won’t be surprised if Matellano’s Vampyres remake doesn’t make it to my local mall’s multiplex. But it’ll surely pop up in a RedBox or the cable companies’ on-demand services at some point. All right, I’ll be a dope and plunk down my coin to give it a fair viewing. But for some reason, I’m not expecting the same experience as the 1970’s original shocker provided…’transgressive’, indeed.