Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

There is very little to say about this film. I caught it on TV by coincidence a couple of years ago, but missed quite a chunk of the beginning. For this review, I re-watched it, and it doesn’t really improve the second time around.

 

Two frustrated city guys need a break. Jimmy has just been dumped by his girl-friend Julia (for the seventh time), and Fletch lost his job as a children’s party clown, because he kept hitting the misbehaving little bastards. An acute lack of funds means their holiday will not take them to Ibiza, but to a godforsaken village in rural England. There, they are confronted with an ancient curse, as well as a prophecy, etc., etc.

 

On paper, Lesbian Vampire Killers seems like good idea. Produce a vampire comedy which makes fun of a lot of the genre tropes; and make the two leads two hapless idiots, one of whom turns out to be the chosen one. The film – written by Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield, and directed by Phil Claydon – sort of ticks all the right boxes, including a general great look, good sets, props and costumes, and adequate special and practical effects. The film also has great score music – mostly traditional genre fare often used with notable exaggeration for satirical purposes.

But there are crucial shortcomings in the story, and especially in the characters. Too many story elements are done half-heartedly. We hear about a curse, but it does not become clear how the villagers have dealt with its consequences for the past few hundred years. We have a group of supporting female characters who are not introduced as individuals in a manner that would make us care about their fate later on. Even the female lead (if you can call her that) stays pretty pale, and that is not the fault of the actress MyAnna Buring, who does a fine job, but the fault of the script which gives her little to work with and burdens her character with highly unconvincing actions and motivation.

More importantly, the adversaries all stay pretty flat as well. The vampires are almost all part of an anonymous group of vampire ladies that leave no lasting impression and are not very threatening. Despite the fact that basically the only opposition they face are our two useless anti-heroes and their one remaining female companion, they keep dropping dead like flies. That is a source for comedy in this film, admittedly, but it does not change the fact that any suspense falls flat at that point. Fight scenes are mostly avoided, instead we get a lot of chases through woods, where you do not see anything, and where the vampires repeatedly fail to overcome a handful of idiotic humans. There is also a structural problem here, because all these hauntings and chases take too long. Whether you want to count them into the second or the third act, they simply take up too much time without creating any suspense.

Coming back to the lacklustre villains: the lesbian vampire queen, aptly named Carmilla, has not nearly enough screen-time to develop any kind of personality. And she does not feel threatening, because neither her powers nor her plans are really displayed.

Since the film also tries to derive some comedy from inverting feminism and from playing on the female-sexuality tropes of vampire fiction, portraying the female characters in this film as an anonymous mass and a general source of malice could be interpreted as a deliberate script-writing decision. But just as the too-easily-killed vampires just mentioned, an element being a source for comedy is no justification if that same element is weakening the story.

 

All this makes the two male lead characters and the one supporting male character the only ones that are written in a more or less competent manner. Paul McGann does a good job as a vampire-hunting vicar. More importantly, Mathew Horne and James Corden are very good at portraying the two bumbling idiots from the city. The two of them work well together, and they are given a number of good lines. And while none of their dialogue and interaction could be called award-winning, it is clear that it is these characters and their relationship which were at the focus of the script-writing process. Still, both Horne and Corden also have scenes and lines that do not work. Case in point is a scene in which Fletch finds a weapon they had been looking for – his reaction is neither believable nor amusing.

 

In general, it seems to me that the weaknesses of this film lie more with the writing than with the directing. According to James Corden, this film is “shit”. I wouldn’t be that harsh. Lesbian Vampire Killers is certainly no highlight of British film culture. But, as I said, this film is competently produced and looks quite well. And there are a number of funny lines and ideas, so some of the comedy works. And if you accept the film’s goofiness and take it for what it is, and acknowledge that it tries to play with genre tropes and to parody hero-centric franchises like Supernatural, then this film is a passable (if empty) vampire comedy that you could watch if you had absolutely nothing better to do.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

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