Katherine (Erika Eleniak) works as a PA for a garish televangelist (Chris Sarandon). Her faith and her no-nonsense attitude frequently see her butt heads with her brother Caleb (Corey Feldman), with whom she shares a house, and who is a goth-punk who seems to revel in all vices known to man.
She nevertheless worries about him when he goes missing one night. But since it is not the first time he has vanished, and since they are drowning in missing person cases, the police are not interested in her worries. Reluctantly, she hires a disreputable private investigator by the name of Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller). Eager to impress the beautiful Katherine, Rafe throws himself into the case, and soon lands himself in trouble. It seems there is a secret brothel operating in the area; but what if your photographic evidence turns out to not show up on photographs?
Bordello of Blood is the second big-screen foray of the Tales from the Crypt franchise. After the success of the first Tales from the Crypt film, Demon Knight, the decision was made to extend this experiment into a trilogy of three unconnected films, with Demon Knight being the first, and Bordello of Blood the second. The latter’s lacklustre box-office performance meant that the plans for a third film were abandoned.
Being part of the Tales from the Crypt franchise means that the Cryptkeeper turns up in two appearances that frame the main plot. The first appearance happens after the film’s prologue, which takes place in a South American jungle. This prologue is sequed into that first Crypt-scene in such a way that you are reminded of the opening scenes of Demon Knight; but it alter turns out that the connection is of a different nature, which I found rather neat.
As for the film itself – it is a rather silly horror comedy that tries to provide enough frights and gore to qualify as horror, but fails in this regard. That is not to say that there is no gore in this film. There’s plenty. But it simply does not work as horror because of the silly plot. That’s a bit of an odd journey for a script that had started out many years earlier as a sexploitation story by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis.
All-in-all Bordello of Blood is inferior to Demon Knight, because Demon Knight was tonally consistent and had better acting. It was a true horror film, garnished with a few funny lines, and the actors all played their roles seriously, which added to the tension and to the tonal consistency. Bordello of Blood lacks that tonal consistency; and since it is too silly for the horror-side to work, you never feel any tension or buy into the stakes.
That is not to say that the acting in Bordello of Blood is bad – it is decent. There is not a single weak performance in any of the leading or main supporting roles; but there is nothing praiseworthy about the performances either. The only noteworthy thing is that Angie Everhart was not half bad, which is an achievement since this was more or less her first substantial acting role. There is also a cameo role for William Sadler, which is a nod to Demon Knight; as is an antique item in the story, for which a prop from Demon Knight was used.
Eleniak is limited in what she can do in this role, because her character is so stiff. The most enjoyable performances might be those by Sarandon as the televangelist and Phil Fondacaro as his “muscle”, Vince. There is a lot of overacting by Feldman; and the same goes for the characters Caleb hangs out with. But these are all choices I blame on the director, Gilbert Adler.
Which leaves Dennis Miller, whose performance is passable, but whose antics and ad-libbing reportedly torpedoed the production. His character has a lot of lame puns and quips. I don’t know for which of them Miller is to blame and which are the fault of the scriptwriters (Gilbert Adler and A. L. Katz). But since many of Miller’s lines have the “unnaturally natural” feeling that improved lines tend to have, I guess the blame is chiefly on him.
Storywise, a lot of things have gone wrong here, possibly because of numerous re-writes. The motivation of the televangelist are not entirely clear, partly because the writers did not commit to illustrate whether he is driven by faith, or by money, or by fame – all seem possible with this character. That is also one of the things that make you question why Vince is actually working for him at all. Finally, the motivations of the film’s main villain are equally shifting, as are her priorities. Nothing really makes all that much sense in the film.
Worst of all, a lot of time is spent on an investigation that is about to find out things we as an audience have already known for a very long time. And it takes until the very end of the second act before any character in this film ever even considers the possibility that vampires might be involved.
The production is somewhat “opulent” in terms of locations, sets, props, and costumes. The make-up and the special effects are also OK. But neither that nor the entirely pointless Whoopi Goldberg cameo can distract from the poor quality of the story.
Still, since this is a rather short film, and since there is still enough enjoyable humour to be found here, I am willing to give this film a 5.5-rating (out of 10).
PS: the DVD I was watching had a German age-16 certificate, which meant that the film was cut mercilessly. I am not sure how many minutes are missing in total, but there are at least 5 or 6 scenes in which the cuts were so clumsy they were blatantly obvious; so there may be many more where the cuts were less noticeable. And the way in which these cuts were enacted was gruesome. Some scenes simply stop without having a proper ending or resolution, and often there are jumps and jolts in the film where a few second have been cut out.