I chose Vampyres, the first of my #31DaysOfHorror choices this year that I would say is exploitation cinema, naturally, because of the cover art. After the pitch perfect seventies homage of Knife+Heart, I wanted to go to the source, and having never heard of Vampyres, took the fact it’s on BFI Player as a degree of quality control. That’s how I found myself in the seventies English countryside, stuffed in the back of a cheap caravan parked in the grounds of a gothic country house.
It’s a legitimately good example of a well-made exploitation horror film. Vampires and seduction have always gone together, and the two women who live in the crumbling house lure men there to drink their blood. It reminded me of Harry Kümel’s Daughters of Darkness from two years earlier, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was an influence. It has oodles of charm, and some memorable images. The sex is wonderfully ordinary, by which I mean the film celebrates the middle-aged naked bodies of both men and women, although you do see more of the women. It’s sleazy, with some questionably slobbery kissing techniques, but sex is integral to the story, and even with the eventual blood-letting, it has erotic moments. Older vampire Fran casts a spell on the unpleasant and aggressive Ted, a spell which might just be his inability to say no to sex, and he becomes a sort of living meal over several days.
There is another strand with a young couple, Harriet and John, in the caravan, where she turns detective, even wearing a trench coat for a key scene towards the end. All the women are hungry in this film, whether for blood or knowledge. Harriet’s curiosity leads to a surprisingly twisted, chilling finale.