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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DVD Review: Embrace Of The Vampire

The new re-make of the 1995 erotic horror film, Embrace Of The Vampire, opens with some really nice shots of a woman riding horseback through the woods. The year is 1735. In a nearby home, another woman is being restrained and hurt. That is, until the first woman arrives and attacks those in the house.

The film then takes us to the present day, where Charlotte (Sharon Hinnendael) arrives at college. We quickly learn that she has no parents and is at school on a fencing scholarship. The school is located in a beautiful, mountainous area. She meets her roommate, Nicole (Tiio Horn), then quickly gets a job at a coffeehouse managed by a nice guy named Chris. These two people will basically be her only friends.

Early on, Charlotte meets Dr. Duncan to discuss the provisions and requirements of her scholarship. He asks her to close the blinds, saying he’s just had laser surgery and his eyes are sensitive. That’s a nice little play on the whole vampire theme, making the audience play the guessing game about who might be a vampire. The scene drops hints of Charlotte’s troubled past. Charlotte assures Dr. Duncan that she’ll do well in school because there’s no going back – it’s not an option for her.

At night she runs into her fencing coach, and is startled. He knows who she is, though they hadn’t met before. Of course, running into anyone on this campus might be startling. It seems to be quite an unpopular school, as there is almost never anyone around. That might be due in part to the fact that the fencing coach is also a teacher at the school.  Yes, Professor Cole (Victor Webster) not only coaches the fencing team, but also teaches a class on mythology.  A class that coincidentally both Charlotte and her roommate Nicole are taking.

Professor Cole begins the first class by saying: “Monsters. Myth? Reality? Maybe a combination of both.” He then asks, “Is there a connection between these myths, these creatures and all of us? The subject of this semester will be to answer that very question.”

There are some good little moments in setting up Charlotte’s character. For example, at the coffee shop, Chris goes to wipe something off of Charlotte’s shirt, and Charlotte automatically, defensively grabs his hand, showing good reflexes (which Chris comments on for those of us who couldn’t see it for ourselves). And we learn that Charlotte has a blood disorder, which apparently her mother died from.

Then Charlotte begins hallucinating, seeing worms in a couple of empty coffee cups, for example. She drops those cups, and later Chris teases her: “Those two mugs you broke? Those were my favorites.” That is a nice, cute moment between them. Unfortunately, moments like that are few and far between. A lot of time is spent with some truly annoying characters, such as Eliza, Nicole’s friend, who immediately and inexplicably hates Charlotte, and the captain of the fencing team, who also immediately and inexplicably hates Charlotte. Most of the characters are designed to make you feel that Charlotte is alone.

(To read the complete review, please click on "RAWR." Also, please be aware that this review contains some spoilers.)

College life for Charlotte seems to consist of going to just one class (mythology), fencing, and hallucinating. The first time she has a nightmare, it’s interesting, as she wakes up screaming outside in her nightgown, understandably confused. But then she just keeps having these visions, and nothing really comes of them. So every time something slightly scary happens, you just assume (and rightly so) that it’s an hallucination, and you quickly stop caring. So there’s a lot of weird imagery, but no real scares. Blood coming out of the showerhead is just not frightening (or original).

The one moment that might have been scary, had I not assumed that it was yet another hallucination, is when two of her teeth come out easily in the sink. It’s gross and creepy, but of course turns out to be an hallucination. (There is a nice moment, however, when Charlotte breaks a glass, and somewhat deliriously asks her roommate if she’s bleeding, if she too can see the blood.)

As for eroticism, forget it. Sure, there’s some nudity, including a lesbian scene with Charlotte and a blonde named Sarah (Chelsey Marie Reist). But it’s all rather cold. And most of the lesbian scene also turns out to be a dream or nightmare or hallucination. And what does any of this have to do with vampires, you might be asking yourself. Indeed.

Well, toward the end of the film, a strange woman named Daciana tells Charlotte that Charlotte has vampire blood. Daciana’s ancestors helped create Charlotte’s bloodline in order to fight vampires. Daciana tells her, “When a vampire finds a virgin from the creature who bit him, from the bloodline, he can use this pure blood to change back into his human form, but only if the virgin – you, Charlotte – only if you give yourself to him willingly.” So all the vampire wants, apparently, is to be human again. Charlotte, sensibly, asks why shouldn’t she just give herself to him then. Daciana tells her that as a result she’ll suffer for eternity in hell. Does this make sense? No, not really.

Charlotte goes on a camping trip with Chris and Nicole and a few other people. But before Charlotte can lose her virginity, Chris is killed. Apparently, the others are killed too, but for some reason this horror movie skips over most of what could actually be a scary scene. And suddenly Charlotte goes to Professor Cole’s log cabin (actually, it’s like a log mansion – very odd). How did she know that Professor Cole is the vampire? Well, he’s the only adult character still alive in the film.

Now, remember, he can only regain his humanity if Charlotte gives herself to him willingly. So why did he kill her only two friends? Is that any kind of way to seduce someone?

This movie really fails on all counts. It even fails to follow up on the hints of Charlotte’s troubled past. We know that her mom died, but what exactly was Dr. Duncan referring to in that early scene? And what exactly is it that Charlotte can’t go back to? And why would a vampire want to teach a vampire hunter to be a better swordsman (remember, he is her fencing instructor)? This film provides no answers.

The DVD contains no special features.

Embrace Of The Vampire was directed by Carl Bessai, and was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 15, 2013 through Anchor Bay.

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