Vampyres (1974) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January and the “31 Days of British Horror” in March , Jules is at it again in May, treating us to the continuation of his chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.

Starring: Marianne Morris, Anulka
Director: José Ramón Larraz

If any film sums up the direction British horror was heading in by the early 70s it’s Vampyres.

In the same year José Ramón Larraz helmed the psychological sapphic horror that was Symptoms, he also produced a film that was much less subtle in its portrayal of female sexuality.

Often regarded as a soft-core porn horror, Vampyres isn’t quite as bad as that. Erotic, sure. More focus on sex than your average horror film? Yeah, probably. But Larraz is a smart, inventive filmmaker, capable of taking equal inspiration from the beautifully shot Hammer films as he was from the more…morally relaxed vampiric fare being made on the continent by people like Jean Rollin.

In a mansion deep in the heart of the English countryside, two women are shot to death while making love. At some other point, two very similar women, Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka aka Playboy’s Miss May 1973) lurk in a similar mansion, luring unsuspecting victims to their lair by posing as hitchhikers with the promise of sex, but feeding off their blood and eventually murdering them. Fran and Miriam aren’t normal killers though, they’re not even normal vampires, they’re something else, but one thing is for sure, their list for blood is as strong as it is for each other and will not be sated…

What a bizarre film Vampyres is. It’s gloriously, wilfully vague as to what’s really going on half the time. Are Fran and Miriam the ghosts of the women who were shot at the start? Was that a dream? Is the ending that suggests it was all a dream (yes, really) just a dream? Who knows? More importantly, who cares?

Larraz does that thing again where he makes you feel like you’re watching another dimension through a fuzzy lens, imbibing his film with that otherworldly quality, dreamlike and languid, like an opium hallucination that’s taken a turn for the seriously horny.

Make no mistake, as much as calling Vampyres soft porn is unfair, there’s a hell of a lot of nudity and sex in here. It sets its stall out with naked lesbian sex scene right at the start that ends in a double murder and rarely goes ten minutes without Fran and Miriam getting torn into if not one another but some poor unfortunate who’s not going to have the good time he thinks he’s going to.

The eroticism is well-shot though and you never see that much, not really, while it’s nicely combined with graphic violence and interspersed with those hazy dreamlike sequences.

It’s a beautiful film in many ways, not least the setting itself of Oakley Court, the famous Victorian house that appears as the exterior in several Hammer films such as The Brides of Dracula and Plague Of The Zombies, as well as The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

There’s a nice, refreshing approach to the mythology of vampires at work too. There’s no fangs, no slow trickle of blood down a hypnotised victims neck. Blood is spilled by knives, cruel-looking things that lack any subtlety, while the feeding is animalistic, aroused and at times brutal, in stark contrast to the gorgeous shots of the pair floating around in soft focus in misty graveyards between victims.

Vampyres doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at times, but it really doesn’t have to. It’s a fever dream, a hallucinatory vision of heaven and hell in the same place, of lovers who will never be parted, if they ever existed at all. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be.

Rating: 3.5/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

1 Comment on Vampyres (1974) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

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