Phil Claydon | 86 mins | download | 15 / R
Pre-release hype pegged Lesbian Vampire Killers as the next Shaun of the Dead, a knowing horror spoof/homage destined for cult greatness. Reality showed us something different; a film so lambasted by critics and such a flop at the box office that they actually resorted to giving it away (as a digital download from iTunes just after Christmas). Like most of the country, I consequently ignored LVK on release, but free is free and so here I am.
In retrospect, I wonder if part of the film’s publicly-thorough critical drubbing was down to expectation: from the title and blatant Hammer Horror references, critics and viewers presumed they were set for a Shaun of the Dead-style ready-made-cult-classic horror homage. Instead, it takes widely recognised Hammer tropes and aims the rest of its content at a Nuts-reading audience. I’m not saying the film would’ve been better reviewed if critics had been expecting something more akin to what they were ultimately given, just that it wouldn’t’ve come in for such a public flogging.
Unfortunately, even with corrected expectations, the film fails to deliver on its twin promises of raunch and horror. Aside from a couple of brief surgically-enhanced medieval boobs, a flash of knickers and the odd girl-on-girl kiss, the film’s sexy content is non-existent. Said Nuts audience would certainly get more from their weekly wank mag; this is mostly 12A-level. The horror, meanwhile, is reduced to well-signposted jump scares — and even then few enough to count on one hand — and the odd bit of comical decapitation/melting with holy water/axes in the head. To be fair, this is meant to be more comedy than horror, and in this sense a few such moments succeed passably.
The humour itself is variable. A couple of half-decent jokes are scattered throughout, though a raft of predictable, familiar and vulgar ones threaten to overwhelm them. The opening goes on too long, emphasised rather than alleviated by Phil Claydon’s hyper over-direction. The film only approaches lift off once Gavin and Smithy… er, Jimmy and… no, still can’t remember… Anyway, it’s not until Horne and Corden finally arrive in the village of Cragwich that the plot begins to get moving, everything before it serving only to boost the running time to feature length (just), initiate subplots that are either disregarded immediately (Corden’s child-punching clown job) or disregarded as an inconvenience later (Horne’s on-again-off-again girlfriend), and provide an array of over-familiar suburban-sitcom situations.
Indeed, consistency is not the film’s strong point. Everyone makes a big fuss about the vampires and how hard they are to kill, yet every one is dispatched with ease, the level of threat never allowed to even attempt an increase before there’s white goo splurting everywhere (that’s what happens when they die, incidentally, not someone’s reaction to the lesbianism). The climax is a mere extension of this, substituting a rising scale of action for running around avoiding the easy killing bit. Any good will amassed in the middle — and there may be a tiny bit — is dismissed in boredom.
But Lesbian Vampire Killers isn’t all bad. If you can wade through jokes about a sword with a cock-like handle (not funny the first time, never mind the eighth), or a demon with a name that sounds a little like dildo (it’s a measure of the film’s intelligence that no one ever points out it sounds like dildo, they just leave that for the audience to spot), or any of the countless other inane attempts at being funny, you may come across the odd moment that makes you chuckle. Maybe. I probably enjoyed it (some of it, at least) more than I should admit.
And yet, for film fans Lesbian Vampire Killers is a wasted opportunity: even with its existing plot, more skilled hands could have shaped it into a horror tribute/spoof destined for enduring cult popularity. Instead, the MTV-born screenwriting partnership of Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield shot for the lowest-common-denominator lad’s-mag-buying audience, though quite what they made of the classic horror reference points that do remain is anyone’s guess. If we’re talking about expectations (and, clearly, I am), Lesbian Vampire Killers did somewhat defy mine — though as I was expecting it to be one of the worst comedies I’d ever seen, that might not be saying much.
Nonetheless, it’s as good a rule as any that if you pay money to read Nuts, you’ll probably enjoy this; if you just browse Nuts’ website (for whatever reason — I hear they have jokes and football and stuff too), you might like it; otherwise, you’d probably be better off watching Shaun of the Dead again.
Lesbian Vampire Killers is on Sky Movies Premiere tonight at midnight, and every night until Thursday 25th March at either midnight (Friday to Monday) or 10pm (Tuesday to Thursday).