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The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: 8 pages of reviews, covering Film Reviews • including Razor Blade Smile (below) and What Dreams May Come Book Reviews • including controversy over a Roger Corman book Video Reviews • Deadbeat at Dawn and new horror DVDs including Hellraiser TV Reviews • the conclusion of Ultraviolet
Film Review
Razor Blade Smile
Director: Jake West

Stars: Eileen Daly, Christopher Adamson, Jonathan Coote
UK release: Oct 30th 1998

Duration: 102 minutes
selected and edited from Shivers #60

Razor Blade Smile: subtle, no?Total Film is quoted on the posters for this picture (probably against their wishes - Ed.) to the effect that it is ‘the best British vampire movie in nigh on two decades’. Well, how many British vampire movies have there been in the last 20 years? Bits and pieces of The Monster Club; the space vampires of Lifeforce; Amanda Donohoe, sort of, in The Lair of the White Worm; the deadly dull Tale of a Vampire... That’s it. All those films were rubbish, and Razor Blade Smile is rubbish, too. But, in a smirking, self-reflexive kind of way, it knows it, and therefore renders itself almost beyond criticism.

Our lead vampire is called Lilith – the oldest vampire name in the (Good) book – and is played by Eileen Daly, star of those dreadful prologues attached to Redemption movies when shown on the Bravo satellite channel. Acting, the primary aim of which is normally considered truthfulness, is to Daly just an opportunity for post-modern posturing, much of it laughable, and in this she mirrors the ethos behind the whole film. “I bet you think you know all about vampires,” she purrs in dreary voice-over at the film’s outset. “Believe me, you know f**k all.” Soon afterwards, she’s seen assuring her Goth friends that vampires can’t change into bats, providing the cue for a nice cartoon parody of the transformations in Universal Horror movies. And as Bauhaus drone Bela Lugosi’s Dead in the background (just as they did fifteen years ago in The Hunger), Daly echoes them with the pronouncement, “F**k Bram Stoker.”

But the film’s iconoclasm is a sham, amounting to little more than combining the customary sex-machine female vampire with a gun-toting, rubber-suited Modesty Blaise/Lara Croft persona. “Try not to create the usual stereotype,” she advises a fresh-faced photographer at one point, but she is exactly that herself – a stereotype of slightly more recent date than the ‘tuxedoed Transylvanian’ variety, it’s true, but a stereotype nevertheless. She gets up to nothing new, really – even her eventual emasculation of the young photographer (“I like a girl who uses her teeth,” he says) was pioneered by the above-mentioned Amanda Donohoe...

There are occasional flashes of wit and vigour in the picture’s garbled progress, but most of the jokes are hopeless, ranging from a crusading cop “going on a stake-out” to Lilith bemoaning the irony that “I’ve supposedly got all the time in the world and I’m always in a rush.” The leading male vampire comes up with a nicely twisted bit of Shakespeare when he claims that “the world’s our stage and people our playthings,” but the rest of the dialogue is clunky and occasionally given to malapropism: ‘Anally retentative’, ‘Dogged determinism’, etc.

The least swallowable feature of the film is its idea that a genuine vampire, endowed with the taste, wisdom and discernment of centuries, would choose to waste her time in West Hampstead’s Transilvania Bar with a bunch of purple-haired vampire wannabees. But director Jake West no doubt felt constrained to include this sop to the ‘vampire lifestyle’ brigade because they constitute pretty much the complete demographic for his picture; it’s hard to imagine anyone else being even remotely interested. As a result, British Horror remains firmly mired in its own ghetto. Maybe upcoming entries – Urban Ghost Story, Lighthouse and Witchcraft X – Mistress of the Craft (the last starring La Daly as a vampire again) – will haul it out. Or maybe not.

Jonathan Rigby