Embrace of the Vampire made it into our pile of videos for the weekend for two reasons: we heard it was chock-full-o-skin, mostly Alyssa "Who's the Boss" Milano's, and it has an insanely high rating (8.0 out of 10) in the Internet Movie Database. Unfortunately, the former seems to be the main cause for the latter.
Not to say that Embrace of the Vampire is all bad, but neither do we think it should be ranked with the likes of Sunset Boulevard, Modern Times, Raging Bull, and Annie Hall. Ah well. On to the plot.
The highly-watchable Alyssa Milano plays Charlotte, a beautiful yet virginal college student. As the movie begins, her biggest worries are dealing with the undeserved holier-than-thou image she has with her peers, and whether or not she should sleep with her current boyfriend, Chris. Things become worse when a vampire (Martin Kemp) comes upon the scene.
You see, this vampire (known throughout the film only as "the vampire") knows that Charlotte is actually his beloved Princess from ages long ago, reincarnated in the modern world. As he was transformed into a vampire before he could marry the princess, he now plans to make Charlotte into a vampire and regain his lost love. Darn those vampires looking to regain their reincarnated lost loves! Apparently, he must do this while she is still a virgin, and still under 18 years old (unsurprisingly, her 18th birthday is 3 days away).
In order to make Charlotte more receptive to his advances, the vampire gives her dreams that will undermine her confidence in her relationship with Chris. Not only that, but the vampire gives Chris dreams, too, so that their love will be broken and our undead villain will be able to put the moves on Charlotte.
So of course it happens that over the course of these three days, Charlotte participates in a nudie photo session, is nearly seduced by the lesbian photographer, and gets Ecstasy slipped in her drink -- all of which is completely unrelated to the vampire plot. Yup, that sounds like freshman year to us!
Of course, all of this sounds much simpler than the way it's presented in the film itself. For some reason, the vampire will die if he doesn't seduce Charlotte, and sometimes it's not clear whether he wants to merely drink her blood or actually make her a vampire. It's also not clear why Charlotte's birthday is significant -- what's the deadline for? Is the vampire's time limit merely coincidental to her 18th birthday, or does the birthday itself impose restrictions? And what does being a virgin have to do with any of this?
Fortunately, one of the things we were looking for in this film was plentiful. Milano, clothed and unclothed, does a fairly good job transforming herself from misunderstood good girl to vampire-influenced bitch. If only the same could be said for her romantic partner (Harrison Pruett), who was pretty limp throughout the whole film, even in the scenes he shared with Jennifer Tilly.
Like my ankh?
Probably the best character actor in the movie was Jordan Ladd, who played the resident Bad Girl, Eliza. Still, she did remind us of a cheap Heathers ripoff, especially when she was drugging Charlotte's wine. Another semi-honorable mention goes to Rachel True, who played Charlotte's best friend Nicole. Unfortunately, the vampire attacks Nicole halfway through the film and she disappears from the story completely. None of her friends miss her, and frankly, neither did we.
We would guess the reason this movie was made was to capitalize on the then total lack of movies based on Anne Rice novels. The movie contains all of the alleged sensualism of a Rice novel, along with the obscure symbolism, such as an ankh being instrumental to someone's conversion to vampirism. As a matter of fact, you sort of have to assume that the Vampire is from a Rice novel, or else his apparent resistance to sunlight and bisexual shapechanging would be even more confusing than they are already.
At other times, Embrace of the Vampire carts out the most annoying cliche of modern horror movies: None of the characters act like real people would in the same situation. To give just one example, Charlotte loses the cross she used to wear, and can't find it. So Nicole puts the ankh around her neck, the same mysterious ankh Charlotte was grasping when she was found unconscious outside her dorm wearing nothing but her nightgown. Who would do such a thing? What were they thinking? If we were found unconscious holding an ankh, we would throw it into the nearest convenient ocean. Or maybe take it to an antique store and see what we could get for it. But wear it? Never!
And then there's the end of the movie, where a special effect is actually used, but it is so brief and pointless (the Vampire sort of zaps Chris with a bolt from his hand), one wonders why it was included at all. And when the Vampire dies, rather than dissolving or doing anything else entertaining, he sort of rolls over onto his back and shrivels up like a cockroach. The is entertaining in its own way, but not for the reasons the filmmakers intendended. We just can't help thinking there was a big can of garlic Raid just off camera.
While it's a good source of some schlocky fun, Embrace of the Vampire doesn't achieve any more than that. The film certainly has more entertainment value than most other vampire movies -- unfortunately, not saying much.