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Review by
Mike Oliveri

Razor Blade Smile
A-Pix Entertainment / Palms Films
Ratings: Finland: K- 18 / USA: R

The plot of this indie Brit vampire flick is simple enough: a female vampire has become a contract killer in modern times to prevent the boredom of eternal life. Her current assignments involve assassinating members of the Illuminati, a mysterious and mystical secret society bent on controlling the world's power structure. The only problem is the head of the Illuminati is the same guy that turned her into a vampire.

The film starts off with a black-and-white flashback sequence, taking place sometime in the 1800's, in which our heroine, Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly: WITCHCRAFT X: MISTRESS OF THE CRAFT, DEMONSOUL) witnesses a man gunned down in a duel. The man is never identified, but he is presumably a lover or close relative, as she draws a pistol and tries to take revenge on the other duelist. She in turn is shot and wounded, and dying.

The other duelist is the ages-old vampire Sethane Blake (Christopher Adamson: BEYOND BEDLAM, JUDGE DREDD). As he is watching Lilith die, he decides to turn her into a vampire. Again, no specific reason is given, despite the fact that she had just shot him in the gut and he just killed somebody close to her. She appears to take to the bloodthirst rather quickly.

To kill time, Lilith likes to hang out with the goth crowd at a pub called The Transilvania Bar (yep, it's spelled with an "i" not a "y"). Here the movie pokes fun at the goth/romantic style vampires a la Rice and Stoker and begins to lay out this film's version of the vampire strengths and weaknesses. The goths are caught up in the specifics of the powers (particularly shape-shifting), while Lilith tries to explain to them that it's all nonsense and a metaphor for the escape from day-to-day, almost robotic, human reality. She flashes a knowing smile as they, unaware that she is indeed a vampire, proceed to tell her that she is flat wrong and just plain weird.

The "money" shot.
Unfortunately, at the same time the film strives to dismantle the gothic image, it falls victim to it. Lilith wears a lot of tight leather, enjoys getting laid, and is apparently a bisexual (she beds one of the goth chicks from the bar). Her apartment is decorated with candles, her bed decked out in red satin sheets, and she has a coffin she keeps all her weapons in. And finally, the vampire characters wear these huge fang inserts that make the actors talk funny, and every time they bare the fangs they hiss a lot.

The plot progresses slowly, and the action drags somewhat in the middle. Her next target is police detective Price (Jonathan Coote: VIRTUAL TERROR), who is investigating her murders. A member of the Illuminati himself, he at first laughs off Sethane's warning that a vampire is hunting them down, but soon begins to believe it himself and hunts her with some homemade stakes (which, by the way, are harmless to this film's vampires - they can only be killed by decapitation). Price begins stalking her, while at the same time she is trying to discover who the mysterious Illuminati is.

Then, because Lilith failed to recover the burning eye ring - a symbol each Illuminatus wears - of her last victim, the contractor becomes very upset. Her "agent" and sometime lover, known to her only as Platinum (Kevin Howarth: CASH IN HAND), is kidnapped and a ransom note demands she return her payment in exchange for Platinum's life. When she goes to rescue him, she finds Sethane waiting for her.

Any Vampire that would waste this much food really wasn't that hungry to start with.

At this point the plot begins to make less and less sense, and Lilith simply begins chasing people around and killing them. Fortunately, the ending wraps it all up rather nicely, with a good, if not necessarily clever or original, twist on how vampires really spend their eternal lives.

The film has its ups and downs, but for a debut film from writer, director and producer Jake West, it's not a bad attempt. You can tell he made a legitimate effort, and there is some fair cinematography at times and a few interesting presentations. During the black-and-white opening, for example, as Lilith lies dying in bed the blood is all red. When Lilith describes the absurdity of actually turning into a bat or mist to the goths, she pictures herself doing exactly that, only it's in a style of 1930's horror movies.

The biggest problems I had with the film were the acting and some of the nighttime sequences. I can understand West not having the cash to offer a lot of flexibility as far as a cast, but he should have been able to step in at times and tell the actors what's what. When they weren't just generic and bad, they were over-the-top and bad. Daly and Adamson in particular ham it up at various times.

Vampire hams

For some of the night sequences, rather than shooting in darkness West went with a dark filter on the camera lenses. As a result, everything is colored in various shades of blue, or you see sunlight reflecting off the surface of Daly's leather costumes. Barring the similar shots in Point Break when the surfers hit the beach at night (they wanted to use the normal daylight tides for the surfers), I didn't think that kind of camera work had been done since old War and Western flicks from the 50's and 60's.

It's a B movie, but a B movie that at least tries to do something different. I don't regret the rental cost, but I doubt I'll be picking this one up on DVD. I wouldn't be surprised if it finds itself a small cult audience, and I'd probably rent West's next flick out of curiosity, just to see how he's progressed. I give it three negative shriek girls.

This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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