[15 October 2013]
Embrace of the Vampire is a 2013 direct-to-video film that purports, quite obviously, to be a remake of the 1995 erotic horror film of the same name, which was memorable for the eye-popping love scene between the once-chaste sitcom darling Alyssa Milano with The Golden Child‘s vixeny Charlotte Lewis. In spite of this clear connection with its namesake predecessor, Embrace of the Vampire actually more closely resembles a different film: 2010’s ballet thriller Black Swan.
Truth be told, Embrace of the Vampire is essentially the same story as Black Swan, but with vampires and fencing foils instead of ballerinas and tutus. So similar are these films that it’s easy to imagine director Carl Besai sitting down with writers Andrew Erin and Sheldon Roper and saying “Hey, doesn’t this surprise lesbian love scene remind you guys of Black Swan? Can we watch that instead?” Clearly they did.
Embrace of the Vampire is the tale of Charlotte Hawthorn (Sharon Hinnendael), a virginal Catholic School girl in her first foray into college life. Although she knows little outside of fencing and her barista work when she arrives at her new school, she’s soon faced with the temptation of alcohol and sex, much like the temptations we all face in any good college. However, as the prologue implies (along with the film’s title) there is also a vampire out there just waiting to embrace Charlotte.
Charlotte experiences a literal bloodbath after fencing class.
While the film can be dramatic, sexy and occasionally inventive, Embrace of the Vampire is also almost “cute” as it attempts to confuse the audience as to who the title vampire offering the title embrace might be. This, the bloodiest of the red herrings, can take on logical slight-of-hand trickery or almost hilariously obviously misleading clues. Is the vampire the lesbian fencing partner, the sexy English teacher, the bright and cheery boss at Charlotte’s work? Or is it the creepy Dean who seems to have too much to hide? The hints are as obvious as the resolution.
Along the way to that foreseeable ending there are plenty of slasher flick-like asides to show the unseen and undead assailant taking out innocent people in bloody scenes that help pad out the film. This is not to mention wall-to-wall gratuitous nudity, sex and the kind of hazing scenes that teenage boys might hope college is all about. Make no mistake, the gratuities are there, so the late night renter of this movie should get his or her money’s worth regardless of whether they realize they’re getting a remake or they thought they were getting the original film.
On the flip side, Embrace of the Vampire does have its share of beauty from the actors and actresses (everyone in the cast pretty much looks like a fashion model as unrealistic as that is in real life) to the often breathtaking scenery of Vancouver, British Columbia where the movie was shot. Further, for such an undeniable B-Movie (albeit a direct-to-video B-Movie, whether that makes that better or worse), the acting is really not bad at all. Victor Webster is fine as the fencing coach who pushes Charlotte to reach her best. Hinnendael herself is believable as the naïve girl thrust into impossible circumstances (although many of these circumstances are just as improbable as they are impossible). Chelsey Reist also gives a respectable turn as Sarah, the clear reimagining of both Mila Kunis’ character from Black Swan and Charlotte Lewis’ character from the original Embrace rolled into one blonde bombshell. Luckily she can also act and shows a range of emotions.
Charlotte sleeps, but not alone
Yes, the Black Swan homages continue through to just before the finalé. The similarities are so great that this remake is practically begging for a drinking game to be made of it. I would have expected something to be mentioned in the bonus features or commentary about these homages, but Anchor Bay’s release of the DVD is as bare-bones as it gets with previews for other movies as the closest thing to a DVD Extra we get on the entire disc.
The question is, will it satisfy fans of psycho-sexual horror movies as its predecessor did? There is little doubt of that fact. However, unlike Black Swan, the remake of Embrace of the Vampire may be best enjoyed with the old brain mechanism turned completely off. In spite of its setting in the academic world, this film is hardly an intellectual pursuit, not that very many people might make that mistake to begin with. Certainly Embrace of the Vampire isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, but it’s hardly an evening at the ballet, either.