Let’s get it out of the way. Lesbian Vampire Killers is not a good film.
If this sweeping statement has appeared as a surprise to some of you, you most likely haven’t seen this 2009 travesty of a motion picture. Starring Gavin and Stacey’s Matthew Horne and James Corden as best friends trying to escape the mundanity of their lives, and in Horne’s case a perennially cheating beau (Lucy Gaskell) played so icily cruel she has frost in her veins.
The premise of the film is a damp squib, to begin with as our duo find themselves roped into a centuries-long quest to rid the world of a villainous vampire queen. There simply isn’t enough to work with, even by the standards of postmodern comedy horror. Not even when Horne’s character’s lineage is brought into the fray as the only person able to use the literally phallic deus ex machina, in a lazy attempt at giving Lesbian Vampire Killers the momentum of a Chosen One and a grander finale.
Corden and Horne are, unfortunately, the diseased heart of this film. Evoking their partnership in previous works (remember when they had a short-lived BBC3 sketch show together? Nor does anyone else), they play the hapless heroes who must uncover the mystery behind the male-only town, defeat the vampire queen Carmilla, and save the world.
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Horne plays the milquetoast everyman Jimmy, a downtrodden protagonist of such singular passivity it’s a wonder he didn’t give up respiration because it was too much effort. However, if Horne is bad, then Corden’s Fletch is infinitely worse. A thoroughly horrible sidekick, Fletch is a lecherous pervert and unlikable presence around (his opening scene involves his sacking as a clown for punching a child in the face), even if he acts as the motivation for Jimmy to do something for once. Worst of all, Fletch is the ultimate cardinal sin in a comedy film – he’s a desperately unfunny comedic relief.
Some of the cast get off better than others, it has to be conceded – MyAnna Buring’s spunky heroine Lotte manages to be a likable presence and a more suitable candidate for lead character than Corden and Horne’s unengaging pair. The supporting cast – including Doctor Who star Paul McGann as a vampire-slaying priest and Peep Show’s Vera Filatova as a noble-turned-vampire – are written paper-thin but at least have the advantage of enough acting chops to stay barely afloat.
The music is of note too, a rare bright spot in this gloomily constructed film. Debbie Wiseman’s score is quite enjoyable, evoking classic horror scores and action-fuelled beats, as well as combining suspenseful instrumentation with luminous choirs that manage to be inspiring at one turn and insidious the other. It’s a soundtrack that, frankly, deserves better material to work with.
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Lesbian Vampire Killers is an attempt at an ode to the awful but enjoyable Hammer Horror flicks of the Sixties and Seventies, and while it has potential in its silly exploitation premise, it’s let down by lazy writing, cheap jokes, and a sadly bloated premise stretched into nearly ninety minutes of crass humour, weak characterisation, and cringe-inducing dialogue. It’s a genuine shame because when applied right, Horne is appealingly witty and Corden a warm and engaging presence. It’s just disappointing that it backfired so spectacularly here.
The only time I saw Lesbian Vampire Killers was on my own in a Showcase Cinema one Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks after its release. I was alone in the cinema, meaning that there was no one else there to experience the horrendous jokes, the weirdly prickly relationship between Horne and Corden, the penis sword. It also meant that eighty-odd minutes after the film started, as it creaked into its quasi-homophobic ending sting, the only one left begging for a stake through their heart was me.
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