The latest feature spinoff from the campy HBO horror-comedy series is another cheesy goulash of smart-alecky humor and full-bore gore, spiced with more shots of topless lovelies than you’d find in a ’60s sexploitation flick. Adolescent boys might groove to the mix, but most other ticketbuyers will avoid this tawdry opus like the plague. Expect a quick resurrection on homevideo, where pic might unearth a slightly more receptive audience.
Following last year’s “Tales From the Crypt Presents Demon Knight,” “Bordello of Blood” is the second misguided attempt by producers Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis to turn their popular cable series, inspired by the notorious E.C. Comics of the 1950s, into a movie franchise.
Unlike the series, however, “Bordello of Blood” is not an anthology. Like “Demon Knight,” it is a single, feature-length narrative, bracketed by jokey sequences starring the Crypt Keeper, a grisly animated puppet who’s overly fond of bad puns.
Yarn deals with a long-dead vampire queen who’s resurrected by the minions of a slick televangelist. Lilith (Angie Everhart), the bloodthirsty beauty, establishes a bordello beneath a mortuary on the outskirts of some unnamed, presumably Deep South town. (Pic was filmed in Vancouver.) Aided by a bevy of sister vampires, Lilith encourages horny customers to savor pleasures of the flesh so that she will have the chance to feast on their blood.
For the Rev. Jimmy Current (Chris Sarandon), the electric guitar-strumming preacher who controls Lilith with an ancient talisman, the bordello is a dandy enterprise. Not only does he get to rid the world of lust-crazed sinners, but he can also sell the victims’ cars and other items to finance his cable TV operations.
But when the punk brother (Corey Feldman) of Current’s most faithful employee takes a one-way trip to the bordello, things get complicated. Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak) hires Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller), a seedy but smooth-talking private eye, to locate her errant sibling. Predictably, the shamus follows the trail to Lilith’s bordello. Just as predictably, Lilith is so turned on by the inquisitive Guttman that she yearns to jump in the sack before she gnaws on his neck.
Director Gilbert Adler, a “Crypt” series vet, tries hard to balance fang-in-cheek silliness and blood-on-walls scariness. Working from a script he co-wrote with A L Katz, based on an original story by Bob Gale and Zemeckis, he spins a yarn that plays like a cross between “Lord of Illusion” (private eye tackles supernatural foe) and “From Dusk Till Dawn” (vampire hookers on the prowl).
But result is neither funny enough nor scary enough to be satisfying as either a shocker or a spoof. Its main appeal will be for undemanding genre fans who enjoy juvenile comic relief while savoring messy murders and gross-out special effects. And even those fans will doubtless notice how derivative much of “Bordello” is. Near the end, Guttman and Current use water guns filled with holy water to demolish the monsters. The scene might have been funny were it not a rerun of a similar scene in “From Dusk Till Dawn.”
Miller is the movie’s saving grace, giving a sharp, smart-mouthed performance that doesn’t seem all that far removed from his standup comedy and talkshow hosting, as some of his best lines sound ad-libbed.
Supporting players are stuck with fuzzily conceived cliches to play. Sarandon brings exuberance to his business-minded preacher. Everhart is pretty much your standard-issue vampire sexpot, while Eleniak is an uptight Bible-thumper who proves to be unexpectedly resourceful in her battle with the undead. Neither actress is able to do much to distinguish herself. Whoopi Goldberg makes a brief , unbilled appearance as a hospital patient, and she isn’t very funny, either.
In keeping with the movie’s overall tone of aggressive fatuousness, the special effects are at once luridly cheap-looking and technically sophisticated. Otherwise, tech credits are routine.
Very much like “Demon Knight”– and, for that matter, like the HBO series itself — pic has the self-satisfied air of a private joke shared by showbiz insiders. Trouble is, few things are more annoying than the spectacle of creative types with an over-inflated estimate of their own cleverness.