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Lesbian Vampire Killers

Not since "Snakes on a Plane" has a pic borne a title that so succinctly encapsulates its high concept as "Lesbian Vampire Killers." Trouble is, there's little else that's remarkable about this agreeably goofy but surprisingly mild horror-comedy.

With:
With: James Corden, Matthew Horne, Paul McGann, MyAnna Buring, Silvia Colloca, Vera Filatova, Ashley Mulheron, Louise Dylan, Lucy Gaskell.

Not since “Snakes on a Plane” has a pic borne a title that so succinctly encapsulates its high concept as “Lesbian Vampire Killers.” Trouble is, there’s little else that’s remarkable about this agreeably goofy but surprisingly mild horror-comedy, a technically polished showcase for Brit TV faves James Corden and Matthew Horne (“Gavin and Stacey”) that’s several guffaws short of a laff riot. Beyond Blighty, where it opens theatrically March 20, this fang-in-cheek opus likely will have to take the homevid route to vamp appreciative auds.

Helmer Phil Clayton relies on inventive visuals — desaturated color, stylized character movements, scene-setting comicbook-style titles — to raise the cleverness quotient of a scenario (penned by Paul Hupfield and Stewart Williams) that, at its sporadic best, works as a spoofy homage to “The Vampire Lovers,” “Lust for a Vampire” and other ’70s Hammer horror dramas with Sapphic subtexts.

The seriocomic prologue — which, like much of the pic, relies on the incongruous dropping of F-bombs for easy laughs — establishes Carmilla (Silvia Colloca), a beautiful lesbian bloodsucker, as a predatory pestilence who’s only temporarily inconvenienced when she’s slain by a brave knight. Centuries later, Carmilla’s spirit continues to plague the secluded village of Craigswich, where young girls become lesbian vampires when they turn 18, and the menfolk remain alive only by agreeing to trick unwary visitors into becoming blood donors.

Enter two best buddies: Jimmy (Horne), a well-meaning milquetoast recently dumped (again) by his self-absorbed girlfriend (Lucy Gaskell), and Fletch (Corden), a plus-size party animal with an insatiable thirst for lager.

During a hiking trip near Craigswich, the friends cross paths with a group of gorgeous field-tripping coeds led by bespectacled beauty Lotte (MyAnna Buring of “The Descent”). After dark, however, most of the coeds are recruited into vampirism, courtesy of Carmilla’s loyal acolytes, leaving it up to Jimmy, Fletch and Lotte — with a little help from a deadly serious vampire-killing vicar (Paul McGann of “Withnail and I”) — to upset a plan to revive Carmilla with some fresh blood.

Corden chews much of the scenery and delivers most of the best lines, broadly playing Fletch as a blunt-spoken cynic who, all things considered, really would prefer not to risk his neck to save humanity. Even after he starts to enjoy the rush of slaying vampires — who tend to erupt into gushing geysers of disgusting goop when stabbed or decapitated — his heroics remains reluctant, and not at all reliable.

For all the foul language and sporadic flashes of nudity, “Lesbian Vampire Killers” is scarcely naughtier than the “Carry On” Brit comedies of yesteryear (another reason why offshore theatrical prospects are dicey). But the filmmakers have some fun playing fast and loose with vampire-movie conventions, and Horne and Buring are quite engaging as their characters tentatively begin a romance when they’re not busy battling bloodsuckers. Special effects are worthy of more serious genre fare.

Popular on Variety

Lesbian Vampire Killers

U.K.

Production: A Momentum Pictures/Alliance release of an AV Pictures production. Produced by Steve Clark-Hall, Angad Paul. Executive producers, Steffen Aumueller, Vic Bateman, Claus Clausen, Charles Layton, Xavier Marchand, Glenn M. Stewart. Directed by Phil Claydon. Screenplay, Paul Hupfield, Stewart Williams.

Crew: Camera (color), David Higgs; editor, James Herbert; music, Debbie Wiseman; music supervisor, Ian Neil; production designer, Keith Maxwell; set decorator, Dominic Smithers; costume designer, Diana Moseley; sound (Dolby Digital), Simon Hayes; supervising sound editor, Andrew Stirk; visual effects supervisor, Hayden Jones; assistant director, Phil Booth; casting, Kelly Valentine Hendry, Gail Stevens. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Fantastic Fest at Midnight), March 18, 2009. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: James Corden, Matthew Horne, Paul McGann, MyAnna Buring, Silvia Colloca, Vera Filatova, Ashley Mulheron, Louise Dylan, Lucy Gaskell.

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