|Embrace of the Vampire|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 02 November 1999|
Milano plays Charlotte, a virginal freshman college student, convent-educated, who tells her patient boyfriend Chris (Harrison Pruett) that she’s decided she’ll be old enough to make love on her 18th birthday in just three days. Little does Charlotte know that she’s the reincarnation of the lost love of a centuries-old vampire (Martin Kemp), who’s coincidentally got three days to re-invigorate his immortality by drinking her blood or else facing eternal sleep. The vampire, a romantic soul, keeps telling himself he’s going to be ruthless about this, but he really wants Charlotte to give herself to him willingly, so …
The script by Halle Eaton & Nicole Coady and Rick Bitzelberger is kind of a mixed-up hoot, with some bad soap interludes of bitchiness thrown in to establish character and a mythology for the vamp that doesn’t seem to make sense. Due to the needs of softcore porn when combined with a hurry-up-and-shoot-it mentality, there’s not a lot of motivation for some of the situations the innocent but theoretically not imbecilic Charlotte gets herself into. However, the clash of acting styles – Kemp’s gung-ho, slightly over-the-top tragic longing, Charlotte Lewis’ mysterious seductress, Pruett’s resolutely all-American boy and Milano’s nice/naughty Charlotte – makes for a lively if not always cohesive spectacle (the performers do their individual best, even if the effects aren’t cohesive). Jennifer Tilly turns up in Chapters 14 and 15 and immediately gets into the spirit of things as a pouty vamp.
Goursaud goes for a lot of glowing light and jewel tones. Chapter 2, which sets up the anti-hero’s eternal passion, could almost be an Enya music video, and she gets some environmental richness in a Chapter 14 hallucination. There are no really notable sound effects here, although Joseph Williams’ music score makes a solid contribution throughout. There is, however, a sizable level difference between score and dialogue, so that when characters are speaking without music in the background, viewers may want to turn up the volume and turn it down again when the score sweeps back in; this is especially noticeable in Chapter 4.
As with many New Line Home Video DVDs, ‘Embrace’ comes with two menus that must be navigated before the movie comes on. The first menu allows one to proceed toward the movie, change the sound set-up or inspect the somewhat sparse special features (cast and crew bios), while the second allows selection between unrated and R-rated and widescreen and full-screen versions of the film. Anybody who imagines that they’re going to get something more than softcore in the unrated version is in for disappointment, although there are a few sequences of rather tame (compared to full-tilt-boogie horror) vampire orgies. Chapter 2 has three women (clad in medieval thong bikini bottoms, no less) battening on one man, with a lot of smeared blood; Chapter 13 has a dream orgy sans blood in which a woman is converged on by another woman and two men. A bit of female same-sex foreplay in Chapter 11 achieves momentary sensuality, even though the way it’s used in the film is enough to provide a whole chapter’s worth of material on misreadings of lesbian sexuality. Chapter 14 has an ostensibly anything-goes sex party in which not much is actually seen and the brief image of one man kissing another’s neck is still played for shock value.
The actors are uniformly attractive (although Kemp, understandably enough, is made up to look somewhat unhealthy) and work hard in their disparate ways to get us to take the material seriously. This qualifies as real mission: impossible territory, but their efforts and Goursaud’s faithful attempt to echo the Hammer look of yore elevate ‘Embrace’ to at least guilty pleasure status.