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Festivale Summer 1997
(Reviews Feb 1997)

Bordello of Blood

reviewed by John Dillane

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The allure of horror films is in their ability to touch on fears we wish to suppress. Monsters touch fears we cannot name or choose not to name.

It is nothing new to think of Vampirism as an analogy for rampant sexuality for example. But this allure relies on the relationship between the text (say vampirism) and the subtext (say sexuality) being left murky, and allowing the viewer to make the connections in whatever way he or she chooses.

It is dangerous, therefore, to elevate such fears from the subtext and emphasise them as the plot. It is much harder to make something as frightful when it is out in the open.

Horror films which are too self-conscious must find other ways of maintaining audience interest. Commonly this will mean relying on humour and camping the story. Unfortunately, in Tales from the Crypt's Bordello of Blood the humour fails completely to compensate for the lack of any real fear.

Bordello of Blood is very up front about it's fears. Lilith, "The most evil woman in history" has been resurrected and runs a Bordello to which unsuspecting men are lured then attacked. But while fears of the monstrous feminine are a common theme in horror, they rely for their horror on being non-specific. If any woman could be a bloodsucking fiend, that is horror.

The possibility of being killed by going to a brothel is not particularly terrifying: all you need to do is avoid brothels and you're safe.

The character of Lilith is from ancient mythology, a woman created independently (as opposed to Eve who came from Adam's rib), who proved to be dangerous and was destroyed. Obviously such a character has appeal to feminists, and the use of Lilith who in mythology was not evil per se, as a figure of evil is disturbing.

More disturbing, however, was the general treatment of the female vampires. The climactic confrontation with the vampires, while earning points for originality (supersoakers filled with holy water - how do people get access to such large quantities of the stuff, by the way?), is one of the most misogynistic scenes I can remember being committed to film.

This is the problem with Bordello of Blood. Instead of submerged fears of the monstrous feminine we have out and out misogyny. Moreover, the general plot line evokes memories of last year's Dusk to Dawn, which has gone up in my estimation now that I see how bad it could have been, and the casting of Christopher Sarandon evokes Fright Night from some years ago, which was far superior in every way than Bordello of Blood, including a genuinely frightful image of female vampirism as awakened sexuality.

I recommend you get Fright Night out on video and watch it instead of Bordello of Blood.

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