Vampires vs. Zombies (2003) ½
You might think that a movie called Vampires vs. Zombies, which has as its tag line, “The battle between the living dead and the undead has begun,” would be about, oh, I don’t know, a war breaking out between vampires and zombies. Then again, you might also believe in the Easter Bunny— the two propositions have more in common than they may seem to at first glance. For not only is there no “battle between the living dead and the undead” to be seen here, there isn’t even a slap-fight or an exchange of harsh language. The closest Vampires vs. Zombies ever gets to the confrontation it openly promises is one scene in which a still-fully-human girl who is to some extent under the sway of a vampire has to be saved by her hedge-trimmer-wielding father from a pack of zombie Catholic schoolgirls. Instead, what we have here is the most asinine, nonsensical, and vexingly tedious ostensible “Carmilla” adaptation I’ve ever seen. Forget Vampires vs. Zombies; it ought to be called Vince D’Amato vs. the Audience.
Before you ask, no. Vince D’Amato is in no way related to Joe D’Amato— hell, he isn’t even Italian, except presumably by ancestry. He does, however, have certain features in common with old Joe, in that he is an appallingly bad filmmaker who understands well the appeal of a good lesbian scene. On the other hand, since even a good lesbian scene is rather beyond the limits of Vince’s abilities, watching this, his first properly feature-length movie (an anthology like the earlier Miss Ligaya Presents: Corpse-O-Rama doesn’t count, as far as I’m concerned), is apt to make you wish you were spending the time with that other D’Amato instead.
Vampires vs. Zombies is one of those movies whose creators have gone to great lengths to keep things mysterious and confusing for the first two thirds of the running time, probably because they knew we’d give up and do something else that was actually fun if they just came right out and told their crappy story in a direct and linear manner. I, however, am going to give the game away right up front, as nothing less would adequately convey my contempt for this film. For some reason which nobody ever bothers going into, there’s a new disease afoot which turns some people into zombies and others into vampires. If there’s a pattern behind who undergoes which transformation after being infected, it certainly isn’t evident from what we see on the screen. At first I thought maybe men became zombies while women became vampires (we never do see a male vampire— even the one gas station attendant who gets bitten by the main vamp turns into a zombie instead), but then those schoolgirl zombies showed up and shot that theory all to hell. There is also some indication that the epidemic is limited for the moment to the region of Idaho in which the movie takes place (that’s right folks— a horror flick set in Idaho!), but I’m really not sure one way or the other. It can’t be all that widespread, though, because the world at large has gone right on about its business, apparently little concerned about the new undead minority. In any case, one of the plague-spawned vampires is a girl named Carmilla (Maratama Carlson, from Listen and Human Nature), who is somehow connected to a woman whom the credits identify as Julia (Brinke Stevens, of Slumber Party Massacre and Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity), but who is never identified in the film itself as anything more specific than “that witch.” Julia initially claims that Carmilla is her daughter, but it soon seems pretty obvious that she’s lying. Carmilla, as befits her name, spends her time seducing other young girls and turning them into vampires like herself. One of her early victims was Mary (Erica Carroll), the daughter of a man known only as “the general” (Peter Huginis), and by preying on her, Carmilla has incurred the general’s wrath. With the help of his friend, Travis Fontaine (Corpse-O-Rama’s C. S. Munro), and Travis’s teen daughter, Jenna (Bonny Giroux), the general hopes to track Carmilla to her lair, destroy her, and just maybe restore Mary to normal. So when Travis stops by the side of the road to his rendezvous point with the general (the abandoned convent which the old man figures for the vampire girl’s hiding place) in order to help out a woman apparently in need of assistance, and discovers thereby that he has met up with none other than Julia and Carmilla, he doesn’t complain a bit when Julia palms her “daughter” off on him to “keep her safe” while she supposedly drives her plague-afflicted “other daughter” (Melanie Crystal) to the nearest hospital. Normally, I’d go into what Julia is really up to with the second girl at this point, but since it winds up having no bearing whatsoever on the main story, it really doesn’t seem like it would be worth the bother.
You’ve got to wonder who’s supposed to be trapping whom in this scenario, though, because even though the whole point of his hush-hush drive across Idaho is to destroy Carmilla, dumb-ass Travis thinks nothing of splitting up and letting Jenna (who mysteriously isn’t in on the scheme) ride with the vampire when an encounter with a zombie puts them in possession of a second vehicle and a dead body they need to keep away from the authorities. No sooner has Travis driven off than Carmilla makes her move, and what little momentum Vampires vs. Zombies has developed thus far is dissipated while the two girls go at it in the open front seat of a Jeep Wrangler, on the unsheltered shoulder of a major highway, with a freshly decapitated zombie putrefying conspicuously in the Jeep’s back compartment!!!! Man, do you realize how hard a movie has to suck in order to make me complain about a lesbian sex scene?!?!
As I’m sure you already realize, the tryst in the Wrangler ends with Jenna getting bitten, and she will spend the rest of the movie in a state of remarkably undramatic conflict between her love of and loyalty to her father and her sudden and inexplicable attraction to Carmilla. Or at any rate, she’ll stay conflicted until all the major characters converge at the convent, where, after another piss-poor lesbian scene and an attack by the graduating class of the Our Lady of Gut-Munching School for Girls, she’ll eventually join with Carmilla and the hitherto-absent Mary to take down both of the Van Helsing-wannabe grownups. But none of that really matters, because the whole fucking movie has been nothing but a series of hallucinations Jenna’s been having in a mental hospital someplace, where the head nurse is a patient-molesting lesbian who looks just like the Carmilla of her delusions. Feh. Feh, I say!!!!
I haven’t been this annoyed by a movie in a good, long… wait, now that I think about it, it was only a couple weeks ago that I watched Zombie ‘90: Extreme Pestilence, so nevermind. But if it wasn’t for Andreas Schnaas, Vampires vs. Zombies would indeed be the most irritating movie to come my way in quite some time. I could live with the threadbare zombie makeup, the studiedly unerotic sex scenes, the flagrantly inconsistent zombie and vampire lore, and maybe even D’Amato’s counterproductive willful obfuscation regarding the direction of the story, if only there were some sort of payoff— preferably a payoff that involved zombies and vampires in mortal (okay, fine— how about post-mortal?) combat against each other. But not only do we not get the payoff indicated by the title, we don’t get any kind of payoff at all. It’s amazing how much nothing D’Amato manages to squeeze into this movie’s 70-odd minutes; indeed the only thing more amazing is how little time it takes to catch on to the fact that Vampires vs. Zombies is simply never going to go anywhere. Rarely has a more marketable title been more thoroughly wasted.
Because you can never have too many putrescent corpses shambling about chewing on people, the B-Masters Cabal has decided to join Cold Fusion Video in dedicating the month of October to zombies, zombies, and more zombies. Click the banner below to drop in on Undead Central.