AKA Sorority House Vampires from Hell. Directed by Geoffrey de Valois, 1998(?)*. Starring Kathy Presgrave, Penny Lynn, Eugenie Bondurant, Yvette Davis, Shay Moore, Kenny Gibbs, Bob Buchholz. 91 minutes.
* Note on Year of Release: According to IMDB, the official release date of Sorority House Vampires from Hell is 1998, but it also reports it as having actually been filmed in 1991. On top of that, the copy I saw listed copyright dates of 2001, 2003 and 2004, but none of the ’90s dates.
My theory to account for all this is that the bulk of the movie—the sorority/Natalia/Count Vlad sequences—were filmed in the early to mid-’90s; based on various pop-culture and “current events” references my assumption is no earlier than mid to late 1992 and no later than 1994. I’m then willing to bet this version was released in 1998 (under the original title Sorority House Vampires), resulting in the IMDB date. A few years later—the 2001, 2003 and 2004 specified in the copyright notice—the UFO demon/“succubi” footage was shot and added to the original film (probably by people who had nothing to do with the original production), at which point it was reissued (with From Hell appended to the title). I would be willing to bet that the CGI effects also date to the 2000s, although there’s no real evidence for it.
A “UFO demon” has sent a vampire queen to Earth to claim nine victims. Whenever she takes a victim, a meter helpfully appears on-screen to indicate how much blood she’s consumed, and somewhere, an environmental disaster occurs. When she has nine victims under her belt, the world will end. All that stands between her and total apocalypse is a trio of aspiring sorority sisters (one of whom is blond and named “Buffy,” so you can probably see the subtlety at work here). Mayhem ensues, as does nudity, a fashion show/Home Shopping Network parody, and a musical number.
(Yes, there really is that much going on. You can’t fault the filmmakers for a dearth of ideas.)
So let’s get all the obvious stuff out of the way. Yes, it’s not so much a story as a collection of vaguely interconnected set pieces. Yes, it’s badly acted. Yes, it’s badly shot and badly directed. Yes, it has the worst sound design of any movie I’ve ever seen. (I had a hard time following the story, not because the story itself is incoherent—sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s surprisingly consistent—but because the dialogue is very poorly recorded, and there’s a lot of exposition.) I feel a bit churlish for branding SHVfH with the skull. What can I expect from a movie called Sorority House Vampires from Hell, made by amateurs who cast Z-list glamour models in the primary roles and their friends in the supporting roles? Not much, obviously.
Still, when you take away the fact that it’s not supposed to have a coherent storyline and it was made by amateurs and it’s not supposed to be taken seriously…
…let’s be honest, it still needs to be said that what you’re left with is an hour or so (not including the “UFO demon” bullshit; I’ll get to that in a couple of paragraphs) of self-indulgent footage of a bunch of people fucking off in front of the camera. And most of that is due to the dated nature of the “humor” and its graceless handling.
In 1991, or whenever this shit was shot, it might have seemed to be the height of cleverness to pay tribute to Wayne’s World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and to mock Neil Bush and C+C Music Factory. But the humor—such as it is—hasn’t aged well (of course, your mileage may vary). Of course, it’s not the filmmakers’ fault that more Bushes would come down the pike, financial shenanigans would be committed that would make the S&L scandals look like as inoffensive as a Disney cartoon, “global warming” would replace “hole in the ozone layer” as the default environmental crisis, and a version of Buffy would appear that people could enjoy without irony.
But that’s the risk you take when you make a film filled with referential humor. There’s a chance that the movie not making sense even half a generation down the road. (Take Airplane! for example; of all the “Joey, have you ever…” one-liners, “…spent time in a Turkish prison?” is the most rooted in the time period; subsequently, it’s probably the least-remembered iteration of that line. It’s definitely the least-quoted. No, I’m not telling you what it’s a reference to; if you don’t know, go find out for yourself.)
But even so far, what we have is a bad movie but not necessarily an unwatchable one, and definitely one that can be defended. (To be blunt, beyond the incompetency of the crew, there’s not much that might separate SHVfH from other skin flicks masquerading as horror movies.) It’s the “UFO demon” footage (I almost wrote “‘UFO demon’ sequences,” but to use the word “sequences” in this context is an insult to proper filmmaking) that tips it over the edge from “bad” to “atrocity.”
In story terms the footage adds an additional layer of backstory that isn’t really necessary. In content terms what we have is some guy off-camera babbling in a fake Asian accent (and again, between the accent and the audio quality, the demon’s “exposition” renders whatever story’s present completely impossible to follow) while CGI tentacles (3-D CGI tentacles, no less) writhe over CGI-processed footage of dancing naked porn stars (I’m not being facetious here; IMDB reports two of the “succubi” as having had impressive careers in the hardcore subgenre)—doesn’t do the end product any favors. All it does is pad the film out and annoy. The images are so distorted that any titillation value the nudity might have is pretty much nullified.
And on top of that (and I realize I’m belaboring a point I’ve already made), but not only does it not feel like it belongs with the rest of the movie, it almost certainly doesn’t belong with the rest of the movie. (Christ, do none of you people remember Spookies?)
Bottom line, if you want to watch a decent softcore horror movie, see if Showtime and Cinemax still run stuff like Huntress: Spirit of the Night and The Bare Wench Project at 2am on Wednesdays like they did back in the ’90s. They’re much more worth your time. This, on the other hand, deserves only to be forgotten.
Moment of Zen
Every time Natalia drinks blood, a little video game-style meter shows up on the screen, indicating how full she is.