This trailer is NSFW:
I love genre cinema. I will always have a soft spot for horror, action, sci-fi, and all the subgenres that exist inside those larger categories. What I have never felt any real connection to are those films that exist in the realm of pure sleaze. You know the ones: the films from the ’70s and ’80s, filled with ugly violence and sex that is the opposite of titillating, usually shot on cheap film stock with semi-amateur casts. But knowing these films have a large following and several companies devoted to restoring them makes me wonder what I am missing. So, armed with a subscription to Vinegar Syndrome’s Exploitation TV, I am going to do a deep dive into the world of sleazy exploitation. This is My Exploitation Education.
It is hard to come up with a title that plays more into the idea of pure exploitation than VAMPIRE HOOKERS. The problem with that title is that it throws down the gauntlet when it comes to actual content. If you promise both vampiric bloodsucking and sexploitation, you damn well better deliver. Not surprisingly, the film does not even come close to living up to the promise of its epic title.
I actually had hopes for VAMPIRE HOOKERS. Prolific exploitation director Cirio H. Santiago and screenwriter Howard R. Cohen also collaborated on the ambitious DEATH FORCE, one of my favorite films that I have covered in this column. But my faith in their creative partnership was sorely misplaced here.
After a strange opening finds John Carradine as an aged vampire reciting poetry directly to the camera, the very basic set up is quickly established. American sailors Tom (Bruce Fairbairn, who distractingly looks like a cross between a young Wings Hauser and Michael Rooker) and Terry (a young Trey Wilson, years before RAISING ARIZONA and BULL DURHAM) are on shore leave in Manila. They have “comedic” adventures as they constantly strike out in their search for girls before they eventually see one of their fellow sailors leave a bar with the gorgeous Cherish (Karen Stride). After getting in a brawl, they are thrown in the brig for a week. When released, they discover the sailor who left with Cherish never returned and is considered AWOL.
Smelling foul play, Tom and Terry head back into Manila to investigate and discover that Cherish is one of three of the titular characters who work for Richmond Reed (Carradine), luring in men who they then drain of blood that they mix with vodka to create literal bloody marys. From there, the film only gets sillier, but never becomes the hilarious comedy that Santiago and his cast seem to think they are making.
VAMPIRE HOOKERS casts a wide net in its efforts to draw laughs and catches not a single chuckle. Puns and one-liners are given flat line readings that undercut any potential cleverness, Wilson overplays Terry’s cowardice like he’s Lou Costello on crack, and legendary Filipino character actor Vic Diaz gets saddled with a ton of embarrassing physical comedy and fart jokes that made me feel bad for him rather than inspiring laughter.
It is hard to even call this a film. It feels as though Santiago and Cohen had a title and a loose outline when they started filming. There is no forward momentum, scenes ramble on with no clear direction, Tom and Terry are presented as the heroes even though they act like jackasses for the entire movie, it’s not scary, it’s not sexy (there’s a seven minute sex scene that feels like the director and crew took a snack break while the bored actors rolled around in bed), it just sits there on the screen while the actors occasionally mug for the camera to give the impression that something funny is happening.
The truly frustrating thing about VAMPIRE HOOKERS is that Santiago is capable of so much more. I enjoyed not only DEATH FORCE, but also his fun blaxploitation flick THE MUTHERS. Both had their rough edges, but they were solid, entertaining, propulsive genre movies. This is just dull and formless and I don’t think I want to spend any more time thinking about it.
–Matt Wedge (@MovieNerdMatt)