If you're not expecting a film of startling originality (and if you're watching a remake with those expectations, you're bound to be disappointed), then Carl Bessai's 2013 straight to video remake of Embrace Of The Vampire is reasonably entertaining. Oh, it's ripe with clichés but when you consider that the original is remembered more for Alyssa Milano's nude scenes than for anything story or acting related, Bessai's revamp (ha!) of the 1995 original doesn't need to measure up to a classic the way say something like the remakes of Halloween, Psycho or Dawn Of The Dead had to.
The movie follows the exploitative exploits of one Charlotte Hawthorne (Sharon Hinnendael), a pretty young woman who has lead a fairly sheltered life. She's just graduated from her all girls' Catholic high school and is on her way to a co-ed university. This is understandably be a bit of an adjustment for her but the nightmares she starts to experience soon after her arrival would indicate that something is definitely wrong with this picture. Charlotte manages to make some friends pretty quickly though. Her new roommate, the equally pretty Nicole (Kaniehtiio Horn) is keen to get along and when she gets a job at the local coffee shop she and co-worker Chris (Ryan Kennedy) fast develop a perfectly amiable relationship.
As school begins, she proves to be a fast learner, much to the delight of Professor Cole (Victor Webster) who instructs her not only in mythology, but puzzlingly in fencing as well (huh?). As her nightmares become more and more intense, however, her performance in class takes a noticeable hit. As Charlotte tries to come to terms with the sexual awakening that her dreams seem to be pushing the virginal good girl towards, her behavior becomes increasingly erratic. But Charlotte is stronger than she looks. As visions of a past that may tie to her present turn into her reality, the sins of the flesh become impossible to resist.
There's no reinventing of any cinematic wheels here but Embrace Of The Vampire is entertaining enough. We can pretty easily figure out where it's all headed early enough that there's not a whole lot of suspense but to the movie's credit it is very nicely shot and the frequent scenes of sex and nudity, really the true selling point for the picture, are framed in interesting ways and well lit. There's a lot of gloss and polish here, more than is probably needed in some ways as the movie doesn't feel particularly edgy even when it attempts to break taboos. But it's all perfectly watchable in a softcore meets vampires sort of way. We don't get the artisanal quality of something by Jean Rollin or Jess Franco, it never approaches their levels of artsy surrealism but instead opts for convention but when convention looks as slick and moves at a quick pace, as is the case here, that's not so bad.
The performances are okay. As Charlotte comes out of her shell and turns into her new self Hinnendael does a decent job of relaying the confusion, excitement, arousal and fear that her character is experiencing. She's easy on the eyes, as is Horn as her roommate, and both actresses have got a sultry appeal to them. The story ensures that there's enough sex and gore here to appeal to anyone pulled in by the cover art, salacious as it is, and while the movie is obviously a remake of the Milano film, it borrows heavily from Carrie as well in that our heroine gets picked on by some of her fellow students, members of the fencing club being some of the more liable culprits. The ending feels forced and rushed but the build-up is okay. If you're into gory lesbian vampire movies with lots of female nudity, you'll enjoy this. It offers all of that, wraps up it with a serviceable plot line and some style, and delivers exactly what you expect it to, no more, no less.
Embrace Of The Vampire arrives on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment, framed at 1.78.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition looking very nice indeed. If you squint and look for it, you'll spot some banding but outside of that this is a well authored presentation of some clean, crisp and nicely detailed source material. Colors lean towards the bright side of things, likely intentional on the part of the filmmakers, but never to the point where they seem particularly unnatural. Black levels are strong and deep and there are no obvious issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Shot on digital video, there's no room here for print damage, and all in all this is an impressive looking picture.
The English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on the disc doesn't disappoint. Most of where you're going to be able to appreciably notice the lossless qualities is in the score, which is really well placed and quite large sounding. It's easy to make out the different bits and pieces that combine to make the music and the clarity in regards to this part of the sound design is impressive. Sound effects also have good presence and directionality is solid. Dialogue stays clean, crisp and clear and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion.
No extras at all on this disc, just a menu offering chapter stops. This is a combo pack release though, so an equally barebones DVD version of the movie is also included.
The 2013 remake of Embrace Of The Vampire is no modern classic but it does successfully take the themes, ideas and basic premise of the original into slightly more modern territory. It's really well shot, the frequently naked cast of females is very beautiful and the sex and gore is handed out in pretty liberal dollops. This is an exploitation movie, let there be no doubt, no matter how artsy it might occasionally get the point here is to entice viewers with salacious content. If you like salacious content, you'll probably dig the movie. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray is completely barebones but it does offer up excellent picture and sound quality. This isn't a classic, but it's passable trashy, sexy entertainment. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.