A few days ago I held a little Festival of Bad Cinema and watched the 1973 horror "classic" 'Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural
Or as I prefer to call it, 'Lemora: A Journey into No-Budget Filmmaking'. Or possibly 'Lemora: A Triumph of Ambition Over Ability'.
Lila Lee, our heroine, is a pretty thirteen year old blonde on the cusp of young womanhood. Her father recently murdered his wife and her lover then went on the lam, leaving her in the care of the local minister. She has no idea what's happened to him, until she receives a mysterious letter from someone called Lemora, telling her that he's gravely ill and wants to see her.
She's young and innocent, which explains how she's suckered by such an obvious ruse. So once night falls, she's out the window and off to seek out her father.
We're not told where Lila Lee lives, but I suspect that it might be inside Colin Farrell's head. There's a brothel, a bar and not much else, and nobody does anything but fight and leer. Lila Lee manages to avoid getting into any fights, ignores the near perpetual leering, and gets on a bus bound for the village in which her father is staying.
The bus grinds off into the night... or at least, that's what we're told. In fact, once we've had some establishing shots of the bus on a dark country road, the rest of the scenes are filmed on a stationary bus on a blacked-out sound stage, with the actors pretending that they're out on the open road. To add to the illusion of movement, the director has stage hands lying on the floor, holding large branches and occasionally swishing them past the windows. Unfortunately, since they're just as stationary as the bus, the branches swoop in shallow arcs past one or two windows, rather than down the length of the vehicle. Thus instead of seeing two people on a journey into terror, we can't help but have the impression that we're seeing two idiots arguing on a parked bus while half-wits wave branches at the windows.
Frankly, it doesn't help the mood.
Eventually the bus breaks down, the driver gets out to check the engine, and is dragged off by mutant vampire werewolf zombie dudes. Well, these things happen. Lila Lee takes the handbrake off and manages to coast down towards the village for a bit, but then crashes into the first tree that isn't being waved about by a stage hand.
When she regains consciousness, she's in an outbuilding on the grounds of a grand house. Here she is badgered by a demented old servant woman, taunted by feral children, and tantalised by glimpses through the window of a regal silhouette on the porch of the house.
Escaping from the clutches of a demented old servant woman is about as easy as you'd expect (ie very), and soon Lila Lee is hiding under the floorboards of the house, listening to another woman discussing something with a man she recognises as her father. Throwing caution to the wind, she rushes inside to find him. It is then that she first encounters... Lemora.
You know, usually, when one wants to portray a seductive lady vampire, one gets one's casting agent to compile a list of actresses with charisma and exotic good looks, then one auditions them, picks the best, and uses make-up and costuming to complete her transformation into a sexy Queen of the Undead. But that is not the Lemora way. The Lemora way is to just get Lesley Gilb, who looks like Henry Silva in a wig, to play the part. Apparently getting all the characters to assert that Lemora is beautiful is more effective than just hiring an attractive actress. Who knew?
It turns out that Lemora has been fanging up a storm, trying to create a veritable vampire army to do whatever it is that she wants done (possibly yard work - it's a big property). However lately her victims have been turning into mutant vampire werewolf zombie dudes rather than vampires, and they're starting to threaten her little empire. She needs an innocent virgin like Lila Lee to boost her power. I couldn't work out exactly how, but it's one of those movies that prefers you refrain from such analysis and just take their word for it.
Meanwhile the minister who was caring for Lila Lee has come looking for her. He arrives at the village only to find the entire population lying dead in the streets. He immediately leaps back into his car and hightails it to the nearest town, where he alerts the police, the government, the National Guard, the Center for Disease Control, and...
Oh, wait, no. Sorry, that's just what a sane
person would have done. The reverend prefers to wander around the corpse-strewn streets hollering Lila Lee's name, thus attracting the attention of any unpleasant things that happen to be lurking in the shadows. Obviously the man hasn't played enough Doom III.
Somehow he doesn't get eaten by either a vampire or a mutant vampire werewolf zombie dude, instead being captured by Lemora's minions, rendered unconscious, and placed in a barn. When he wakes up, he finds Lila Lee lying next to him. She smothers him with kisses, and, after briefly resisting, he returns her passion, since he's been repressing his feelings for her for some time. Sadly, his ardour lasts only lasts for a moment, before Lila Lee opens her mouth and bears down on him with bits of folded sticky tape over her incisors.
Wait... what? Those folded bits of sticky tape were supposed to be fangs
? So she was a vampire? Ah, suddenly the ending of this film makes a lot more sense. Here I was thinking that she'd just chewed her way out of sticky tape bindings or something.
Criticising Lemora to the extent that it deserves would seriously deplete the world's reserves of sarcasm and snark. However, there is a considerable amount of actual praise for it on the internet. Ooh, the camera angles, they gush. Ooh, the framing techniques are so Bava-ian! Ooh, the transgressive lesbian subtexts came in a good fifteen years before Anne Rice ruined both vampirism and lesbianism for everyone! Ooh, we swoon at its experimental brilliance!
Well to HELL with camera angles and lesbianism, I say! It's not a "stunning masterpiece" of independent horror if it doesn't make any sense! Or scare the audience! I've eaten toast that was scarier than 'Lemora'! And edited better! GAAAHHH!
Oh well. Still, to be fair, there were some good things about 'Lemora'. John Agar wasn't in it. That alone means a lot.