|Index||4 reviews in total|
There's no denying that the Jesus Franco of the 21st Century is a
completely distilled version of the diabolical director who enjoyed his
heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Devoid of the healthy budgets pumped
into his commercial films of 30 years ago, Franco's new shot-on-video
productions are fueled not so much by cash and imagination but by
poverty and hallucination. Franco no longer worries about such basics
as plot or character development, he moves from scene to scene creating
one unbelievable moment and then another, not necessarily caring if the
plot or story has moved forward, backward, sideways or completely off
the wall. It is as though what's on the screen at the moment is all
that matters, what came before or what comes next is anybody's guess --
One Shot Productions is not, as many have claimed, a bunch of fans paying for Franco's filmed fantasies. The production company seems to enjoy allowing Senor Franco to pull the cinematic wool over unsuspecting viewers eyes time after time. VAMPIRE JUNCTION, for example, takes an inexplicable mix of characters (cowboys, doctors, acrobatic nudist vampires, a Dracula-wannabee, drunks, etc.) and tosses them all into a tourist trap of an old West ghost town and allows them all to shake up against one another for 90 minutes or so. Who knows what happens or why? Seeing nubile naked vampettes walking backwards on all fours like spiders while chubby old sheriffs are taking pot shots at old Scratch as we listen to the town drunk warbling nonsense while sitting on a hobby horse isn't supposed to make sense to anyone but Jesus Franco. Naturally, Lina Romay, with her prime deep in her rear-view mirror, wanders through the proceedings trying to solve whatever mystery the director has foisted on the story.
And it's as though Franco is daring you to try to understand or even try to enjoy anything he puts in front of you.
Many people hate Franco's films and some post vapid commentary on the IMDb or in chat rooms or forums about why he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a camera. The director and his producers must laugh at those comments all the way to their respective banks. I don't think Franco is going to be appreciated by his contemporaries or even by the grandchildren of his contemporaries. Jess is so off the map that only his true fans who can read the subliminal threads from film to film can truly enjoy his latter day output. For the rest of us, we can push around the tea leaves and embrace the rare -- but always present -- moment of exhilarated genius and wait for the next Franco film or video that will exasperate us no matter how prepared for it we will be.
And, as usual, we'll laugh at the doubters and naysayers, and we'll make believe we understand the canvas Franco is creating for us.
If you're a big fan of Jess Franco or Lina Romay then this is worth
watching just to see newer work and compare it to the older stuff. If
you've never seen any of their work, this isn't a good introduction.
The plot is convoluted and incoherent, as is much of Franco's work, but in this film he adds some cheap special effects, and as much of his trademark camera work as can be done with a video cam in a hotel room. It's basically a vampire tale, without the eroticism of their Lust for Dracula or the interesting things done with film in their earlier works. I say their work because I give Lina Romay at least as much credit as Franco, maybe more.
There is the almost obligatory scene of euro-skanks having pseudo-relations with each other, although it gets a little better at the end when Ms. Romay joins the action. She still manages to bring some fun into what would otherwise be a complete mess; without her I doubt anyone would allow Franco near a camera.
If you're a fan of the seventies euro-sleaze Franco specialized in, this isn't quite up to that level, although it tries. Watch it for a glimpse of what he's up to now, but don't expect a lot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Vampire Junction" isn't all that terrific, but there are plenty of
Franco-ish touches on display.
During a daylight rainstorm, journalist Alice Brown, (Romay) drives to a remote Old West town in search of pioneering surgeon Dr. Spencer, (Steve Barrymore) a potential interview subject. Upon her arrival, she is directed to a nearby saloon, where a fatigued Dr. Spencer cowers at a table near Irina, (Samantha Olsen) his wife. Offering her a room for the night, she is tormented in her sleep by a series of visions of vampires who try to attack her. Upon awakening, she finds herself unable to leave the town following a strange murder. Resigned to staying, she pumps the residents for information and suffers countless visions of vampires. Finally figuring out that she's the target of a deranged vampire Countess who wants to initiate her into the vampire fold, she fights to escape the town and it's deadly creature.
The Good News: This one wasn't the complete train-wreck that was to be expected. One of the most striking things about this one was that it was far sleazier than it should've been. The most memorable one, which is the dream vision of two naked women rubbing all over each other in a really long, intense sex scene. That both are wearing bright red fright wigs is a really new touch, and gives it a small spark of ingenuity. As it continues, they both start to lick up shaving cream from each other, and in the shining moment of sleaze, bring out a razor and shave each other's private areas until they bleed. It is a really unforgettable moment that wouldn't seem out of place in the earlier versions of his works. As usual in one of these films, Romay is without clothing for much of her screen-time, and that in itself is a take-it-or-leave-it affair that will automatically differentiate those who want to view this from those who won't. The surreal aspects of the film, from the constant hallucinations to the dream-like imagery and the non-linear plot will seem like old hat for Franco, and they are pulled off here in nice detail. The film does feel like many of his classics and gives it a nice appeal to his older fans. Some of the dream-like moments are pretty surreal, such as the man sequences where the vampires are drifting up and down staircases or the disappearing lone male vampire in the middle of the town countless times, do give it a nice atmospheric quality and are quite well handled. This really did have some good moments.
The Bad News: This wasn't all that great, and there were a few things wrong with it. The most obvious is that the film literally doesn't make any sense. Whole scenes are thrown in just for random effect and have no bearing on what's going on at all. The constant scenes of the reporter in the hotel room typing away at the computer are randomly there and have no purpose, as the mystery about what's going on is never presented in the manner that it has to be solved with some sleuthing. The threat of what's going on isn't revealed until the end anyway, so there's no reason to be writing down thoughts and ideas anyway. This is all the more confusing as it feels like a western, as evidenced by the old west facades, characters and clothing worn by the male characters, but the action takes place in seemingly modern day with cars, laptop computers and cell phones. Even more confusing is a vampire who can be reached at his very own web address. It's all just really hard to explain and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There's also a plethora of shots or ideas that are started and never follow through on. The reason for the interview is never given, and once the first denied opportunity passes, it never is brought up again. The main heavy isn't told until mid-way through, and the motivations are never really clear. There's also a couple of times a scene of a person driving in a heavy rain-storm are shown but they don't really amount to anything. There is also a strange male narration at the beginning that may or may not be speaking for a female character. If you can stand it, these are stand-able problems, but the film is just so confusing that it's hard to get through.
The Final Verdict: While it's nowhere near as good as the features from his earliest works, this is still a relatively harmless Franco effort from his newer catalog. It features enough sleaze and perverse story-telling to appeal to fans of his classics, but there isn't anything else on display that would warrant anything more than a passing rental if interested for his non-fans.
Rated R: Full Nudity, several sex scenes, Violence and some Language
Vampire Junction (2001)
* (out of 4)
Jess Franco film, once again for One Shot Productions. I really have no idea what the story is about but it's something like a woman (Lina Romay) being stalked by two lesbian vampires. I think this is the final Franco/One Shot film that I needed to watch and I've got no problem in saying this is the worst period of Franco's career. There are some terrible films in this period and while this here only gets one star, it's actually one of the better ones. The biggest killer is that there isn't any type of story and the budgets are so low that it's really not clear what the hell Franco is trying to do. To make matters worse, for some reason he tries various camera tricks with color that just don't work. The performances are all bad and the direction is lazy but we do get countless lesbian scenes so have it.
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