Planet of the Vampire Women (DVD)

It’s called Planet of the Vampire Women. How could you not want to see it?

After a daring heist aboard an orbiting space casino, a group of mostly female space pirates heads to a seemingly uninhabited planet to hide from the cops. Once there, the captain is zapped by some strange energy beams, transforming her into a bloodsucking vampire. Everyone who’s bitten becomes a vampire as well, and before you know it, the few lone survivors find themselves trapped on the…Planet of the Vampire Women.

I’m torn. How do I review this? The highbrow film critic part of me says, “This movie is crap,” but the lover of cheesy shlock part of me says, “You guys have got to see this crap.”

Behold my internal struggle:

Highbrow: The movie’s low budget fails to live up to its ambitions. The script would have us believe that this is a lavish sci-fi epic, filled with not just vampires but aliens, cyborgs and more. The special effects barely reach N64 levels, and the green screen effects are laughable. It’s like trying to do Avatar on a Clerks budget.

Lowbrow: The filmmakers may not have a budget, but they certainly have ambition. Vampires, cyborgs, giant bugs, flying jetpacks, dinosaur-like monsters, shape-changing “pleasure clones,” this movie has it all. The creators want spaceship chases and laser battles, so that’s what they’re going to do. They’re not letting their lack of big Hollywood money stop them.

Highbrow: The acting, unlike the actresses, is flat. Said actresses were clearly cast more for their love of cavorting topless in front of the camera than for their line delivery.

Lowbrow: The actors may not be good in a classical sense, but they are certainly enthusiastic. Whether clothed or unclothed, they give it their all. That “wild abandon” enthusiasm comes across on screen, and you can’t help but get caught up in the fun they’re having.

Highbrow: It’s called Planet of the Vampire Women, so you know the sleaze factor is going to be huge. Sex and violence are prominent, often at the expense of the story. Several plot points are constructed just for excuses for the actresses to take their tops off.

Lowbrow: The “pleasure clone” character is a good example of the filmmakers thinking creatively. For most sleaze movies, the concept of “pleasure clone” would be enough—just put that on the DVD cover art and who cares about the actual movie. These filmmakers, though, take it a step farther, as if thinking, “We’ve this ‘pleasure clone’ concept, now how much fun can we have with it?” That makes a big difference.

Highbrow and lowbrow: If these two halves can agree on anything, it’s the practical gore effects, which are quite spectacular. Gaping wounds, arterial sprays, melting faces—the red goop evokes the best blood effects of the slasher movies of old.

The DVD presentation is hurting. The picture is overly soft, perhaps intentionally to mask the clunkiness of the made-for-pennies CGI. Still, the visuals are grey and hazy, and any bright reds on screen experience severe pixelization and color bleeding. Zero extras—not even a chapter menu—is unfortunate, as I would have loved to learn more about how and why this movie came together. The one shining spot on the disc is the audio, which made great use of the surrounds, nicely filling the room with thunder, laser blasts, and hissing lady vamps.

The big difference between old-timey cult classics B-movies and comical modern-day B-movies is self-awareness. B-movies of recent years have been self-aware, with the attitude of, “Ha, ha, look at us, we’re making a cheesy low-budget horror movie.” They’re bad movies made bad on purpose. Old school B-movie filmmakers, however, had earnestness. They thought they were making “real” movies, no matter how low-budget or sleazy the final result. Planet of the Vampire Women, miraculously, lands in the former category. Despite the suck-butt CGI and the “porn spoof” acting, they have big aspirations, and a desire to make this zero-budget shlock more than what it is.

Is this movie crap? God, yes, it is. But it’s crap made with passion, and that makes all the difference.

The Verdict

Highbrow: Guilty.
Lowbrow: Not guilty.

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