Vampires that have actual sex appeal, unlike a certain popular franchise that just ended!
Dialogue By: Jean Ferry
Directed By: Harry Kümel
Erotic horror is how Les Lèvres Rouges was first described to me. It is because of that description that I put off watching Les Lèvres Rouges for so long. I wish that description had never been supplied to me because it is a very erroneous description of the film. Sure, elements of Les Lèvres Rouges are erotic and it does feature a few sex scenes. Those elements aren’t erotic in a skinemax late night cable television sort of way that the term erotic horror usually implies. Rather, the elements of Les Lèvres Rouges that are erotic come to that point in an alluring and intoxicatingly horrific sort of way.
To better explain what I mean I think it’s essential to look at the character of Countess Bathory. She is a woman who seduces at least three other characters during Les Lèvres Rouges. She doesn’t seduce them because of a wanton desire for sex or the basest needs of the flesh. She seduces those characters because of her desire to control those around her and to remake others in her image. She is a very erotic character, but she isn’t a cheap character and her intentions/motivations are of a much higher level than those found in the skinemax films I alluded to earlier.
The performance of Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory is alluring and intoxicating in every sense of those two words. She is deliciously out of place with the modern trappings that surround her. She slinks about, speaks with a syntax that is regal and places her as a woman above reproach. Les Lèvres Rouges is an interesting film before the arrival of Countess Bathory. It is upon the arrival of the countess that the film truly takes off. Her machinations are enticing, her movements are like a spell that it is impossible to break away from, and her final fate is harsh yet fitting. It is only because of the wonderfully aloof, cold, and yet warm at the same time, acting of Miss Seyrig that Countess Bathory ends up being a well developed character.
Les Lèvres Rouges is not without its faults. It’s a bit heavy handed in its visual metaphors, such as the waves crashing against the shore. It never sufficiently fills out the character of Stefan or the issues with his family. And the final fate of Stefan is handled in an almost comical way. True, the etherealness of Countess Bathory, and by that point Valerie, help to dull the comic effect of what happens during that scene but it’s still outlandishly funny when it really shouldn’t be.
It may be labeled as an erotic horror film, but Les Lèvres Rouges is much more than such a simple and misguided label. Les Lèvres Rouges is sexy, alluring, and dangerous. Its vampire lore is driven by emotion and the baser desires of humanity. The horror found in Les Lèvres Rouges is in atmosphere and what one woman will do to make others be like her. What I most took away from Les Lèvres Rouges is how refreshingly unique it is among the throngs of vampire movies out there. That’s not something easily written about a vampire movie, and that should be all the incentive anyone needs to give Les Lèvres Rouges a fair shake.