Directed By: Gilbert Adler
Starring: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, John Kassir
Country of Origin: United States of America
Face it: when you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re Bordello of Blood, you’re definitely not. With Tales from the Crypt on seemingly its last legs on HBO and the attention of the five pioneer executive producers being harnessed by their new project, Perversions of Science, TFTC was beginning to feel like a horror afterthought. With only a handful of episodes left in its arsenal, the show was making one last gasp at staying as hip as it had been since the late 80’s. That final shot, or better yet, stab (I’m not counting puns this time), was made with the release of Tales From the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood in 1996.
First of all, you can’t simply compare this movie to its predecessor, Demon Knight. The first flick in what was scheduled to be three was a superb effort that was entrenched with a real Tales-feeling in it. Demon Knight also performed quite well as it was released on a horror weekend for films (a Friday the 13th), often recognized as a cheap ploy by movie companies to rake in more dollars. Cheap as it may be, that ploy is pivotal to the fledgling flick we have in front of us. You see, Bordello of Blood was supposed to see a release just like that. You know, around Halloween, or on one of those mystery weekends. Yet, when Universal Pictures stepped in to produce the movie, they chose to move it to the Summer of ‘96 to fill their cinematic quota. That timing, combined with a film that was, overall, not all that good, left us with a bitter taste in our mouths while watching the second big screen attempt to keep Tales from the Crypt alive.
In another somewhat original horror plot, Bordello of Blood is all about a sect of vampires that have been resurrected by a mysterious relic (the very same key from Demon Knight) to do the bidding of their master. That bidding is actually to work for the Lord Almighty and exterminate sinners at a heavenly speed. How, exactly, will these blood-sucking vermin be doing such? Why, they’ve disguised themselves as loose women with loose inhibitions in their very own brothel. I often wonder how much better the box office take would have been for this movie if they simply titled it Vampire Whorehouse.
The lead role of a washed-up detective (a type of character we will see often in b-grade horror) is played by Dennis Miller, who began his personal war with me (that he is as of yet unaware of) by attempting to insert a one-liner in every situation. Though the character is something of a lush, he does have the best intentions at heart: rescuing the brother of his newest (and sexiest) client Erika Eleniak while also diving deep into the darkness of the Bordello. In order to fully rid the society of this plague of blood-sucking (among other things, I’m sure) vixens, he’ll need the help of the preacher Jimmy Current (J.C., how clever) and a slew of others to destroy the head vampire, an especially nasty bit of crumpet named Lilith.
While the premise is a classic Crypt play on morals and values, it still seems a little far-fetched. What kind of ministry would employ the agents of Satan to further their own supposed “godly” agenda? No body of committee or government would ever hire their sworn enemy to exterminate another group in the name of a utilitarian decision, would they? Isn’t that unrealistic? Whoops, I’ve said too much.
Before I continue to take apart this movie, I should consider the pluses. Angie Everhart is delightful as Lilith, the queen bee in this vampire den. Though her role is often demanding of a very dry, deadpan style humor that can be overshadowed by sex appeal and yes, horrible fucking puns, she shines through it and easily steals the movie away from Miller and Eleniak, whose on-screen romance drags the film down like an anchor. Chris Sarandon is also the epitome of a saintly, evangelical minister when dawning the character of the Reverend J.C. His transformation from seedy preacher to bible bruiser is often hilarious given its satirical nature. And, as mentioned before, the plot of the movie is well done given all of the typical twists, turns, and moral questions raised from something with Tales from the Crypt stamped on the front cover.
But all of that simply isn’t enough to cover up for the glaring issues in Bordello of Blood. Maybe it had too much to live up to with Demon Knight, or maybe it just isn’t too terribly well executed. In fact, this is a disposable horror movie that, by the end of it, you find yourself rooting to see your protagonist Miller get killed. He’s seriously annoying, and his brand of humor would have been better presented had he been the first victim claimed. I don’t even want to bring up the evil little person in this movie, because if you’re going to watch a movie with evil people that aren’t too terribly tall, I recommend something like this, because they’re all going to be bad.
Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: Despite Dennis Miller’s incredibly annoying voice, face, jokes, and character, he’s not nearly as frustrating as Corey Feldman. Feldman, who used to be suave, cute, and productive, is none of these things as he gets a big role in yet another vampire movie. Stick to The Lost Boys, for the love of Christ.
Best Name in the Cast: And for the second film in a row, the cameo made by William Sadler as the Mummy in the opening and closing scenes of this film make it all worthwhile. Skip the 85 minutes in between (you know, the actual movie) and watch his sequences with the Cryptkeeper over and over again. Never boring.
Quote of the Film:
“Two, Four, Six, Eight! You can watch me masturbate!” -Lilith, cheering in a vision to Rafe (Dennis Miller). Just another quirky seduction of the vampire’s lust.
Final Thoughts: I mentioned previously that Universal Pictures pushed up the release date of this movie for their own personal agenda to be fulfilled. That decision caused Bordello of Blood to bomb astronomically at the box office, and plans for a third Tales film, as well perhaps a revitalization of the franchise and more TV time, were scrapped. The third film was shelved indefinitely and a fourth film, Ritual, was produced and directed straight to video with a Tales logo forcefully slapped on it, despite having nothing to do with the series or this movie. The new series, Perversions of Science, was canceled during its first production run. Tales from the Crypt ended with Season 7 on television one month prior to this movie’s release. Bordello of Blood is just average enough to make some money if it were released around Halloween or on any of the aforementioned “horror weekends,” but it’s a sub-par film to be released in the Summer, and it killed the franchise for years to come. In closing: Fuck you, Universal Pictures. Fuck you hard.