Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scare-a-Con ’16: Blood of the Tribades

Even a village named Bathory is not safe from the evil Puritanism of patriarchy. If this is the world of the blood-bathing Countess, how did it come to be so perverted by male privilege? An underground network of lesbian vampires remembers only too well. They live (so to speak) in anticipation of a profound reckoning in co-screenwriter-directors Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstein’s Blood of the Tribades (trailer here), which screens this Saturday during the Scare-a-Con Film Festival.

Clearly, Cacciola & Epstein know their Jean Rollin. You can see his influence in the film’s erotic and exotic flavors—not to mention the two protagonists who start speaking French once they get a taste of their long suppressed collective lesbian vampire memories. Once, matriarchal power was respected in Bathory, but at some point, the men hijacked their worship of the deity Bathor, forcing the women to make a choice: either stay in the village by relinquishing their powers or go into exile.

Of course, the men made a hash of things, but they conveniently scapegoated the “impure” women for every misfortune, most definitely including the plague. To “purify” the village in Bathor’s name, the unhinged Grando sends his crossbow toting minions out to dispense inquisition-style justice. Innocent lovers Élizabeth and Fantine will soon find themselves in the inquisitors’ crosshairs.

Aside from maybe Rollin and Jess Franco, it is hard to liken the tone of Blood to anyone or anything else. Cacciola & Epstein have richly realized a dark fantasy world with its own sinister internal logic. Evidently shot in Massachusetts, the filmmakers found and fully capitalized on some amazing locations worthy of vintage Hammer films.

This is not your father’s lesbian vampire skin flick. In fact, it is much less explicit than the title probably suggests. Blood is first and foremost a mood and atmosphere piece. Nonetheless, the cast (including several burlesque and fetish performers) understands the traditions to be upheld, especially Chloé Cunha and Mary Widow. As the lovers, they ethereally waft through the film, like Jeanne in Eiichi Yamamoto’s Belladonna of Sadness (which could well be another source of inspiration). Sindy Katrotic also gives the proceedings periodic energy boosts as Giltine, the leader of the vampire hunters (as in vampires who hunt, rather than those who hunt vampires).

It is hard to describe the strange vibe of Blood, but that certainly distinguishes it from the garden variety found footage and retro slasher films getting dumped on VOD these days (despite some rough production edges here and there). In a way, it brings to mind the otherworldly sexuality of Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” which is somewhat fitting, given its Massachusetts roots. Recommended for adventurous genre fans, Blood of the Tribades screens this Saturday morning (10/1) during Scare-a-Con at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.