Matty savours David DeCoteau’s scintillating slice of horrotica.
David DeCoteau’s dreamlike vampire flick BLONDE HEAVEN is a film of bests. At its core is a fabulous performance from Julie Strain that, along with the bodacious B-queen’s turn in Jim Wynorski’s similarly sumptuous Sorceress (1995), ranks as one of her best roles. Lensed in eight days on sets left over from Richard Elfman’s Shrunken Heads (1994), Blonde Heaven is also an extremely visually arresting experience. It’s certainly among DeCoteau’s best-looking movies (which, given his pronounced aesthetic flair already, is really saying something), and it contains at least three of the best shots of the helmer’s career. The first occurs when a regular customer of the titular, blood-sucking escort agency — a wild animal and hunting nut — has a sexy lil’ safari with a couple of vampire madam Strain’s girls, the slinky beauties appearing utterly ethereal as they slowly sashay past the camera, lit only by flashlight. The second two take place during a meta cinema sequence, wherein slayer Jason Clow holds aloft a crucifix in the middle of a projector’s lightstream. DeCoteau then cuts to the cross’ shadow as it pins a be-fanged Raelyn Saalman against the big screen, Brides of Dracula (1960) style. Finally, Blonde Heaven represents the best of Full Moon’s erotic subdivision, Torchlight — even though by the time this sold-to-Cinemax programmer was given an actual physical release in August 2001, Torchlight had long since become Surrender Cinema, and DeCoteau, whom Full Moon boss Charles Band had tasked with overseeing Torchlight’s inaugural slate, was four films deep with his own Rapid Heart Pictures.
Why Blonde Heaven stands as the cream of the Torchlight crop is simple. As with another of the label’s finest, Mark Manos’ Huntress: Spirit of the Night (1995), which DeCoteau produced on the q.t., Blonde Heaven’s success rests upon the fact the copulation on display doesn’t feel out of step with the remainder of the movie. Consider DeCoteau’s preceding Torchlighters, Beach Babes From Beyond (1993) and Test Tube Teens From the Year 2000 (1994). While getting laid is part of their plots, the incredibly potent porking that DeCoteau unleashed sat at marked odds with Beach Babes and Test Tube Teens’ generally more jocular tones, irrespective of how well-crafted the humping itself was (in their unexpurgated versions anyway). Here, however, it’s par for the course; sex and vampirism are the bacon and eggs of horrotica, and DeCoteau — an avowed fan of fang-bangin’ horndogs Jess Franco and Jean Rollin — sinks his chompers into Blonde Heaven’s mix of creepy aesthetics and salacious succulence with gusto. It’s a high-spirited balancing act, albeit often quite arty.
Prefiguring DeCoteau’s later ambient pictures such as Leeches! (2003), Speed Demon (2003), and, at the most extreme end of the spectrum, Beastly Boyz (2006) and the sprawling 1313 series, Blonde Heaven isn’t story-centric — which is strange as what’s there is good. Conceived by DeCoteau and co-writer Kenneth J. Hall in early ‘91 as a female-fronted alternative to The Lost Boys (1987) called ‘Dressed for Dark’ with Brigitte Nielsen briefly attached to star, Blonde Heaven concerns a small-town cutie, Angie (Saalman), who comes to Hollywood chasing stardom but winds up at the amorous attentions of Strain’s neck-bitin’ brothel keeper Ilyana (or, as she’s called in the film’s R rated 2001 re-edit of the same name, ‘Morgana’). Echoing Dracula, Angie is the reincarnation of the immortal Ilyana’s ex love — but as Blonde Heaven unfolds, the nods to Bram Stoker are superseded by more topical allusions, with Ilyana’s talk of famous clientele bearing obvious parallels with the Heidi Fleiss vice scandal that was rocking the showbiz world as Blonde Heaven headed towards cameras. It’s actually a bit of a shame that DeCoteau doesn’t plunder this surprisingly ‘of the moment’ narrative thread — and just as gutting that neither he nor Hall nor third-listed scribe Matthew Jason Walsh elaborate further on Blonde Heaven’s quirkiest touch of vampires being able to walk around in daylight.
Still, it’s a minor quibble. As a work of sensory overload, Blonde Heaven delights. Angie’s desire to follow her dreams is our way in: it’s the very notion of dreaming that’s the key to unlocking DeCoteau’s feverish parade of impressionistic images, as checkered marble floors, ink-black shadows, and throngs of sunglasses-clad ghouls, costumed as if they’re in Floodlands-era Sisters of Mercy, propel his mood-heavy vision of the eerie decadence that exists in the void between fantasy and reality. It’s an acquired taste for sure. But for those with a penchant for heady bursts of bonking surrounded by passages of slick, oneiric experience, Blonde Heaven is superior stuff.
USA ● 1995 ● Erotic Horror ● 72mins (R)/80mins (Unrated)
Julie Strain, Raelyn Saalman, Michelle Bauer, Joe Estevez ● Dir. David DeCoteau (as ‘Ellen Cabot’) ● Wri. David DeCoteau (as ‘Mack Milenko’), Kenneth J. Hall, Matthew Jason Walsh
Portions of this review appear in Matty Budrewicz & Dave Wain’s forthcoming book, “Schlock & Awe: 2,001 Forgotten Films of the ’90s Rental Realm”.
Follow Matty on Twitter @mattybudrewicz