Written and directed by Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein, Blood of the Tribades (2016) is a fascinating homage to lesbian vampire films of the 1970s. The film simultaneously celebrates the eroticism of these films – and their portrayal of women as agents of a specifically female sexuality – against a modern twist on this cinema, with a narrative that takes Richard Matheson’s seminal science-fiction social vampire novel I Am Legend (1954) and presents segregated gendered groups within the village of Bathory, so named after the infamous vampire Bathor who established the village, seemingly existing in a timeless capacity, 200 years before. The men, suffering from a disfiguring illness, hunt the female vampires, blaming them for their affliction. At the centre of this societal conflict, two lovers from opposing sides must unite their peers as Bathor’s imminent return – and judgement – draws closer.
Though the film’s low budget is readily apparent, the style and aesthetic of the films it emulates simultaneously masks and revels in this approach. In channelling the cinema of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, and Russ Meyer, Blood of the Tribades cleverly uses its budget to maximum effect and I am very excited to see what the filmmakers produce in future, particularly with more money to play around with. The modern twist, a socio-political commentary on gender politics and religion, blends beautifully with the classic cinema it channels.
In addition to the clever choice of genre in utilising the aesthetic, the filmmakers are clearly incredibly well-versed in the source material and viewers will delight in the many visual and narrative references to cult and exploitation cinema. Particularly creative flashes of brilliance include some beautiful wide shots, accompanied by a startling use of colour composition across the landscape, set design and costumes. Characters, with vintage make-up and hairstyles that complement the stylised acting perfectly, appear ethereal and otherworldly, as if they have stepped out of one of the films of their predecessors.
This tone is enhanced by the writing; laced with lyrical, poetic monologues worthy of any Rollin dreamscape and fantastical creature, the accompanying original score from Night Kisses creates an immersive and uncanny experience. On this note, the film very much caters to fans of this cinema in regards to its target audience, who will be familiar with the slower pace, surreal shots and convoluted narrative elements. The filmmakers have also released a documentary detailing the production process, The Blood is the Life, that will delight the niche audience the film is aimed at as well as anyone interested in the exciting, innovative and creative scene that is contemporary independent horror.
Blood of the Tribades is a magical and enchanting foray into the fairy tale world of 1970s vampire cinema that explores some powerful socio-political, gendered, and religious themes, all of which resonate in regards to the contemporary landscape.