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STUDIO: Seminal Films
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
“Let’s remake The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, except instead of a diving bell we’ll have a team of sexy space pirates fighting vampire women on a planet full of CGI insects and Gwar dinosaurs… and instead of having a butterfly we’ll just not!”
Liesel Hanson, Jawara Duncan, Stephanie Hyden, Keith Letl, Writer / Director: Darin Wood
It’s important to note, for those of you reading who may have debilitating head injuries preventing you from guessing this, that Planet of the Vampire Women has about as much to do with Planet of the Vampires as it does with Hope Floats, unless Hope Floats contains a scene in which Sandra Bullock has her bikini cut off and her blood drained, in which case why the hell haven’t I seen Hope Floats!?
In this movie, a sexy band of female space-pirates – the best kind of any kind of pirate, if you ask me – rob a space casino that one presumes is hosting a benefit to have it’s UV’s properly unwrapped. Led by their fearsome Captain Mickey ‘Trix’ Richards (Paquita Estrada), who looks like Pam Grier ate Grace Jones, they make their escape to the planet, which turns out to be inhabited by… nah, I won’t spoil it.
A crash-landing via low-rent computer graphics ensues, and slowly the group is preyed upon as they try to repair their ship. This reinforces one of the most depressing prognostications of speculative fiction: that if you have a spaceship capable of light-speed, artificial gravity, life-support and advanced robotics… that shit will crap out faster than an Xbox360 if you happen to land someplace dangerous.
What is this strange planet? Why is it inhabited by monsters and giant killer insects? Who is the strange purple exposition-lady. The answer to all of these questions is hey, look! Boobs.
That all said… God help me… I kinda dug it. Bear with me.
There’s no shortage of micro budget flicks trying to get your attention with promises of breasts and blood, but Planet of the Vampire Women somehow manages to deliver on both fronts, while steering clear of the mean-spiritedness that typically taints the subgenre. The movie is bookended by scenes that take place inside the aforementioned space casino, and both set-pieces (yes, I’m gonna call them that) provide much of what the target audience will be looking for.
Of course, there are serious flaws here that cannot be attributed to self-aware aesthetic choices. Even considering the little-to-no-money allocated for them, the digital effects are quite bad. Langoliers-bad. Wolverine Origins-bad. Nicole Kidman’s forehead bad. It has become a cliche to compare hastily realized CGI to videogame cutscenes; but honestly, I can’t remember any videogame looking this bad. There certainly must be talented people willing to do superior work for the same amount of money (I say that knowing that amount could be zero dollars); to not draw on that talent pool seems less a case of embracing limitations and more like laziness.
I only mention the CGI because it’s the only truly obvious evidence of the reach of the filmmakers exceeding their grasp. Everything else feels exactly as good as it should be. The script is groan-worthy and derivative (of course) but paced reasonably well. The sets, though exceedingly cheaply-realized, are not too far-removed from original Star Trek episodes, right down to the modular paper-mache rock formations and subjective pastel lighting. The make-up and costumes do the job.
Simply-put, it’s a good example of doing a lot with a little. For those who know of it, a good cinematographic soulmate would be Rob Schrab’s short film Robot Bastard. Cheap – but certainly not easy.
The directing and editing is actually above par for this type of production, and most – not all… of the actors are surprisingly attractive and/or engaging. I mean, no reason to pick on anyone in particular, right? That would be petty.
A stand-out, both in terms of looks and the in-on-the-joke twinkle in her eye is Stephanie Hyden, who plays Astrid Corvair. Astrid is a sex clone who, with a shake of her hips, can instantly change her costume into any sexy Halloween outfit available from the Spencer’s Gifts discount bin on November 3rd. I’m not sure if it’s genius or not (on second thought, it’s definitely not) but she wears them all very, very well.
If you’ve found yourself burned by zero-budget movies that aren’t nearly as fun as they should be, this flick is certainly worth a shot. Though the middle drags a bit (hardly a flaw limited to this budget bracket), there are fun gags and attractive women throughout, which is more than I can say for the original Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Look, you get a movie, okay? No special features, jerkwad! No chapter breaks for you, asshole! Sad, because I for one would have welcomed a commentary about the making of this movie, shoestrings and all.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars