Razor Blade Smile (1998) (101 minutes)
Directed by Jake West.
Written by Jake West.
Starring Eileen Daly, Christopher Adamson and Jonathan Coote.
This late 90s vampire tale is an essential watch for any fan of low budget indie gore and Hammer classics. Lilith Silver (played with joyous overacting by horror glamour queen Eileen Daly) is the ‘girl power’ embodiment of modern vampires. In skin tight PVC, Silver is an ass-kicking, sexually confident vampiric hit woman, using her undead attributes to carry out the most daring executions. But life is never simple and her choice of career brings her to the attention of occult group The Illuminati who are hell bent on preserving their own existence against whoever is hiring her to eliminate them. Armed with their skills in dark magic and with Mason-like influence in the police and government, The Illuminati set out to take down Lilith ‘The Angel of Death’ Silver, in a gory, sexual game of cat and mouse.
As with all vampire films, writer Jake West has given the mythology his own spin. There is a realism (if that’s possible) to Lilith’s lifestyle and abilities. There’s no bats and mist, there’s no grandiose hierarchy, there’s just a woman who happens to be a blood drinking immortal. As she explains in a variety of exchanges in the pub with her undead-loving friends, being immortal would be boring and being a vampire doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t need to pay your rent and bills.
The acting in this movie is so consistently forced and overblown it has to be intentional. Given the gothic tone of this British movie, it wears its Hammer influences on its sleeve, and the somewhat am-dram feel to the dialogue and its delivery actually lend itself to the experience. However, the cringey exchanges between some characters (such as crime scene discussions between Detective Price and the forensic investigator dubbed the Horror Movie Man) can quickly be off-putting to viewers who aren’t patient enough to tolerate this in order to enjoy the plot.
Speaking of which, though the premise seems fairly predictable, the story does take some unusual turns, resulting in a clever conclusion which will leave you with a wry smile. The Illuminati is led by Bethane Blake, who we meet in the prologue as the vampire who turned Lilith. Through flashbacks we discover their history together and how they are linked; but why is he hunting her down when she was his protege?
Though it’s clear he has his suspicions that the assassin is a vampire, his own gruesome secret is not known, even to his acolytes. This deception is a great mechanism for ensuring no-one is sure what is happening. As Lilith begins to have unusual dream sequences involving Blake, Detective Price is busy unwittingly stalking one vampire under the instructions of another. Lilith’s suspicions of what the occult group are up to grow all the while Price is coming round to the idea of vampires existing. Their investigations come to an action packed climax which brings all plots and characters into a blood bath showdown.
There’s a great mix of sex and violence in Razor Blade Smile. Plenty of sexually charged scenes pepper the movie, but there are refreshingly few scenes with actual sex or nudity, making them more effective and enjoyable as a result. In contrast, this movie is soaked in blood. Assassins and occultists alone result in buckets of blood, but with a pair of vampires hunting each other and not caring about collateral damage, you just can’t get away from exsanguinations and bloody killings.
Of course, my interpretation of Razor Blade Smile could be wrong. Though I feel like it’s a legitimate guilty pleasure in the vampire genre, you may think it’s just a bloody awful horror flick. Watch it and see for yourself.