Slaughter of the Vampires
directed by Roberto Mauri
Dark Sky Films/MPI
Gothic horror fans who have worked their way through the Hammer catalog and are searching for more crumbling castles and heaving bosoms will delight in Darkstar’s reissue of the 1962 cult classic Italian vampire movie Slaughter of the Vampires. Viewers looking to familiarize themselves with the genre, however, should probably start somewhere else.
After a great opening scene with a mob of angy villagers pursuing a pair of vampires, Slaughter shifts to the story of Wolfgang and Louise, a married couple living in their newly-refurbished castle, complete with secret passageways. Unfortunately, the wine cellar was neglected during the remodeling and nobody noticed the coffin tucked away in the corner, which is home to one of the opening scene’s vampires. Soon the unnamed vampire has seduced Louise and is on his way to infecting more of the town’s population. The grieving Wolfgang must team up with Dr. Nietzsche (sadly, not the philosopher) and destroy the blood-sucking fiends who have invaded his home.
Slaughter of the Vampires has several strong points. The castle sets are appropriately crumbling and spooky and Mauri uses some interesting camera angles to showcase them. The decision to go with a romantic vampire works fairly well; Dieter Eppler as the vampire is a far cry from Chistopher Lee’s feral Count Dracula, even to the point of presenting Louise with flowers long after “sealing the deal.” Graziella Granata as Louise conveys a sense of romantic longing in her early-bitten scenes, and her vampire scenes are effectively creepy. Most of her scenes are played in a very low cut nightgown, which doesn’t hurt at all. Darkstar has also done an excellent remastering job on Slaughter of the Vampires, especially when compared to the grainy trailer.
However, after that fantastic opening scene, the movie slows down considerably, and while there are a few interesting scenes, nothing quite reaches those heights again. There is also a lack of accepted vampire mythology, which might be due to budget constraints – there are a few times where vampires’ ability to transform into bats would have helped them out considerably, and one character is visible in a mirror after being infected, even after establishing that the head vampire is not seen in a mirror’s reflection. Considering that Slaughter was released in 1962, well after Hammer had reinvigorated the horror film and Mario Bava had kickstarted the Italian horror film with Black Sunday, Slaughter comes across as a lesser entry into the gothic horror genre. Without the gore of the Hammer films or the creepy atmosphere that Bava was heaping on his productions, Slaughter still manages to be an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half, especially to fans of the genre, just not one that would likely appeal to casual horror fans.