When the menfolk of the isolated vampire village of Bathory become afflicted by a mysterious pox-like illness, a religious zealot convinces them that the local women are to blame, and that the only way to be cleansed is to purge the unholy taint of female impurity with hate and violence. Amidst the quite literal war of the sexes, lovers Élisabeth and Fantine uncover the truth behind the distorted teachings of the settlement’s founder and prophet, and hope to save the imploding society.
On the surface, Blood of the Tribades’ lurid aesthetic, vibrant blood flow and unabashed nudity is a clear homage to the lesbian vampire flicks of the ‘70s, Hammer by way of Jean Rollin or Jess Franco. However, just as Cacciola and Epstein’s debut feature Ten had far greater substance than the giallo-esque murder mystery it was presented as, so Blood of the Tribades is much more than just a garish romp with an abundance of blood, boobs and cock.
Through its sex and violence, the film examines the perception of women in an oppressively masculine society, one in which they are taught obedience and complacency, remaining the unwitting victims of theocratic doctrine weaponised by dogmatic fundamentalists. From sapphic symbolism misappropriated by the patriarchal religion to character names representing a disparate assortment of mythologies, the film gradually constructs a culture that could conceivably exist apart from whatever domain may or may not lie beyond the village’s borders, while the rampant histrionic misogyny is not only believable within the story’s context, but is also rendered all-too plausible by recent real-world developments.
Despite the nudity’s regularity it never feels gratuitous, and rather than being displayed for the gratification of the audience, it comes with varied and deftly balanced tones dependent on the situation. The lust of the ladies for each other is presented as erotic and sensual, a primal desire playful yet carnal that inspires a tantalising longing to be with them. Conversely, the men’s unrepentant lechery for the very sexuality they are trained to denounce is portrayed as voyeuristic sleaze, the hateful perversity through which their viewpoint comes filtered actually making you feel a little uneasy when joining them in spying on all these beautiful naked women.
Upon its digital release on Amazon, the film ended up relegated to the site’s Mature Content category, putting it into the same filtered grouping as porn. The apparent reasoning was that while women going full frontal is perfectly acceptable, the unapologetic display of a few too many flaccid penises pushes the content beyond acceptable depictions of the human form, thus underscoring the very point the film is making with an irony as unintentional as it is devoid of subtlety.
While at first glance Blood of the Tribades may appear to be little more than a meticulously reconstructed and alluringly kitschy Euro-schlock throwback, its themes are as eternal as the undead who populate it, while at the same time being worryingly – perhaps even a little terrifyingly – contemporary.
BLOOD OF THE TRIBADES / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SOPHIA CACCIOLA, MICHAEL J EPSTEIN / STARRING: CHLOÉ CUNHA, MARY WIDOW, SETH CHATFIELD, SINDY KATROTIC, SIMONE DE BOUDOIR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (UK & US)