leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Set in the American rural South in the 1930s, this offbeat vampire film opens with the murder of an adulterous couple by the woman's husband, notorious gangster Alvin Lee (William Whitton). Lee, it ensues, has an adolescent daughter named Lila (Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith), who's been raised a ward of the Baptist church under the watchful eye of a strict but dangerously repressed Reverend (writer-director Richard Blackburn), and achieved regional fame as "the singing angel," by virtue of her tremulous voice and radiant demeanor. The Reverend is famous for his fiery sermons, in which Lila's purity, obedience and dedication to God serve as vivid illustration of faith's ability to overcome a person's background. Then Lila receives a disturbing letter from a woman named Lemora (Lesley Gilb). Lemora writes that she's been nursing Lila's father, who's gravely ill, and that he desperately wants to see his daughter before he dies. Knowing the Reverend will never agree, Lila packs a bag, takes Lemora's directions, and begins a bizarre journey that takes her to the bad part of a raucous town, a half-deserted bus station and, finally, a mysterious rattletrap bus line that always pulls in the back of the station before leaving for parts unknown. The trip takes Lila thorugh dark woods paoplated by strange, wild-eyed feral beings. When the bus breaks down, Lila must uses all her strength and wits to elude them and arrive at Lemora's grand but dilapidated homestead. Once there, the puzzled Lila is taken under the imperious, insinuating Lemora's wing, but kept very much in the dark. Who were those degenerate-looking people in the woods? Where did the raucous, hollow-eyed lost children who live with Lemora come from? And why can't Lila see her ailing father? An art-house vampire movie with lesbian undertones, Richrad Blackburn's debut film puts an ambitious and surprisingly effective spin on traditional vampire movie cliches. The rural southern setting is unusual, and some of the cast deliver surprisingly strong performances. Gilb is a striking Lemora, and Smith who was living on the street when Blackburn cast her and went on to make a series of fondly-remembered exploitation pictures as Rainbeaux Smith is phenomenal as the the viginal Lila, who evokes spasms of lust in every perv below the Mason Dixon line. This underrrated shocker has developed a cult following since its scattershot 1973 release, but deserves a wider one.