Tuesday, November 27, 2012
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Razor Blade Smile
“Fuck Bram Stoker.” Thus quoth vampire/hitwoman Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly) early on in Jake West’s sex, goths ‘n’ guns horror comedy. Statement of intent? Fuck, yeah! Here’s another of Lilith’s trenchant voiceover homilies: “I bet you think you know all about vampires, don’t you? You know fuck all!”
The vampires in ‘Razor Blade Smile’ drink blood because they have to, not because they particularly enjoy it: Lilith can identify a blood type like a connoisseur sampling a single malt (she spits out some Type A negative, dismissing it as “too iron-y” … oh, the irony). The vampires in ‘Razor Blade Smile’ hold down day jobs. Granted, Lilith’s is assassin which automatically makes her cooler than the rest of us wageslaves. The vampires in ‘Razor Blade Smile’ can function in the daylight so long as they wear shades.
They don’t sparkle, either.
I almost wish ‘Razor Blade Smile’ had been made in 2008 not 1998; it would function as the biggest “fuck you” to the ‘Twilight’ saga ever. Put Lilith up against Stephanie Meyers’ milquetoast characters and Edward would get his deathly white arse handed to him on a bloodstained plate while Bella would most likely be inducted into the joys of Sapphic vampirism.
*Your host excuses himself. Takes cold shower.*
Made for about £20,000, it was a serious contender for the lowest budget British movie ever to enjoy a cinema release … until Marc Price’s no-budget zombie flick ‘Colin’ shuffled off with that particular accolade by dint of being made for £19,955 less. Still, the difference in production values is palpable, not least for ‘Razor Blade Smile’ being shot on celluloid. Indeed, West shoots for the moon, throwing in a black and white period set prologue, a Bond-style opening credits sequence, some snazzy time-lapse vistas of nocturnal London, a psychedelic dream sequence and all manner of sex violence, shoot-outs and swordplay as if he had a few million at his disposal. Put it this way, and let’s joyously invoke Werner Herzog’s philosophy that a filmmaker shouldn’t worry about money (“start making the film and the money will follow you into the street like a dog”), Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’ was made for something in the region of $6million and looks like a home movie shot at a group therapy session while ‘Razor Blade Smile’ was made for next to nothing and looks like a motion picture.
The plot almost doesn’t matter (although it plays out straight-faced for most of the running time, ‘Razor Blade Smile’ is a comedy and its final scene is essentially the punchline) but just so we can tick the appropriate box, here goes: stone-cold hits, Sapphic shenanigans, corrupt cops, nemeses from the distant past, and the Illuminati. Intrigued as to how these elements knit together? Don’t even bother trying to second-guess; just watch the motherfucker and wallow in slack-jawed disbelief at the WTF-ness of it.
If West’s directorial style is a visual exegesis of Browning’s maxim that “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp”, then his leading lady tears into the material in similar fashion. Subtlety doesn’t exist as far as this movie is concerned. Eileen Daly, though incredibly versatile in many disciplines (actress, poet, musician), has generally been consigned to erotic features, and although ‘Razor Blade Smile’ requires her to shed clothing on a fairly regular basis it also gives her a chance to seize a lead role and run with it, and the lady gives it her all. By turns vampish, vicious and snarlingly sarcastic, she makes Lilith her own.