Razor Blade Smile (1999)
Cast: Eileen Daly, Christopher Adamson
Extras: Still Gallery, “Femme Fatale” Article, Trailer
Let me start by saying that I’m not a big fan of vampires. I feel that the entire vampire genre has become derivative and that no one is doing anything original with it. However, when something new does come along, I’m willing to give it a try. "Razor Blade Smile" is a British film that takes many well-known elements of vampire-lore (and several other genres) and attempts to invigorate the vampire mythos. The movie has just been released on DVD by A-Pix Entertainment.
"Razor Blade Smile" opens in the year 1850. Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly) is attempting to stop the duel between her lover and Sir Sethane Blake (Christopher Adamson). Lilith arrives just in time to see her lover’s death at the hands of Blake. Enraged, Lilith shoots Blake, and then she is shot by Blake’s assistant. Blake bleeds, but does not die, for he is a vampire. Blake takes Lilith into his embrace and bites her neck — killing her, but giving her eternal life.
The story then jumps forward to modern-day London. To combat the boredom of eternity, Lilith has become a killer-for-hire, known as the Angel of Death. Dressed in leather and latex, she bites her victims and then shoots them in the neck to hide the puncture marks. When she isn’t on the job, Lilith likes to hang out at the local "vampire" bar, to hear the thoughts that mortals have on vampires. Lilith’s playful life begins to fall apart when one of her jobs goes wrong. Suddenly, the police are after her and the mysterious people who hired her want their money back. Lilth must now act on her own to find out who is behind her assignments and how they are connected to the police and an ancient cult known as "The Lost People."
It should be obvious from this plot synopsis that "Razor Blade Smile" isn’t completely original. It plays like a mixture of "Blade", "La Femme Nikita", "Innocent Blood", and any Nine Inch Nails video. However, I don’t think the point of the film was to make any new inroads into vampirism. The point of the film seems to be fun. While the movie is labeled as "horror", it’s more like an erotic action-adventure. Lilith narrates the film and she does let us in on the true and false myths of vampirism (Turning into bats? No. Repulsed by garlic? Yes), but the purpose of this narration is simply to entertain, not to start a diatribe on the true nature of vampires.
The film takes some vampire conventions and turns them on their ears. Lilith dresses in the stereotypical fetish/goth garb of modern vampires — leather, latex, dark eyeliner, etc. But this costume allows her to blend in with the vampire wanna-bes. Lilth sits among the humans at the "Transilvania" club and is seen as just another vamp. Lilith has a coffin in her bedroom, but it’s not for sleeping. She’s stores her weapons in the coffin (which is adorned with her name, making it resemble a gym locker). Despite the playful nature of the film, there are some problems with the story. Lilith will seem carefree about life (or is it unlife?) one minute, and then she’s suddenly very serious the next. The true nature behind "The Lost People" is never explained and the "surprise" ending is just downright confusing. There are also some problems with pacing, with intense scenes suddenly giving way to scenes where nothing happens. Instead of being jarring, this technique feels hackneyed.
But, story isn’t what "Razor Blade Smile" is about. It’s about style, and it has tons of that. Writer/director/producer/editor Jake West never lets his camera sit still for long as it chases Lilith through London. The camera-work seems Raimi-esque at first, but then it becomes apparent that West wants to be the next Peter Jackson. The angles on most of the shots are dutched and many shots involve the camera dollying to a character’s face. There are some dream sequences that very much reminded me of the work of Raimi, with sudden zooms and objects flying through the air. Most every scene contains something red — be it red lighting or a red dress. West also plays with techniques such as time-lapse photography and tinting. Even when the story of "Razor Blade Smile" gets bogged down, there is usually something interesting to look at.
Beyond artistic style, the film also tries to carry its vampire attitude into every scene. The music, the set decorations, the lights — everything tries to convey a sense of vampiric style. Eileen Daly (who is the hostess for Redemption Video) looks great in her killer vampire garb and seems to be having the time of her life vamping it up as Lilith. However, she mugs for the camera so much that even Bill Cosby would be embarrassed. Fangs…we get it…enough already. Also, there are two very explicit sex scenes in the film, that while tastefully shot, seem to slow things down a bit.
The A-Pix Entertainment DVD of "Razor Blade Smile" offers a mixed bag of features. The film is <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1 and is not <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. While the framing shows no warping or bending at the edges, I got the feeling that 1.85:1 wasn’t the correct aspect ratio. I’m not certain, but it appears that this is a matted presentation. At many times during the film, the top and bottom of the frame appear to have been cut off. This may have been a stylistic choice on the director’s part, but it became distracting at times. The picture is clear, but scratches and lines on the source print are apparent throughout the film. I would venture to guess that the film was shot on Super 16mm and blown up, as there is a great deal of graininess to the picture. One thing that was done correctly is the color balancing. All of the red filters, and flashing colors come across very nicely and vividly.
The DVD’s soundtrack is a <$DS,Dolby Surround> mix. The surround sound is active throughout the film. During the scenes in the vampire bar and Lilith’s dreams, the sound fills all 5 speakers and is nicely balanced.
The DVD does contain some special features. The trailer for "Razor Blade Smile" is presented, but it really doesn’t do a very good job of saying what the film is about. As with most rental VHS tapes, the DVD contains trailers for other products by the same company. But unlike VHS, you can pick and choose them. The DVD contains trailers for "Bleeders", "Jack Frost", "Killer Tongue" and "Uncle Sam", plus an advertisement for Horrormovies.com. There is a gallery of stills from the movie and a reprinted article from "Femme Fatales" magazine that tells a little about the making of the film, but could have been much more in-depth as far as revealing budget, the director’s background, etc.
With new vampire-related products hitting the shelves every day, it’s hard to distance yourself from the pack. While "Razor Blade Smile" may not have the most original storyline ever, it does have a nice look and offers plenty of gratuitous sex and violence. Lilith Silver is not going to be the next Xena or Lara Croft, but she’s a fun character who’s out to have a good time, and with this film, you may too. "Razor Blade Smile" held the interest of someone who isn’t a huge fan of vampires, and that’s saying a lot.