Those of you expecting a heavy dose of dreamy european horror/erotica (tinged with disturbing sadism) after seeing the name of this film's director, might be in for a shock! It's actually a showcase horror parody for real-life Spanish power-pop/punk group, Killer Barbys (phew!). It was filmed in the mid-nineties by an ageing Franco, who looks just about ready to crumble to dust himself — like the film's vampire countess — judging by the look of him in the brief behind the scenes footage on this recent UK disc! One really wants to sit old uncle Franco down in a nice comfy chair by the fire — with a warm blanket on his lap and a snug pair of slippers on his feet — and then sit back and listen to tales of how the old man used to shag Soledad Miranda, and how Lina Romey actually used to look really HOT!
This isn't the life for Jess Franco though; he seems as obsessed with making films (any film!) now, as he has at any other time in his career. The extensive Jess Franco filmography on this disc takes about half an hour to read! "Killer Barbys" (for some reason the UK disc adds the word vampire to the title) sees Franco fulfilling his brief: which must have been to make a rocku-drama style movie in which the story (in so far as there is one) is merely a pretext for lots of borderline comedy, nudity and bad gore effects, all tied together with a soundtrack mostly consisting of a selection of the title band's (often rather enjoyable) punk tunes. This is nothing like a typical Franco film then. We have very few of his trademark obsessions and the film probably could have been directed by almost anyone. In fact, the few Franco flourishes that do appear actually seem out of place in the context of the rest of the film! A fair idea of what was being aimed at comes from looking at some of Killer Barbys' song titles. "I Wanna Live In Troma-ville" is the biggest give-away! This movie has all the hallmarks of being a Troma film wannabe: over-the-top gore effects that are too crappy and cheap-looking to gross you out; attempts at comedy that never get more sophisticated than having a couple of dwarfs lark around in the background; copious amounts of glaringly unnecessary nudity, and a story that has been deliberately composed entirely from horror movie clichés in a misguided attempt to look all "hip" and "post-modern". In other words: deliberate, self-conscious crap! Go into it expecting nothing and you might quite enjoy some of it — otherwise, you will probably find this to be one of the most wretched viewing experiences you could possibly imagine!
Our story begins with a pre-credit sequence in which we see a blood spattered man running from a castle in the dead of night pursued by a middle-aged man with a short white beard. Just as the man thinks he has eluded his pursuer, someone leaps out at him from the shadows with a scythe and slashes his throat! The killer is some kind of retarded local yokel who is aided and abetted by two dwarfs he refers to as his "children" (I think we're meant to find them incredibly funny!), and it turns out that this yokel type is employed by the bearded man who's name is Baltasar (Santiago Segura) . The yokel notices the dead man has an earring so he slices off the ear to get at it! Meanwhile, the bearded man returns to his mistress with a goblet of the dead man's blood. She is a Bathory-type character who needs blood to rejuvenate her. She must have been deprived of it for quite some time since when we see her in this sequence she is nothing more than a skeleton with bits of flesh hanging of her!
After the title sequence we're at a Killer Barbys gig, listening to one of the band's agreeable power-pop tunes. The female singer, Flavia (Silvia Superstar) doesn't wear much, and after the gig she drives the tour van topless for no reason at all! Two of the other members of the band are shagging in the back of the van and we get several minutes of this while another power pop tune plays on the soundtrack. Eventually the tour van gets stuck in a pot hole and the band encounter Baltasar who takes them back to his mistress's castle for the night. All of them, that is, apart from the two shagging Barbys -- who continue shagging!
The Killer Barbys are young, fit and strong (if not just a little stupid) — and there are enough of them to bring the Countess Condesa back to her prime! The retarded yokel and his two dwarf "children" are assigned the job of killing off the Barbys so the Countess can get at their blood. They start with the two shagging Barbys in the tour van: there is a long sequence of the young female Barby member being chased around in some woodland completely nude. Eventually she is decapitated by the retarded yokel's scythe and her headless body is taken back to the basement of the castle which is full of gutted dead bodies hung up on hooks and dripping blood into pots!
Eventually the Countess gets enough Barby blood to rejuvenate her to a point where she looks quite presentable — which is good because this means she can get naked and writhe around in blood for a bit. Anyway, after a while, the attractive lead singer cottons on to the fact that most of her band members have disappeared and sets out to finish off the naked, blood bathed Countess in a final showdown ... while wearing her best Spider-Man T-Shirt!
"Vampire Killer Barbys" is a tough film to review for the simple reason that it is hard to tell which bits are genuinely inept and which bits are just intentionally bad in that irritating Troma films style. There are moments of surreal silliness, such as when the yokel killer is crushed by a steamroller driven by one of the band. Instead of jogging out of the way, he simply stands in it's path waving his arms about and screaming until about ten minutes later, the steamroller finally catches up with him and crushes him to a pulp, leaving a gory pile of steaming entrails in it's wake! And speaking of gore, there are some incredibly botched effects! The bodies hung up in the castle basement are obviously just very bad rubber dummies, and a later scene, where a character is meant to have been shot through the head with an arrow from a crossbow, looks pathetic. But, since the whole film is meant to be a parody in the first place, perhaps these effects are just meant to look really bad. Who knows? In any case, there are enough unintentionally bad movies out there, so it's hard to see why we need a deliberately bad one!
Even the English dub track seems like a parody of a really bad dub track: everybody speaks with bizarre accents or is given a daft comedy voice and the dub very rarely even approaches synching up with film! On the other hand, Franco can't resist putting in a few arty signatures -- like this was a proper movie! Watches and clocks in the film are always stuck at 12 0' Clock and there are lots of creepy looking broken dolls that always seem to be lying around for the camera to meander over. Maybe it's not for want of trying, but the film never quite plumbs the depths of inanity regularly trawled by the horrendous Troma Films; but it's not exactly Franco's finest hour either! The film's main saving grace is Killer Barbys' lead singer Silvia Superstar, who has an agreeably sassy persona and can actually act better than a lot of the people who usually frequent the average Franco film!
The Region 2 UK disc is released by Screen Entertainment and is presented in a widescreen anamorphic print that is quite good for the most part, although a little soft in some places. The extras consist of an extensive Franco filmography — which is always handy when trying to make sense of the man's prodigious output; a gallery of stills, and finally, a short film of behind the scenes material with a Killer Barbys tune on the soundtrack.
"Vampire Killer Barbys" is definitely a film you need to be slightly stoned or drunk to appreciate fully!