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Razor Babe

In October 1998 a British movie will be unleashed, which is eagerly awaited by all in the vampire scene, a film which is set to challenge the legacy of Hammer Films and provoke outrage in the eyes of fanatics of slushy period-costume romantic epics. Director Jake West and luscious star Eileen Daly talk to Bloodstone about sex, violence, romance, blood, vampires and the British film industry...

In the 1960s and 70s, Hammer Films' use of glaring technicolour blood and overt sexual imagery (all within the confines of the time) defined the vampire film for a whole new generation of movie-goers. Now a new generation of movie-makers is shaping the vampire film genre afresh, pumping new blood into old arteries and making pulses race with their high drama, violent action and explicit sexuality. The vampire has returned more truly to its roots than ever before in 'Razor Blade Smile', a modern day examination of vampires in all their extremes and taboo-busting desires.

The action of 'Razor Blade Smile' begins in 1850 when beautiful Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly) recklessly steps into a duel fought in her honour and shoots her lover's would-be assassin Sir Sethane Blake (Christopher Adamson). Blake just laughs off the attempt – he is a 1000 year old vampire, and easily a match for a mere bullet. He attacks Lilith, thereby condemning her to a life of undeath, blood-drinking and relentless sexuality. Cut to the 1990s: Lilith is a hired assassin, kitted out in PVC and rubber and equipped with an armoury stored in her coffin. Guns, knives, even Samurai swords are her play things as she takes out members of the sinister Illuminati sect who manipulate society through the use of technology and magick and whose leader is... Sethane Blake. Very soon all hell is let loose as the Illuminati kidnap Lilith's boss and try to put a stop Lilith's gun-toting ways once and for all.

This is Jake West's first big feature, following the cult success of his earlier 'Club Death' (Redemption Video 1995), and his fangsome baby has already drawn attention to the fact that there hasn't been a decent British vampire movie since the decline of Hammer in the 70s. Whilst American B-movies are littered with vampires, European film makers such as Jean Rollin continue to pour out vampire flicks, and even the American porn market has leapt upon the band wagon after the success of Francis Ford Coppola's epic 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' (1992) and Neil Jordan's sumptuous 'Interview with the Vampire' (1994), Britain – once the birthplace of all things vampire and horror in the movie world – has been noticeably silent. Now, at last, the long-needed infusion of fresh raw talent is just waiting to burst onto the big screen.

Director Jake says of the vampire: "The whole subject fascinates me, so writing a vampire movie put the pressure on me to live up to my high ideals of what I think a vampire movie should be... 'Razor Blade Smile' contains every element I've always loved about vampires – blood, sexual seduction, violent tendencies and a very strong aesthetic look – and then to take it even further I've mixed it with a cocktail of action, fetish clothing, off the wall humour and conspiracy theory... I want people to understand what it could mean to be a vampire." (A sentiment we heartily endorse here at Bloodstone!)

With the lead role being a strong-willed, independent woman, Jake also steers his film away from the classical vampire stereotypes of dominant male vampire and weak-willed, submissive females dropping into a dead faint at the mere presence of 'the Count'. Eileen Daly, best known as the albino-eyed face of the Redemption Films empire despite many cult film roles, a modelling career and several pop promo video appearances, talks of the role of Lilith Silver with obvious relish: "Lilith isn't your usual vampire. She's sexy in a girl power way – she fights like a man, has a heart of steel and she takes no shit from anybody. She's a warrior, a millennium chick, a woman of the world. She makes her living a hard way, a modern day Nikita, who's had to learn to survive. She didn't choose to be a vampire but she's chosen a profession that suits her. She doesn't kill on the street, she kills for money. She's a hard woman, but she's got a conscience; she takes what she needs to survive but is always fair. Lilith is out there half male and half female, she has a dual appeal: men can see the female side of her but also that she's dangerous and powerful; women will see that sexuality and the hardness in her, how tough she is. I tried to play it quite asexual, not to play up the sexiness of it too much. I mean, I'm going around firing guns, chopping people's heads off, killing... I'm not Pamela Anderson!"

Vampire films don't usually contain strong female characters for the female part of the audience to respond to positively. 'Razor Blade Smile' is different in that it presents a strong role model in Lilith Silver, a woman who is a killer and who takes control over her own life and is not afraid of whatever or whoever might be lurking around the next corner. And you don't have to be immortal to share in that power. "I think it's great that Lilith is so strong and that the film isn't sexist at all," says Eileen. "Women come away from seeing it believing they can be Lilith, to take what they want and need, to use female power. But I'm not a feminist. I like men to open doors for me and be gentlemen. Women need to be worshipped because of their beauty, they are the jewels in the crown."

Director Jake is also quick to justify the violence and the sex in his picture: "There's a lot of action in it and a lot of horror, a lot of blood, sexual imagery and seduction. Because [Lilith] is a vampire she finds everyone attractive, male or female. There's a lot of fighting. Because it's a vampire film there's a lot of blood, excessive amounts. Like when she cuts off somebody's head with a sword we've got blood jetting into the camera. I love vampire films but they're quite anaemic a lot of the time, so we wanted to redress the balance." And as for Eileen's portrayal of Lilith, Jake has nothing but praise: "Eileen rose to the challenge. She was just fantastic. It's very difficult to cast a part like Lilith Silver. It's very physical, sexy and mysterious. There are lots of actresses who could cope with some of that, but not all of it."

So with such high praise being heaped upon Eileen, how does she feel she measured up to the role? How much of Eileen went into Lilith, and how close are their characters? "I'm not much like Lilith but there are things we share. We're both out there in the world, fighting for ourselves. I came from a working class background, was never interested in school, and as a result arrived at drama college sadly lacking in the classics! Because I missed out with my education I had to work even harder to get myself known and to make money. Lilith's from a very middle class background but by becoming a vampire she's had to learn to fight. She can smell when someone doesn't seem right, when they're false, and I'm like that too. Once I know someone's not genuine I can't work with them, and that's a high price to pay in this business. You get so much rejection in acting, you can do maybe four auditions a day and not get a single role from it. The casting directors wanted someone with blonde hair and brown eyes, they wanted someone tall and I walk in! I've learnt to cope better with life because of the job I'm in, and that's very similar to Lilith's situation as a vampire. I've got no trust fund for me if I fail as an actress and Lilith's got nothing to rely on but herself either."

Lilith Silver is a female vampire role model, challenging the perceptions of a mainly male horror audience and giving the female part of the audience someone to aspire to. But who then does Eileen consider would play a good vampire on film? "The ultimate vampire? Hmm... Johnny Depp ('Edward Scissorhands') would make an extremely good looking vampire, but he'd be too gorgeous. He'd just walk into a room and women would fall at his feet, boring... Nicholas Cage ('Vampire's Kiss') would make a very sexual basic nasty [vampire], a really nasty fucker. Gary Oldman ('Bram Stoker's Dracula') is too camp. As far as women go, I'd have to say Anjelica Huston ('The Addams Family'). She's about 6' tall, overpoweringly physical, not exactly beautiful but there's something about her, very powerful. Darryl Hannah ('Blade Runner') has got a very strong face and she's big enough as a character actress to do it well, though perhaps a bit chocolate-boxey! As far as English actresses go, I don't think the role's ever been filled yet. Not even Liz Hurley (for whom I have a lot of respect) could carry it off. You'd have to be a very ballsy actress to do it; a lot of actresses maybe could play it but they'd never be cast for it. Actresses aren't bred with horror in mind, they're rarely nasty and mad enough for vampire roles. You need to be totally unpredictable, able to switch from nasty to charming in a flash. With Huston and Cage there's the madness and the depth of acting. Jack Nicholson would be great but he's too old now."

Some interesting names put forward there, we thought! "I have a lot of role models!" admits Eileen. "Nicholas Cage, Harvey Keitel ('From Dusk til Dawn'), Christopher Walken ('The Addiction'), Willem Dafoe (a brief appearance in 'The Hunger'), Bette Midler because she's so easy to watch, Julia Roberts only because she's so pretty on screen, Michelle Pfeiffer, Béatrice Dalle – ooh, I love her! She's so raunchy and wild, you never know how she's going to act, there's always lots of different dimensions and risky action with her. On the English side I can only really think of Liz Hurley: not a great actress but she's good to look at."

Eileen is in a position envied by many, and with 'Razor Blade Smile' being her first major starring role she is still very much 'on the up'. In an ideal world she could pick and choose her roles, so what kind of roles would she choose, given a completely free hand? "I'd love to work with John Woo. I'd play the Nic Cage character in 'Face/off'! If the world was my oyster and I could pick and choose I'd have Harvey Keitel's role in 'Bad Lieutenant' but played as a woman, or Pfeiffer's role as Catwoman! Or Gary Oldman's role in 'Léon'. I guess they're all similar roles really, dark and mad characters, good little feisty roles. On a more traditional note I'd like Vivien Leigh's role in 'Gone with the Wind', that would've been fantastic, or Marilyn Monroe in anything. I'd quite like to do comedy roles at some point as well as mad action movies."

Since she has already risen from the ranks of student films, pop videos and 'next door neighbour' roles to slinky sirens and vampire vixens, the world – some might say – is already Eileen's oyster. Since Redemption drew her darker, gothic image to the attention of the masses, and she moved away from what she calls 'kitchen sink cutie bimbo sexy girl' to 'larger than life dominatrix horror vampire woman', Eileen has grown into her career with a self-assurance, enthusiasm and quiet confidence which is as great an inspiration to any British actress (nay, any woman) as the kickboxing, gun-toting exploits of her vampish alter-ego Lilith Silver.

Now with a theatrical release arranged through Manga (better known for their Japanese Animé video and games empire) 'Razor Blade Smile' and Eileen Daly are heading into the big time. Although made for a budget of just under £1m, a recent infusion of extra cash to rework some of the special effects means an even tighter production, with all the power and action of a big budget movie. But at heart, the film is still very much a part of the British film industry, with all its cultish passion and emphasis on content over effect. It is obvious from even the brief snippets so far released that everyone on the production team put heart and soul into this picture. Innovative use of locations, costumes to die for (courtesy of Murray and Vern the fetishwear specialists), and a thumping soundtrack featuring an original score by Richard Wells plus tracks from bands such as Bauhaus, Fields of the Nefilim and Curve (and even a bit of Mozart's 'Requiem' and some Italian opera for all you sophisticates!), all combine to make this visually and aurally a treat to the senses. When the trailer for the film was shown at Vampyria in August 1997 in London, England, the crowds went wild: here was a film they could really sink their teeth into!

But what does Eileen think of the vampire in general? After all, she has made a name for herself playing very dark and gothic characters – from the ivory-eyed Redemption figurehead to the futuristic split-personality Mikki in the forthcoming 'Archangel Thunderbird' – and is highly respected in the vampire world. She admits to a fascination with all things fantastic and thinks it is a global phenomenon that people are becoming obsessed once again with the supernatural. "Coming up to the millennium, people are more open to fairies, ghosts, vampires, and it's all to do with change. People love getting frightened, by sci-fi or space, aliens from other worlds, or demons and monsters. They want to look beyond their 9 to 5 life; they want to fantasise and escape and to do it in a frightening but sexy, titivating way. Now is a time for change, and vampires, aliens and all that mean change. People want to know what's beyond this world. We are all entranced by vampires, the same way as so many people are these days by aliens and the whole abduction thing. They are similar ideas really, because there's no definite proof of either of them existing, yet plenty of people do believe in it. And the scene with vampires is getting bigger and bigger, it's growing in a big way. Even fashion is picking up on the gothic thing, the past..."

And talking of the past and the future, what's next for Eileen after 'Razor Blade Smile'? "Well, I've done 'Archangel Thunderbird' which is a 12 part series for the Sci-Fi Channel with Doug Bradley who played Pinhead in the 'Hellraiser' films. There are also rumours about 'Razor Blade 2' which hopefully I'll be able to do, unless Jake gets a really big budget this time and gets told to use Julia Roberts or somebody big like that! I know who I'd choose! I was in Cannes for the film festival and a lot of money talk was taking place about the Redemption movie, where I'll play the Redemption character. She's totally different to Lilith, even darker. I'm also busy with my column in 'Men Only' magazine and other writing projects. I was going to write my own book, a 'Black Lace' type sexy erotic dark novel, but as yet I've been far too busy. Maybe I'll get down to it next year. I've got loads of projects at the moment and I'm enthusiastic about all of them."

Eileen Daly is also a part of Vampyria II to be held in London in September 1998. Already to be seen with fellow vampiric beauties Teresa May and Emily Bouffanté gracing the promotional leaflets and advertising for this monumental event, Eileen has a very special role to play on stage on the day. After representing Jake West, 'Razor Blade Smile' and Redemption at Vampyria I (despite having to appear in a tight rubber dress after her Redemption wings were damaged in a flood – shame!), how has her role changed for the second part of Dark Angel Productions' trilogy? "I'm one of Louis (Ravensfield)'s Princesses of Darkness. As his Princesses I guess we'll do whatever he wants us to do on the day! We'll be the three lovelies who sing and howl as Louis makes his grand entrance as King of the Vampires!" They will also be helping present the Vampire 'Oscar' awards, adding a touch of glamour to this innovative presentation ceremony.

Actress, model, writer, vampire extraordinaire – is there anything left that Eileen wants to add to her CV? "Yes, I'm forming a band with Emily [Bouffanté] and Nikki from Agent Provocateur called Mynx. We'll be working with an underground dance producer called Depth Charge who worked with The Chemical Brothers. It should be an underground metal sound; hopefully next year we should record a couple of tracks so if any producers are out there, we're all ears..."

With rumours afoot of a sequel already to 'Razor Blade Smile', we spoke to Jake West to see if he had any further news on this for Bloodstone readers: "Well I've got an idea for a sequel, but let's see what people think of this one first! Let's just say that there's a lot of life in Lilith Silver yet!" The film has already, inevitably, run into conflict with the UK censors at the BBFC (the certification board for all films in England) and some scenes will probably be cut for the theatrical release, which disappoints but does not surprise Jake. "It was bound to happen," he says resignedly. "The film is very very on the edge – they were never going to let it through uncut!" But there's always the option of releasing or showing a 'Director's Cut' edition at some point...

'Razor Blade Smile' is being specially screened in London, UK, at the Fantasm Festival at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank on July 26th 1998 but you'll have to wait until Hallowe'en for its official theatrical release in the UK and February 1999 if you're in the USA. As far as a Europe wide release goes, negotiations are still taking place so keep an eye on your local cinemas. If all the pre-publicity and the trailer shown at Vampyria are anything to go by, this will finally put the British film industry back into the market of good horror films with a strong cast, plenty of action and an intelligent story, and will definitely be worth going to see. 'If you like vampires, fetish gear, outrageous set pieces, sex, shoot outs and blood sucking – here's a film that doesn't hold back' says the press release for the film, and these ingredients sound like just the ticket for an autumn explosion of vampiric excellence. I for one can't wait to see it.

see also on this site: Razor Blade Smile

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