We all know that making the transition from child star to serious adult actress is never an easy thing. At times, some actresses end up in some fairly explicit roles while trying to make it clear that they’re all grown up now. Take Who’s the Boss co-star Alyssa Milano who, just a few years after the end of her series, hit the screen in this erotically charged vampire story – 1995’s Embrace of the Vampire.
The story begins way back in time with an unnamed man out for a frolic in the woods with his love. Problem is, when she gallops off on her horse, the guy is jumped by three naked chicks who end up turning him into a vampire. These things happen, I guess. Fast forward now to the mid 90’s where our vampire (Martin Kemp) is about to be reunited with his lover. For you see, he has discovered that her spirit is alive and well in the form of a lovely college freshman named Charlotte (Milano). In three days she will be his, at least that’s what he keeps saying.
Now Charlotte is the good girl on campus. She has a boyfriend, Chris (Harrison Pruett), but because of having been brought up by nuns she hasn’t exactly jumped into the sack with the guy yet. However, her nighttime activities have involved some bizarre dreams where she sees this strange vampire character. The dreams are happening every night and becoming progressively steamier. Things are somewhat steamy for Charlotte when she’s awake, too, fending off unwanted advances by male classmates and a lesbian photography enthusiast (Charlotte Lewis). After one particularly hot dream about the vampire, the previously innocent Charlotte becomes quite the campus vamp and finds herself giving in as the vampire lures her to his lair. It’s up to Chris to save her, if he can get past the vampire’s attempt to stop him.
Although the word “vampire” appears in the title, this is really not a horror film. It’s an erotic thriller that happens to involve a vampire. Thing is the Teletubbies are scarier than this bloodsucker. He’s not even interesting enough to give him a name! For the majority of the film he’s just creeping around in Charlotte’s dreams, breathing heavy and kissing her neck. Is it too much to ask that he be out and about terrorizing the young co-eds on this college campus? Still, I don’t think that would’ve helped. One moment where a student is attacked is off the charts on the unintentionally funny meter. It involves Kemp’s vampire bashing a girl’s head against a door and then licking the blood off it.
Despite having a vampire with no bite, we do get a nice performance from Milano. Now, full disclosure here: I used to watch Who’s the Boss all the time in my teenage years. Just in case you’re thinking I must be a huge Tony Danza fan, let me set you straight. I watched the show for one reason and one reason only: the lovely Miss Milano. Teenage crushes aside, though, she’s a talented actress. For this type of film she’s got the right mix of sweet and sexy to work as a virginal college student being harassed by a vampire. She handles her role well, both as the timid version of Charlotte we meet initially and as the sultry vamp she becomes later on. The film does go a bit overboard with taking advantage of her willingness to shed her clothing in this film, and many people, no doubt, have sought out this film for that reason.
Milano’s performance is about the only thing worthy of high marks in this film, however. There are gaping holes in the proceedings…chief among them: what exactly makes the vampire believe that Charlotte is his former love. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between her and the vampire. Milano doesn’t even play his love in the opening scenes. It’s a different actress entirely! Jennifer Tilly shows up suddenly at one point to try and keep Chris from saving Charlotte. It’s never really explained who she is or what her relationship with Count No-Name is. The film also has little in the way of visual style, with almost no effort on the director’s part to build any sort of atmosphere – an important element for horror films, in my opinion. I also noticed that director Anne Goursaud seems to have a strange obsession with scenes involving stairways. There are shots of Milano walking up the stairs, scenes of her walking down stairs, then up the stairs again, she’s found lying unconscious on some stairs at one point, and Jennifer Tilly even tries to seduce Chris on a stairway.
Embrace the Vampire will likely always be a bit of a curiosity for many movie viewers since it features the sexy side of a former child star. To her credit, Milano turns in a strong performance despite having to deal with a dopey vampire and a mediocre plot.