Holy crap, I am getting desperate. It's been really hard for me in terms of picking what Franco film to review next. I don't want to delve into all the pornos and I'm tired of all the psychodramas that are actually just pornos with lots of angst. So I settled on this little gem(?) from the 1990s, an era of Jess Franco that I am totally unfamiliar with. Are you ready? I'm not. 1 2 3 4!!!!
AKA Vampire Killer Barbys
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Santiago Segura, Mariangela Giordano, Aldo Sambrell, Charlie S. Chaplin, Silvia Superstar, Carlos Subterfuge, Angie Barea, Billy King
While out on tour, a band called The Killer Barbys run into some trouble when their van breaks down out in the middle of nowhere. They get help from a man named Arkan (played by Aldo Sambrell), who brings them to the castle of the 100 year old Countess Freguenmans (Mariangela Giordano) AKA actress and singer, Olga Lujan. What The Killer Barbys don’t know is how utterly screwed they are because the Countess is actually a vampiric creature that needs their young blood to stay alive.
There is also a crazy legend of a satanic monk who tormented and killed a lot of little girls. He fell in love with a woman and tortured her to the brink of death. Then with a potion made of his blood and semen(?), saved her at the last minute. To this day, his image sometimes appears and disappears on the side of the castle. Sure! Why not? And I simply cannot talk about this movie without mentioning Baltasar the idiot (played by Santiago Segura) and his two dwarf minions (his “children”?) that help Arkan carry out his plan by slaughtering the band members. Could he be the satanic monk himself?
Much to my surprise, I love this film’s atmosphere right out of the gate. Great lighting and smoke machines combined with extravagant sets make this an attractive film to look at. The copy of Killer Barbys I have is pretty dark so some of the outdoor nighttime scenes were kind of lost on me but other than that, the film looks great! The sequence of the band playing in an old concert hall reminded me of Franco’s heyday filming jazz bands and nightclub scenes except with more moshing.
Much like his 80s splatter efforts like Faceless and Bloody Moon, I think Franco decided to just give the people what they wanted and we all have to suffer for that attitude; partly because “the people” are idiots and also because Franco didn’t have a clue what in the hell they actually wanted. Maybe this is Franco trying to relate to 90s audiences and the rest is a happy(?) accident. Take for example, the ubiquitous bad sex scene. The idiotic couple who stays in the van, going at it for hours (presumably) while the same Killer Barbys song plays over and over, is one of the dumbest and least inspired things I’ve seen in his filmography.
One of the things about this movie that impresses me is all the bizarre shit that happens. The script, partly in Spanish and partly in English, is terrible and is peppered with some seriously bad jokes. How much of it is meant to be taken seriously? Who the hell knows? The band drives around in their van, rocking out to their own music. That’s pretty hilarious. In one scene, an unseen someone is singing out in the swamp. It sounds vaguely like Rick Springfield. When one girl gets beheaded, her severed head calls Baltasar a son of a bitch. I think that was meant to be funny. After killing one of her victims, the Countess rolls around on his naked body, gibbering like a dang loon. I don't think that was meant to be funny. But it is.
Italian horror fans will no doubt recognize Mariangela Giordano from Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, Giallo a Venezia, and several other sleazy classics. Spanish character actor/director Santiago Segura has since gone on to do a series of comedy crime films playing Torrente, a private detective that excels in bad behavior and getting into ridiculous situations. He was also in Alex de la Iglesia’s The Day of the Beast. Veteran actor Aldo Sambrell was in more spaghetti westerns than I care to delve into at this moment. Duder was prolific. As for the rest of the cast... the less said, the better.
Damn it, I like Killer Barbys! It is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination but I found it kind of fun. The acting from all of the band members is awful while the rest of cast (who are actual actors) do a decent job with the material. Some of the gore is pretty cool (the rotting yet living corpse of the Countess) and some of it really, really low budget (the bodies hanging up around the castle). Surreal, trashy, and astoundingly stupid, this is one of Franco’s craziest films that I’ve seen; yet I’m not sure if I can exactly recommend it. Franco fans may get a kick out of Killer Barbys but the uninitiated will want to pass on this one. Where the hell did that steamroller come from anyway?
“I think the axel is broken.”
“What the fuck do you know!?!”