Lemora (1975)

Alvin Lee catches his wife in bed with a lover, breaks in and shoots both of them dead. Later, injured and near death, he begs for his daughter to see him one more time before he dies.

His daughter, 13-year-old Lila Lee (Cheryl Smith, Phantom of the ParadiseThe Incredible Melting ManLaserblast and short time member of The Runaways and drummer for Joan Jett) is the star of the church, where her voice and beauty draw attention — thanks to the peculiar beauty people from her hometown have, which is known as the “Astaroth Look” (inspired by the “Innsmouth look” from H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth).

The Reverend (director Richard Blackburn, who co-wrote and appears in Eating Raoul, as well as appearing as the voice of Dr. Zaius in the Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon and Stunt Rock) demands that his congregation stop talking about how her father is a gangster. She now belongs to the church and they know how to look after her. Interestingly, that church is on a soundstage that was once Mayberry for TV’s Andy Griffith Show.

That said — the letter leads her to find the town of Astaroth, despite dealing with a young couple who discuss how the Reverend obviously wants to have sex with her, a ticket taker offering her strange candy and a broken down bus ride that ends with a vampire attack.

Lemora is saved by Lila, the queen of the vampires, who is the one who wrote to her. She takes her to her ancient stone house and gives her a new dress. Sitting with he children, Lemora serves her wine — nah, its blood — and asks Lila to sing for the children. Lemora spins her in a dance, asking her to give her body to the music, before throwing her to the floor as a crash echoes through the house. Lemora then bathes her while asking her about her body and all of the boys that have to be after her.

Lila goes to her room and her father, now a vampire, attacks her. Lemora explains that over the last year that many of the people have become ugly and beast-like, therefore they need to be killed. Lemora sucks the vampire blood out of the wound Lila has, then reads her a bedtime story and brushes her hair.

Tomorrow, there will be a blood ceremony, which will make Lila and Lemora sisters, letting them share in power. “Will it be in a church? Baptist?” asks Lila. “No, more ancient,” answers Lemora.

As Lila explores the house, she finds the diary of a girl who was in her shoes in the past. Turns out that Lemora is the queen of the vampires, feeding on her adopted children. So Lila escapes through the town, just as the Reverend comes to save her.

The Reverend comes to save her, but not before a battle where most of the vampires are killed. As Lila’s father has become one of the monsters, she must kill him. Lila mourns, which leads to Lemora offering her a vampire’s kiss.

When the Reverend finally arrives, Lila reaches out to him, wanting to embrace and kiss him, something that he had resisted in the past. Now, she overcomes him and as they embrace, she bites into his neck as Lemora watches. We cut to Lila singing in church as the movie ends.

I’d compare this film — subtitled “A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural” with Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. It’s richly dark, both in lighting and subject matter. It feels more like a dream or a children’s fable than a movie and is worth multiple viewings. It’s such a shame that this movie has been lost and forgotten for so long!

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