It seems like sexually experienced adults have been obsessed with virgins since the beginning of time. Is it just the idea that sex is more pleasurable or painful when it's new, making someone look more important in the eyes of the virgin, or is the wouldbe deflowerer motivated also by a quest for their own lost innocence? Thirteen year old Lila finds herself pursued by both mortal men and the undead in 1973's Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural
. Despite its name, this isn't a kid's movie but a delightful, wicked adult fantasy managing a consistently effective style despite its low budget.
Lila, played convincingly enough by twenty year old Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith, is the sweet, pretty daughter of a gangster who's being brought up by a reverend (Richard Blackburn, also the director) who dresses like a nineteenth century southern plantation owner.
One evening she sneaks out after receiving a letter from her father asking to see her--her plan is to meet her father so she can forgive him, so absolutely pure hearted she is. She stows away in the back of a neighbour's car to get to the next town and overhears one of them talking about how much he'd like to fuck her and speculating how much the reverend wants to fuck her. This is confirmed by Lila's flashbacks where we see the reverend acting twitchy at Lila's physical proximity.
After leaving the neighbours and dealing with a bus station attendant who gives her chocolates because he also
wants to fuck her, she gets a ride on a little bus with no other passengers. It's the only bus going to her destination, the town of Astaroth, a name which ought to be a warning flag to the church going Lila but she doesn't seem to pay it any mind. The bus driver talks to her about the town in an apparent reference to Shadow Over Innsmouth
, talking about how the people of Astaroth have the infamous "Astaroth look". When the bus is attacked by rotting corpses we see it's not by any means a subtle look.
Eventually Lila finds herself in the home of a group of vampires led by Lemora (Lesley Gilb) who, of course, also wants Lila's body. Lemora seems obsessed particularly with turning children and she has a whole gang of blood drinking youngsters.
The story's eschewing of thematic subtlety is matched by the brashness of its visual style, not only in the extremes of innocent, pale little Lila contrasted with zombies and sunken eyed vampires, but in the constant use of unmistakably artificial lighting, giving the film a cracked fairy tale feel. It doesn't take place in anything resembling our world and achieves an odd subtlety for its lack of subtlety, like a weird dream.