Picks and Pans Review: The Lair of the White Worm

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Here's a hoot of a horror film. Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula, wrote the book a year before he died of a debilitating illness, Bright's disease, in 1912. Stoker's shaky hold on the story, about a lady vampire searching for sacrificial virgins to feed to a giant worm, revealed the toll the disease was taking on his mind. Who better than writer-director Ken (Altered States, Gothic) Russell, one of the sickest puppies on the film scene, to update the tale? Catherine Oxenberg of TV's Dynasty and Sammi (Hope and Glory) Davis play two sisters who have been running an English country inn during the year since their parents mysteriously vanished. Davis is sweet on Peter (Local Hero) Capaldi, a Scottish archaeologist who has just found an unidentifiable skull in the sisters' garden. Oxenberg burns for Hugh (Maurice) Grant, a handsome lord whose ancestor allegedly killed a monster that once roamed the land. Nowadays, Grant relishes throwing dinner dances where pickled earthworms are on the menu. These details set the scene for Lady Sylvia Marsh, played by gorgeous Amanda (Foreign Body) Donohoe with venomous wit. When she's not hissing at crucifixes, traipsing around her castle in black leather or seducing local boys before she puts the bite on them, Lady Sylvia shows a knack for the bon mot. Asked if she has children, she replies, "Only when there are no men around." She's not above a Citizen Kane joke either. Tossing some wood on the fire, she sighs, "Rosebud"—a fairly hip reference for a woman 1,000 or so years old. As Donohoe chases after Oxenberg, the town's closest thing to a virgin, Russell indulges his penchant for excess to the outer limits—or, in the case of a dream sequence involving a crucifixion and rape, well beyond. But for low-down, high-kink fun, this is the perfect fright-night flick. (R)

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