Oct 061995
two reels

Tara Wexford (Jenna Bodnar) returns to her family estate in Wales for the funeral of her father.  While her childhood friend (Blair Valk) tries to get her to sell the estate and engage in sexual adventures with another old friend, others in the town warn her to leave.  When she finds a tired and lost nude girl in the wine cellar, she is infected by a “were-cat spirit,” and learns that the village is cursed, and that the townspeople will murder anyone they think could be the beast.

I keep hoping.

In theory, in theory I repeat, a sexy “horror” movie should be easy.  Vampires are the obvious monster to use, but there are possibilities with were-creatures.  Huntress: Spirit of the Night is an attempt to create an erotic, were-cat flick, and for a while I thought that someone had finally succeeded.  Oh well, maybe next time.

For an exploitation film, Huntress has an excellent look.  You are unlikely to find any similarly marketed movie with anything close to this level of cinematography.   Director Mark S. Manos has an eye for what looks good on film.  Lead actress Jenna Bodnar, who is beautiful and can act (a rarity in this particular sub-sub-genre) also makes this look and sound much better than normal.  She is the main reason to see this picture and deserves better material.  Her nude and sex scenes (they don’t always go together) were sexy and well done, if a bit overlong.  They are too coy, but this was cut down from an NC-17 to an R, which seems to have been a mistake.  The “Welsh” backdrop also worked for the picture, creating a mood where the mythology was almost believable (it would have worked even better with a few less Eastern European accents).  The elements of the traditional lycanthrope story, with the ancient curse, the townspeople hunting for the beast, and Tara becoming more animalistic and frightened, took me into the picture.  And there I was, ready to claim I’d finally found a soft-core monster flick that did it right.  Even when a scene of Tara posing for her photographer boyfriend began to look like a Playboy video, I was still optimistic.

Of course, things fall apart.  An unnecessary subplot about hidden treasure in the estate hijacks the story, leaving little development in the “how do I live with being a were-cat” department.  If your story is about people turning into supernatural entities, having sex, and sometimes killing, finding valuable objects doesn’t come off as very important.  All of the sexual escapades vanish from the film (along with any nudity) as the concern becomes who will gain possession of the valuable estate.  SHE’S A WERE-CAT!  WHO CARES ABOUT THE ESTATE?!

Tara’s relationship with the photographer is underdeveloped and feels tacked on.  Perhaps, if time hadn’t been wasted on the treasure hunt, something more could have been done there, though I doubt it as he wasn’t an interesting character.

To hurry the plot along, everyone’s actions become absurd in the last third.  The boyfriend drives to a fancy party without having put gas in his car.  Tara doesn’t call the police when she discovers a murder.  The bad guys discuss their plans loudly in a public spot, and carry out several acts which would certainly get them arrested as everything they do is easy to trace.

And then the movie ends.  Did they run out of film?  More likely they ran out of money.  Whatever the case, there is no climax and nothing is wrapped up.  The movie just stops.

Bodnar is an actress to watch, but even with the competent appearance of the film, that isn’t enough.  Catch it for free on late night cable and you’ll get your money’s worth.

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