You guys, our love of Lifetime made for TV movies is already well documented. So when we heard that James Franco was helming a remake of this seminal 1996 film we were IN. Then when we heard it was going to have a lesbian vampire twist, we were EVEN MORE IN. And then… we actually saw this movie.
Things kick off with a short sequence featuring this emo goth gal who, spoiler, is a “nightwalker” (this movie’s version of vampires like the word “vampire” is trademarked or something?). Nightwalkers clearly have crimped hair, wardrobe inspired by the 1996 movie The Craft, and are basically non-stop in seduction mode.
Blondie here is dating non-vampire Pearl, who’s a photographer:
We quickly establish their sexy relationship as Pearl takes a bunch of photos of Blondie, establishing I guess that nightwalkers, unlike vampires, can be photographed. And then surprise! Blondie vamps out, revealing that she’s a nightwalker in the worst way ever. Haven’t we all seen True Blood by now? Don’t we know you have to ease your lovers into this info?
Pearl flips out and runs away, but she’s already been fed on by her GF which means now she’s going to be a nightwalker too. Which means, following her sort-of murder of Blondie, means she’s also now the alpha of this trio of mean girl vamps. Their outfits are never not like this, with the corsets and the pleather and the lace and the very prominent cleave.
And then for no real reason: time jump!
Meet Leah! It’s immediately obvious by her California tan and Emily Fields wardrobe that she is not a nightwalker, but rather a sweet university gal who terrible things are about to happen to.
In a complete and total coincidence to (spoiler) her current life circumstance, she’s enrolled in a class called Vampires and Sexuality, led by Professor Ivan Sergei From The Original Film. As in every school-based film since the dawn of time, all of his lectures are eerily relevant to what Leah’s going through. Love that he’s got the course name up on the board like, helping these dumb dumbs remember what class they’re in.
Extracurricularly, Leah’s auditioning for the school’s production of Macbeth. But not for the role of Lady Macbeth: girlfriend’s going straight to the top, trying out for the title character. You may notice that the three vampire mean girls are here auditioning too. Dude below with the backwards ball cap is Bob, who’s not-so-secretly into Leah and isn’t a vampire, just an entitled dude.
Leah hits center stage for her monologue, first saying to this vamp, “Just like we practiced, OK?” which seems to mean Leah recited Shakespearean text while the vamp rubs up all over her. This is notable because: how does Leah know this gal? They aren’t friends later in the movie. Is it allowed to audition with someone else basically pleasuring you? Isn’t this not so much presenting herself for the role as presenting a concept for the whole production?
The university’s drama professor, played by James Franco, is like, “I’m into it.” Important note: although this is advertised all over the place as “from the twisted mind of James Franco,” he neither wrote nor directed this. He came up with the story idea, which I presume was him one night at a bar being like, “What if there were lesbian vampires in this?” and then a team of other people actually got shit done.
Post-audition, Leah heads to her mother’s house where her mother, Tori Spelling, is like, “I miss you! Why do you only come home for laundry day, even though for the rest of the movie you seem to be living here? Whatever, I’m Tori Spelling, and I’m in this movie, so all is right with the world.” Tori = love, as far as I’m concerned.
Tori’s got two main expository things to discuss and they are 1) something terrible happened to Leah’s father in the past (which is mentioned twice but doesn’t actually matter so why was this included??) and 2) Tori is super-into Halloween and will be hosting a Halloween Bash in the near future.
But after laundry day, where does Leah go? Oh, just for an informal sexy photo shoot with her gal pal.
Wait… photo shoot? Gal pal? Could she possibly be involved with Peal, the photographer from the opening scene? Who, five years ago, became the alpha of the gang of goth nightwalkers? Hell yes, and Pearl is now fully leaning into the sartorial choices of her girl gang vis-a-vis braids, goth makeup, and lots of leather.
And of course, they’re more than gal pals: Pearl and Leah are LOVERS. Or at least, kissing friends. Pearl walks Leah back to campus (or just back to her dorm, because the photo studio is on campus? Not sure) and their passionate farewell is seen by Horrible Bob and these two day players. Bob is like, “Hmm. I bet I still have a shot with Leah, though.”
Meanwhile Pearl is confronted by her girl gang, who for reasons I don’t understand, really really want her to bite Leah. There’s a whole thing where if a nightwalker falls in love, they can bite their lover and then just feed off each other forever so you don’t have to murder other people. And isn’t Pearl the leader of the squad? Why are they the bosses of her?
These three are always hella ferosh though, stomping around and having the time of their lives acting like – again, nothing moreso than the characters in The Craft. Oh, and Bob sees Pearl with the girl gang and is like, “Hmmmmm.”
Leah decides to make things Mom-official by bringing Pearl home with her for dinner. Now, similarly to how Pearl’s ex broke the news about being a nightwalker while in full vampface, Leah’s decision to come out to her mother is possibly not handled in the best way. Tori Spelling, in this movie, is super conservative and doesn’t know that her daughter is a lesbian, let alone that she has a GF. But maybe Leah’s hoping that putting the very cute face of Pearl on her coming out will help smooth things over?
Spoiler: it does not. The dinner party goes about as well as that time Emily brought Maya home the first time on PLL, with Tori in the Pam Fields role and Pearl in the shit-disturbing Maya role. Tori is just like, “What about that nice boy, Bob, who is both nice and heterosexual? Why don’t you bring him for dinner?”
When Tori’s out of the room, Leah and Pearl get all handsy (this is pre-coming out), which Tori witnesses, though she perseveres to believe that Pearl is just a pal.
Of course, Leah finally gently lets her mother know that she and Pearl and in love, and Tori reacts by basically shutting down emotionally and leaving the room. #ToriSoSad
But good news! Leah was cast as Macbeth, opposite the nightwalker trio as the three witches. Good casting there, Theatrical Director James Franco.
His directorial style seems to be just letting the actors do whatever the hell they want, which means that the three nightwalkers do a three-on-one recreation of Leah’s audition winding up with this finger-in-mouth situation. Franco is literally like, “Wow. I didn’t direct them to do that. But I’ll allow it.” But like: why are these vamps constantly stage-seducing Leah? Don’t they want Pearl to bite her? Or are they all just really desperate to have her in their girl gang? Why don’t any of them ever talk to her? What does Leah think about this “improv”? How were they cast in the play – do they even go to this school?
World’s Worst Bob is unfortunately also in the play. Post-rehearsals, Leah yet again turns him down and he’s like, “Oh, are you dating that girl I saw you kissing last night?” And she’s like, “Stay away from me forever” and he grabs her arm: RED FLAG, and she takes off.
Vindictively, Bob immediately calls Tori to be like, “I’m worried about your daughter. She’s hanging out with a bad crowd.” Tori, who’s fully on #TeamBob, is like, I KNEW IT.
So then Ivan Sergei gives another eerily on-the-nose Vampires and Sexuality lecture, his words overlaid over images of Pearl and the ladies heading to a frat party to bite some dudes.
To their credit, it seems like the nightwalker girl gang is entirely focused on righteous vengeance against dudes taking advantage of girls at parties. Is this Pearl’s influence, or just their general modus operandi? Unclear.
This movie does not shy away from the gruesome aspects of nightwalker life, which took me by surprise because I was in Lifetime movie mode, not “From The Twisted Mind of James Franco” mode. It’s imrportant, moving forward, to remember that we’re int he latter, not the former.f
When she’s not killing terrible dudes on campus, Pearl is still romancing Leah. Tori has, by this point, forbidden Leah from seeing Pearl but of course Leah doesn’t listen. She throws on a girlie dress and head out to meet Pearl for a sexy nighttime date. Note: these nightwalkers seem OK with daylight, though, right? There’s no Twilight-sparkliness or True Blood-extreme-sunburn. I guess Pearl just likes nighttime better than daylight.
The date is a totally normal night picnic in the middle of an abandoned part of the woods. Leah’s not suspicious, but TORI TOTALLY IS, darting along from tree to tree and keeping an eye on things. I love you Tori, but you are out of your league here.
Pearl uses this picnic date as the opportunity to come out as a nightwalker to Leah IN AN APPROPRIATE MANNER. Leah panics and runs off, leaving the girl gang to threaten Pearl for her continued inability to bite Leah. They’re like, “If you don’t do it, then we will!!” And I still don’t know why the focus on Leah? Do they just like her for her acting abilities?
Back in Vampires & Sexuality class, Leah finally starts to notice that with Professor Ivan Sergei has been saying is oddly relevant to her current situation. They’re now talking about Goblin Market, rather than Dracula and Twilight, which I feel is something that Executive Producer James Franco put in the script because you know he’s all about obscure literary references.
Also it bears noting that, twenty years after the original MMISWM, Ivan Sergei is aging very well. How is he not appearing as the Dad in a teen show on Freeform or The CW yet?
Following this lecture about elements of virginity and sisterhood in Goblin Market, Leah agrees to see Pearl again. Now that the nightwalker cat is out of the bag, Pearl is able to invite her for a cemetery booty call without sounding weird.
Leah decides that she’s OK with the whole nightwalker scenario, and one things leads to another which leads to full-on Cinemax style cemetery lovemaking. Again, for Lifetime? This sequence is shockingly erotic. But “From The Twisted Mind of James Franco” it’s like: aaah, OK. Still, rare to see full shirtlessness (no nips) on Lifetime.
Leah is not 100% fully on board her relaysh with Pearl. She and Tori also seem to be on OK terms as Leah heads over to Casa Spelling to get ready for the Halloween Bash (did you forget that plot point, because I did!). Both ladies dress in full white, could the filmmakers possibly be making some statement about these two as pure victims hmmmmm….
The costumes, I should mention, are completely bonkers. Leah is a long-haired flapper with feather mask:
While Tori is the feather queen of a 1920s Victoria’s Secet brothel:
Ugh, and of course Bob is at the party, and of course he’s dressed in traditional Dracula attire. He is the literal worst.
Hahahahahaha and girl gang is there too, I presume, in these super subtle papier-mache masks with no eye holes (right?). I know it’s them by their by-now instantly recognizable midriffs and cleave regions.
So Bob ROOFIES LEAH BECAUSE HE IS THE TRUE VILLAIN OF THIS MOVIE and is about to assault her out on the lawn when they’re interrupted by both Tori and the girl gang. Tori rushes Leah home, while Bob… vanishes.
The morning after, Leah is like, “Pretty sure Bob roofied me, Mom,” and Tori is like, “That sweet boy Bob is missing!” And Leah is like, “It’s opening night of sexy lesbian Macbeth! Mom, I have to go.”
Bob shows up five minutes to curtain, more intense than usual, and World’s Most Laissez-Faire Theatrical Director James Franco is like, “Great! We didn’t have a back-up plan for your role. Places, everyone!”
Leah looks amazing in her Macbeth costumes, which are basically a slightly fancier version of her usual day looks. She seems to be doing a fine job in the performance, despite having attended like three rehearsals and having dealt with A LOT over the past 48 hours.
But then, in the scene where her character is meant to kill Bob’s character, Bob goes off-script and tries to murder her in front of everyone. James Franco, playing the DIRECTOR OF THIS SHOW, in the audience is like, “Hmmm, I’ll allow it.” So Leah, in her act three fishnets and boots, escapes by running off through the audience and outside.
Shit goes down in this cemetery, apparently next door to the university theater. It all gets MEGA GRUESOME so you can watch the movie if you want but I didn’t want to inflict the screencaps on you. Basically, Tori tries to save Leah from newly Nightwalker Bob’s attack, and Tori gets KILLED, and then Pearl launches in to help by poking out one of the girl squad’s eyes, and Leah is horribly wounded and the only way to save her is for Pearl to bite her.
So the end result of all of this is Tori is dead, Leah’s a nightwalker, Bob is still on the loose, and one of the girl squad is now sans eyeballs. Pearl and Leah will now be together forever, I guess, but several traumatized.
The girl squad is still around being mean, now with Bob as their leader I guess. And poor Tori never knew what hit her.
But wait!! That’s not the end of the movie! Phew, because that isht got really dark. Let’s see what happens one year later:
OK, so we’ve got Bob and the girl squad, back on the prowl at campus parties. Assuming the girl squad has got Date Rapid Bob to change his ways and help them avenge wronged women?
No? Or maybe now Pearl and Leah, having trained for a year in krav maga, will show up and kill this group all dead? No? Bob is going to parties, with the girl squad (including this newly-eyeless member) helping him assault young women?
Wait, what? WHAT? Not even a final Ivan Sergei voiceover quoting from literature to explain how sometimes there’s no happy ending, or how sometimes the monsters win, while showing Leah and Pearl moving on with their lives and being happy together? Or even Leah and Pearl at poor Tori’s funeral, consoling each other and preparing to move ahead with life? BOB WINS? The moral of this story is that the date rapist Bob is perhaps still out there somewhere with his squad, murdering and assaulting co-eds?
All I can think of is that this is like the end of a Marvel movie, teasing a future sequel where Pearl and Leah return to bring down Bob for good. I don’t know, you guys. I think that I can safely stay away from The Twisted Mind of James Franco for the time being.