Lesbian vampirism is a trope in 20th-century exploitation film and literature that has its roots in Joseph Sheridan le Fanu's novella Carmilla (1872) about the love of a female vampire (the title character) for a young woman (the narrator):
Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, 'You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever'. (Carmilla, Chapter 4).
This was a way to hint at or titillate with the taboo idea of lesbianism in a fantasy context outside the heavily censored realm of social realism. Also, the conventions of the vampire genre—specifically, the mind control exhibited in many such films—allow for a kind of forced seduction of presumably heterosexual women or girls by lesbian vampires.
Dracula's Daughter (1936) gave the first hints of lesbian attraction in a vampire film, in the scene in which the title character, portrayed by Gloria Holden, preys upon an attractive girl she has invited to her house to pose for her. Universal highlighted Countess Zaleska's attraction to women in some of its original advertising for the film, using the tag line "Save the women of London from Dracula's Daughter!"
Le Fanu's Carmilla was adapted by Roger Vadim as Blood and Roses in 1960. Terror in the Crypt (1964) follows suit with a portrayal of subtle lesbian attraction between a Karnstein descendant (possessed by Carmilla) and her victim. More explicit lesbian content was provided in Hammer Studios production of the Karnstein Trilogy of films loosely adapted from Carmilla. The Vampire Lovers (1970) was the first, starring Ingrid Pitt and Madeline Smith. It was a relatively straightforward re-telling of LeFanu's novella, but with more overt violence and sexuality. Lust for a Vampire (1971) followed, with Yutte Stensgaard as the same character played by Pitt, returning to prey upon students at an all-girls school. This version had her falling in love with a male teacher at the school. Twins of Evil (1972) had the least "lesbian" content, with one female vampire biting a female victim on the breast. It starred real life twins and Playboy playmates Madeleine and Mary Collinson. Partially due to censorship restraints from the BBFC (Hearn and Barnes 1998), Hammer's trilogy actually had fewer lesbian elements as it proceeded.
Jesús Franco's 1971 horror film Vampyros Lesbos can be considered one of the most focused Exploitation films using the theme of a lesbian vampire. Vampyros Lesbos was referenced by Quentin Tarantino in his 1997 movie Jackie Brown.
A more specialized form of vampire lesbianism involves incestuous attraction, either implied or consummated. The 2007 lucha libre film Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy includes a scene involving identical-twin teenage vampire girls who express their attraction to each other as part of an attempt to lure Mil Mascaras into a three-way encounter that is actually a trap.
The genre was also spoofed in the "Lesbian Vampire Lovers of Lust" episode of Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible, a comedy television series. Recent British vampire film Razor Blade Smile (1998), which presents itself partly as a series of homages to and clichés from other vampire films, includes an erotic lesbian vampire scene, as well as similar heterosexual episodes. In 2001 film Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Jesus Christ fights vampires to protect lesbians from becoming a vampire. Another spoof of the genre, entitled Lesbian Vampire Killers, was released in 2009. Blood of the Tribades, released in 2016, is an updated variant on the trope and was described as, "a modern take on 70s Euro arthouse and Hammer lesbian vampire movies that...takes on today’s stormy political climate, religious zealotry and gender issues."
Erzsébet Báthory, the historical true-life prototype of the modern lesbian vampire, appears as a character in several films—although not always with the lesbian element—including Daughters of Darkness (1971) by Belgian director Harry Kumel, Hammer Films' Countess Dracula (1971), Immoral Tales (1973) directed by Walerian Borowczyk, The Bloody Countess (Ceremonia sangrienta) (1973) directed by Jorge Grau, and Eternal (2005).
Elfriede Jelinek's stage play Illness or Modern Women, a modern re-telling of Carmilla, has two lesbian vampires as its protagonists. Emily, a wife and nurse, becomes a vampire and transforms her friend, Carmilla, into a vampire as well. The two become lovers and drink the blood of children. Ultimately they are hunted down by their husbands and murdered.
- The Celluloid Closet
- LGBT themes in horror fiction
- LGBT themes in speculative fiction
- Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture
- The island of Lesbos (from which the word "Lesbian" comes) had local traditions about the nature of Greek vampires: they were thought to have long canine teeth much like wolves.
- Tracey Wigginton, an Australian murderer nicknamed "The Lesbian Vampire Killer"
- (Weiss 1993)
- Tudor, Andrew (1989). Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-16992-X. p. 31
- Breen, quoted in Worland, Rick (2007). The Horror Film: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-3902-1. p. 126
- Russo, Vito (1987). The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (revised edition). New York, HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-096132-5. p. 48
- Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (Official Trailer 720p)
- Lesbian Vampire Killers
- Pierce, Bill. "Blood of the Tribades'- Lesbian vampires fight and frolic in erotic horror". The Cinema Files.
- Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes (1998). The Hammer Story.
- Andrea Weiss (1993). Vampires & Violets: Lesbians in Film. Penguin.