Set in the Prohibition era in the Southern States of America, the films plot focuses upon a devout Catholic 13-year-old girl Lila Lee. Lilia receives a letter asking her to visit her mobster father who apparently has been injured. Fearing that he will die Lila runs away from the Priest who has raised her, and, in whose church, she has become well known as a singer. But in recent months her attractive looks have started to gain attention as well as her angelic sounding singing voice.
Lila takes the bus to where her Father is staying which is the eerie town of Astaroth. Before she boards the bus, she buys a ticket at the bus station, and when she asks for a ticket to got to Astaroth, the ticket clerk teases the girl and tells her that the people in that town are just strange and that visitors rarely return from their trip there.
Lila takes no notice of his remarks and boards the bus to begin her journey, but notices that she is the only passenger headed there which makes her feel a little uncomfortable. As the bus reaches the woods on the outskirts of the town it is attacked by frenzied and bloodthirsty vampires.
The bus driver is killed and in a blind panic Lila attempt to drive the bus to escape the creatures, but in her panic she crashes the vehicle and is attacked, but is thankfully rescued by a woman whose name is Lemora who it seems materialises out of nowhere.
Lila is traumatised and feints but when she wakes up finds herself locked in a cottage outside a farmhouse, where she is tended to by an elderly woman named Solange who feeds her.
Lila is desperate to get away and to find her father, so she attacks Solange and escapes the cottage and runs to the farmhouse where she hides in a crawlspace. She hears her father’s voice in the farmhouse, but before she can find him, Lila is confronted by Lemora, who tells her that she is not able to see her father because of his illness and she will not be able to see him until it is established that she is immune from his “disease.” Lila discovers that she is not alone in the farmhouse as Lemora looks after many other children in her home, all of whom, like her, are pale and sickly looking in appearance.
It becomes evident that Lemora has taken a shine to Lila, often bathing her and attempting to soothe her. While left alone for a moment, Lila is violently attacked by her father, who appears to be severely disfigured. He chases Lila through the house, but she manages to get to Solange in the kitchen, Lila’s father then attacks and kills the elderly woman before Lemora appears with a flaming torch which she uses to chase him away thrusting it into his face as if he is a wild animal.
Lemora comforts Lila and explains that some of the townspeople of Astaroth have become sick, and refers to an impending ceremony in which Lila will participate. After reading a diary of a child in Lemora’s home, Lila soon realizes that Lemora is a vampire who feeds upon children and is holding her father captive.
She is also the unofficial queen of the Astaroth vampiric cult and plans to turn Lila into one of the undead. Whilst trying to escape, Lila embarks on a night-time journey through the town of Astaroth, witnessing that there are two types of vampires: one group being like Lemora, relatively human in behaviour and appearance, while there are others who are mutated or disfigured and far more savage in behaviour and monstrous in form; the girl soon becomes aware that the two groups are at war with each other. Meanwhile, the Priest who has been looking for Lila, manages to retrace her steps and is getting close to where she is. After a battle in the town which leaves most of the vampires dead, Lila is forced to kill her own father, who has become one of the disfigured and feral vampires.
As she sheds tears over his body, Lemora approaches her and offers her comfort by her vampire’s kiss. When the Reverend arrives in the town and finds Lila he is unsure why she is so eager to kiss him. He resists at first, then he gives in. Seeing that he is not resisting any longer the girl sinks her fangs into his throat and drains his blood whilst being watched over by a smiling Lemora.
The scene then fades and opens again for the films final scene, where we see Lila singing before her church congregation the hymn Rock of Ages. What has she planned for them, well it’s not clear really and is the Priest still alive and now living as a vampire, where is Lemora, a lot of loose ends and ripe for a sequel, but sadly there was never one made. The film is an American production, but it has to it a definite European air, it does at times evoke the Italian horrors of the 1960’s and 70’s and even up to a point maybe the vampire movies made by French director Jean Rollin. The plot being rather thin and at times confusing, with the movie relying upon edgy camera work and even more upon its atmospheric sets. Even some of the posters for the movie had a distinct Italian art style to them.
The musical score is also effectively sinister and apprehensive and is the work of composer/performer Dan Neufeld, who only scored one movie in his career. Neufeld was better known as a whistler and a composer of popular music as well as being a lyricist and responsible for cover versions of standard jazz favourites. The music for Lemora, was serviceable, but at times it seemed that the score was a little out of sync with the action or scenarios emerging on screen.
The soundtrack was never issued on a recording, which in the 1970’s was not that unusual. The film was originally released in 1973, but after initial screenings it was cut ruthlessly as there were objections about its content from the Catholic Church. The movie was then re-released in 1974, but never really attained the box office success that many thought it deserved.