Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I was a teenage vampire – review


Directed by: Jimmy Huston

Release Date: 1988

Contains spoilers

From the first notes of the introduction music you know you are stuck in the eighties (though there is a soundtrack treat later) and, being a teen comedy, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the film. However it has a slight charm.

The introduction is interesting as we follow through Jeremy Capello’s (Robert Sean Leonard) dream. He is sat within the coils of a tuba, even though he does not play. Nearby is Candy Andrews Robert Sean Leonard as Jeremy(LeeAnne Locken), who he knows is attracted to him, yet his eyes keep moving to Darla Blake (Cheryl Pollak) – an odd girl in his assessment. Darla passes him a note, follow me it says, so he does – into the girl’s locker room. No one seems to notice him except Darla, who asks him to shower with her and make love. They kiss and she turns into another woman (Cecilia Peck). Pulling away he is noticed, grabbed by the girls and a nun comes at him with shears. On waking he checks his privates.

Cheryl Pollak as DarlaIt was an intriguing way to start the film, though his friend Ralph (Evan Mirand) thinks him nuts for ignoring Candy for Darla – even if it was a dream. In class Jeremy finds that he can’t help but stare at Darla, and as a result she passes him a note calling him a creep.

Jeremy works for a supermarket and has to deliver some groceries. One is to an old mansion, which is decrepit outside. He goes in and sees a cat, which promptly scratches him and runs away. A woman enters, and apologises for Nora but Jeremy recognises her as the mysterious woman in his dreams. She sucks the blood from the scratch on his finger and asks him to come back that night.

Cecilia Peck as NoraJeremy is doubtful, not only was she the woman from his dream but she knew his name when he never offered it, but Ralph persuades him to go, waiting outside in the car. Jeremy gets in and the cat leads him upstairs. Suddenly the woman is there, in underwear. She says her name is Nora and one wonders if this means that, as a vampire – well she would have to be wouldn’t she – she can turn into a cat or if she is being evasive. We see evidence of wolf transformation later.

the huntersThey are quickly into bed but outside Ralph has slid into his seat as a van draws past. Two men, Professor Leopold McCarthy (David Warner) and Grimsdyke (Paul Wilson) get out and break into the mansion. McCarthy bursts into the bedroom – Nora having just bitten Jeremy, and shouts out about Hellspawn. Jeremy manages to get away. We hear, but don’t see, Nora scream and they blow up the mansion.

The next day Jeremy has no appetite and looks pale. He is going to skip school fangs getting in the waybut the newsreport of the fire at the mansion compels him to find Ralph. What we get then is Jeremy being followed by a man he thinks is a cop, until he introduces himself as Modoc (Rene Auberjonois) – a vampire councellor, as Jeremy has been infected. Of course Jeremy doesn’t believe at first and so much of the film is about his coming to terms with being a vampire. We have Jeremy and his developing romance with Darla, of which his vampirism is getting in the way. Finally we have McCarthy hunting the vampire but, in a case of mistaken identity, he thinks it is Ralph.

bottled pig's bloodThe vampires in this are actually really nice people, just trying to get along. McCarthy has worked out an infection rate using exponentials but most vampires drink pigs blood. Indeed there is an all night butcher that’s sells it bottled and in cans! Modoc tells Jeremy that there were a few rotten apples in the dark ages that have given them a tarnished reputation and that they are a minority (this is important).

stake through the heart routineThey have no reflection, Jeremy in denial – trying to shave – complains that the mirror is broken. They have telepathic control. They can turn into wolves. Sunlight is a minor irritant to living vampires (dead vampires cannot go out in it), making a distinction to those infected and those who have died whilst infected (we see Nora later so can assume she becomes one of those). They are violently allergic to garlic, Jeremy tries to eat pizza and involuntarily growls at it on his first date with Darla.

a handy guideMost of their powers are described in a handy vampire instruction manual that, of course, Jeremy fails to read. The cross should be an issue and yet Jeremy walks without problem into a church. The slayers have a variety of implements; including a stake crossbow - though why they don't use simple bolts escaped me. We are also told that living vampires age just one year for every ten that passes.

I mentioned the soundtrack and part way through we are treated to Timbuk3’s one hit wonder “The future’s so bright, I’ve got to wear shades”, played as Jeremy comes to terms with his condition. Well it made me smile.

Evan Mirand as RalphSpeaking of which, the film is a comedy and the humour doesn’t exactly miss the point but isn’t laugh out loud funny. However, one bit that did make me chuckle was a shame. Jeremy’s parents realise something is going on and decide that he is coming to terms with being gay. In actual fact this is exactly what the film is about. Vampirism is symbolic, in this, for homosexuality and the hunters represent the more offensive attitudes in society. The reason that it is a shame is because such a poignant and important subject was reduced to one of the funnier parts of the film, detracting from what the film genuinely had to say.

All in all, not a bad teen flick. 4 out of 10 would seem fair, but one to avoid if you like your vampires evil – they are the good guys in this. Of that there can be no doubt.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: