Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Grandpa is a Vampire – review

vhsDirector: David Blyth

Release date: 1991

Contains spoilers

The year after making the vampire movie Red Blooded American Girl director David Blyth made this. Now, in my review of the earlier film I suggested, “Not the worst film I’ve seen but lacking in tension”. Given that this was a kids movie it didn’t need the same tension, however what Blyth created was very much a kid’s movie without any real adult nuance. It did, however, star Al Lewis as the grandpa, Vernon Cooger, of the title. Lewis was, of course, the vampiric grandpa in the classic Munsters TV show.

at the fairThe film is also very kiwi, as well as being set in New Zealand it has the ineffable quality that makes it obvious that a TV show came from New Zealand. It begins with grandpa flying, it would seem. He seems to land behind a couple, Ernie (Noel Appleby) and Leah (Pat Evison), before a fun fair. He stalks up scaring Ernie, to the chagrin of Leah who is Vernon’s daughter. Looking for fun he sneaks into the ghost train to try and scare the riders and ends up on the front of a car. Thrown off the ride he falls to the floor, having a heart attack.

Grandpa is not in the pictureLonny (Justin Gocke) has landed in New Zealand so that he can stay with Aunty Leah and Grandpa Cooger. Leah and his friend from previous visits, Kanziora (Millan Borich), pick him up. Grandpa hasn’t come because he isn’t too well. They immediately go and see Vernon who mentions that the lights hurt his eyes. When its time to have dinner Vernon complains about the sausages Leah brings upstairs for him. Kanziora shows Lonny some photos from the year before, Vernon didn’t appear in them even though he was in shot.

fanged denturesThe next day the boys go surfing but Kanziora wont let go about Vernon being a vampire – we discover later that Kanziora is monster obsessed and has a picture of Amanda Donohoe from Lair of the White Worm in his room – he suggests they test Vernon with holy water or garlic. Lonny goes along with it but Kanziora fails to get the holy water. They go and see Vernon again, who has fanged dentures and can light candles with a gesture. However, he over exerts himself showing off to the boys and dies.

rising from his casketThere is, of course, a wake for Vernon attended by many of the townsfolk. When everyone has left, Leah leaves the boys whilst she goes to see Ernie. The boys are playing with a keyboard when their fingers become possessed, playing a specific dirge, and a hand appears from the casket. Vernon has risen from the tomb… as it were. Lonny is freaked at first but his Grandpa taking the boys for a vampire powered flight sets all right. Of course they then have to protect Vernon, especially from Ernie who determines to stake him.

Justin Gocke as LonnyVernon always was a vampire – he states that he is 281 years old at one point. He was never a particular lover of blood, though he likes a tipple of medicinal alcohol for his circulation. When he met a beautiful woman he fell in love and determined to live a human life, having children himself. He actually says that vampires are creatures searching for love and understanding. He says it is the energy of the boys that has called him back.

flying under the moonThere were, however, some nice bits of lore in the film that weren’t that explicit. Kanziora reads that vampires draw power from the moon and, when flying with the boys, he looses power and they fall out of the sky when the moon goes behind a cloud. Of course tying vampires with the moon isn’t done too often now but was a genre staple with classic stories such as The Vampyre and Varney the Vampire.

Grandpa awakensWe also get another piece when Ernie comes at him with a cross made out of two bits of wood nailed together. This seems to have no effect. However Leah, using an actual cross, is able to control her father and force him to come along with her. This indicates that only real holy items work, though it might also say something about faith. Vernon finds the smell of garlic nauseating, the sun weakens him and causes discomfort, blood (from raw burger patties) when finally drunk tastes nice and a stake through the heart will kill him.

Al Lewis as GrandpaHowever there isn’t much vampiric activity going on – it really is vampire-lite for the kiddies. We don’t get a single bite and the blood from the patties is the only blood drunk. The cast are adequate for a kid’s film, but there is nothing in the film that would overly appeal to an adult except… Al Lewis. He is really enjoying himself and is great fun; those of us with fond memories of the Munsters are likely to get a nostalgic kick out of the performance – though the character is different.

Still, the lightness of the whole thing stands against a high score. The Little Vampire, for instance, does a much better job at keeping adults entertained during a kid’s film and remembers that kids are not averse to a little actual vampiric action. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

;) Q

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