Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead – review

Director: Jordan Galland

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

The title is the first thing that caught me eye and the trailer looked good. This is a film I have been anticipating and it finally became available to buy (region 1). Did it live up to my anticipation and expectations?

To a degree. Perhaps I expected it to be more uproariously funny but it turned out to be a super-quirky but genuinely amusing film. This is not an indication that it disappointed, far from it, but it wasn’t quite the movie I had been waiting for.

Theo feeds
It starts off looking over New York City and the camera finally settles on an off Broadway theatre where a girl rehearses her one woman dance show. Someone enters the theatre and the lights go off. She still had 15 minutes of rehearsal time left but goes back to her dressing room. The theatre owner, Theo (John Ventimiglia), goes in and criticises her performance – suggesting that she could be much more. It is all a pretence though and soon he feeds from her.

Devon Aoki as Anna
Julian (Jake Hoffman) is woken by the phone going, he is asked if he has been woken but says not and suggests he has just returned from the gym. He is asked if he has a young hussy in bed with him, he says not but he has. The caller is Anna (Devon Aoki), his ex-girlfriend. As we discover more about the relationship we find out that he bedded a stripper, lied about it and then told her the truth. It seems an odd relationship – she has called to have him pick up a dress for her, despite having moved on to new beau Bobby Bianchi (Ralph Macchio).

strange job interview
Julian’s room is a room in an office belonging to his doctor father (Chip Zien), where the constant patient is the hypochondriac Hugo Pepper (Waris Ahluwalia). His father tells Julian to get a job and points out an off-Broadway reinterpretation of Hamlet who are looking for a director who, according to the ad, is young, controllable and human. He goes there and gets the job. He suggests an actor for Hamlet – his friend Vince (Kris Lenche) – and Theo agrees to meet him that night. He meets with Vince and they go to drop off Anna's dress. En route a bag lady (Geneva Carr) tries to get Vince’s autograph. She leaves him with the pen, suggesting that, should he ever find himself in a production of Hamlet with vampires he call the number on it.

alley feed
After a scene where they pretend to be gay, so as not to incur the wrath of Bianchi – whom they believe to be a gangster. They end up out with Theo and his friends Zadeska (Azie Tesfai) and Lyuba (Carmen Goodine); for friends read undead slaves. Having established that Vince shall play Hamlet the two men find themselves removed from the club and Vince sees what appears to be Theo, Zadeska and Lyuba feeding on a girl. A double take and nothing is there… so what’s going on?

the real Hamlet
As things develop we discover that the play is the real story of what occurred between Horatio – the true identity of Theo – and Hamlet (Joey Kern). We hear that Horatio turned Hamlet into a vampire and Hamlet managed to reverse the process with the Holy Grail and then went around restoring vampires to their humanity. Because of the Grail, Hamlet remained immortal though human. Hamlet, the play, was a thinly veiled warning to Hamlet, commissioned from Shakespeare by Horatio.

the cast are vampires
Every so often Horatio puts on a play and he and his vampires devour the audience. He turns all the cast into vampires – problematic as Vince is turned early and the process partially fails so Julian (thinking his friend dead) has to take on the Hamlet role and Anna ends up cast as Ophelia. The only one safe from turning is the director for, just as vampires have to be invited in to a home, their plays must also be introduced by a mortal. However, once the play ends he will be no longer needed. The play is also a challenge issued to the real Hamlet.

The bag lady was Charlotte Lawrence who is a member of a secret society – the Clandestine Order of the Rosicrucians and Goldenstones – who seek the grail also. Other vampire lore we get is the idea that they have mutated and can walk in daylight, they hate garlic, we see Zadeska in cat form (a nice nod back to Carmila’s lore). A stake through the heart will kill a vampire, causing them to flash with light and then transform to bones only.

the return of Vince
I mentioned Vince’s turning and he does come back, quite without reason it seems at first and rather late – so everyone sees him 'dead' in his coffin at the funeral. Theo has to teach Zadeka and Lyuba to turn with speed – which happens to the two losers playing Rosencrantz (Carlos Velazquez) and Guildenstern (Mike Landry) – literally die and turn in seconds. It seems to be a matter of concentration and will on the part of the vampire.

Ralph Macchio as Bobby Bianchi
The acting was good through the film, but special mention to Ralph Macchio who was superb as Bobby Bianchi and a great little Cameo from Jeremy Sisto (the Thirst) as a cop on the trail of a murderer – mistakenly thinking it is Julian. The humour was quirky but gentle, though there was an undercurrent of the romantic comedy that the script kept trying to pull away from but kept being sucked back towards. The film probably could have stood to have a more manic comedic actor in a lead role – though it seemed Kris Lemche could have carried that off, but was unfortunately side tracked being buried and all.

I liked this, it is a good little movie – perhaps reminiscent in comedic tone (not content) of Karmina - but it could have stretched its wings a little more one feels. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Nicole Hadaway said...

I do want to see this one! Personally, I think Macbeth would do well as a werewolf tale....

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Nicole, we could have a whole range of Shakespeare supernatural adaptations...