Monday, January 31, 2011

Hamlet the Vampire Slayer - review

Director: Jason Witter

First released: 2008

Contains spoilers

I should hate it. By all that is right in films this should go straight to the bottom of the pile. Take Hamlet and then throw in a right royal splash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Film it on a budget so small that micro seems too big a description and then you have…

Actually you have something that, as long as you know it’s going to be a ‘B’ movie, actually works rather well. Shot in Black and White (bar a couple of colour scenes) and lifting the Hamlet story in a completely recognisable way we have…

George Bach as Horatio
Let’s start at the beginning and Horatio (George Bach) tells us that once in every generation… actually I’m guessing you know the speech. There has to be three takes as Hamlet (Kevin R Elder) is clearly not a female. Though he does want to be a male cheerleader. Cut to a girl, tooling up and hunting vampires, it would seem, down the local Goth club. Yet, after the killing she states that vampire’s do not exist – unlucky for her as Enrique Claudio (Doug Montoya) is there and he is a vampire.

Kevin R Elder as Hamlet
The gatekeepers are role playing geeks, the ghost (Elias Lee Francis IV) of Hamlet’s dad less floats around and more trudges, before telling Hamlet that his mother’s, Gertrude (Summer Olsson), new Latin lover… his own brother… is a vampire and killed him. Laertes (Chet Stillwood) is off to cheer-camp – though Polonius (Steve Lucero) wants him to go to military school. Ophelia (Leslie Nesbit) is vapid.

the rap video's the thing
Rather than the play being the thing, in this the rap video, featuring The Playa King (Rusty Rutherford), is the thing. A not-too subtly subtitled video (far from the subliminal effect Hamlet is after and one of the colour moments) that rather than getting a reaction from Claudio actually gets Ophelia admitting guilt! Rosenchad (Daniel T Cornish) and Guildenbrad (Scott Bryan) are turned into vampires and are taken out by the Scooby-team equivalent of Macbeth (Nick Lopez) and Othello (Andy Brooks).

beware the posion pom-pom
The gravediggers are actually robbing graves to create a zombie army featuring singing zombies. There is the occasional poo gag that we could have done without because the audacity of what Witter created was just so bizarre that faeces jokes seemed more puerile than normal and rather redundant. The duel between Hamlet and Laertes is actually a cheer-off with a poisoned pom-pom. I kid you not.

The acting is better than you would expect, for the most part. The core actors seemed comfortable in their roles, dialogue – modern, Buffy-speak or Shakespearian actually being delivered well. Ophelia bugged – but I am guessing that she was meant to. However there were moments that were genuinely funny. The self-effacing voice-overs and intertitles showed filmmakers who knew just how cheeky they were being.

a cheeky vampire, and a cheeky movie
After all that I have to give a score and, I am afraid, it won’t be high. I mean it can’t be. For all its charm and audacity, as a piece of cinema it is still poor. However – and this is important – sometimes a score can be low but the review is positive. We cannot deny films that are a guilty pleasure a viewing simply because they do not set the world of cinema alight. Sometimes we need a film that is amateur in many of its aspects but absolutely unapologetic with touches of genius showing through. There are actually moments that cinematography-wise look rather nice, like the Horatio opening (bar the poo-related intertitles) but they do lose their way occasionally - the Polonius death scene went on too long, I could see the idea behind it but it was too lengthy. 3 out of 10 is as high as I can go score wise but if you can live with a budget that is low, a film that is most definitely B and love audacity then this should be seen. I, for one, do not regret the time I spent watching it.

The imdb page is here.

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