Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vamperifica – review

Director: Bruce Ornstein

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

I often caveat horror/comedy films – and will do so again – with the observation that comedy is difficult to review as what one person finds funny another person may not. However, when we saw Vamperifica at the 2011 Bram Stoker International Film Festival the film certainly wowed the festival. Not only did the organisers award the movie best horror/comedy film but the audience also voted it as best film of the festival.

To the film’s further credit I found myself enjoying the film even more when I re-watched it for this review.

It starts with a quick potted history of the vampires in this film. The vampires, some two hundred years ago, were hunted by the church and had become a dejected race. Then one vampire, Raven (Darwin Shaw), rose up and turned the tide. He slaughtered humans until he eventually faced a warrior priest in battle. He defeated the priest but was mortally wounded. He prophesised that his soul would return, reborn as a human, and tasked the vampires Campbell (Creighton James) and Emily (Bonnie Swencionis) to find him and turn him. With his death the vampires were dejected and the race, now, stands at the brink of extinction.

Martin Yurkovic as Carmen
Then the film plays “Barbie Girl” as we meet our protagonist Carmen (Martin Yurkovic) and his best friend Tracey (Dreama Walker). They are in a diner arguing over the merits, or from Tracey’s point of view lack of them, of the ‘c’ word. They ask waitress Maria (Maria-Christina Oliveras) her thoughts on the subject, provoking her ire and causing Carmen to leave her a tip consisting of a note that says “F*ck you”. As they leave they arrange to meet in the park the next day – after Carmen has an interview for a stage role he auditioned for. They don’t notice Campbell and Emily watching them.

dream of Raven
The interview does not go exactly the way that Carmen envisioned it, with the director Josh (Josh Alexander) suggesting that Carmen can’t act and refusing him a role. Once out of the interview he is approached by Campbell but has little time to listen to the stranger who has approached him. But, when sat in the park with Tracey, he notices that Campbell and Emily are stood close by. Suddenly Tracey and Carmen jump, dropping their coffees, when Peter (Jeff Ward) sneaks up on them. He is a friend from school who has just returned from college. Later, when we see Carmen dream, we see the three as kids, we see Tracey defending her friend and then the dream turns to one of Raven feeding causing Carmen to bolt awake, believe he sees a shape in his room (Campbell and Emily who quickly vanish off) and sit up all night holding a baseball bat.

Campbell and Emily
Of course the two vampires stalk Carmen and then turn him but they want him to leave his human friends behind (and Emily becomes jealous of Tracey, as she was Raven’s lover). Carmen, for his part, starts murdering anyone he had a problem with and his sloppiness – leaving bodies behind – cause Campbell, particularly, to wonder if turning him was the right thing to do. However it is within the character of Carmen – and the excellent performance by Martin Yurkovic – that the source of the comedy is found. Carmen is a very camp, gay man, abandoned as a baby by his mother (who left him a keepsake of a locket and little else) he hides behind bitchiness.

Carmen turned
Yurkovic, once Carmen has been turned, flits between camp and sinister with consummate ease and makes it so that, no matter what Carmen is doing, the audience maintains a sympathetic view. Interestingly Carmen’s sexuality is not played on in-film. There is one throwaway line about being stalked by a man and Tracey exclaiming ‘finally’, but he simply is who and what he is. Not that the comedy begins and ends with Carmen, all the primary characters are interesting and funny and the actors do a fine job. The character of Emily was a personal favourite and Bonnie Swencionis has a mesmerising screen presence.

bleached eyes
The vampires can go out in daylight – sunblock is mentioned – they are massively strong and fast. The fangs are retractable and their eyes can change colour. Emily actually has pure white eyes where a priest bleached them but causes them to take on a hue normally, choosing only to show their true state to those she is closest to. Holy items burn the vampires and a stake through the heart kills – the vampires exploding into a gory goo. When a vampire is near a sleeping human they can cause the human to have bad dreams and awaken, this is a human defence mechanism. The name Sarah Michelle Gellar is offensive to vampires.

dance number
The film has a musical number, with Carmen performing the track ‘Hah, Bloody Hah’ which worked really well in the context of the film - indeed for me it's up there in 'top musical numbers' with Let's Do It in Tank Girl. All in all the film is a delight to watch, improves on a repeated watch (which of course is a good thing) and has one of the best comedy vampire characters for some considerable amount of time. This is all caveated with the warning I gave at the head of the review about the personal nature of comedy.

For me, however, Vamperifica deserves 8 out of 10. The imdb page is here.

film poster taken from Dread


Kev Clark said...

Hi, Want to buy this for a teen, can you tell me if this film has any nudity and/or sex scenes please.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

HI kev - the film is rated 18 in the uk.

From memory it doesn't have an explicit (female) nudity but it does have sexual situations (including a rape), bad language and it does have the explicit view of a severed penis amongst the gore