Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Vampire Dog – review

Director: Geoff Anderson

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

All bark and no bite!” Well that’s what the DVD cover says and my god they weren’t kidding. A vampire dog, fangless (bar the name) and a script with the masticatory prowess of a toothless person faced with a tough steak.

It doesn’t help when the tagline gives the game away and the game is so very lame, but let us start at the beginning and see where it takes us. For the idea of vampire dogs are not new and, of course, most famously we saw them in the film Zoltan, Hound of Dracula.

So we begin in Transylvania (though I was struck by how much it didn’t look or feel like said country) and a peasant woman is making jelly. Quick as a flash, through a window, a dog, Fang (Norm MacDonald), appears and eats the jelly. When she brings a second bowl he is back and she sees the vampire dog… for he eats jelly – preferably red jelly (bear in mind that this film uses the UK version of jelly, which most Americans would refer to as Jell-O I believe). In a castle an old man, Sylvester (Alan Bratt), paces. He asks where have you been and Fang appears. We see pictures in which a dog should have been (he doesn’t show in photos) and when the camera has panned across the fireplace and returned to the gentleman we see that the old man has died (though his chest still rises and falls in shot… too picky… maybe).

Collin MacKechnie as Ace
America, Lugosi County (groan) and Ace Cunningham (Collin MacKechnie) and his mom Susan (Jodi Sadowsky) are moving in their new home. He’s not happy about being the new kid but she has taken a job as music teacher at Lugosi’s public school. If she can’t get its music programme up and running it will close down. He is carrying part of his drum kit in when he sees neighbourhood girl Skylar (Julia Sarah Stone) go past on her bike and literally falls for her over a packing case.

travel case
Ace has problems though. Whilst he is a talented drummer he cannot perform in front of anyone. This leads, when forced to play in school, to him falling off his drumming stool, captured on every camera phone and becoming a laughing stock. His mother doesn’t help by writing 'mummy loves you' and similar on his lunch bags. A letter arrives at home notifying them of Sylvester’s death (he was Ace’s fraternal grandfather) and saying that Ace has been bequeathed the dog Fang. Clearly animal control no longer works at US borders as the dog is delivered right on queue – in a wooden chest-like carry case. At first it seems like the dog won’t get out, because of the sun, but eventually he does.

the villains
We then meet Dr Warhol (Amy Matysio) and her side kick Frank (Ron Pederson). She is trying to make an anti-aging cream (without success, it burns Frank’s skin) and is conspiring with the school’s Principle (Mark D. Claxton) to make sure the school closes so she can convert it to a health resort. When she sees a news report from Transylvania she realises the vampire dog is the key to her cream and Frank discovers that it now lives in the same town. After that initial brilliant detective work they are totally inept through the remainder of the film.

Amy Matysio as Dr Warhol
Will Ace get the nerve up to drum in public, save the school, get the girl and keep his dog safe? Hmmm… let’s just get on to lore. Firstly, given the fact I put an actor with Fang’s name, I’m sure you’ll have guessed that Fang can talk. He became a vampire when one of Ace’s ancestors rose up against the vampire Vlad Ţepeş. Vlad was going to bite him, the dog took the bite (and became a vampire) and the ancestor killed the last human vampire – the family have been the dog’s caretaker ever since.

wrong, just very wrong
The dog cannot stand direct sunlight but is fine in the shade. Later he gets a little doggy suit to keep the sun off him (that would have had Zoltan howling with shame) and Skylar develops an anti-allergy medicine that lets him go in the sun (but does not cure vampirism)… did I mention that the kids are meant to be about twelve… no… well they are. Now the dog can’t even say the word blood, never mind drink it, but craves jelly. Of course this isn’t a vegetarian vampire as jelly is not a vegetarian food stuff. It is the gelatine he craves (and he used to eat hooves etc in centuries past).

eye mojo
Other than that he has a little coffin that he sleeps in (when not sleeping on the bed) can run super-fast (and tidy a bedroom), has enough strength to drag a twelve year old upstairs when fainted and has a line in eye mojo. And that’s all folks… The film never goes into how he might die (bar direct sunlight) and we don’t get Fang showing a fang.

gelatine addict
The acting was at best average – though the voice work for Fang was ok and the actual dog outperformed the humans with ease – but the script was generally terrible and managed to slip in a couple of fart gags, a dog peeing on electrical equipment gag and a poop bag gag (none of the above were funny). The entire thing was schmaltzy from the get go but almost insincerely so especially the hallmark looks of insincere love cast from mother to son. Too many stereotypes crowded for attention and sloppy writing abounded. There was no sense of peril as the villains were just so inept. Truthfully, immediately after viewing the movie, I mailed a person who knew I was watching the film (indeed he had dared me to, forgetting that I do this sort of thing anyway, in an endless cycle of vampire related masochism) with the message “My eyes are melting out of my head and I think I hear Zoltan turning in his doggy grave”. 2 out of 10 is generous given how I imagine Zoltan’s centrifugal response.

The imdb page is here.


Bavis said...

Oh dear god you actually did it!!! Love the review - that is definitive proof you are the "Man Vs Food" of vampire movies - NOTHING is too much for you. You'll forgive me if I don't watch the film to see if this review is fair... (JELLY? REALLY???)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Very nearly. I have been defeated once, by the film Geek Maggot Bingo. I only managed 15 minutes.

And really, jelly :)