Friday, November 16, 2012

Vamps – review

Director: Amy Heckerling

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Little known fact, I rather like the film Clueless… I don’t know why but it tickled me and made more sense to me than the period piece Jane Austin story that it’s based on (and that I was made to watch once). Perhaps I’m a philistine, who knows, but this boded well for a vampire film by the same director (and same lead actress).

Then again it is a vampire comedy and the vampires within all stay off human blood – well all but a few, one in particular being particularly voracious – so maybe not. Well, let us see...

no reflection makeup
The film starts with a voice over from Goody (Alicia Silverstone) a woman turned in the 19th century. We get some lore here as we discover that only certain vampires – Stem Vampires – can turn victims who have not been fully drained (by sharing their blood). All other vampires are infertile (in a turning vampires sense). Goody lives with Stacy (Krysten Ritter) who was turned by their Stem Cisserus (Sigourney Weaver) in the eighties at Goody’s request (as she didn’t want the girl to die, Cisserus being on a whole-human diet). Stacy does not know just how old Goody is, and historical observations are passed off with a comment about the history channel.

straw in rat
The two girls live in student like accommodation, they sleep in coffin that must have a layer of home town earth. They party and work as exterminators, hang out with a guy called Renfield (Zak Orth) – a mortal who thinks they are vampires, which they deny, who wants to be ‘awakened’. Their work as exterminators gives them access to rats (a straw in rat gag doesn’t work as well as it should, as straws have been used several times before as a comedy vampire prop). We discover that their Stem can summon them telepathically. They can wall crawl, move super-fast and vanish and reappear.

Malcom MacDowell as Vlad Ţepeş
When Goody picks up a musician, who has a nose bleed due to coke sniffing, she fails to contain herself and licks up the blood (her tongue stretching and lacing through his nostrils) but it is ok as they go to an elf (extended life form) 12 step group, where a regular attendee is Vlad Ţepeş (Malcolm McDowell, Tales from the Crypt & Suck), who wears a Lugosi-esque pendant, velour sportswear and has taken up knitting.

Wallace Shawn as Van Helsing
Peril comes in the form of Dr Van Helsing (Wallace Shawn) – ex-MI6 and now Homeland Security (I don’t know how that happens) – and is a third generation vampire hunter. Things start to go awry when the Government start getting the vampires on their radars (summoning them for jury service and IRS audits) due to their use of electronic communications, Van Helsing's goes on a vampire hunting warpath (having found the mutilated remains of one of Cisserus’ kills) and Stacy starts dating… Joey Van Helsing (Dan Stevens, Dracula), son of the vampire hunter. Meanwhile Goody meets Danny (Richard Lewis) an old flame from the sixties, whose wife is dying in hospital.

eye mojo
Other lore we discover is that the vampires have eye mojo, the Stems have a super eye mojo that comes out like beams of light – but they can’t make you do something totally against your nature (so Goody and Stacy can’t be forced to kill). The vampires have no reflection and do not show in photographs or on video. If a Stem dies all those who are of their line become human again but age to their chronological age. A vampire can become pregnant, but as a vampire, cannot support the foetus and miscarry soon into the pregnancy.

Justin Kirk as Vadim
A Stem must be beheaded to be killed, can function like that for a while and can animate other remains to support their head. The vampires we mainly see have standard side fangs (though we see Cisserus’ produce a maw of teeth) but a vampire (from the Ukraine) called Vadim (Justin Kirk) has front fangs. When someone is turned they almost immediately revert to looking in their prime and a vampire’s saliva has an anti-coagulant. We also discover that garlic aversion is a matter of taste.

super eye mojo
As for the film itself, it had a great cast – Malcolm MacDowell’s interaction with another Stem, a Turkish vampire, was great. Sigourney Weaver lapped up the role of the bad vampire and Alicia Silverstone was as personable as ever. There was almost a feel of Karmina, though not quite as good, and I found the film pleasantly watchable. Despite the “we don’t eat humans” aspect, there was some bad vampire action and it was ok. It isn’t going to set the comedic world alight, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared and is worth 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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