Monday, May 13, 2013

Vamp U – review

Directors: Matt Jespersen & Maclain Nelson

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

Also known as Dr Limptooth, by the alternate title we can tell this is a comedy and here comes the regular caveat… comedy is subjective. Plus, this time, I’ll add that not all comedy travels from country to country.

In this case I was underwhelmed and the cultural aspect I’ll come to very soon. There was also a very strange lore aspect that we’ll cover as well.

Tom and Fred
It starts with a college student, Tom (Matt Mattson), making a video. A confession or journal, if you like, that outlines how he discovered that his college Professor, Wayne Gretzky (Adam Johnson), is a vampire and the first 2/3 of the film covers that story. Here we have the humour not crossing borders. Apparently Wayne Gretzky was a hockey star. The film ignores this (assuming that the viewer will know that) until it makes a ham-fisted comment on it later on (we’ll get to dialogue). The problem is, of course, very few folks outside of North America are going to get the joke. This isn’t a criticism (at least not the geographic aspect) but pointing out a fact that filmmakers must be aware that not all humour travels.

an unfortunate bite
Anyway, three hundred years before the film, Wayne was in love with a woman called Mary (Julie Gonzalo). Unfortunately they lost track of time and, as the sun set, Wayne lost control of his vampire nature and bit her. Of course no-one was happy about this (on her family's side). He snuck into the funeral dressed as a monk but was found by her brother Gregor (Jason Celaya). After a struggle he killed Gregor with the stake meant for him – he didn’t use his fangs as he had lost the ability to produce them.

Gary Cole as Arthur
Cut to modern day America and Wayne is a history professor, much loved and known as the Great One. He has confessed his nature and "fang-flop" issue with psychologist and professor Arthur Levine (Gary Cole) who is treating him for his “vampire impotence”. One of the issues I had with the film was dialogue and the main problem was around these two characters. Wayne bumbles through lectures by keep suggesting he knew the historical characters. At best he sounds freaky and I very much doubt he would be “everyone’s favourite professor”. Levine actually blurts out about Wayne’s vampire nature in front of a student and her father and then covers it up (saying he had been reading Twilight) but one wonders at this “professional” who would do this. The dialogue was written for laughs (though I didn’t... subjective remember) but didn’t seem plausible round these characters and so came across as ham-fisted.

Julie Gonzalo as Chris
The student, incidentally, is Chris who is also played by Julie Gonzalo and you are now wondering whether this is a “reincarnated love” story. It isn’t. She is, however, his “vampire Viagra”. He gets his fangs and (as they are mutually attracted) they start an affair – much to the chagrin of Tom’s friend Fred (Maclain Nelson) as she is his unrequited love. When Wayne realises that actually she is the daughter of Mary, who turned rather than died, he gets carried away, bites her and turns her into a super-bitch vampire who, in turn, turns her sorority and wants to cut a bloody swath through the world. She has, of course, to die…

I mentioned an unusual lore. This is about the turning process. If the victim is killed then they simply die. However a victim who is alive, after the blood has been drunk, turns (occasionally becoming a super-vampire as Chris did). However the bite is unimportant, it is simply the drinking of blood, so if a person donated blood and it was drunk (it takes about a pint) they would turn. This is not only unusual but frankly a little logic lost and put in as it becomes a plot point. Other than that it has to be ash stakes to kill them, though said stakes must be well-hammered due to a vampire’s dense bone structure, they don’t show on photos and sunlight will kill but an umbrella is protection enough from the sun. Clearly vampires can breed but the vampirism is not passed on (Mary passes her odd behaviour off to her family as "being Amish").

dead sorority gal
If the script didn’t do it for me comedy wise, I have to say that I was impressed with Julie Gonzalo who turned in two recognisably different performances and made for an excellent psycho-vampire. The film looked nice enough given the obvious low budget but the script just wasn’t taut enough for me. Part of the problem was it never offered the feel of a slapstick, so far-fetched gags (Wayne dumping a body in a cemetery and suggesting to the gravedigger that it was a new job, with no comeback later, for instance) didn’t work. I liked the general idea but not the execution.

Gonzalo manages to raise the score due to her excellent work in film. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Yeah, I was fairly underwhelmed by this one to. The jokes were very hit and miss. Like that cemetery scene that came outta nowhere. Was the caretaker an accomplice? What's the deal?
The acting was fairly decent for low-budget standards though so overall it was a decent movie.