Saturday, January 02, 2016

Liar, Liar, Vampire – review

Director: Vince Marcello

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

This was a 1 hour kid’s release by Nickelodeon and I guess that kids' fare has degenerated over the years because although there was a subversiveness desperately trying to get out, ultimately it became lost within a Hallmark schmaltz at one point and then emerged to give its “be yourself” sermon.

I’ll touch on that subversive aspect as we go through the review but for those who are desperately anti-Twilight, well I’m afraid this did use that as part of its premise and lore.

fighting ninja
We can see we have that influence straight off the bat because the film is set in the town of Forksley, small town USA. Our main character is Davis Pell (Rahart Adams), an Australian kid whose mom’s (Pauline Egan, Sanctuary) job keeps moving them from town to town (and country to country by the sounds of things). His loneliness has led to an over active imagination and we see him in life and death combat against imaginary ninjas.

Brec Bassinger as Vi
Unfortunately his new next door neighbour, Vi (Brec Bassinger), witnesses this and whilst she doesn’t seem too negative about him she does tell him that she doesn’t date boys who make believe, when he tries to ask her out. When he gets to school (and has to wear his grandma’s horrendous jumper) he sees popular girl Caitlyn Crisp (Tiera Skovbye, Forever Sixteen) on her vlog and falls for her. As she is in the chemistry class he has to go in, he pulls off the jumper – with much effort – and that leaves his hair stood up (apparently vampire like).

jumper hair
There is a storm and the lights go out as he makes his entrance. His accent makes him stand out and then, after class, ducking to tie his shoelaces makes him appear to have vanished in Caitlyn’s locker mirror, whilst stepping on a banana skin and skidding along the corridor makes him look like he has traversed the corridor at inhuman speed. Caitlyn becomes suspicious, assuming he is a vampire, and when she sees him trying to choke down his health food lunch she offers him garlic pizza. The reason he eats health food is due to allergies and he falls from the bench avoiding the offered snack. Unfortunately Caitlyn’s boyfriend, and quarterback, Bon (Ty Wood) sees this and isn’t impressed

Bon and his buddies catch Davis and tie him up in a large poster/banner. By the time he breaks out of it he has lost his shirt and is covered in glitter… just in time for the school to come out of the dining hall and see him. Firstly, yes sparkling is now vampire lore apparently, for whilst this film owes a lot to Twilight it isn’t a direct parody thereof and, as we can see, it is amalgamated with more traditional lore. Secondly, this is the subversiveness I was talking about. The film has the school (in the main) believing Davis to be a vampire, and loving him for it. If this is a parody it is of fandom (especially the teen-swooning-over-vampires fandom). It was gently (oh so very gently) attacking its own target audience.

be careful what you wish for
After a scene lifted from Twilight (“tell me what you are”), the whole school believes that Davis is a vampire, baring one person with motives that are never actually properly revealed and Vi. Vi decides to help Davis as, if he is going to make a fool of the school, she wants in. This was quite subversive in itself; given that he is the hero of the piece (he makes out he is a vampire, everyone loves him, the truth outs and he has to win back acceptance) making a mistake and then being himself works to the moral. That she is the heroine (she is the girl he should be with but neither see it at first) her attitude to her fellow students is not as positive, given that she is being true to herself from the start.

dressing old school
Be that as it may, she dresses him and schools him in vampire lore and he needs her help as he actually dresses up in a faux-Lugosi way at one point. She gets him fangs (see what I mean about the Twilight lore and traditional lore crossing over), coloured contacts to change his eye colour and suggests he has to talk in the way of the modern vampire – this is described as a cross between a constipated model and a freshman poetry major, and comes out essentially emo. As an aside she suggests that vampires are scared of rabbits, never sing happy birthday and lose their power if they lose a staring contest (that last piece is believed by a further character in the film).

making him float
She even drags him on a trailer behind a scooter to make it seem like he’s floating. Meanwhile Bon drafts in a friend’s uncle, Baron Von Awesome (Alex Zahara, also Sanctuary), to dispose of the vampire – the Uncle believing in vampires. This is all so surreal and I was actually enjoying things due to the strangeness and the poking (albeit gently) fun at fandom. Then there is a scene with his mother that is so Hallmark it was vomit inducing and the film rushed headlong into its moral and lost me. The acting wasn’t bad for a kid’s programme but the entire thing fell apart at the point mentioned. There was belief in vampires and acting as a vampire, but no actual vampire in sight. Altogether 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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