Monday, June 29, 2020

Vampire Dad – review

Director: Frankie Ingrassia

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

Pulling itself back in time to the sixties, something the film does admirably well, Vampire Dad is a comedy that feels more like the stretched out opening to a sit-com (or perhaps a couple of episodes mashed together) than it does a feature.

This does not mean it is bad, indeed it is great fun, but it means there is a missing something, which I will discuss of course. Don’t let that put you off, however. What is there works well but it could have been so much more.

pop art
At the very beginning we meet Victoria (Sarah Palmer), Goddess of the Underworld. It is 1962 and Halloween and Victoria has a trick to play and Dr Walinski is to be the treat – we see an attack through illustrations that that have a marvellously pop art style and then go into opening credits. When the credits end we discover that she attacked the wrong psychiatrist, attacking Dr Raymond Walker (Jackson Hurst) instead. Three weeks have passed and he is getting used to living with his new condition.

beginning to burn
His wife, Natasha (Emily O'Brien), knows about the vampirism – indeed she blocked the windows for him. Also in the loop is her brother Bob (Barak Hardley), a mortician who is bringing supplies of blood harvested from the cadavers he processes. Out of the loop, however, is daughter Susie (Grace Fulton) who is celebrating her sweet sixteenth. Unfortunately, Dad had arranged to take her to the DMV to get her licence and has to cancel, to explain this they make up a medical condition that causes him to avoid sunlight – we see he instantly sizzles in the sun.

Natasha, Bob and an angry vamp
Nosey neighbour Betty (Juli Cuccia) comes to the door. Her dog has caught a sense of something sinister in the neighbourhood and has been barking. Bob meets her on the doorstep and falls for her. At the birthday celebration Susie brings her slightly older, beat poet boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Naizu) to meet her parents and Raymond clearly has trouble accepting that any boy would be good enough for his Susie. So why was Raymond chosen (albeit accidentally) for undeath?

group therapy
As I mentioned, it was mistaken identity as Victoria wanted a psychiatrist to treat the denizens of the underworld. Raymond soon has a full roster of monster patients – including a “blind as a bat” vampire, a werewolf and a zombie. Raymond has to learn to control his urges, however; be it hungering for peeping toms, noisome dogs or boyfriends. And it is there where I identify the missing element of the film, as I run out of descriptive steam.

Bob and a bat
The film is genuinely amusing, with Barak Hardley stealing the show (for me, at least). The look is fantastic, cutting a sixties air and reminiscent in some ways of Parents (1989), despite the older film being set a decade before. If the two are compared, Parents had a dark timbre that this doesn’t deign to emulate and, the kicker, a full story. I think that is what is missing from this, a more defined, complex and thought through storyline. Rather than tell a tale it just remains within its own conceptual bubble and, as fun as that bubble is, the story we do get is simple and makes me think of the two sitcom episodes mashed together that I mentioned.

Sarah Palmer as Victoria
I also felt that we saw too little of the psychiatric sessions – given that was why he was recruited I really felt that we should have gone into those much more. They were ripe for comedic exploitation and could have distracted from the shortcomings in the story. However, it sounds like I am attacking the film – certainly not, or didn’t enjoy it – I certainly did. Over all the film deserves a credible 6 out of 10

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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