Text © Richard Gary, 2012 / Indie Horror blog
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Normally, I write long reviews of films I’m sent, but recently I have seen a few on my own that inspired some comment, so here are some short assessments, mostly impressions.
Written and directed by Rob Stefaniuk
This Canadian somewhat-low-budget release is about – if you can’t tell from the title – vampires. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also a comedy about an unsigned so-so rock’n’roll band (for which the film’s title can also work) on the road from Montreal to New York City, as well as a play on fame, the music biz, and a youth culture that is cynical and vampire-obsessed.
But what is truly most amazing about this film, other than its quirky flavor, is its cast. To start, there’s Vinnie Furni… I mean Alice Cooper as a mysterious, recurring figure, who is both menacing and mentoring. Iggy Pop is a cynical producer / recording engineer who is wise and wary to the vampire ways. Henry Rollins is an annoying AM-radio shock-style DJ. The legendary Malcolm McDowell plays against type in a rare comedic vein (pun intended) as the afraid-of-the-dark Eddie van Helsing (get it?). I particularly smiled when they used a clip from O! Lucky Man! (1973) for a scene from his youth (a bit that would also influence an infamous Seinfeld episode). Dave Foley is their manager, who has so much confidence in them, he suggests they switch to Japanese rap.
The band at the center (centre?) of the story is The Winners, who are ironically named. Its members include Paul Anthony, a Vancouver actor who won the Promising Newcomer award from the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame; musician / actor Mike Lobel; the new “IT girl” thanks to a recurring role in Mad Men, Jessica Paré, who looks so much sexier than she does on the TV series, if that’s possible; and leading is the director himself, Rob Stefaniuk, who has a substantial cinematic and television track record.
I don’t know how Stefaniuk was able to get such an amazing cast, especially considering they were probably paid scale or less, but my guess is he’s used up his karma for a little bit here (along those lines, there is a 2010 one-hour “making of” documentary called Down to the Crossroads, or How to Make a Movie “Suck” ).
The premise is a Canadian band that’s been around for about 10 years trying to make it, gets a (maybe) gig in
, so they go on a road trip to head down to the city. Along the way, vampirism starts affecting the band, but rather it apparently gives them some “bite” with the audience they seem to need. Meanwhile, they are being pursued by a determined, albeit daffy, vampire slayer. New York
Yeah, like most low-budget indie films, it’s a bit low quality, obviously shot on digi-cams, but it still has a home-made look reminiscent of the likes of Zach Braff’s Garden State (2004). While the music is kind of whatever, the story is well written, manages not to fall into cliché very often, and is quite the feather in everyone’s cap. Worth seeing.
See trailer below.
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
This (also Canadian) sci-fi / horror flick opened with great fanfare, claiming it to have a great story, good acting, etc. For me, it was a pretty picture, but the content was over-hyped.
Sarah Polley is great in the film (as always) as a scientist who worked on creating a new being by splicing genes across genus, producing something new which turns – surprise, surprise – deadly. Her partner in crime (and romantically in the story) is the exceedingly annoying Adrien Brody. Sure, he deserved the Oscar for The Pianist (2002), but has he done anything noteworthy after that? Naw, he comes across as obnoxious, self-conscious, and as smarmy as he does in that razor commercial that just makes me want to smack him upside the head and say, “Listen, hot shit, there is a reason the Woodman picked you as the equally ego-centric Dali in Midnight in Paris (2011). You are not as wonderful as you obviously believe you are.”
Anyway, this over-long film was touted as being so original. Well, it was bad enough the ending was easy to figure out about 20 minutes into the film, before the main antagonist is even created, but the whole storyline was essentially adapted from two other films that I can think of off the top of my head. The first is obvious: Species (1995; trailer HERE], which starred Natasha Henstridge in the title role as a creature created by splicing human and alien DNA into a new being who wants to mate to continue the line with lethal results. The other is more obscure, a bad horror film from 1982 called The Beast Within [trailer HERE], which both begins and ends with almost the same scene at the ending of Splice.
Again, this is a well-shot, edited and grade-A looking piece of cinema, but been there-done that.
See trailer below.
Directed by Jason Friedberg
And speaking of redundancy, the guys that brought you such loser spoof films as Date Movie (2006), Epic Movie (2007), Disaster Movie (2008) – hey…why isn’t this called Vampires Suck Movie? Oh, I got distracted there. So if you’ve seen any of these films, you know the premise: a central and current cinematic hit is satirized, and every other film that’s on the market makes a comic cameo. In this case, it’s the Twilight series as the main target.
Listen, I’m fine with the whole Twilight thing (even saw one), as sappy and overly-romanticized as it is; or, as I like to call it, the modern Beauty and the Beast (1987). Yes, the cliché and pouty characters do deserve to be spoofed, but as with most of this parody series, this is a sorrowful mess.
There are some fine moments, like the vampires being mistaken for the Black Eyed Peas, and a sharp comment about the about of time spent shirtless by a certain character, but much of this is unimaginative, and feels, well, easy. That was also the problem most of the other *.Movie films. What I did enjoy, however, is how they managed to add other films into the context of this one - see the
in Wonderland (2010) insertion in the trailer, for example. Alice
The reason this feels so shallow is just how wide a broad stroke they take with the humor. Part of what made the Airplane! series of the ‘80s - a spoof film of the Airport dynasty of the ‘70s - so funny was the level of absurdity was so high that it was as surprising as it was ludicrous (e.g., the mom from Leave It to Beaver talking jive, the whole gladiator thing, the play on words such as “Don’t call me Shirley”). It wasn’t just gross-out humor and a succession of little set pieces that could be on a sketch comedy show.
This doesn’t need more writers, just better ones. If you want to see a finely done spoof, check out Stripperland (2011) [trailer HERE], a take-off of Zombieland (2009). This was much more subtle, and played with its original material rather than mocking it like a bully. It takes imagination to do that.