Vamps
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Vamps

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The horror flick has under gone numerous changes in recent years and from the vantage point of the old school fan very few can be considered positive. This genre has been steadily degrading into a murky mixture of blood, guts and unimaginable torture the chilling development of plot and character development in response to the honorific circumstances in favor of romantic lead monster. Replacing the angry villages into a cadre of love struck teenage girls. At least one aspect of traditional horror has a steadfast hold on the audience; the delightfully bizarre mélange of horror and comedy. The line between fight and funny is a thin one. Screaming and laughter both are reflexive response to unexpected emotional stimulus. In the forties Universal Studios came to the realization that in their stable they owned the rights to both the most popular comedies of the time as well as the best franchises of movie monsters. Like chocolate and peanut butter this unlikely combination proved to be brilliant. With movies like ‘Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein’, a new blended type of movie was created. In more recent examples the Scary Movie’ franchise has keep the genre alive and as off the wall as ever. With sleek, urbane vampires all the rage a new film has attempted to enter the fray; ‘Vamps’. The lineage of this flick is somewhat notable. The director, Amy Heckerling, and her cast members, Alicia Silverstone and Wallace Shawn reunited after their 1995 cult classic comedy, ‘Clueless’. to take on the comedic side of horror movies. Right up front it deserves to be noted that this flick, unfortunately, does not achieve the same degree of success as the movie it is related to, although it does contain a number of high points. . It can be considered a marketing ploy since aside from the talent behind and in front of the camera any similarity is purely coincidental. It might be considered anecdotal evidence that in the entertainment industry lightening rarely strikes twice in the same spot. All the cited artists have gone one to successful careers after ‘Clueless’ but this is not the apex of their resume. This is not to imply that the film is bad, it really isn’t. It is just it is in a genre where excellence is exceeding rare and the goal is not cinematic excellence but rather a popcorn movie that is fun to watch. Considering the genre criteria ‘Vamps’ is enjoyable.

Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and her best friend and ‘roommate’ Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are what are typically termed as ‘socialites’ but that is only a carefully deployed façade. The pair might appear to be attractive young women but actually they are significantly older than they seem; they are vampires, members of the eternally undead. Goody was turned back in 1841 by an ancient vampire queen, Ciccerus (Sigourney Weaver), and subsequently converted Stacy in the 1980’s. Goody was a reasonably good ‘maker’ teaching her progeny the ropes of vampirism; surviving of the blood of vermin and concealing their actual age as everyone but them grow visibly older. For Stacy the transition to a creature of the night was a means of redemption provide a rescue of sorts from the downward spiral of drug addiction. Now they both enjoy the rich and always diverse nightlife offered by the city that never sleeps, New York City. One night while attending a vampire support group meeting Goody learns that if the stem vampire is killed all of his or her progeny will revert back to human with their mortal age suddenly catching up with them. This would instantly add thirties years to Stacy but a deadly 170 years to Goody. For a pair entirely obsessed with their good looks. The Vampires feel particularly vulnerable upon discovery that their Stem, was still around.

The movie has an undeniable chemistry between the two leading ladies. Silverstone has continued on with a successful career ranging from action movies to animal rights activism. Although none of her films offered the showcase for her talents as did the cult classic that put her on the map, she has kept busy over the years. Ritter has become a familiar supporting actress in movies and television typically playing the outrageous best friend. Recently she took this image center stage amplifying it considerably in her television sit-com, ‘Don’t Trust the B…. in Apartment 23’. Both of these women are in their elements playing the carefree members of New York’s nightlife scene. The supporting cast is well done. The perennial sad sack, Wallace Shawn gives a solid performance as the famous vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing. He has perfected roles like this throughout his career as a much sought after character actor. Sigourney Weaver is well versed as the stem vampire. Weaver is a consummate professional capable of tackling ant role from the action heroine, simian researcher or comic vampire.

With all this going for it the surprise here is the movie just fell short of approaching its potential. The pieces were all present but in a form of anti-synergy. The movie tries very hard to be witty and urbane but comes off as silly. It might have improved matters if Heckerling had just committed to creating an all-out spoof of the current state of vampire flick. Sometimes the best course is abandon reality and embraces the surreal. The concept of sexy vampires is certainly not all that new but it is such a major paradigm shift from the tradition creature feature blood sucker that the archetype is ripe for a satiric treatment. Heckerling aimed for it but scored in the outer ring rather than a bull’s eye. With a rating of PG-13 it might seem appropriate for younger teens although parent should do a preview. The emphasis on partying and sex might not be suitable for all kids. It does work as a means to enjoy a weekend afternoon when yu don’t want to concentrate a lot on such things as plot. The antics depicted here are funny but there is that nagging feeling throughout the movie that it could have come closer to its potential.

Posted 11/22/12

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