After moving to a new town, two brothers are convinced that the area is frequented by vampires. (IMDB synopsis)
Ah, one from my earliest days of youth. I’ve heard many of my friends refer to this film as the one with the ‘cool’ vampires – usually as a direct comparison to the vampires from the Twilight book and movie series. For me, this film is special because it was the first time someone pointed out Kiefer Sutherland’s massive chin. Once you notice it, you’ll never not notice it again. But on with the review.
The story begins with an 80’s vampire motorcycle gang with unprecedented hair, stalking around the boardwalk in Santa Carla and ruining the merry-go-round for everyone. The one in charge is of course Kiefer Sutherland’s character David. (Has one of his characters EVER had a good haircut?)
Next we see our two teenaged protagonists, Michael and Sam, and their divorced mother moving into Santa Carla, or ‘The Murder Capital of the World’, if you believe the billboard graffito. The boys go to a late-night music gig on the boardwalk, where the rockin’ crowd members are holding coloured balloons for some reason, and Michael spies an attractive girl who’s with the vampire gang. The gang take him back to their lair and put Michael through their initiation – turning him into ONE OF THEM. Mwah ha ha ha!
So what’s scary about this one? Well, the vampires tend to stick out a bit. I suppose people were more threatened in the past by these leather-wearing, weed-toking, earring-having ragamuffins. I suppose that’s the idea, to threaten people with their appearances, but as there is a known, mysterious and deadly threat to the city, wouldn’t it make more sense to remain inconspicuous? From time to time, the film shows the vampire gang going out to devour innocent victims, but as far as I can see, they only go for the most obnoxious ones. The fangs and contacts lenses used for when they vamp out are perfectly serviceable. I don’t suppose there’s much you can change about a vampire’s appearance to make it scary.
The film’s main conflict comes from the fact that Michael, the older brother, has been changed into a half-vampire, and will fully change when he makes his first kill. The younger brother Sam teams up with vampire experts Edgar and Alan (heh heh), who tell him he’ll have to kill the head vampire to make everything all right again. Sam is likeable enough, unlike his brother, but he comes off as a 1980’s version of Macaulay Culkin, as he cracks wise in otherwise serious situations and even does Culkin’s thing in Home Alone of singing comically in the bathroom. Sam also accuses his brother of being a vampire in the most hilarious way possible:
“You’re a creature of the night, Michael. Just like out of a comic book. You’re a vampire, Michael! My own brother, a goddamn shit-sucking vampire! You wait ‘til Mom finds out, buddy!”
I say again… heh heh.
I was impressed with the film’s adherence to traditional vampire folklore – all right, garlic doesn’t work, but holy water melts them, sunlight burns them, and the head vampire actually has to wait for Michael to invite him into the house before entering. I actually spotted that one the first time around, before the twist ending was revealed. One thing that annoyed me, though, was that there are more than a few swooping-through-the-air POV shots, and yet we never see the vampires fly. (Also, I think every film I’ve reviewed so far has had a swooping-through-the-air POV shot, which is a bit odd.)
The best bit of the film is definitely close to the end, when Michael, Sam, Edgar and Alan prepare the grandfather’s house in preparation for the vampires – this is where all the action is, and again, was probably ripped off by Home Alone. As each vampire is dispatched in different ways, there are actually a lot of cool and gory special effects, including a melting face, sinks gushing blood and, as Sam puts it, ‘death by stereo’.
This is a very watchable film, especially for the younger family audiences at which it is aimed, and while it does have a very heavy 80’s visual style, it pays attention to the gothic fabled vampires of old and gives a decent homage to them as well. It has atmosphere, a decent soundtrack, and some pretty good characters. The vampires themselves aren’t that intimidating, but, as all my friends will remind you, at least they’re better than those pansies out of Twilight.
6 ½ jam sandwiches.