A pair of female vampires (Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter) experience the ups and downs of the New York nightlife.
DIRECTED BY: Amy Heckerling
I’m sure, on paper, Vamps sounded like a great idea: two vampires cruise through the New York nightlife, finding love and a few jokes along the way. With Amy Heckerling (Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) directing and Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter heading an all-star cast that includes Sigourney Weaver and Malcolm McDowell, how could it go wrong? Let us count the ways.
Before I go into why this film doesn’t work, let me say that I do not enjoy ripping up on a movie like some online critics seem to. I know a lot of talented people put a lot of hard work into making a film, and it is not fair to dismiss it or criticize it without a good reason or a fair assessment. On top of that, studios spend time and money sending critics like me review copies of the film – for free – to help promote its release. That doesn’t mean I’ll give a movie a positive review just because I got the DVD or Blu-ray for free, obviously, and I need to give credit (or blame) where it is due.
I say this because Vamps is not just the worst vampire movie of the year (and there have been some bad ones), but it may be one of the worst movies of the year, period. Director Amy Heckerling may have given Alicia Silverstone a career thanks to Clueless, but she nearly destroyed it thanks to Vamps. Thankfully, Silverstone, out of the entire cast, emerges with some diginity intact. She’s still a good actress and a pleasure to watch on-screen, despite what her detractors may say. I surely don’t blame her for the Batman and Robin debacle, and she’s become more likeable as she’s matured. Unfortunately, the script has her acting like she’s still in Clueless, and her makeup artist should be shot. Her mascara looks like she put it on a week ago.
No amount of likeability, however, can overcome a bad script. This is a comedy devoid of any genuine humor or wit. Heckerling is famous for providing an honest and clever look inside the lives of young people, even when she parodies them. Nearly every joke in this movie is badly forced, and the humor is so insulting that I was offended that they thought they could pass this off to anyone as entertainment.
Vamps cannot decide what sort of film it wants to be: biting social commentary (no pun intended, seriously), a tongue-in-cheek parody of vampire movies, or a broad physical comedy with heavy sight gags. In the first few minutes of the film, it manages to be all three, and it goes back and forth so often that the tone is never set. It plays less like a feature film and more like a series of bad web videos by people who don’t quite get comedy.
In the middle of the film, we get a 20 minute segment in which all of the vampires living in New York City (including Silverstone) have to figure out a way to answer jury duty summons, IRS audits, and other appointments that mean going out in the sunlight. It plays out like a bad 80s sitcom, and when it is resolved, the movie moves on to something else. It’s completely pointless and leaves you shaking your head wondering what just happened. It is the type of thing you see when you don’t have a focused script.
The jokes are beyond groan-worthy; as I said before, they are offensively stupid. Several times in the film, we are subjected to a running gag of vampires drinking blood from dead rats, including repeatedly sticking a straw in one like a juice box. It isn’t funny the first time, and it surely isn’t funny the fifth time around. The vampires in the film repeatedly flaunt who they are in public, and no one seems to notice. The CGI is so bad that it looks like a SyFy Channel movie. For some reason, the film takes a serious turn in the final ten minutes, invalidating the light comedic tone it tried to set the previous hour and twenty minutes.
A disappointment on every level, Vamps doesn’t even make it to the level of campy cheesiness that some films fall into. Someone should have had the good sense to put a stake in the heart of this film before the cameras started rolling.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The standard DVD image is solid, but the overuse of a soft lens to hide the age of some of the actors is distracting. Colors look fairly natural, even though the vampires are supposed to be pale, this movie hardly abides by the rule all of the time. A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite good, giving every bad joke and tired pun more clarity than it deserved.
THE BOTTOM LINE BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall grade: 4.75
A tedious, soul-sucking experience, Vamps is proof that even great actors and filmmakers can make bad movies. If you’re even the least but curious about seeing this, let me save you the trouble. Just skip it.
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Running time: 93 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: None
Vamps is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.