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Entries in Vampires Suck [2010] (1)

Monday
Dec202010

Vampires Suck (2010) Home Video Review

This Movie Bites (Get it?)

The tag line for Vampires Suck is “Some sagas just won’t die.”  This is as true of the lame parody movie (or “’Movie’ movie”) as it is of the Twilight-inspired vampire trendiness that has invaded pop culture.  The filmmakers do a great job of re-creating the look and feel of the teen angst mega-franchise, from the clothing and locations to the polished, slow-motion hero shots of the photogenic young stars; but the writing is more miss than hit, resulting in a Cracked Magazine-quality parody (back in the era when it was just trying to be Mad).

Vampires Suck was co-written and directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who’ve built a puzzlingly successful empire of cheap satires that ape whatever movies and tabloid sensations are topical during the five months before their films are released.  This film, for example, takes on Bella, Edward and Jacob but also gets in jabs at Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Lady Gaga, and the Jersey Shore gang; which is the downfall of all of these kinds of movies and the reason that Friedberg and Seltzer have never matched the inspired comedy that jump-started their careers, Scary Movie.

Scary Movie was a hilarious mash-up of late-90s horror movie conventions.  When Wes Craven’s Scream came out in 1996, it spawned a legion of imitators and, in the process, a whole handbook of tropes—just as Scream’s success was built largely on exploiting and re-working what we knew of 1980s slasher films.  Scary Movie made fun of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Blair Witch Project, and others, but what made it special was the fact that all of the characters were involved in an actual plot; they weren’t just catalysts for a series of unrelated sketches, as characters in later installments (and movies like Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Superhero Movie) would eventually become (by the time Scary Movie 4 came around, the series had resorted to making fun of 8 Mile and War of the Worlds).

The movie also worked because the script was both really raunchy and really smart about its targets.  One got the feeling that the writers were big fans of horror films based on the care that went into constructing gags while deconstructing subtext (Shawn Wayans’ closeted star football player being a great example).  It also helped that two of the Wayans brothers who starred in the film also worked on the script, and that big brother Keenan directed.  Scary Movie still feels like a big deal, like a group of really talented, funny, hungry people got together to prove to the world that they could be make a farce on par with Airplane!—speaking as a horror fan, I think they succeeded.

Ten years later, we have Vampires Suck.  You can probably guess my opinion of it by the amount of time I’ve spent talking about other movies. But the surprising news is that the movie is not that bad.  It’s a good time if you’re watching it with a group of Twi-hards (or even people who—like me—adore Twilight for all the wrong reasons).  But for every joke that brushes gently against the mark, there are five more that elicit either groans or the kind of laugh that masks embarrassment at having agreed to watch something so atrocious.

For example, the laugh-out-loud-hilarious scene in Twilight where Edward Cullen and Bella Swan race through the woods is portrayed in Vampires Suck as Edward Sullen (Matt Lanter) and Becca Crane (Jenn Proske) rushing past us on what is revealed to be a Segway.  It’s a cute joke, and a far more effective one than the scene where Edward the sparkly vampire strips to reveal that he has a disco ball for a penis, or the one-too-many scenes of Jacob the werewolf (Chris Riggi) taking off after a stray cat.  It’s clear that the filmmakers are skewing the quality of their jokes towards a younger audience—probably to lure in Stephanie Meyer’s tween superfans—and the result is a mess of foul-mouthed, mildly titillating juvenile nonsense.

I enjoyed myself watching this movie, though; if you’re a comedy nerd, this is a perfect eighty-minute mental exercise in figuring out why some jokes work and others do not.  If you haven’t tuned out by the fifth or sixth pervert-sheriff-dad gag, you may find yourself re-writing bits in your head and giggling at your own, more successful results.

The other bright side of the film is Jenn Proske.  She nails all of Kristen Stewart’s annoying affectations (the constant pulling back of her hair behind her ears and the lip-biting, shyly sexual princess coyness); she does it so well, in fact, that I wished she had been cast as the lead in the Twilight movies.  Because this is a comedy, we get an added dimension of levity to round out all of the characters, and watching Proske I realized that one of my biggest problems with Bella Swan is that she never fucking laughs.

This refreshing discovery is balanced out by my huge disappointment in Ken Jeong.  He leaves behind all the angst and nuance of his work on TV’s Community and regresses back to being the “weird Asian guy” that we saw too much of in The Hangover.  Here, he plays the bitchy leader of the secret vampire council, but he’s so unfunny and so ill-defined as a character that all of his scenes feel like overlong gag-reel footage.

So what’s the takeaway here?  Why did I bother to write about a movie that, by its nature, deflects criticism and would be deemed by most people as unworthy of review?  Well, I got more out of it than I thought I would, which surprised me.  I’m sure I’ll forget about Vampires Suck in a week or two, but it helped me appreciate the magic of great comedy and insightful satire—simply by being the exact opposite of both of those things.