Vamperifica was another bargain bin find. A closer inspection at home revealed that the DVD cover (unlike its Region 1 counterpart) features amongst other things a sex toy, so it was with great apprehensions that I started the DVD…
The film starts with a montage-like sequence cobbling together the “vampire history” that has been created as a back-drop for the film’s action. Such openings are not rare among vampire or demon B-movies, and are mostly tedious. It also is in this case, but I immediately noticed that this film had better visual qualities than most other B-movies.
The positive impression grew when the actual modern-day story-line started. Visually competent, and with two interesting characters portrayed by Martin Yurkovic and Dreama Walker in very fine performances. So I knew after five minutes that, no matter if this film was going to work or fail, it was not going to be like any of those really crappy straight-to-DVD films that look like film school projects.
Martin Yurkovic’s character Carmen is a stereotypical Hollywood gay character of the more flamboyant variety (think Jack McFarland from Will & Grace), but the stereotyping stays within the limits of what I would call acceptable. Yurkovich is also the creator of the story, though he sought the collaboration of director Bruce Ornstein in order to turn the story into an actual screenplay.
So what you have here at the beginning of this film is bitchy gay lead character Carmen and his even more bitchy best female friend Tracey as slightly arrogant, lazy, and careless college kids. Now cross these normal lives with a plot-line in which vampires are looking for Carmen because they are sure he is the reincarnation of their fearsome warrior king, and theoretically you should have all the ingredients for a rather intriguing and very funny film.
Unfortunately, Vamperifica manages to go off the rails somewhere around the middle. It is unclear where the story is meant to go, what Carmen’s supposed destiny is, or what the vampires’ plans are. Instead, the film descends into a dark amalgamation of revenge and increasingly gross and bloody violence. An extended scene featuring a weird and unrealistic college theatre production does further hurt the film’s coherence. The room for dumb fun is still there, and it is occasionally used, but as conflicts between Carmen and the vampires emerge (not unforeseeable) things get more brutal and come to an ugly climax. All of this represents a stark tonal shift compared to the earlier parts of the film which are much more light and humorous.
The ending as whole is again weirdly different in tone, and so strange that it confuses rather than satisfies.
The film also “suffers” from many dream sequences and visions that take us back to the point in time during which the first two minutes of the film took place. Those may be necessary for Carmen’s character development, but such dream sequences, visions, and flashbacks are always rather tedious unless they are really well done. In addition, there is a flashback to Carmen’s and Tracey’s childhood, which I deem unnecessary (and too long at that), and which sort of lowers the quality of the film as the kid actors are not able to deliver the calibre of acting needed.
Meandering plot and tonal shifts notwithstanding, the writing overall is good, and the dialogues are solid with many funny lines, some of which, however, feel a bit shoehorned in, like the vampires taking offence at Carmen being a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan, and other moments of that ilk.
On par with the writing, the camera work and the music are both very competent. As I said before, nothing here looks, sounds, or feels like a cheap straight-to-DVD horror production. It all very much feels “properly cinematic”.
For me, Vamperifica’s strongest point are the performances. Martin Yurkovic’s performance is very good, he especially is able to transport Carmen’s state of angst, his identity crisis, etc.; but juggling Carmen’s flamboyant gayness, his near hysteric state of crisis, and later his overwhelming anger, Yurkovic is at times wandering dangerously close to over-acting territory. Though in my opinion, he never crosses the line into over-acting, I believe it is possible that for some people it may already be too much.
Dreama Walker is also very good in the chief supporting role, and Jeff Ward, Creighton James, Bonnie Swencionis all deliver good performances.
A great minor role is that of Josh Alexander as an unmotivated and uncaring German faculty member. Nasty Hollywood agents and casting directors obviously have inspired the creation of this character, who is also somewhat reminiscent of Don McKellar’s character in Slings & Arrows. In this particular mix of pretentious and nasty, Josh Alexander is a joy to watch.
Be aware that this film operates with a lot of blood and gore at times, and with unnecessary flashy forms of killing and mutilation. All in all, I would say that this is interesting and fun film to watch, and while it may not 100% work as a story and have too many tonal shifts for anybody’s liking, watching it does not feel like waste of time. I am very hesitant to outright recommend this film, as there is too much wrong with it at times, but I guess if you are a fan of the vampire comedy genre, one might argue that you should see this some day. At the very least you get a whole bunch of funny lines and moments, and you get to see the potentially great story that is hiding somewhere within Vamperifica.
The current imdb-rating for this film is 3.8 out of 10 – but I believe 4.5 to 5.5 would be more accurate.