Die Vampirschwestern 2: Fledermäuse im Bauch (2014)

Based on a series of novels by Franziska Gehm, this sequel to the successful German young-teens film Die Vampirschwestern was released in German cinemas nearly two years after that first film. It was created by the same team as the first film, including script writer Ursula Gruber, director Wolfgang Groos, and editor Stefan Essl. Merely the cinematographer (Armin Golisano) came new to the franchise.

Since this franchise is not being widely distributed outside Germany, there are probably no English-language versions available.

 

Half-vampiric sisters Dakaria and Silvania Tepes are now 14 years old and say they want to do “14-year-old things”. But their father strictly forbids them to go to the concert of a Transylvanian vampire band. He has very specific reasons for that, but somehow decides not to tell them about those reasons. So the girls sneak out of the house and visit the concert anyway. This sets into motion a series of events, with malign forces targeting the girls.

 

The film’s story is overall slightly more exciting and “cinematic” than that of the first film, but nothing about this plot is original or inventive. With Dakaria developing a crush for the first time (hence the film’s title, “Bats in the Belly“), the film tries to depict a young teen romance while at the same time indicating the dangers that lurk if young girls venture out on their own and act against their parents’ advice. This latter element is done in a subtle and harmless way, but still pretty hamfistedly, which is kind of the worst of both worlds. The theme of romance, on the other hand, is mirrored and replicated ad nauseam in various subplots and motifs. The family’s vampire hunter neighbour (played again by Michael Kessler), for example, falls in love with his nurse (played by Diana Amft in the style of a 1940s bombshell), and the girls’ father suspects his wife of developing a crush on her new landlord. Even the girls’ CG-pet-slug has its own love story. The film, however, misses the opportunity to use Silvania’s already established relationship as a worthwhile subplot, which would arguably have worked better as a foil for Dakaria’s situation than anything else.

 

It seems to me that this franchise is targeted at a rather narrow age group, probably around 10 to 13. Technically, it is young adult fiction, but harmless to a fault. This is no Hunger Games, this is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. At the same time, the films’ content makes them probably rather uninteresting for viewers younger than that as well as for boys in general; while its rather childish nature will turn off many teenagers. The box office earnings for Vampire Sisters 2 were 1/3 lower than those of its predecessor; and with the narrow target audience and the two-year gap between releases, I wonder if this may not be a case of some fans simply “ageing out” of the franchise.

Talking of the childish nature: as in the first film, the (often slapstick-y) gags involving the vampire hunter are skewed far too young compared with the rest of the film. It’s the type of thing that would make six- or seven-year-olds laugh, and seems an ill fit considering the target audience is considerably older.

 

While the writing is generally on par with the first film, there are some missed opportunities. The lack of screen-time and development for Silvana and her boy-friend is one of them, the other is the fact that Jamie Bick, who gave one of the first film’s best performances, is completely sidelined here, and her character is burdened by the screenplay with nonsensical uncharacteristic decisions.

The rest of the cast does a good job, as in the first film, including Marta Martin and Laura Antonia Roge as Silvania and Dakaria, and Christiane Paul and Stipe Erceg as their parents. Michael Kessler, as their neighbour, again falls victim to bad writing, such as the slap-stick gags just mentioned. Still, he manages to create a halfway believable character in spite of the script, unlike in the first film. Diana Amft completes Kessler’s play rather nicely.

Special mention should go to Austrian actor Georg Friedrich for his performance in the villain role, and to Michael Keseroglu as his hapless sidekick.

 

One of the film’s weak spots is the character of Murdo, played by Tim Oliver Schultz. That has nothing to do with Schultz’s performance, but everything to do with the writing. Murdo is a member of a rock band and he invites Dakaria onto the stage and later backstage, basically like a groupie. Since Dakaria is 14 years old (and given the general harmless nature of the franchise and its rather young target audience) the filmmakers were bending over backwards to drive home the point how friendly and harmless Murdo is. He makes the Jonas Brothers look like death metal band. The unfortunate side-effect is that Murdo is the blandest character I have seen in a long time, and the film suffers from that fact.

 

 

Like the first film in the franchise, the film is well-produced, and nothing about it looks cheap. Costume design and props show considerable effort. And DP Golisano even manages to make the rave-scene look somewhat convincing and reasonably crowded, even though it was shot with only a bare minimum of extras.

 

As I said, Vampire Sisters 2 is entertainment for young teens, and as such rather bland and harmless. While it is slightly better than the first film, there is no reason for anyone outside its core target audience to see it.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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