Jan 11, 2012
Although I have never been particularly fond of Bela Lugosi's iconic portrayal of Dracula, I have always had an instinctive fondness for vampires and their charismatic and hypnotic persona's. In fact, Dracula is my favorite famous monster but I welcome the warm company of any coldblooded bloodsucker; whether it be the cunning cryptic intentions of the grotesque rat-like ghoul and rotting aristocrat Count Orlok from F.W. Murnau’s pioneering silent flick Nosferatu (1922) or the distinctly suave style of Jim Morrison-esque undead shaman David (played by Kiefer Sutherland) from Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987); a still fresh and hip revamp of vampire storytelling. Unfortunately, it has been sometime since I saw a vampire film that left a deep enough impression on me to pierce my skin and draw blood. Despite being somewhat entertaining as a whole, the mostly overrated film Stake Land (2010) – a post-apocalyptic flick with vampires that are as mentally defective and undiscerning of eaters as braindead zombies – totally demystifies and demolishes the ancient legacy of vampires. Although apparently featuring roaming conquering armies of the fanged undead, Stake Land is as vampire-illiterate as vampire films come and unfortunately it belongs to a recurring trend. Of course, the teenage-panty-moisting Twilight series has left a completely different but equally odious garlic smell that has overwhelmed the vampire story which I will not even begin to describe. Luckily, I had the honor of recently discovering, watching, and re-watching Modern Vampires (1998) aka Revenant directed by Richard Elfman; a vampire black comedy that is both genuinely humorous and cognizant of the supernatural legend it so lovingly but lethally lampoons. Needless to say, when I discovered that the man who directed the maniacal and malevolent surrealist musical comedy Forbidden Zone (1982) sank his teeth into the age old tale of the vampyre, and reawakened it by setting it in contemporary times, I was instantly entranced and secured a copy for a mere 1 penny online; no doubt a minor but notable investment with a priceless return of infinite replay value.
Admittedly, Richard Elfman was aiming for the most philistinic of audiences with some of the glaringly trashy, lowbrow scenes featured in Modern Vampires. Of course, the gutter-grade neo-vaudevillian comedy contained within the film is indubitably an imperative part of its politically incorrect appeal. The main protagonist of Modern Vampires is Dallas (played by Caspar Van Dien, an actor once described as a "perfect life-sized Ken doll"); a cigar-smoking, undead-rebel-without-a-cause who falls out of favor with the Count (the decadent "dictator" of vampires) decades ago after turning a crippled member of the Hitler Youth named Hans Van Helsing (played by Marco Hofschneider of Europa Europa) into a vampire without permission. Hans was the son of old school National Socialist Doctor Frederick Van Helsing (played by Rod Steiger); a seriously idealistic and unintentionally comical Viennese vampire exterminator whose love for the Führer has never swayed. Proving his undying commitment to the final solution of the vampire problem, Dr. Van Helsing unflinchingly murders his own son immediately upon learning that he is a vampire. Flash forward to modern times, elderly Dr. Van Helsing has traveled to the epicenter of vampire culture – Los Angeles, California; the official sin-ridden city of bloodsuckers – to kill Dallas and any other compatriot of the parasitical subspecies that he can find. As the occult leaders of the city, the decadent vampires of L.A. are stern libertines who don't take kindly to the unwarranted prudishness of mere mortals. Out of desperation due to the feebleness of a golden übermensch heart, Dr. Van Helsing (the real Steiger also had a heart attack before the film) becomes 1/2 of the ultimate comedic odd-couple when he unconventionally recruits black Crips members “Time Bomb” (played by the usually over-sensitive actor Gabriel Casseus) to help kill vampires gangsta style. Being a laidback vampire, Dallas is more interested in finding a baby vamp (who he illegally "turned" two decades earlier) named Nico aka the “Hollywood Slasher”; an intemperate female novice bloodsucker who acts as a pseudo-hooker so as to lure in her hopelessly pathetic and perverted middle-age bourgeois businessman prey. Of course, the Count wants to kill the bewitching trailer park pearl Nico due to her unofficial status as a vampire and her reckless public predacity of humans that compromises official bloodsucker secrecy. Although taking place over the course of a couple days and nights (with flashbacks from decades past), Modern Vampires feel like an unrestrained all-night nosferatu party. Paying tribute to Paul Morrissey’s (not Andy Warhol’s) Blood for Dracula (1974), Homo-Aryan-character-actor and sub-international-superstar Udo Kier plays the hilarious role of the first vampire to be annihilated for the greater cause of the long deceased Third Reich when he is staked by Dr. Van Helsing's loyal but initially reluctant Uncle Tom. Modern Vampires also features a notable performance from the mostly grotesque Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall as a surprisingly sexy and comical German vampire named Ulrike who quite eloquently tells Negro gang members that they are, “untermensch.” Scotsman Craig Ferguson also does a superb job portraying an English vampire whose lucid lingo and mostly dry humor would undoubtedly bring warmth to the seemingly cold-heart of Queen Elizabeth. As one can expect, Modern Vampires is a postmodern take on the vampire tale where were every convention of the horror subgenre is either calculatedly exaggerated or quite consciously terminated. Although on first glance seeming like a half-ass exercise in tasteless depravity, Modern Vampires is a passionate (if sometimes deplorable) homage to a perennial story that is worth any vampirephiliac’s time.
Modern Vampires also antedates the somewhat similar vampire politics and hedonism of HBO’s extremely popular television series True Blood by a decade. Like Modern Vampires, True Blood explores the ancient international microcosm of the coffin-hibernating cryptic vampire elite from a neoteric perspective. Thankfully, the bloodlusting killers of Modern Vampires, unlike like those of True blood, are committed bluebloods who have no interest in joining human society and are stoically politically incorrect. Of course, like True Blood, Modern Vampires features gratuitous nudity, visceral violence, and bodacious bodily dismemberment, but (thankfully) lacks the misplaced and totally superficial melodrama of the HBO show. Unfortunately, Modern Vampires has fallen into the unideal fate of being lost in an abyss of mostly mediocre, forgotten vampire flicks, but, with the notoriety of popular series like True Blood, it does have the potential to become a somewhat revered Cult item in coming decades. It also does not hurt that Modern Vampires director Richard Elfman is the undeniably depraved, audacious auteur behind one of America’s greatest Cult films; Forbidden Zone. If the idea of an 'anti-vampire' film sounds like a bloody delectable prospect to you, Modern Vampires will certainly have you feeling reasonably fulfilled. Just do not expect the film to have a charismatic Count in the tradition of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as the oafish 'alpha'-bloodsucker of Modern Vampires seems more interested in smoking meatpoles and crack than focusing on seducing and turning the most beautiful living female in town.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:52 PM
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