Jimmy has been dumped by his girlfriend and talks his best friend into going hiking. They end up in a small town overrun with lesbian vampires. It is up to these two blokes and a hot virgin to save the day.
The comedy horror film is a subgenre that has always been one of my favorites. I have enjoyed many of these movies, from classic attempts like the wonderful Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to the recent masterpiece Shaun of the Dead and everything in between. There are always missteps (Vampire in Brooklyn) but when a movie hits, it can be magnificent (Return of the Living Dead). You don’t need to look much further than Shaun of the Dead to see how a horror comedy should be made. Edgar Wright made a very funny comedy in a very real horrific world. He never insults the zombie genre and lets the comedy take place with the characters, not the monsters. It is the same thing Charles Barton did with his Abbott and Costello mishmash. Not only did Barton not make fun of the monsters but he hired the iconic stars that played the monsters in the genre movies for his comedy. The key is to make a movie showing the ridiculous situation of finding a normal guy in the middle of a supernatural phenomenon.
The biggest obstacle facing Vampire Killers is a 500-pound gorilla named Shaun resting on its shoulders. The movie originated in Britain and stars a comedy duo including straight man Matthew Horne and fat man James Corden. While this dynamic can be traced back to the Abbott and Costello pictures, Shaun of the Dead proves it can still be successful today when it’s original enough to make people never think about the past. What hurts Vampire Killers is there is no way you can look at this very British film without comparing it to Shaun.
Horne is the Simon Pegg of this film but is one of the worst parts of the picture. He doesn’t possess any of the charisma Pegg has and every time he is the onscreen center of attention, the movie stalls dead. He is set up as the straight man, the eventual hero of the movie, and fails miserably. He has the look of a misbegotten reluctant hero, almost a mix of Rupert Everett from Cemetery Man and, at one point, a skinny Bruce Campbell. Unfortunately, the physical appearance is as far as he gets in his performance in this film.
Faring better is James Corden as the Nick Frost styled character. It is too bad he is never as funny as Frost and shares none of the natural charisma with his partner as Pegg and Frost share. That is strange because the two men are wildly successful in their home country on Gavin & Stacey but, outside of small dialogue driven scenes, the two do not mesh. However, when Corden is free from his charisma-challenged co-star, he has a chance to shine. The scenes he shares with the vampire hunting vicar are highlights of the film.
The other problem with this film standing out as something unique is the actual plot points of the movie. To say the movie has a plot is a loose interpretation in itself. Horne is Jimmy, a guy who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. To make us hate this woman more than we already do, we learn she dumped him for another guy, who happens to be married. Faring is Fletch, a newly unemployed bloke, a clown fired for punching a little boy in the nose. They meet up at the local pub and Jimmy convinces Fletch to go hiking. To review, the main character is a man recently dumped, discouraged and sad. His buddy is a clown and the two like to hang out in a local pub. Sound familiar?
What makes this movie stand out in its native country is stripped from the U.S. release. For those who have been following the making of this movie, you know it is called Lesbian Vampire Killers in the U.K. That title might have brought in a larger audience for its DVD release but the change is for the better because anyone buying this movie to see lesbian vampire action will be sorely disappointed. The movie does not short us on hot naked females, but it blows its load early in the film. The full on lesbian vampire action is shot in slow motion panning shots with the women trying, and I emphasize trying, to move seductively while petting each other and occasionally sharing a kiss or bite. To use one word to describe the lesbian vampire action, that would be limp.
The biggest problem with the film is the direction by Phil Claydon. He doesn’t know what kind of movie he is making but veers to the side of spoof. It is not a problem because spoofs can be fun too but the movie never once takes the vampire lore seriously. The movie opens with a flashback explaining the plot of the movie, similar to the opening of Underworld: Evolution. Hell, the end of the movie bears a resemblance to the epilogue of Blade: Trinity, with the hapless vampire hunters setting out to keep up the good fight. When your movie’s opening and conclusion remind me of sequels to better movies, there is something wrong.
The only good decision he made in the direction of the movie is the comic book undertones. When you go to a new location, the title is listed in a fun font reminiscent of a comic book or maybe watching a serial. Claydon says he was shooting for the spirit of old Hammer Horror and that might be on display in the more interesting aspects of the filmmaking but those moments are fleeting as the movie moves on. This movie is more Transylmania than Shaun of the Dead. Claydon uses a slapstick soundtrack at inopportune times in the film. He uses slow motion to frame the lesbian vampires, and if he was going for cheesy he succeeded. He also horribly miscalculated its effectiveness.
The only great character in the film is the vicar. Paul McGann is awesome in his small scenes as the vicar who believes he is the only knowledgeable man when it comes to killing vampires. Small moments, such as when he is amazed Fletch is willing to leave his friends to die or disappointment when he learns the vampire rules are public knowledge thanks to TV, movies and novels, are wonderful to watch. He is also a lot of fun as a holy man who drops the F-bomb quite frequently. He reminds me a little too much of the ass kicking priest from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, but is original enough to keep me entertained nonetheless.
At the end, when the hero wins with a whimper, rather than a roar, the movie dies a slow, painful death. Matthew Horne is a horrible leading man and none of the women made me care about them. James Cordon and Paul McGann are easily the best parts of the film but are weighed down by the unavoidable comparisons to characters that came before them. The movie blows its load early and never recovers, making the rest of the movie a bore to sit through. The movie never takes the legend of its monster seriously and in a genre that includes Shaun of the Dead, Cemetery Man and last year’s Zombieland, not even lesbian vampires are enough to save it.
The U.K. version of this film has lots of special features. The U.S. version has nothing.