Saturday, February 23, 2013


Urge to Bite

How far the mighty have fallen indeed. In 1995, writer-director Amy Heckerling hit the nail on the head with what would be the definitive chick flick of that decade with Clueless, and propelling its lead Alicia Silverstone into super-stardom, launching words and phrases into collective acceptance. Fast forward to today, both didn't quite have projects under the belt that rivaled their early success, so I guess coming together again was probably an opportunity to find their collective magic, and what's none better than to tackle a popular subject matter for film - Vampires.

Granted that Alicia Silverstone is no longer the teen that she was, Amy Heckerling has created quite a smart plot device, which provides Silverstone with playing an older character, but able to retain her relatively youthful looking features for the story of the undead and immortal. She plays Goody, a 2nd generation vampire who was turned by Sigourney Weaver's Cisserus in the late 1800s. In today's context, Goody managed to save Stacy (Krysten Ritter) from Cisserus, convincing the latter of Stacy's fashion sense and the need to stay with the times. So Goody and Stacy become "blood sisters" after the latter gets converted, staying in their coffins in an upmarket swanky New York apartment, leading the good life but only at night, but are at the beck and call of Cisserus when she goes out hunting for human blood.

It is probably in the mantra of human-friendly vampires to be sucking on blood of vermin, following the Twilight model. And Twilight dictates the falling in love, so there's a huge sub-plot revolving around Stacy and her relationship with a Van Helsing bloodline in Joey (Dan Stevens), where soon their differences get discovered because you can't really hide the fact that one is without a pulse, or body warmth, with pale skin that had hardly seen any sunlight. This of course raises the suspicion of Joey's father Dr. Van Helsing (Wallace Shawn), himself a vampire hunter given their heritage, and with Cisserus going around killing folks for sustenance, you'd know everything would converge and come to that necessary climatic finale to have all narrative loose ends resolved.

But underneath this candy and sugar coated sweetness, lies a rather dark tale about love, and the cruelness imposed by immortality. People you love would come and go, and there's always more than enough folks wondering why you just won't age together with them. It's an incredibly lonely process, and a heartbreaking one, as epitomized by Silverstone's character of Goody. But of course there are those who live it up given selfish motivations, and drunk by immense power that the undead status brings. This contrast is what propels the story right to its touching finale, which is rather surprising if one happens to contend and condemn the film solely on its trailer and promotional material.

Effects are laughable though, if you forget that this film is firmly set in B-territory. There's no masking of its limited budget, and the deliberate use of plastic props whenever possible, with tongue-in-cheek effect. Even the CGI is completely amateurish, a throwback to things down some two decades ago, which highlights just how cheap the production really is. But it contains a decent story, with romance and comedic elements to allow it more breadth in its narrative. Sigourney Weaver hamming it up these days in various support appearances also makes it a little bit fun, but the winner here are the darker tones that lie beneath its surface, if you'd only give this film a chance, and look a little bit deeper. Recommended!

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