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Vamp U

2013 | 98 min | R | 1.85:1

Vamp U


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Vamp U Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, February 22, 2013

“Vamp U” is a bad film, though not terribly offensive. It’s an attempt to pants Hollywood’s waning vampire obsession with a no-budget production aiming for laughs over mystique, though the potency of the gags leaves much to be desired, and it has a tendency to underline its “Twilight” target with temple-rubbing regularity. Still, on the spectrum of wacky monster comedies starring untested and unknown actors, “Vamp U” retains a modicum of spunk and a few smiles as it goes about its business of slapstick and bloodsuckery. Dial expectations way down, and perhaps writer/directors Matt Jespersen and Maclain Nelson will be able to entertain you for 90 unremarkable but innocuous minutes.

Eager to get out on her own at college, young Chris (Julie Gonzalo) is ready for campus life, greeted by childhood friend and longtime admirer, Fred (Maclain Nelson), who’s hoping to communicate his feelings to the freshman with help from fraternity buddy Tom (Matt Mattson). Holding a teaching position at the college is Wayne Gretsky (Adam Johnson), a vampire cursed with fang impotency after the tragic loss of love Mary (Julie Gonzalo), now stuck feeding on animals and sharing his misery with psychology professor Arthur (Gary Cole). Confronted with Chris’s uncanny resemblance to Mary, Wayne welcomes the return of his vampire verve, instigating a sexual relationship with his student. However, after accidentally biting Chris in a fit of passion, Wayne watches his lover transform into a monster, one that’s itching to share her eternal youth with her sorority sisters (including Alexis Knapp). Realizing that Mary is still alive and Chris’s mother, Wayne is forced into action to protect the school, chasing after the new vampire with assistance from Fred and Tom.

There’s an unusual atmosphere to “Vamp U” that keeps it diverting if never truly interesting. It’s certainly a wacky comedy, pushing Mattson into the Josh Gad/Dan Fogler role of the improvisation-flinging super-slob (an exhaustively unpleasant development in the genre), depending on the actor to pull laughs out of thin air, despite his clear inability to do so. There’s also Johnson, a longtime character actor finally in possession of a lead role that requires a certain amount of sex appeal and a great amount of comedic timing, forced into numerous moments punctuated by broad reactions. It’s a little too much of a challenge for Johnson, but he’s passable when he’s not trying to be funny. “Vamp U” is always hunting for silliness, but there’s an undercurrent of calm to the production, boosted by acoustical soundtrack cuts and deep breaths between the madcap antics. There’s restraint about the movie that many of its ilk avoid like the plague, easing the aggressive nature of its more unsavory elements. Perhaps the tone is microscopic, but it’s there and appreciated.

Helping to salvage the picture are a few of the performances, including lead work from Gonzalo, who pulls double duty in the dual role as fresh vamp Chris and old bloodsucker Mary. Gonzalo smartly divides the personalities to keep the characters distinctive, finding enough motivation to help her realize the challenge of playing a mother and her own daughter. Once Chris goes vamp, the acting finds a satisfactory villainess approach, complete with a black leather makeover. Also convincing is Nelson as sadsack Fred, embodying timidity and fraternity loserdom with mercifully mild timing, sustaining the lovelorn doof’s appeal without shifting into overkill.

The climax follows the frightened vampire killers as they fight to keep Chris away from a bounty of blood donations, battling turned sorority sisters with traps and wooden stakes. It’s a resolution in need of a larger budget to accurately realize, but the effort is there, even if technical limitations are obvious. Thankfully, it’s a boisterous enough ending to close out “Vamp U” with a bang (perhaps more of a pop), but Nelson and Jespersen do get a little greedy right before the end credits hit, promising a sequel to these shenanigans. Perhaps taking this nonsense one movie at a time is the best approach. Get the first one right, and maybe there’s room for further vampire commotion.

Starring: Julie Gonzalo, Adam Johnson, Alexis Knapp, Maclain Nelson
Directors: Matt Jespersen, Maclain Nelson

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