DECEMBER 15, 2011
The nice thing about having such a lengthy queue for Blockbuster online (and that they never bother sending anything in order) is that I often totally forget whatever it is that made me want to queue a movie in the first place, keeping expectations in check. Thus, when Dinner With A Vampire arrived, I figured it was just some modern indie horror-comedy that I saw mentioned in Fangoria or something, only to be pleasantly surprised that it was an Italian horror movie from the 80s, directed by none other than Lamberto Bava!
My excitement faded, however, when my quick check to make sure this wasn’t some edited version (with these foreign movies you can never be too sure) revealed that it was actually a movie made for television, same as his woeful Graveyard Disturbance (same series, in fact – something called Brivido Giallo). And thus, while mildly better than that filth (I dubbed it the worst Italian horror movie I had ever seen), after a while I began wishing it WAS some backyard indie production from a few years ago, because even if it was just as bad I wouldn’t have to wonder why an admired filmmaker was making something so lifeless.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Italian television, you might be wondering why I would expect something more here. “It’s TV, it can’t be violent/gory!”, right? Wrong – they seemingly have zero censorship for that sort of thing on TV. In fact, the best thing about the movie are indeed the gore effects, particularly an awesome heart removal via telekinesis (!) that is shown in all its gory glory. There are also a couple of Evil Dead-style stop motion “melting” effects on the vampire that likely would not be allowed on an American broadcast. Might have had some profanity in there too, I can’t recall. The point is, if I didn’t KNOW it was TV, I wouldn’t have suspected that it was.
But my knowledge of how Italian TV works ends there, so maybe there IS some sort of reason why this suffered from the exact same problem as Graveyard, namely a total lack of deaths or even real violence on our heroes. The guy who got his heart ripped out was another vampire – maybe there’s a rule that only “monsters” can be shown getting killed in graphic ways? What other reason could there be for the fact that our group of four somewhat idiotic teens makes it out alive at the end, same as their equally dim counterparts in the other film? I mean, come on – there should be more dead than alive by conventional horror “rules”, yet not a single one of them meets his maker.
Instead, we just get a rather dull movie in which our vampire mostly just rambles on and on in between scenes of our heroes looking around his ugly castle. There’s a minor chase scene or two, but it’s shockingly action-free; I kept waiting for things to kick up a notch, assuming that everything was being saved for the 2nd half, only to discover that the movie was almost over (again, my mother’s DVD player doesn’t have a front display so figuring out how far I was into it or how much was left took effort I was too tired to bother with). The only thing spicing it up (sort of) was the random dialogue from the character of Johnny, who’s kind of a wiseass nerdy type (that the guy doing his dubbing was pretty much the worst of the bunch just made him all the more amusing). Pretty much every scene had an out of nowhere line like “I love your little game, but I only play Trivial Pursuit.”
Speaking of dubbing, one of the vampires had a voice that sounded almost exactly like the Count from Sesame Street, which made me constantly expect him to bust out a good ol’ “One. Two. Two bats! Ah ha ha!” I also wondered if the translation was as accurate as it should have been; there were no subtitles on the disc at all (even though the Italian language track was available), but at one point Johnny sifts through some of the vampire’s videos, and the things he says doesn’t match up with the English text on the tapes (he picks up Black Sabbath – cute, Lamberto – and says “The Witches’ Brew”).
And it’s a shame, because somewhere along the way I realized that I hadn’t seen too many Italian vampire movies (this is only the second for HMAD after Slaughter Of The Vampires); pretty much everything is always a Giallo or zombie/demon type things, and it’d be cool to see a prolific guy like Lamberto tackle the genre with the same sort of resources that he had for Demons or whatever (and with modern FX - Slaughter was from 1962). There’s a certain excitement that comes with a veteran director taking on a certain type of monster for the first time (like when Carpenter did his own vampire film), but there has to be something beyond the novelty for it to hold up; television movie or not, this is just dull as dirt. To be fair it seems like they were going for something a little more comedic, and thus the dubbing would likely kill some of the jokes, but it should still be entertaining on SOME level. I mean, Christ, I sure as hell wasn’t laughing much as Transylmania, but I could at least detect some momentum in the “plot” and even occasionally get drawn into the action – here I was just sort of wondering who thought this was a good idea.
There is one cool bit near the very end – they discover that the vampire can be killed not with stakes or sunlight or whatever, but by destroying a film that he was in, as the movie suddenly becomes a vampire/movie-fied version of Dorian Gray. There’s a cool movie somewhere in that concept – but this sure as hell ain’t it. And Lamberto's name being behind it makes that even MORE disappointing, because in his two Demons films he tackled this same sort of "movies blending into real life" theme, albeit with far greater success.
As I mentioned, the DVD (from Mya) has the Italian language track, but no subtitles to follow along unless you actually speak Italian (the disc is “region 0”, which means that a French guy can play it and be fucked either way!). The only other extra is the overlong, clunky trailer, which skips the “A” in the title but otherwise does a fine job of making the film look exactly like it is: dull. I also want to point out the disc’s random chapter breaks – one of them starts on Johnny saying “That sounds terrible!”. Um, WHAT sounds terrible? How can you start a chapter in mid conversation? It’s one thing on those Mill Creek discs which just have 4 breaks in even intervals throughout the movie, but this is just lazy.
What say you?