Modern Vampires (1998)
Director: Richard Elfman
Casper Van Dien/Dallas
Natasha Gregson Wagner/Nico
Gabriel Casseus/Time Bomb
Vampires rule L.A. They are rich, well-dressed and live a hedonistic lifestyle. Everything is gnarly until kool vamp Dallas (Dien) returns after being banned from L.A by Count Dracula (Pastorelli). That pisses the Count off and he wants his ass staked! Dallas’ love affair with renegade vamp Nico (Wagner) upsets the pretentious Count even more and the shit eventually hits the crapper. Oh and Van Helsing is also in town armed with a bunch of homies from the hood to kick that vampire ass…true that!
I expected a “Blade” rip-off from this one but was surprised with what I got instead. This is a schizophrenic flick that tries to be everything at the same time. It doesn’t always work but that doesn’t make it all bad…just real odd. The movie’s main point of interest (for me anyways) was the answer to this question: “How would vampires live, if they ruled L.A.?" They would all be rich, file their teeth, go to swanky vampire clubs, be very open sexually, feed on us mortals like appetizers and shop till they dropped. Watching the vampires’ lifestyle fascinated me (made me a tad jealous…great fucking lifestyle!) and kept me interested. The film doesn’t hold back on the graphically sexual/violent world they live in either and that made way for a few very weird, erotic and sometimes funny situations.
The movie’s many subplots hit and sometimes miss. I dug the Dallas/Nico relationship although it didn’t get enough screen time to really affect me. I also dug the Nico re-visiting her past thang (good scene). But the subplot that had me both scratching my head and smiling at the same time is the Van Helsing one. They made him very sympathetic in this film with a great reason to hate the vampires, which has you rooting for the guy. But as the movie moves forward, the sympathetic light switches over to the vampire camp, after which point, you don't give a fuck about Helsing's fate. So why spend so much time developing a character and making us like him only to betray him in the end? I didn’t get the intention of the filmmakers on that one. On the upside, having Van Helsing team up with a group of black gang-bangers cracked my arse up! They are all very realistically played and make way for some very funny situational humor.
Speaking of the humor, I will admit that it isn’t always balanced. Sometimes the director goes too far. The scene where the vampires “gang fuck” a vamp broad is funny but I had a hard time buying that they would nail her in the state that she was in. Another scene that comes to mind is the "vampire that never dies" thang; it’s pretty funny, actually I found it hilarious! But it’s very “Naked Gun”-ish and didn’t really fit into the whole of this film. The movie also has some action sequences that kick (the shotgun John Woo wannabe scene) and others that near miss (the end carnage). I think the director could’ve polished his action packed finale a bit more and maybe slapped more in there. It wasn’t as thrilling as it should’ve been.
Overall, "Modern Vampires" was an amusing and different spin on the un-dead bloodsucker theme. The fact that it tries to be a comedy, an action movie, a satire and a drama sometimes plays against it though. And because of the time factor, not all of the film’s elements get the screen time which they deserve (I personally wanted more action). But when the end credits rolled, I was able to say: this flick stars Casper Van Dien and it isn’t crap! Now that’s a feat on its own. Sink your teeth into this!
On the menu tonight we have a hefty serving of bloody staking with a side order of a cut off head and for dessert, lots of blood drinking, shotgun blasts and bad morphing.
I never thought that I’d ever say this but Casper Van Dien (Dallas) actually delivers a good performance in this movie. He perfectly blends cocky, evil, caring and actually pulls "charming" off too. Usually he’s so wooden! Our little boy is all grown up? Natasha Gregson Wagner (Nico) looks great and comes through as the rebellious vampire with no history. I bought it. Gabriel Casseus (Time Bomb) is credible as the dude helping Van Helsing out. Robert Pastorelli (Dracula) is just bad casting as the famous Count. His awful lisp and his overall look didn’t work for me.
Craig Ferguson (Richard) made me smile with his “out there” performance. Kim Cattrall (Ulrike) is still sexy and made me go purrrr. She does cheat her way out of a nude scene though. Rod Steiger (Van Helsing) does his best “Sam Loomis” impression and his overacting amused me. Udo Kier (Vincent) is a vampire and he wants us to know it because he goes out of his way to appear in every single vamp flick out there. I dig the dude though. Natasha Lyonne (Rachel) always seemed a bit butchy to me and here she goes full circle by playing a lesbian…I was convinced.
T & A
Lots of nudity in this flick. We get lots of background chicks and dudes naked. We get Natasha Gregson Wagner showing off her tits and the ladies (and his many gay fans) get Casper showing off his ass and his cut chest. Us dudes also get to see lots of chicks make out…yippee!
I didn’t think the direction supported the script as well as it should have. Yes, we get some groovy slow motion action scenes and the occasional kool shot but the director’s knack for slapping some really cheesy/artsy montages (of flowers-cemetery-blood drinking) in there every time a vamp bit someone...pissed me off. He also overplays the “insert of the moon” card way too many times. Was he trying to extend the film's runtime? On the upside, he handles the “vampire amongst themselves scenes” very well and slaps enough nudity in there to satisfy any single man/woman/gay man/lesbian or bisexual.
The score goes from tacky to goofy and goes too far on the “oddball” vibe for my taste. We also get some rock, some rap, some opera and some classical.
I liked this movie and respected its un-mainstream approach. The standard vampire elements are all present: the gore, the fangs, the sex, the Udo Kier...but we also get some extra stuff like a bunch of homies smoking weed, grooving to rap and kicking ass or some REALLY fucked up vampire night clubs. It could’ve been tighter and the directing more efficient but "Modern Vampires" still gave me a few things to savor. Hopefully you’ll appreciate those things too. Peace out.
Richard Elfman is brother of composer extraordinaire Danny Elfman.
Writer Matthew Bright also wrote and directed the cult classic “Freeway”.
Casper Van Dien is also executive producer on this one.
Danny Elfman composed the main theme for “Modern Vampires”.