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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Frank Sabatella
prd Peter Block, Cory Neal
with Jay Jay Warren, Sofia Happonen, Cody Kostro, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Timothy Bottoms, Frank Whaley, Chris Petrovski, Francisco Burgos, Uly Schlesinger, Caroline Duncan, Sal Rendino, Drew Moore
release US 15.Nov.19,
Writer-director Frank Sabatella playfully wrongfoots the audience throughout this offbeat vampire thriller, stirring in elements of both teen comedies and family dramas. So along with the jump-scares and general viciousness, there's a refreshing amount of clever storytelling. This offers a continual stream of witty touches and twisted details that pull the audience in before the overwrought mayhem erupts. It may be corny, and more grisly than scary, but it's also a lot of fun.
Bitten by a vampire as the sun rises, Joe (Whaley) takes refuge in a rural farm shed as he transforms into a blood-sucking monster. In the house, orphaned 17-year-old Stan (Warren) lives under the harsh rule of his tyrannical granddad Ellis (Bottoms). Stan is struggling to cope with this, while his chucklehead best pal Dommer (Kostro) is cruelly taunted by high school bully Marble (Petrovski), who stole Roxy (Happonen), the girl Stan likes. So when Stan discovers a crazed "crackhead" in the shed, Dommer thinks this pet monster can solve all of their problems.
In the opening act, Sabatella drops telling details like the scars of Stan's self-harming and the way the local sheriff (Hogan) thinks he needs a break. Meanwhile, the narrative cleverly swirls through Stan's troubled life, including his clashes with Grandpa, violent confrontations with Marble, getting in trouble with Dommer and quietly reconnecting with Roxy. The generally sunshiny setting further distances the film from the usual vampire cliches, as does some witty dialog ("You checked the attic, right?").
Performances are heightened, sometimes tipping over into wild overacting, but the characters are strong enough to make it work. Warren's Stan is a seriously stressed-out teen whose nightmares provide some of the movie's wittiest jolts. He's smart and decent, and easy to root for as things get increasingly insane. Kostro is likeably over-reactive as Dommer, revealing some unsettling dark thoughts. Happonen gives Roxy some cleverly conflicting tough-girl layers. And Hogan gets all the best lines.
Meanwhile, the monsters (human and vampire) are cartoonishly savage, exactly as they should be. So the story has a superbly engaging trajectory, with an escalating sense of horror as Stan tries to manage this situation on his own. Of course the creature in his shed isn't easily contained, and the script's focus on the characters and story makes it much more than just another scary movie. But while there are pointed comments on rehabilitation and revenge, the real point here is to make the audience laugh and scream at the same time.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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