In fact, I’ve always tried approaching every film or TV episode I review from the standpoint of dissecting what works and what doesn’t, commenting even on the efficacy of performances and the worth of production details. It goes without saying that those features shot with better budgets do begin the journey to completion with a potentially stronger foundation, but that doesn’t mean the end product will be any more worth its reputation. Granted, the world of low budget pictures isn’t for every Tom, Dick, Harry, Siskel, and Ebert; but there are some nuggets of theatrical joy to be found by those willing to put in a little bit of time along with a good deal of patience.
This is largely why I’m thrilled to take a gander into such pictures like Vampires And Other Stereotypes (1994): they just don’t get the kind of coverage the latest Ryan Reynolds or Reese Witherspoon blockbuster will, even though they’re likely made by folks with more love, affection, and respect for the entire filmmaking process. Because B-Movies are conceived, shot, and passed around by the medium’s most ardent fans, these films usually have something special worth a notice … and, yes, I get jazzed by trying to find out what that is.
Besides, if ten billion bloggers and vloggers have already told you why 2023’s Barbie deserved your attention, then wouldn’t you rather have little ol’ me pointing you toward equally interesting distractions?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“Two ‘Men in Black’ wannabees (who are not wearing black) are on the look-out for ridding the planet of supernatural beings. After saving a crooked businessman in a warehouse, they are surprised by three pretty girls and a leather-jacketed boyfriend who are searching for a party. Evidently, they have unwittingly unleashed a kind of portal, endangering us all. Our heroes spend the night trying to survive, as one of the three women has been targeted as a ‘breeder.’ She has apparently been chosen for being pretty tough – after all, she does the equivalent of shrugging her shoulders after witnessing her businessman father getting horribly decapitated just inches away.”
Well, let’s get a few points out of the way right up front.
As a B-Movie, Vampires And Other Stereotypes has a bit more story than I honestly expected it to have. That may not mean much to some, but I was pleasantly surprised with how deeply writer/director Kevin J. Lindenmuth tried to build this unique vision. While his characters are all a bit two-dimensional, he still tried to give this subset to civilization a measure of uniqueness. It may not have been all that original; but effort expended deserves the applause. So … clap clap.
Where it’s hard to keep clapping is the fact that (A) far too much of what transpires does so entirely because that’s how it was written, and (B) the script kinda/sorta boasts a 1950’s mentality as it comes to social mores and the like. Now, that would function adequately if all of this was intended as a narrative send-up to the way simpler times meant crafting simpler stories; but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Vampires has some occasional humor – it boasts a rather funny sequence involving some bickering heads and faces of demons breaking through a concrete wall, and they spend their screen time arguing like spoiled children – and, yet, such folly would seem to be the exception rather than the norm to the flick’s tone. I’m all for lampooning the lunacy of bygone days, but Vampires never finds that consistency and sticks with it.
In typical B-Movie fashion, we are delivered a wry and sardonic hero/antihero – two, actually – and Harry (Ed Hubbard) and Ivan (Bill White) rather capably host this journey beyond the Gates of Hell even though not everything that develops makes perfect sense. (It is Hell, after all, so maybe that’s what Lindenmuth intended.) In fact, I’ll admit to not even being entirely certain as to the why and how of this particular portal’s rules were handled: some instances play more as though they were made up in camera (or on the set) as opposed to being graphically plotted out in pre-production, so don’t look for all of this to add up seamlessly in the final reel.
Still, I am a fan of old school effects works – largely meaning things that can be accomplished both in camera and on-the-spot – and, in that respect, Vampires features a lovely assortment of make-up and creature prosthetics. Those wall-mounted talking heads are some fabulous artistries, in fact, so much so that I wish the script had spent vastly more time with them; and there are some great masks used in the second half that should be the stuff of small legends within the realm of B-Movie fans. They look great, and they allow for even modest characterizations obviously supplied by talented actors … so kudos to all involved in bringing some of these wacky creations so vividly to life.
Vampires And Other Stereotypes (1994) was produced by Brimstone Productions. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the fine folks at Visual Vengeance. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I can still spot some sub-par production work here and there; and there’s a great deal of sub-par production work spread across this low-budget effort. As B-Movies go, it isn’t awful; but it still deserves a mention. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? Well, holy mother of dragons, you’ll have plenty to get excited about as the disc boasts an astonishing three different commentary tracks, a plethora of cast and crew interviews, a good deal of related featurettes, some early Super 8 films from director Lindenmuth, and even a bit more. Wow. Visual Vengeance has spared no expense of giving fans the red-carpet treatment, so kudos to all involved.
Alas, only … Mildly recommended.
Vampires And Other Stereotypes (1994) requires a bit of patience even for those who traffic often in the realm of lesser features. It doesn’t always make sense, and the fact that it kinda/sorta vacillates between meaningful Horror and schlock lunacy had me questioning just what all of it really was about, what it ultimately meant to say about its people, places, and things. I realize that its entertainment value might be enough for others, but – as I said – I do still gravitate toward productions that resonate as opposed to cheaply entertain. Still, I can appreciate some fabulous production work here and there, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more Lindenmuth in my diet.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Visual Vengeance and Wild Eye Releasing provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Vampires And Other Stereotypes (1994) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.