Two female vampires in modern-day New York City are faced with daunting romantic possibilities.
This is a film which took me off guard a little bit. I’m well aware that vampires are all the rage at the moment, but it was something that I managed to steer relatively clear of. However, this film didn’t seem to be constrained by the same vampire ‘label’ in the way that a lot of other movies have been. It’s rather quirky and revolves more around comedy than horror, but I couldn’t help but be amused by some of the insane, yet subtly clever, scenes. The basic idea for Vamps is a simple one and perhaps this is why it worked so well – vampires coping with modern life. There’s also the added bonus of some real acting greats such as Malcolm McDowell and Sigourney Weaver. For me, this alone is a reason to watch the film! Additionally, it finally reunites Clueless stars Alicia Silverstone and Wallace Shawn with director Amy Heckerling. I can’t believe it’s been almost twenty years since that film was released. Silverstone has definitely grown up and matured which is always nice to see. I think it is great how the film manages to appeal to two separate sets of viewers – teenagers, for the peculiar, darkly comedic side of things and a more middle aged market for the nostalgia the vampires have of ‘simpler times’. It is a well known fact that vampires live forever, and Silverstone’s character has been kicking around since the 19th century!
A short summary of the plotline would be that Goody and Stacy are vampires living in modern day New York. Whilst this is not an ideal situation for them, they both seem relatively comfortable with the life of night school and partying, despite the awkwardness that inevitably comes with that. But then Stacy meets and falls in love with a guy called Joey ‘Van Helsing’ which adds some complications to both of their lives, especially when it turns out that his father is a vampire hunter. Who would have guessed? This is a fun film which explores a lot of everyday issues that modern vampires have to go through, like jury duty, for instance – a completely impossible task for creatures that can never face daylight without turning into dust. There’s also a rather funny sequence where Stacy wants to look tanned and tries all sorts of methods to do so (I believe she settles on brown spray paint in the end).
I liked the fact that there were a couple of homage’s to classic ‘vampire’ horrors like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, because it is important to know where the genre got its roots. However, Vamps completely updated this rather tired sub-genre and turned it completely on its head – rather than focusing on humans trying to get more involved in the world of vampires, we are now seeing vampires trying to fit into our society. This makes for an unusual watch and the film definitely makes a few statements about today’s hectic (and sometimes nonsensical) society. We often forget how far we’ve come, with technology, for instance, and how alien it must seem to an outsider.
Horror fans, I’m sorry to say that there’s not much gore to be had here, aside from a few biting of rats heads off and so the comedy is really the main message that’s being put across.
Despite the fact that this is a film about vampires, don’t think about Dracula or things like the Underworld franchise because I feel this will give you the wrong impression about what Vamps really is. Similarly, it’s not nearly as soppy and romantic as the Twilight franchise so I believe it has managed to set itself apart from the other portrayals of vampires, which is a crucial point to make. I admire the fact that Amy Heckerling was not afraid to make something a bit different and a bit wacky. Full points for originality, that’s for sure. I would actually be tempted to make a comparison with Dogma actually as it takes something that is considered classic (for Dogma it’s Catholic beliefs, and for Vamps it’s the image of vampires) and plays around with it in a funny manner. Vampires cease being some scary, monstrous entity and we begin to see them as just people who appear to act a little strangely.
The story of how Vamps came about in the first place is that Amy Heckerling met a producer (Lauren Versel) and started telling her that she was writing ‘this thing’. Lauren said that if it could be made for $10 million then she’s got it, and that was that. Heckerling claimed that ‘anything could be made for any amount’ and so got on with it, basically. In an interview with Alicia Silverstone, she proclaims that the film ‘seems light, it seems funny, but there’s so much underneath’, which is only too true really. There’s a whole host of issues being addressed (in a light-hearted way, of course) such as aging, the loneliness of modern communication, sacrifice and ultimately, facing your own mortality.
Overall, this is not at all a film I would normally go for, but there’s a certain charm about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is one of the rare instances where a modern vampire film has managed to do something a bit different, a bit bold and a lot crazy!