An ancient vampire who has renounced drinking human blood since killing his one true love finds his passion reawakened when the woman’s double enrols at the university where he teaches history.
Also released under the terrible title DR LIMPTOOTH this movie turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had for quite some time. An out-and-out comedy, rather than a horror-comedy hybrid, this mines a rich vein of varsity humour while gently poking fun at the current vogue for vampires in popular culture.
Adam Johnson plays Wayne Gretzky (no, not that one), a centuries-old vampire who whiles away immortality teaching history to university students, livening up his lectures with first-hand accounts of Genghis Khan and JFK. But his affable exterior hides a broken heart: hundreds of years before, Gretzky killed his true love Mary (Julie Gonzalo) when, unable to control his vampiric urges, he bit her in the neck. Since then Gretzky has experienced ‘vampire impotence’ – the inability to grow his fangs at the moment of bloodlust.
Working through his performance anxiety issues with a sympathetic colleague (an enjoyably sleazy Gary Cole) and subsisting on animal blood, the essentially decent Professor Gretzky has become more human than vampire over the countless years until one day a new student, Chris Keller (also Julie Gonzalo), who is the double of his long lost love joins his class. Gretzky finds his impotence a thing of the past and the two are soon engaged in a passionate affair, much to the dismay of Chris’s smitten friend Fred (co-director and co-screenwriter Maclain Nelson). But Fred’s frat buddy Tom (the excellent Matt Mattson) begins to suspect there may be more to Professor G than meets the eye.
Events take a dramatic turn when Gretzky discovers that the reason Chris so closely resembles Mary is because Mary is actually her mother. Momentarily losing control, Gretzky bites Chris – just as he did her mother – turning her into a vampire. The previously clean-cut Chris relishes her new found bad girl persona and goes on a blood-fuelled murder rampage, with Professor G, Fred and Tom realising they are the only ones who can stop her.
VAMP U isn’t afraid to go for bad taste gags but it’s generally a much more amiable movie than a lot of campus comedies which can be pretty mean-spirited. Nelson and Mattson make for an endearingly hapless pair of heroes while even the vampire himself seems like a stand-up guy, so spending 90 minutes in their company is a breeze. It helps of course that the film is hugely funny: there are sight gags, physical gags, running jokes, in jokes – you name it, the script throws everything at you and most of it sticks.
It’s a pity that the female roles are badly under-written: most of them are not much more than eye-candy or plot devices. Julie Gonzalo – who effectively gets to play three roles, and does all of them very well – comes off best but this is a guy’s movie and as such they get all the good lines. But at least there are plenty of good lines: this is one of the best low-budget comedy scripts I’ve come across in a good few years and thankfully it gets the performances it deserves. All the cast are terrific but I’d single out Matt Mattson for special praise because he steals the show as Tom, a performance that deserves to be seen more widely. He reminded me of the brilliant comedy actors who made up Mel Brooks’ stock company, guys like Harvey Korman, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise – he’s that good.
I’d have no hesitation in recommending VAMP U and indeed would strongly urge you to track this one down if you can. Horror fans and non-horror fans alike will both find much to enjoy in this well-written and well-performed movie which belies its low production values to deliver one of the most consistently entertaining ninety minutes I’ve seen in a long time.
Vamp U (2013)