Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Friend family's BONNIE AND CLYDE VS DRACULA: Nepotism done right!

How disparate indeed are the movies we cover on this blog. Yester-day it was the best we've seen so far this year (Earthwork), and today it's a little number entitled BONNIE AND CLYDE VS DRACULA. What? Yes, and if that title sounds like one of the camp classics of all time, so be it. You can't escape camp with a title like that. The movie, however, is surprisingly straight -- combining the thriller, action, crime, horror and nostalgia genres into something that actually works. And surprisingly well.

Your main questions after viewing this odd concoction (mine, at least) were: How did this movie happen? Did it begin as a joke? Did somebody bet the moviemakers that a good film could not be created out of a title like this? Really: could anyone have wanted to toss Bonnie (Tiffany Shepis, above, left), Clyde (Trent Haaga, above, right) and Dracula into the same film? If so, then I stand corrected. And amazed.

B&CvsD is the product of what I will now call The Friend Family: It was written, directed and edited by one Timothy Friend, so it is he who gets the lion's share of credit for how well the thing works. Sorry, Tim: I could not find a photo of you anywhere on the web -- not, at least, one that I could be certain was of you, the movie-maker, rather than some other Timothy Friend. If someone will send a shot to me, I will include it in this post, for this guy deserves his credit and identification. (That may be Mr. Friend, above, with his back to us. But it might also be the cinematographer, Todd Norris. Good job, Todd: Your movie looks like a million dollars.)

Just breaking: I received a very pleasant email from The Friend Family yesterday, 4/26/2011, along with a photo -- of that missing director -- and an explanation of who is who and how the family fits together.  See bottom of this post for an update....

Listed as a co-producer is a certain Jennifer Friend (below, upside down and in Indian head-dress: don't ask), who also doubles as one of the movie's stars. She plays Annabel, a rather pretty young woman with a few cards missing from her deck. In the role of Dracula is one, Russell Friend (at left), and he delivers one of the sexiest Dracs since Christopher Lee. I wish the film found greater use for him, since everything he does is germane and interesting and is handled quite well. But with all else that's going on here (for a nice change in the horror genre, this film has too much, rather than the usual too little, happening), our Drac is not used to full capacity.

Most else is, however -- and that's what makes the movie such surprising fun. Its writing, direction and acting are strong throughout -- with the dialog much better than that of most low-budget genre films (I'd call it theater-level rather than movie-level); the perfor-mances are on-target, full of energy and believability; and the direction works in service to all of this, while maintaining its own level of smart visuals. (There's a grave-digging scene that's as memorable, in its way, as the one in Hamlet.)

"Do you like my toes, Bud" asks a sexed-up Bonnie to Clyde as they're driving along a back road. She follows this with "Do you like my nose, Bud?, heating him up a bit further. Then she delivers her rhyming pièce de résistance, nearly causing an auto accident. The movie is full of these small touches that amuse, surprise and turn us on, and Shepis and Haaga do a bang-up job as the hard-boiled couple on the lam.

I am not making any claims to greatness for this little film. For all its enjoyability and "smarts," it remains a mash-up of genres about, yes, Bonnie & Clyde and Dracula. Yet, compared to so much been-there/done-that garbage that gets filmed (or video-ed) and then released to theaters and DVD, this one is a clever, alternately shocking and silly (but fun) original.

B&CvsD, from Indican Pictures -- after playing a raft of fantasy/horror fests and some theatrical venues, including midnight showings, outside of NYC -- comes to DVD this Tuesday, April 26. Fans will want to take a look, for sure, while film buffs who appreciate the unusual will probably enjoy it, too.

Update: Shown in the in the photo above, from left to right: Joseph Allen (co-producer, lead gaffer and he composed the musical score), co-producer and co-star Jennifer Friend, and -- finally -- a photo of the director Timothy Friend. Jennifer, who sent the email and is married to Timothy, also tells me that their son Alex has a small part in the film. He plays the young "moonshiner" who gets shot during a heist-gone-bad, and he, along with some of his friends,worked as production assistant on the film.  Further, Russell Friend, who makes such a stirring Dracula, is Timothy's younger brother, and the family is now in preproduction for its next feature film -- which it plans to shoot in the sumer of 2012. I can't wait, and once you've seen what glossy fun it offers with B&CvsD, I wager you'll be eager to see the next one, too.

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