Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fun with the fanged undead in David Rühm's chuckle-worthy THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE

Genuine scares and originality are in such short supply these days regarding zombie and vampire movies that we mostly must rely on humorous riffs on these genres to bring us decent entertainment. Zombies don't lend themselves much to humor (though you might want to try the very funny, clever and low-budget Stalled), but vampires, being a lot more versatile than zombies, do occasionally provide some fun (witness last year's New Zealand mockdoc miracle, What We Do in the Shadows).

Now comes the latest bit of very funny nonsense regarding these particular undead, and it's a little ditty from Austria/Switzerland -- in German with English subtitles -- called THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE. This particular Count (not Dracula, but one, Geza von Közsnöm) has been married now for some 500 years and is growing bored with this lengthy state of matrimony. Writer/director David Rühm, shown at right, has cobbled together a short, swift, full-of-laughs riff on many of the vampire themes and lore that we vamp-lovers have come to appreciate. His "take" on it all proves charming and refreshingly light on its feet.

The very idea of a vampire needing therapy due to marital problems is clever enough, and while Herr Rühm makes some fun out of Sigmund Freud's encounter with our Count (Karl Fisher -- above, left -- does a fine job as our famous "first shrink"), the most sustained laughter in the film comes from the way in which the filmmaker deals with vampire habits like flying, climbing walls, and not being able to reflect in mirrors.

The last of these characteristics is responsible for the appearance of our vampire Count's wife (Jeanette Hain, above, right) at the door of a talented young artist (Dominic Oley, above, left), whom she needs to paint her portrait (since she can't see herself in any of her mansion's many mirrors).

The Count, meanwhile (a lovely and humorous faux-Drac rendition by Tobias Moretti, above), has become smitten with the artist's girlfriend, Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan, below, left), who quite resembles his old girlfriend who, thousands of years ago, turned him into the bloodsucker he remains.

The rondelay in which these four indulge keeps the plot ticking, but it is how certain characters react to their newly acquired -- and then, oh, no! loss of -- vampire skills that makes the movie so much fun. These moments are as oddly "real" as they are enchanting and hilarious, and they'll keep that grin across your face for most of the movie's 87-minute running time.

The requisite blood and gore? Oh, it's there, all right, but it's done with short, sharp and relatively subtle bravura, so that we get the point while also getting the humour/satire implicit. Meanwhile, themes of identity, feminism and vampirism all get their due, too, and we finish the film with that satisfied smile still on our faces.

Therapy for a Vampire, from Music Box Films, opens this Friday, June 10, in Los Angeles at the Landmark NuArt and in New York City at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, and then, in the weeks following, hits another 15 cities around the country. To see all currently scheduled playdates, click here and then click on THEATERS on the task bar midway down the screen.

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