October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.
Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)
Starring: Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, Joey Kern
Synopsis: Evan works a at sales company selling male enhancement products over the phone, along with his ex-girlfriend Amanda and his best friend, Tim. Evan has been working towards becoming sales manager but is disappointed when his old rival, Max, is brought in instead and he’s relegated back to the sales pool. Things start changing around the office, with some people disappearing and others undergoing a change of personality that makes them work harder than ever. Evan remains largely oblivious to the very clear fact that everyone is being turned into a vampire, which is at first only noticed by Tim and a security guard, Frank. He’s more concerned with Max putting the movies on Amanda. Eventually, however Tim and Evan, along with Frank and Amanda, set out to fight the vampires and take the office back from Max. After a long bloody battle they eventually defeat Max and Evan and Amanda get back together.
This movie is Office Space meets Shaun of the Dead meets 30 Days of Night – a middle management comedy with vampires and buckets of blood. The metaphor of a charismatic vampire who turns the company’s performance around by transforming the employees into mindless subservient drones is neither subtle nor revolutionary, but it is very appealing for those of us who have worked in offices with this sort of management structure (ie, most people). Max’s explanation that this is the perfect place for vampires, since it’s a windowless office full of pale people who already work late into the night, rings unfortunately true for my own cubicle based existence (hey, if I stand on my tippy-toes I can see a window sometimes).
There’s a lot of bro-based banter which is funny enough, but starts to wear after a while, particularly as the action is slow to get going. Really, only the last quarter of the movie contains the kind of all-out vampire fighting action you feel you signed up for after hearing the premise. But there are some really laugh out-loud funny moments, largely based on flashbacks. The two that spring to mind are Evan’s quiet, involuntary “noooooooooooooo….” after Amanda tells him she loves him (what led to the break-up) and the revelation that Tim and Frank had a feeling about the vampires because they actually saw them doing vampire things on multiple occasions. These sorts of quick, humorous, Archer-like cuts is what the film excels at.
The casting is also excellent. Pedro Pascal is slick, imposing, and oddly attractive as Max, corporate vampire. Fran Kranz as Evan is exactly kind of hapless loser you want to grow a spine and save the world – less completely wimpy and useless than the aforementioned Shaun is at the beginning of his movie, but only because he at least has career aspirations. Joey Kern is typecast as the dumb frat boy who never grew up and lives to play video games, watch porn and drink Red Bull (a prominent sponsor of this movie), but is loyal to his best friend. And Marshall Givens really goes all-in as Frank, the eccentric but stereotyped over-eager, over-important security guard who inevitably is killed by the vampires but goes down fighting. Emma Fitzpatrick has great comic timing but is not given enough to do other than be creeped on by both Max and Evan.
This leads me to my problems with the movie. It’s plenty entertaining, but do we really need another plot that revolves around white, white-collar dude bros taking back what’s theirs and making a stand for themselves? Sure, a vampire scourge is bad, but as a metaphor for the challenges faced and overcome by the sorts of people these characters represent… cry me a river. Tim and the others in the sales pool may have some redeeming qualities, but they are assholes and immature and Tim doesn’t become particular less so through the events of the movie. Evan is the Nice Guy who we are supposed to like because… well, he’s nice even though he’s also selfish and manipulative and a bad boyfriend. He grows a spine and learns to commit, but really he’s not that amazing even then.
Evan got denied a promotion that we’re told he’s earned (although we don’t really see him working much harder than the rest of the guys), but is his life so hard? His biggest problem at the outset is that his gorgeous, fun, awesome, understanding, Cool Girl (super hot, but also likes guy things and isn’t a drag like Those Other Girls) of a girlfriend is love with him. Oh, and so is the only other woman in the movie, who is also super hot. Sure, he’s got to grow up and take a stand and fight for the woman he loves, but… why is she so into him, exactly? Although Amanda gets some good lines in and a few vampire-killing shots, she mostly exists so that Evan has a reward at the end of his leveling up process. Oh, and so she be can put in danger and threatened with mind-control rape by the baddie to really motivate Evan when all seems lost. Ick.
Cool Girl and Woman as Reward are far from the only tropes this movie leans on, and it doesn’t bother to remix them in much of an interesting way. Have Sex and Die (Zabeth, the horny secretary always after Evan is an early victim here) and Black Dude Dies First (at least of our primary cast) also make appearances. Bloodsucking Bastards is entertaining, but mainly coasts on the “wouldn’t it be funny if an office was taken over by vampires and no one noticed?” concept, along with a few good jokes and some solid acting. As I mentioned before, it drags in the middle, once it’s made clear where it’s going, but spends twenty minutes more than necessary getting there (which is a feat for an 86 minute movie).
Also a lot of the camera work is sloppy, with choppy cuts, shakiness, and weird angles and framing choices that sap some of the vividness from the gore-filled action scenes. And the gore is the only vividness as around, as the low budget film takes place almost entirely in the office and its basement parking garage, and is intentionally dreary to highlight the monotony of office life (and save money). But the cinematography and editing issues can’t be blamed on the small budget, and they are distracting, at all the wrong times.
Quality: 5 cringing Kranz out of 10 – Fun, if not revolutionary concept but the execution wavers and the characters (mostly) wear out their welcome before the end.
Enjoyability: 6 vamp-faced admin out of 10 – Worth a watch if you like horror comedy and some good laughs, but once is enough.