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Vamps Blu-ray Disc Review

Vamps (2012) Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Vamps

Theatrical Release: November 2, 2012 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: Amy Heckerling / Songs List

Cast: Alicia Silverstone (Goody Rutherford), Krysten Ritter (Stacy Daimer), Dan Stevens (Joey Van Helsing), Richard Lewis (Danny Horowitz), Wallace Shawn (Dr. Van Helsing), Justin Kirk (Vadim), Malcolm McDowell (Vlad "The Impaler" Tepish), Sigourney Weaver (Cisserus), Marilu Henner (Angela Horowitz), Kristen Johnston (Mrs. Van Helsing), Zak Orth (Renfield), Larry Wilmore (Professor Quincy), Meredith Scott Lynn (Rita), Brian Backer (Middle-Aged Guy/Dentist), Taylor Negron (Pizza Guy), Amir Arison (Derek), Todd Barry (Ivan Davidoff), Ivan Sergei (Detective), Olivia Walby (Baby Goody), Gael Garcνa Bernal (Diego Bardem - uncredited/archival footage)

1.78:1 Widescreen / Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned
Blu-ray Release Date: November 13, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($22.98 SRP) and Instant Video

Buy Vamps from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD • DVD • Instant Video

Few female filmmakers have had the kind of success that Amy Heckerling has. Heckerling made her feature debut at age 29 as the director of the Cameron Crowe-penned Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). She followed that with the unremarkable Michael Keaton vehicle Johnny Dangerously (1984) and European Vacation (1985), the weakest installment in that John Hughes-conceived Chevy Chase franchise. Then, Heckerling made her screenwriting debut on the self-directed baby comedy Look Who's Talking, one of the biggest hits of 1989.
A quickly-produced sequel, again both directed and written, this time with her ex-husband co-writing, by Heckerling, saw the usual diminishing creative and financial returns. Then, Heckerling made the film for which she remains best known, the Jane Austen-inspired 1995 high school comedy Clueless, as iconic and representative of the '90s as just about any movie.

You would think the critical and box office success of Clueless would make the industry more receptive to Heckerling comedies. But her follow-up effort, 2000's Loser, lived up to its title with underperformance and no Heckerling film has since graced an American theater. With a cast headed by Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, and Saoirse Ronan, Heckerling's enjoyable romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman should have warranted a theatrical run, but the oft-questionable Weinstein Company instead sent it straight to video the same 2008 week that Ronan vied for her Atonement Oscar.

Heckerling's latest film, Vamps, a modern-day vampire comedy which reunites her with Clueless star Alicia Silverstone, has been given a similar fate. It is supposedly getting a limited theatrical release in New York and L.A. on Friday, but that seems to just be a hollow formality in between its October 19th On Demand debut and its DVD and Blu-ray release on November 13th.

In a coffin adorned with ripped out pictures of Michael J. Fox and Henry Winkler, Stacy (Krysten Ritter) uses her computer to show Goody (Alicia Silverstone) how she looks. Richard Lewis plays Goody's 1960s activist boyfriend, who in the present day offers his services as an ACLU lawyer.

Not merely hopping on the Twilight and "True Blood" bandwagon, Vamps gives us vampires as young New York City gals. In fact, the term "vampire" is outmoded to them; they prefer ELF, as in Extended Life Form. Goody (Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter, "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23") have been roommates since 1992, when Stacy was turned. The two have remained ageless, Stacy soon to have been 20 years old for 20 years. Though Goody claims to be the same age, she actually joined the undead all the way back in 1841. That, not History Channel viewership, explains the historical perspective by which she views her hometown. It also explains why she is still begrudgingly getting acclimated to texting abbreviations and other contemporary slang.

At its first few glances, Vamps appears to be a tone-deaf satire of vampire lore, with jokes like fang whitener and embalming lotion, expressions like "up all day", and a support group called Sanguines Anonymous. The heroines, who have learned to live on animal blood (namely, rats) alone, go to bed at the sound of birds chirping, wishing each other a "good morning" before closing their nearby coffins. This unfunny material isn't helped any by some extremely unsightly visual effects far beneath the film's estimated $16 million budget used to depict torso-twisting crawls down building walls.

It's sad to see how far Heckerling and Silverstone's respective stock has plummeted in the seventeen years since Clueless was released. Heckerling has just not worked, aside from I Could Never... and directing an episode of "The Office" and two of "Gossip Girl." Silverstone has been more productive, but her TV movies and few poorly chosen theatrical credits (Scooby Doo 2, Beauty Shop, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker) have robbed her of relevance and steeply lowered her quote. Though the rust that each exhibits is not surprising, one's heart still aches at seeing the talents behind one of the '90s' brightest and most fun comedies making something that looks like an ABC Family original movie.

Fortunately, Vamps improves upon its rough opening by giving us themes more identifiable to Heckerling. A subplot about the ELFs being subpoenaed and surveyed under the Patriot Act randomly indulges the director's politics. It also gives Goody's old boyfriend (Richard Lewis), a 1960s activist turned ACLU lawyer, something to do. More focal if not any more riveting is a romantic storyline that pairs Stacy with her college classmate Joey Van Helsing (Dan Stevens, "Downton Abbey"), whose father (Wallace Shawn) is the vampire hunter the surname suggests.

A spray-tanned Stacy (Krysten Ritter) finds her vampire mind control powers ineffective on... ...vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Wallace Shawn), who is suspicious of his son's new girlfriend.

As neither of these arcs generates much of interest, the film is aided by the preoccupation with aging that defined I Could Never....
There's little to hide the fact that Goody, who retains some of Cher Horowitz's innocence and fashion sense, is speaking for the director with her anti-technology rants. Now 60, Heckerling has every right to be bewildered with our screen-obsessed culture and at least her observations are humorous. Similarly, the undercurrent of nostalgia -- from Stacy's longing for Devo and coffin cut-outs of Henry J. Winkler and Michael J. Fox to Goody's appreciation of classic movies, which are liberally yet nicely excerpted -- seems to reflect Heckerling's tastes. True, these elements date the director and quite dangerously in an industry reluctant to deal with women over 40, but they add a bit of substance to a flimsy comedy in dire need of it.

Though Heckerling may find it difficult to make a film for theaters these days, Hollywood hasn't forgotten her achievements, which explains the unusually strong cast she is able to assemble for what is essentially a direct-to-video movie. Also featuring here are Sigourney Weaver as Goody and Stacy's "stem" Cisserus, Malcolm McDowell as Vlad the Impaler, "Weeds" star Justin Kirk as a bloodthirsty Ukrainian vampire, and stand-up comedian Todd Barry as his assistant. Marilu Henner shows up for a thankless minor role that I can't remember having any lines. "3rd Rock from the Sun" alumna Kristen Johnston is cast as Mrs. Van Helsing in another part of minimal screentime and importance. I suspect that if she wanted to, the director also could have easily rounded up more of the Clueless gang, as she did on her last film.

Where does Heckerling go from here? It's got to be frustrating to be unable to secure even a modest theater count for the second time in a row, especially now with a seemingly hip genre hook and a young rising network television star to complement a cast of well-known actors. I could see the director following Penny Marshall's example and entering a somewhat self-imposed exile. I would much rather that she continue to share her distinct comic voice, even if it meant directing someone else's script as she hasn't done in a quarter-century. Even after the losses on this campy disappointment are calculated, Heckerling has accomplished too much to simply accept the helm of an average studio comedy project, assuming that she even entertains such offers. Still, with movie production and attendance on the decline, such a step may be necessary to keep her on Hollywood's short list of in-demand female writer-directors.

Watch the trailer for Vamps:

Stacy (Kristen Ritter) and Goody (Alicia Silverstone) fill their need for rat blood as exterminators. Ivan (Todd Barry) and the Ukrainian Vadim (Justin Kirk) have not sworn off human blood.


For the most part, Vamps looks great in the Blu-ray's 1.78:1 presentation. Some scenes do seem slightly plagued by light digital grain and spotty focus. More often, though, the 1080p picture is sharp, vibrant, and spotless. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is perfectly fine,
remaining consistent and crisp, with English SDH and Spanish subtitles to boot.


Anchor Bay's disc opens with full HD trailers for 10 Years and High School. And that is the extent of the bonus features, with not even a trailer for Vamps or anything else found here. The lack of deleted scenes seems a bit like a poor reflection on the studio, which generally doesn't include that standard feature. Even Weinstein's I Could Never Be Your Woman got those and a Heckerling commentary.

The scored menu plays ordinary clips with the listings at the bottom of the screen. The BD does not resume playback, but does allow you to place bookmarks on the film. No insert, slipcover, or reverse artwork spices up the eco-friendly Blu-ray case, but at least the disc gets a colorful label.

Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are summoned by their stem vampiress Cisserus (Sigourney Weaver) as needed.


Vamps falls short of one's expectations for a movie from the creator and star of Clueless. Nonetheless, that overdue reunion generates enough good will to overlook some of this silly vampire comedy's more egregious faults. I wish I could bemoan industry sexism and question the lack of a standard theatrical release, as I could on Heckerling's praiseworthy previous effort. But you don't have to be a studio stingy with theater counts to recognize the limited commercial prospects and critical shellacking sure to stand in the way of this flourishing. While plenty of movies as bad as or worse than the sometimes entertaining Vamps have been treated to wide theatrical release this year, that doesn't mean it'd have been good business to promote and release this further.

The Vamps Blu-ray offers fine picture and sound, but its complete lack of extras is unfortunate. This isn't something to go out of your way to see, but Clueless fans ought to check it out at some point.

Buy Vamps from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Amy Heckerling: Clueless | Produced by Amy Heckerling: A Night at the Roxbury
New: Dark Shadows • The Raven • The Campaign • The Cabin in the Woods • Maximum Conviction • The Hole • Safety Not Guaranteed
Krysten Ritter: Confessions of a Shopaholic • She's Out of My League • Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season
Sigourney Weaver: You Again • The TV Set | Malcolm McDowell: A Clockwork Orange | Kristen Johnson: 3rd Rock from the Sun: Season One
Fright Night (2011) • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse • Priest • Let Me In • Bram Stoker's Dracula • Jennifer's Body
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion • Sex and the City • Cougar Town: The Complete First Season • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Vamps Songs List: The Hooskerdogs - "I'll Be the One", The Lost Patrol - "Homecoming", The Lost Patrol - "Before I Go", Blues Saraceno - "Phuzzface", Sandro - "Ponte A Gozar", The Lost Patrol - "Jukebox on the Moon", The Lost Patrol - "Play Me for a Fool", "I Want What You Want", Gene Austin and His Orchestra - "A Garden in the Rain", Das Pop - "Never Enough", The Deadly Syndrome - "Wingwalker", Paul Trudeau - "Change Your Mind", Kid America - "I'm Just a Boy", Barynya - "Hopak", The Lost Patrol - "The Road is Long", David Bowie - "Here Comes the Night", Mollie Israel & Bettina Bresnan - "Give My Regards to Broadway"

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Reviewed October 30, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Anchor Bay Films, Parlay Films, Lucky Monkey Pictures, Alvernia Studios, 120dB Films, Red Hour Films, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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