By: Addison Wylie
Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are notorious for being two of the very worst directors in the film business presently. They dabble within the spoof realm and have created such flicks as Date Movie, Meet The Spartans, and Disaster Movie. Their filmographies grow and grow by the year and their movies taint theatres as well as movie-goers’ eyes. With the wildfire success and phenomenon known as the Twilight Saga, the two knuckleheads have conjured up an idea; to make a mockery of the Twilight saga by injecting lots of physical, bodily, and bathroom humour. This is a formula that they seem to think works in spoofing a subject or a vast range of different genres. Instead of focusing on a barrage of different things to make fun of like they’ve done in their most recent movie Disaster Movie, Friedberg and Seltzer, for the most part, have put the main focus here on lampooning the first Twilight film. Although a lot of jokes fall flat and the pacing is uneven, I would be lying by saying I didn’t laugh once within the short runtime. In fact, I think this is the right direction, formula wise, for these two directors to be heading in if they plan on making any more of these “spoof” movies.
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The overall synopsis of Vampires Suck is, like I said, a straight-up satire of Twilight. Instead of Bella Swan, the confused, distraught teenager from the hit film and books, we get Becca Crane, a mumbling, indecisive nitwit played by Jenn Proske. Instead of Edward Cullen, the suave, mysterious teen vampire, we get Edward Sullen, an emotionally lost, moronic vampire played by Matt Lanter. The story is, for the most part, the same as the original source material. Becca moves to the town of Sporks and is taken back by the amount of vampires within the town. Shops heavily advertise that their vampire friendly and innocent inhabitants get attacked by the pale individuals every day. When attending her first day at school, Becca is aquatinted with the Sullen family and is even Edward’s lab partner in class. The two form a romance and the two lovebirds try and figure out how a relationship would work while fighting off rival vampires who want to kill Becca. Now, this is where the plot and the storytelling gets a little lost. The filmmakers begin to tie in the second instalment, New Moon, in with the first movie. The kicker is the events are sometimes told out of order. It’s as if the two directors got bad cliff notes off of a movie-goer who has seen just the trailers for the Twilight films. With that said, Becca’s friend Jacob, played by Chris Riggi, who is a spoof of the werewolf character from the original movies, is now introduced and is trying to protect her from Edward. Meanwhile, Edward is trying to protect Becca from Jacob, however, due to family matters, Edward is then forced to take a break from Becca. Later, when Edward hears that something terrible has happened to Becca, Edward jumps at the opportunity to rescue her. Audiences will also be seeing spoofs of the Volturi, who are powerful vampires who are compared to royalty, Jacob’s mission to try and hide his inner werwolf even though it may be difficult due to his recent Bar Mitzvah, as well as blink-or-you’ll-miss-it spoofs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alice in Wonderland.
Friedberg and Seltzer have always had a difficult time involving their audiences. By throwing pop culture references and cheap slapstick at their audience, people walk away from their films feeling unfulfilled and ripped off. Their ability to shoot and edit fast allows them to input recent celebrity news such as, in this case, the Tiger Woods controversy which, they think, is going to make people laugh harder. But it doesn’t. Even though the two directors are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their audience, something is missing. Spoofs are affecting the most when the minds behind the satire have love for the original source material. They don’t have to be head-over-heels for the substance itself but they need to at least know what makes the gears run behind the existing material. These two do nothing but insult fans that support the satirized movies. Instead of meeting people half-way and showing fans what they love as well as their opinions as to why there might be some holes in the original movies, Friedberg and Seltzer make the characters effigies and put them through physical harm thinking fans of the films would like to see Becca hit in the head more than once. Which brings me to the underlining misogyny. I’m not going to make snap judgements but by observing this movie as well as Disaster Movie, their last attempt at comedy, it appears that these two filmmakers enjoy putting women in physical pain. I know the situations are trying to go down a comedic avenue but when there are prolonged, repetitive sequences of women getting abused for laughs, the comedy is quickly drained. Even with scenes where vampires are sucking the blood out of women’s’ necks, there are prolonged shots where the filmmakers want the audience to notice the streams of blood staining their neck. Again, I’m not a party pooper. I know these guys are wanting to make people laugh. But, it’s almost as if they want to make people laugh so badly, that they are completely ignorant to any other existing element that may unintentionally come into play.
With those thoughts aside, when women or men aren’t getting beaten repeatedly, the timing of the jokes within the first half surprised me. As said before, the jokes are primarily physical gags. Even though a lot of these physical gags are lame, eye-rollers, there are a couple that sneak through and actually make you giggle. A scene where Becca’s father, played by Diedrich Bader, carries Becca in a body baby carrier because he is still emotionally attached to her as a child may sound lame on paper but, by the way it’s edited, the joke comes out of nowhere and is a very amusing sight joke. The timing established in the first half of this movie is the best it’s been in these spoof movies in a long time, however, that really isn’t saying much due to the quality of their past work. The joke that worked the best for me were the quips aimed at the music in the Twilight films. Christopher Lennertz has done a good job emulating the moods of the music displayed in these films. The joke where a character is listening to music that describes the current situations in its lyrics is used but Lennertz is able to spin the joke into a different retelling and it ends up being one of the better gags in Vampires Suck. Other than these few high points, watching this film ultimately feels like a chore, especially when the film starts to tie in elements of New Moon. The storytelling gets cluttered, the jokes feel rushed and flat and, even at times, inappropriate. I heard a Chris Brown joke in there that was hinting at the musician’s abusive encounter with Rihanna which further backs up my point regarding the underlining misogyny. Ken Jeong, who is usually a highlight in comedies with his sharp deliveries and mannerisms, is wasted here as a member of the Volturi who does nothing but overact his lines with bulging eyes. That said, the movie may have actually been a barely passable, throw away comedy if only the filmmakers stuck to playing the same notes they were riding on in that first half.
Add Vampires Suck to the long list of fails Friedberg and Seltzer have written and directed. I’ll give any director a chance usually when it comes to movies, however, with this being the duo’s fifth comedy they’ve helmed, it’s time for these guys to retire from directing or writing. What they want to be funny ends up coming off as mean spirited and stupid. Even when these guys stick to just one spoof source instead of countless ones inside a movie, it’s a step in the right direction but it’s not strong enough to carry through a 70-80 minute motion picture. Maybe their filmmaking would work better on a smaller screen shooting commercials or skits for MTV. All I know is that after watching their movie that is filled with either over-the-top or bored performances, rushed filmmaking, and oodles of jokes that fall flat, I would not like to see another feature film from this pairing.