Vampire Rock (1998)

Plan 9 From Outer Space, Manos: Hands of Fate, Gigli

The list could go on and on and the argument will always continue as to which is the worst film ever made. The only problem is that such an argument usually only considers known films. What about the millions of films that have not permiated the social consciousness? What about all those failed features that languish on shelves – not video store shelves, but shelves in the directors’ and producers’ homes?

Such a film is Vampire Rock. You won’t find it on Amazon.com. You won’t even find it on IMDB. It’s a here to unreleased feature by Andy Ruben. Prior to making Vampire Rock, Ruben’s sole directing credit was Club Vampire. Before that he and his ex-wife, Katt Shea, were responsible for slightly more well known fare. With Ruben writing and producing Shea writing and directing, the two created Streets, Stripped to Kill, and most notably, Poison Ivy.

If a common theme runs through Ruben’s work it is that of the young, streetwise women and vice. He has an affinity for vampires – just look at the titles of his two sole ventures. Vampires are ripe for symbolism and it is through such symbols that Ruben is capable of dealing with reality. In Club Vampire, vampirism stands in for drug addiction. Vampire Rock takes a more traditional view of blood sucking, but adds rock music and lesbianism. Either way, the well known characteristics of vampire life make for easy character development and story-telling. The stakes, the garlic, the lack of reflections, etc. We’ve seen it all before and the cliches fit warm wax fangs, thus allowing Ruben to string along the wildest, most non-sensical of plots will still retaining a slight air of reason.

Here, the plot revolves around a female vampire brought back to life in the modern day south and an eccentric vampire killer created by the Catholic Church to rid the world of the undead. Stuck in the middle of this holy war is an all girl band, ironically named Garlic (thought they do stink). Looking for an angle, the girls enlist this strange goth vixen with the foreign accent to sing, little do they know she’s a real vampire.

In Club Vampire Ruben took the respectable John Savage and reduced him to a blithering idiot. Most offensively, he had Savage and Michael J. Anderson (the backwards talking man in Twin Peaks) rapping with one another in a fashion so ridiculous and offensive that it should have cost each man his SAG card.

In Vampire Rock, there are no large name actors forced to tarnish their reputations. Instead, a cast of unknowns if allowed to run rough loose with the worst overacting I’ve seen since Scarface – minus Pacino’s affable craziness, of course. The worst offender, by far, is a fellow named Michael Don Evans. He is not a bad actor, when restrained. I know. I’ve directed the guy. In fact, I might be responsible for introducing him to Andy Ruben while on the set of my thesis film, which just happens to be shot in Tallahassee, where Ruben was teaching and where Vampire Rock was shot. For this, I apologize.

Restraining Michael Don Evans is not the only place Ruben fails to hold back. In fact, I would be hard pressed to name one place where Ruben shows any restraint. Like a man facing certain death he tries anything and everything to stay alive. First he, pumps the script full of desperately witty lines that fall flat on the lips of poor actors. Secondly, he attempts to laces his scenes with a hint of sex, but provides no pay off and not even the slightest peep. Then, he asks the audience to both relate to and celebrate a goth band that is neither cool nor musically interesting. There one brain numbing song who’s sole lyric consists of “She’s a debutant” is credited to Mr. Ruben himself and shows not only how out of touch Ruben is with Goth music, but all music in general. Finally, and most egregious, is the film’s use of digital effects. It is only a scant few images that are saved from some high level of digital dickering. Whether highlighting a single object or smeared across the full screen, these digital embellishments have all the quality low budget, syndicated, fantasy show and are so overused that smack of the sheer desperation to create something cool. Ultimately, what you end up with is not cool or edgy, but tame and unwatchable.

One could dismiss the whole film as a comedy, as surely some who worked on it must have, if only to save themselves some shame. Still, Moliere once said, “The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them.” Vampire Rock is neither amusing nor can it correct itself from all that is wrong with it. The only lesson one can learn from such a film is that some films are best unseen, like a vampire’s reflection in the mirror. It’s there. It exists, but you can’t see it. Don’t look for it and be glad.

However, for hipsters who love tidbits of trivia, Vampire Rock was gaffed by Sam Beam. That’s right, Mr. Iron and Wine, himself. Be glad he picked up a guitar.

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