Saturday, October 20, 2012

Horror Film Review

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2009):  "Undead" does not mean zombies.  Dammit.  And to be clear...Bill Shakespeare was not a vampire nor does he come back from the dead.  It may look and sound good on a movie poster, but it's just a marketing ploy.  Now, I'm all for exploiting classic literature in order to create modern horror; however, that's not what we have here.  What we have is quirky, funny, stupid, frustrating, and ultimately, a mess of a motion picture.

I won't lie.  This won't be easy to explain, so sit back, strap in, and try not to get distracted by anything shiny.

Slacker Julian Marsh (Jake Hoffman) lives in his MD dad's (Chip Zien) private practice and pines for his ex-girlfriend Anna (Devon Aoki) whose new boyfriend is pseudo mob boss Bobby Bianchi (Ralph Macchio...yes, that Ralph Macchio).  Dad tells him to take a job directing an off-Broadway treatment of Hamlet...or else.  Tough love.  So Julian and his best friend Vince (Kris Lemche) head to the theater and meet writer Theo Horace (John Ventimiglia), a creepy dude with pale skin who gives Julian the director gig and Vince the role of Hamlet.  Anna is cast as Ophelia, of course.  Okay...time to suspend your disbelief.  All of the characters in Hamlet were real people (vampires, actually) and Hamlet (Joey Kern) got a hold of the Holy Grail, drank from it, and became human again.  He then proceeded to go about "curing" others.  Horatio, who now goes by Theo Hoarace, wasn't pleased and forced Shakespeare to create a play.  Why?  It's not obvious?  So that Theo and his vampire brood can put on their own productions and feed on the audiences at the end, also so Horatio can continue his search for an Ophelia replacement to become his soul mate.  But there are rules.  They're not allowed to kill or turn the director into a bloodsucker (don't ask, cuz I don't know).  Make sense?  No?  Oh, just wait.

There's a subplot involving a secret society that's in contact with Vince and then Julian after Vince is killed sort of by accident by one of Horatio's slave vamps.  The society thinks the real Hamlet will show up with the Grail and they want the Grail.  Why?  Dunno.  After Anna is turned by Theo, Julian and Bobby team up and do a little Buffy-style vampire slaying, although things don't end well for Bobby.  Framed for Bobby's murder, Julian is pursued by cops, including one played by Jeremy Sisto, but that subplot resolves quickly and rather ridiculously.  Eventually, it's opening night, and the real Hamlet does in fact show up with the Grail.  He and Horatio fight...for about five seconds.  Of course Hamlet ends up talking to Horatio's skull.  Thing is, Hamlet is a shallow, happy-go-lucky moron who, after losing the Grail during the fight, decides to go looking for chicks instead of reclaiming it from one of the secret society people who pilfered it.  And the whole time we're led to believe Julian will use the Grail to cure Anna and Vince.  Guess what happens instead?  Yeah.  Just buckets of dumb.

The first half of this film was great.  I love that Julian's Jewish dad has an Arabic hypochondriac patient (Waris Ahluwalia) who's in the office so often that he's practically part of the family.  I also loved Ralph Macchio playing an Italian tough-guy with anger issues who's trying to market his invention:  a hand sanitizer dispenser that's shaped like a gun.  He was a hoot.  Look, I can't pinpoint the exact moment RAGAU went off the rails, but when it did, about a train wreck.  It's like they couldn't figure out where to go once the premise was established.  Well, where to go that makes half a lick of sense.


Acting:  Except for Kern as Hamlet, everyone's good.  Macchio, however, brought his A game.  By the way, Ventimiglia as Theo/Horatio tries way too hard to be Robert Downey, Jr.  He wishes.
Story:  It had promise.  The promise was broken.
Direction:  Execution of such a "high concept" film is quite a trick.  Unfortunately for us, there's no treat.
Production Values:  Impressive considering the paltry $600,000 budget.  Nothing about this film feels cheap. 
Gore/FX:  A little vampire bite-related blood.  No gore.  The CGI used when a vamp is killed is pretty cheesy. 
Scares:  Just the terror one experiences when he realizes the film he's watching is inexorably morphing into a large turd.
Ending:  Skull-crushingly idiotic.
Verdict:  Should you see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead?  It had its amusing moments, I admit, but they were overshadowed by a whole lot of stupid.  My advice?  Go watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.  That film is both funny and not stupid. 

Rating:  2 out of 5

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