J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Therapy for a Vampire: Bloodsucking Marriage of the Undead

There has been no shortage of depressive, emo vampires, so it is nice to see one finally get professional help. However, Count Geza von Kozsnom seems comparatively healthy compared to all the Stephenie Meyer clones. Frankly, a little uxoricide should be sufficient to perk him right up, but those Countess happens to be just as undead as he is. That makes things dashed inconvenient when Kozsnom believes he has finally found his reincarnated true love in David Ruehm’s slyly sophisticated vampire spoof, Therapy for a Vampire (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

When you are undead nobility, money isn’t a problem. Thanks to the Count’s generous donation, Sigmund Freud is willing to schedule his appointments after dark. He need not worry about the Count trying anything. The vampire has not had any enthusiasm for the undead business for quite a while. The Countess Elsa is a different story. Her appetite for blood remains healthy, but vanity has led to her own peculiar neurosis. As stands to reason, it has been ages since she was able to check herself in a mirror. It turns out, painters also suffer a supernatural block whenever she sits for a portrait, which has led to a whole lot of dead painters.

Perhaps Viktor will be different. He was talented enough for Freud to hire him to paint outlandish dream scenes for his upcoming book. When the Count lays eyes on the portrait Viktor painted of his girlfriend Lucy and subsequently left in the esteemed analyst’s office, the vampire is sure she is the re-embodiment of his one great love. Unfortunately, for Viktor, that means Kozsnom will lead his wife to believe he is the one painter who can finally capture her features. On the other hand, Lucy might be in for some immortality.

Even though the stakes are eternally high for the characters, Ruehm maintains a breezy, easy-going vibe. The film largely plays as an homage to the original Universal monster movies, cartoons like the Drak Pack, and Count Chocula cereal. It is an affectionate romp all the way through, but Ruehm still earns merit points for being one of the novelists or screenwriters tackling the vampire mythos to fully exploit their traditional savant like need to count and tidy. (According to legend, sprinkling seeds or twigs along a bloodsucker’s anticipated path was a sure fire way to slow them down, requiring them to clear the obstacles one-by-one.)

Happily, Tobias Moretti is not another sensitive vegan-looking vampire. He is suave, sophisticated, and mature, in an old school, cape-donning kind of way. Moretti’s enjoyment vamping it up, so to speak, is contagious in the right way. Jeanette Hain is all kinds of trouble as the Countess, preening and stalking her way through the night. Karl Fischer is surprisingly restrained as Freud, but since Therapy is a German language film, it really wouldn’t make sense for him to do a ridiculous German accent. Cornelia Ivancan and Dominic Oley are sufficient as those crazy kids, Lucy and Viktor, but David Bennent adds some quiet but suitably erratic weirdness as the Kozsnom’s Renfield, Radul.

Therapy is just a fun film whose cleverness, stylishness, and nostalgia are extra bonuses. You can’t ask for much more than that. Recommended for fans of the debonair undead, Therapy for a Vampire opens this Friday (6/10) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.

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