J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NYC Horror ’17: The Night Watchmen

Baltimore is so accustomed to violent crime and crummy city services, it takes quite a lot to shock the beleaguered city. However, vampire clowns should do the trick. Apparently, the only thing standing between the city and a wild pack of red-haired, face-painted blood-suckers is an incompetent crew of security guards. Despite everyone’s low expectations, the thin rented-blue line might just hold up to the undead onslaught in Mitchell Altieri’s wildly funny and shamelessly gory vampire comedy, The Night Watchmen (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 New York City Horror Film Festival.

This will be a heck of a first night for the new guy. Everyone calls him Rajeev, because he is stuck with his predecessor’s old uniform and name-tag. His new colleagues think they will have plenty of time to haze him, because most nights they just sit around eating donuts, watching adult videos, and spying on the employees of their primary tenant (a weekly newspaper), especially the cute one. Unfortunately, this will be no ordinary night. It starts when they mistakenly receive a coffin that was supposed to be delivered to the city morgue. Inside lies the remains of Blimpo the Clown, who died under mysterious circumstances while touring Romania—and you know who else came from the Transylvanian region. Needless to say, Blimpo will not stay laying down for long.

Good old Blimpo chews through most of the building, killing or turning most of the paper’s employees. Plus, he also has more clown vampire reinforcements on the way. “Rajeev” and the crew, led by Ken, the supposed former Marine, find themselves in an undead siege. On the positive side, his big crush is still alive, no thanks to their dubious protection.

Night Watchmen is one of the funniest horror comedies since Ava’s Possessions and Witching & Bitching, but it is still fabulously gory. We are talking about some arterial blood sprays that resemble the Bellagio Casino’s water show. To give you a sense of the film’s tone, our intrepid watchmen soon learn vampires pass some really nasty gas after getting staked through the heart.

Yes, Altieri and the battery of co-screenwriters (Jamie Nash, with co-stars Ken Arnold and Dan DeLuca) go there, frequently. Yet, probably the foulest gags involve James Remar playing Randall, the spectacularly sleazy newspaper boss. Good taste prevents us from describing his antics, but it is safe to say you have never seen the veteran character actor so slimy and skeevy.

You have to respect how defiantly tasteless Night Watchmen gets. Yet, the crazy thing is, it still works relatively well as a straight-up vampire horror movie. Cast-members Arnold, DeLuca, Kevin Jiggets, and Kara Luiz deserve all kinds of credit for their flexibility—and a willingness to work drenched in fake blood. It is hard to believe this is the same Altieri that helmed the rather dull hickspolitation flick Holy Ghost People, but here he is, delivering us farting vampires. We want more like this one please. Very highly recommended, The Night Watchmen screens this Friday (10/27) at the Cinepolis Chelsea, as part of this year’s NYC Horror Film Festival.

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