Despite the film’s title, any actual therapy only plays a small part in Therapy for a Vampire, merely serving as a joyfully contrived setup that allows the rest of the plot to take place. Depressed vampire Count Közsnöm begins seeing renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud. Upon glimpsing a painting of Lucy, the girlfriend of Freud’s artist employee Viktor, Közsnöm recognises her as a dead ringer for his departed beloved. Believing Lucy to be the reincarnation of his lost love, he sets out to turn her into one of the undead and so allow for the resurrection of his one true, much to the consternation of his neurotic wife Elsa.
If the ‘reincarnation of a dead love’ plot seems overly familiar to you, that’s kind of the point. Therapy for a Vampire is a deliberate throwback to the sinister elegance of classic vampire flicks from Universal to Hammer, eschewing modern interpretations of them as night-stalking party animals, condescending apex predators, or undead supernatural warriors. It even has Közsnöm refer to himself as a Nosferatu, referencing FW Murnau’s original vampire film from 1928.
Although the story is one of classic Gothic horror, the tone is one of overstated Gothic comedy, including all the required ingredients for this vampire cheese soup. The violence is exaggerated to the point of appearing cartoonish; when camera angles allow for it, the vampires literally glide along the ground as though propelled by some invisible conveyer belt; Közsnöm’s Renfield-esque henchman Oscar (who also appears to be channelling Peter Lorre) bottles the blood of victims with their date of birth as a vintage; and at one point, Elsa becomes a bit hammered after drinking the blood of a couple of drunkards. The surreal nature of the humour manages to be over-the-top enough to dampen the inherent menace of the plot, but exercises enough restraint to prevent it from descending into throwaway farce. Imagine if Dracula had been adapted by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and you’re most of the way there.
The physical humour is joined by several vampire-themed puns as terrible as they are inventive (when Közsnöm is asked why his wife can’t be seen in a mirror, he replies “She’s never reflected on it”) and some quick-fire word play that challenges your ability to quickly process subtitles. The assortment of romantic strands that drive the story offer explorations into various relationship dynamics, but while meaningful they are also structured to fit the blackly comedic tone of the film.
Therapy for a Vampire might play up to every vampire stereotype in existence and be utterly corny in every way, but it’s done with such disarming self-deprecation that the overfamiliarity becomes part of its charm, and in recognising exactly what it is it lets itself in on the joke and allows us to do the same.
THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DAVID RÜHM / STARRING: DOMINIC OLEY, CORNELIA IVANCAN, TOBIAS MORETTI, JEANETTE HAIN, KARL FISCHER / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10