DVD REVIEW: VAMPS / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: AMY HECKERLING / SCREENPLAY: AMY HECKERLING / STARRING: ALICIA SILVERSTONE, KRYSTEN RITTER, DAN STEVENS, RICHARD LEWIS, SIGOURNEY WEAVER, WALLACE SHAWN, MALCOLM McDOWELL / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 15TH
Despite, or perhaps because of, the ubiquity of vampires in the post-Twilight cinematic landscape, it’s a huge shame that Vamps has taken nearly two years to make its bow on DVD here in the UK; it’s a mostly very decent attempt by director Heckerling, reunited with star Alicia Silverstone, to recreate the success of Clueless from nearly two decades ago, filtered through a genre window.
The film begins with a montage sequence showing how Silverstone’s character Goody was converted back in 1841 and leading up to the present day, filling in the background on her vampire flatsharing best friend Stacy (Ritter) and their eventual nemesis, the evil stepmother type Ciccerus (Weaver, hamming it up outrageously). In two minutes Heckerling gives us more to chew on than Stephenie Meyer managed in her entire saga. What follows is a basic New York after hours socialite romcom, albeit with all the expected undead trimmings, in the style of Heckerling and Silverstone’s previous film, all of which kicks into gear when Stacy finds herself falling for the son of a vampire hunter.
And that’s central as to whether you will enjoy this; if you liked Clueless, then Vamps will satisfy. For anybody looking for something more meaty, much of this might feel rather superficial – and anybody hoping for anything remotely resembling Meyer’s work will probably be sorely disappointed.
The comedy here is somewhat hit and miss, with many of the gags a good twenty years out of date. However, there are plenty of genuine laugh out loud moments, and much of the satire hits fairly close to the mark. But what really defines Vamps is the performances. Stevens and Lewis are likeable enough as the love interests, and Wallace Shawn is just the right side of annoying as the descendant of the original Van Helsing. But Silverstone, looking barely a day older than she did in 1995, is just as magnetic a screen presence as she was back then (Heckerling apparently brings something out of her that other directors can’t seem to find), while Ritter, resembling a Goth Anne Hathaway, is a charismatic and sexy counterpart. They make for rather an odd pair, but their relationship is surprisingly convincing.
There’s very little to mark Vamps out as a must-see film – for most it’ll probably be a renter if it’s something they’ll bother to watch at all – but for the curious and open-minded it’s unexpectedly rewarding, from the early scene-setting sequences to the knockabout final showdown with Ciccerus, and the very last scene in which Silverstone’s Goody has to live with the big decision she and Stacy ultimately make is both simple and extremely affecting. Much better than you might be given to expect.