Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bonnie And Clyde vs. Dracula (2008)

The USA during the Great Depression. Bank robbers and psychotic doers of violence Bonnie (Tiffany Shepis) and Clyde (Trent Haaga) have hit a low point in their careers. With no money in their pockets, they're making their way across the Midwest being as psychotic and violent as their job description promises, but their relationship is straining under the yoke of financial deprivation. Business is bad. Fortunately, the couple's old partner Henry (F. Martin Glynn) has a sure-fire plan to steal some moonshine.

At the same time, mad scientist Dr. Loveless (Allen Lowman) has enough of wearing that darn sack over his head and is trying to cure his disfiguring illness in the most obvious way: by reviving the remains of famous party animal/vampire Dracula (Russell Friend), in the hope of a little transfusion of blood of the great man for himself. In his work, Dr. Sackhead, pardon, Loveless is assisted by his mentally six-year-old sister Annabel (Jennifer Friend). Annabel really isn't interested in helping her rather horrible brother, but one of those fine electro-shock collars you can buy in Mad-Science-Mart around her neck doesn't leave her much of a choice.

Once Dracula is revived enough to talk, he shows himself to be quite displeased by Annabel's presence. Turns out she is a "pure innocent", and that vampires are pretty allergic to them.

Given the film's title, it's obvious that Bonnie and Clyde's new money-making attempt will fail and lead them to the territory of Loveless and Dracula. But will all these evil guys and girls truly fight each other?

If there are two things I usually try to avoid in my horror film consumption, then it's contemporary US independent horror and consciously camp movies. The former too often leave me with an unpleasant feeling of hatred for people joyfully trying their best to make movies for no money, because "their best" usually is very, very bad in a very very non-entertaining way, while the latter can't avoid the truth that creating conscious camp is about as possible as being alive and dead at the same time.

Naturally, given these basic facts of my taste and temper, I went into Bonnie And Clyde vs. Dracula less than optimistic, with only the hope of seeing Bonnie and Clyde fight Dracula to keep me upright. (Actually, I went in mumbling stuff like "Why am I doing this to me again? Isn't life too short?"). That hope of the film being true to its title was crushed soon enough. BCvD takes two thirds of its running time until the two plot lines finally meet, and when they do, there's not much exciting happening. Dracula himself isn't even dispatched by our mass-murderin' heroes, but through the sort of accidental death that makes other undignified Dracula deaths like accidentally running into a thorn bush look very dramatic and dignified in comparison. I do realize that the film's writer/director Timothy Friend staged Dracula's death the way he did on purpose to stay true to his theme of innocence versus evil - and Bonnie and Clyde sure aren't innocent - but making the ending of one's film dramatically sound seems just as (possibly even more) important as making it thematically sound.

While the ending, as well as the film's - typical for a production like this - exceedingly slow pacing, are less than satisfying, I still found myself surprisingly entertained by the whole affair. Though the movie's larger structure frankly just does not work, there is much to enjoy if you take many of its scenes as tiny, campy sketches and just ignore the larger ambitions.

If you can do that, you might be as positively surprised as I was. Most of the acting hits the sweet spot where not much of what anyone says or does is meant to be taken too seriously, but where the least serious lines are delivered with only as much overacting as they can carry. The actors - especially Shepis and Haaga - are obviously having a lot of fun with their roles, putting just the right amount of lunacy in. Shepis - veteran of more crap movies than I'd care to see - even manages the feat of playing a blackly humorous crazy character who is still threatening.

Furthermore, many of the movie's jokes were actually pretty funny, particularly when many of them show Friend to be a lover of the telling, ridiculous detail more than of the obvious spoken punch line. It's difficult not to like a film that lets its head-sack-wearing bad guy change from the potato head-sack model to a red satin one for a party. For me, it's moments like this that are a sure sign a lot of love went in Bonnie and Clyde vs. Dracula.


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