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Film Review: Vamps

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Vamps is the latest project from Amy Heckerling, the filmmaker behind cult works such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless. It’s on the wackier end of the Heckerling scale (quite different from her most mainstream offering Gossip Girl) but still devoted to looking at what makes young people tick.

The word ‘young’ should probably be accompanied with inverted commas in this instance since the women (Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter) at the heart of this movie are several decades later than they look, even though they are in university. They are the undead. Vampires, to be exact. But unlike their friend (Sigourney Weaver), they choose not to feast on humans. They eat animals.

Of course, there are some well-trodden vampire tropes here (such as going through school many times – already a cliché thanks to Twilight), but this is a knowing and very light vampire movie, not one from the intense Bella-and-Edward-forever stable. There is admittedly a romance (involving Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, who seems to be in everything these days) but the real love story is between the heterosexual friendship of the two women and its core. Silverstone and Ritter play their characters well and though some may find the over-the-top acting style hard to swallow the moments between them are occasionally touching.

Though it is not without its charms, Vamps never quite succeeds in being anything especially interesting. Its attempts to send-up the genre fall flat, the moments that are meant to be taken seriously seem out of place and the plot lags and wonders too often. To work, this would need to be tighter and more adept. Instead it’s messy and not too sure about its intentions. There is also a highly regrettable use of the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory context; a moment that adds an ugly flavour to the otherwise light and breezy script.

Deliberately (we hope) awful special effects and stilted over-acting may be some people’s idea of a good time, but I fear that many may write this off as just plain awful. It isn’t, it’s more intelligent than that, but it doesn’t do enough to raise itself beyond the mediocre so as to convince the doubters there is more to see hear than meets the eye. An interesting piece of work, but certainly not a landmark one.

Vamps (2013), is released on DVD and VoD in the UK by Metrodome Distribution, Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below:

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