Monday, February 22, 2010

My Best Friend Is a Vampire (Jimmy Huston, 1987)

You can always depend on Hollywood when it comes to characters making safe, unobjectionable choices. I've found this is particularly true in the niche market known as: Teenage Transformation Cinema, a sub-genre of films that usually involve a male adolescent in the midst of some kind of atypical crisis. Well, I'm happy to say that nothing comes easy in My Best Friend Is a Vampire (a.k.a. I Was a Teenage Vampire), a film where a young man is not only encouraged to except his newfangled identity, but encouraged to embrace it. Unlike the protagonists in films like, Once Bitten and My Boyfriend's Back, the central figure in this cockeyed tale doesn't try to weasel out of his ghastly predicament. Never once does Jeremy Capello (Robert Sean Leonard) attempt to find a so-called "cure" for his unique quandary. Sure, he resists the temptation to drink blood at first, but he soon discovers that it's not that bad. To put it in terms most of you can understand: drinking blood is similar to the sensation one feels after listening to the music of Nurse With Wound. In that, each subsequent listen is less irritating than the one previous.

The advantages to being a teenage zombie or teenage werewolf are completely lost on me. In fact, being a zombie has no perks whatsoever as far as I'm concerned; the gradual decomposition and inexplicable craving for human brains are both dead-ends in terms of spiritual growth. On the other hand, the long list of benefits that greet you when one becomes a teenage vampire are something I could easily find myself getting used to. And while the desire to drink blood may sound just as unappealing as the zombie brain eating, the decelerated aging process, the gift of animal mutation, the power of persuasion, and, not to mention, the ability to gothify your bedroom to the strains of Timbuk 3, the perks outweigh the negatives by an innumerable margin. Okay, acquiring a talent for redecoration isn't exactly a vampire-specific one, but you get the picture.

Considering the fact that the most of plot of My Best Friend Is a Vampire can be inferred by simply reading the title aloud to oneself, I'll try to examine some of film's more subtle intricacies. It should come as no surprise that Jeremy Capello's unexpected brush with vampirism is a veiled metaphor for the suppression of human rights. The eradication of prejudice is the film's main objective, the silly vampire jokes and frequent car chases are just a diversionary tactic to keep the dunderheads in the audience blissfully unaware.

Having Jeremy show signs of being attracted to Darla (Cheryl Pollak)—a girl he technically shouldn't be attracted to (a cheerleader named Candy is campaigning hard for his teenage cock)—before becoming a vampire, and making the chauvinistic Ralph (Evan Mirand) his best friend, are just a couple of the forthright indicators that the film is working on a totally different level of brilliance.

Take for example, the van the vampire hunters Professor Leopold McCarthy (David Warner) and Grimsdyke (Paul Smith) drive throughout the movie. It's austere shape and unassuming colour easily cause one to think of South African Apartheid and the era of when Pinochetian kidnapping was all the rage. Hell, even Leopold's genocidal nonchalance (he wants to wipe vampires from the face of the earth) was totalitarian in nature. Anyway, taking what was a symbol of 1970s ingenuity and turning it an instrument of hate, intolerance and fear, director Jimmy Huston and screenwriter Tab Murphy have wittingly fashioned a stark reminder of how something created for fostering good can be quickly turned into a tool of evil.

Luckily, the neophyte bloodsucker has Modoc (Rene Auberjonois) to help him do battle with the sinister van drivers. Okay, he doesn't really help him battle anything. However, the two hundred and sixty-something vampire does assist when it comes to making Jeremy's transition from human teen to vampire teen a little less stressful; he gives him a guidebook and the business card of an all-night butcher.

The sight of Jeremy and Darla making out in his parents' car, their similar haircuts melding into one, is the kind of hotness you can't find in the majority of high school set trans-vamp comedies. Now, I don't really want to go into much detail as to why I enjoyed watching them kiss and stuff. But let's just say, I like the idea of watching a boy and a girl androgynously combining their mouth saliva together in a way that causes you to temporarily forget which one is male and which one is female.

Conveniently, that's the perfect segue for me to extol a modicum of praise on the overall look of Darla in this film. Dressing actress Cheryl Pollak (Pump Up the Volume) in a frumpy array baggy dress shirts, vests, and floor length skirts was a bold move on the part of the producers. It's true, they needed to give her style a unique flavour that separated her from her vacuous peers. (I'm looking in your general direction LeeAnne Locken.) But the glasses, the brash beret, boyish haircut and the Frannie-esque (Annie Ryan's character from Three O'Clock High) affection for pins were almost overkill in terms of off-kilter awesomeness.

It also helped that Miss Pollak had distinct manner of speaking. I mean, the way her vocal singularity and fashion backwardness managed to commingle with one another so succinctly was a reason to overly rejoice. That, and the fact that every scene had neon signs lingering in the background (the film takes place in Houston, Texas) , and the drum machines of composer Steve Dorff (Back to the Beach) weren't afraid of the handclap function.

video uploaded by hithah


  1. My Best Friend is a Vampire is one of my favorite "teenage transformation" movies. It's hard looking at Robert Sean Leonard on House without thinking of him in this movie. Thank you for reviewing it!

  2. Dude, I just used that wiki page on apartheid in class tonight. Coinkydinky.

    Dude, part two: I keep hearing Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait" on some Powerade ad.

    Robert Sean Leonard will always be the carpe diem kid from Dead Poets Society.

    Awesome use of diacritics on your fake Turkish skiier.

  3. Morgan: My pleasure.

    Karim Amir: I can't believe I found a way to connect My Best Friend Is a Vampire to apartheid.

    I hope the Nu Shooz guys made some major coin for letting use their super-terrific song in their ad. The members of Parachute Club got jack and a whole lot of shit when a pizza company used "Rise Up" in one of their commercials a few years back.

    Whenever I see or hear the expression "carpe diem," I immediately think of the song "Carpe Diem" by BiGod20, which samples Dead Poets Society.

    Thanks. I love all things Turkish moment, especially pop culture circa 1985.

  4. This was one of those films that I ended up seeing like 10 times in my pre-adolescence. Robert Sean Leonard drinking a cup of blood always stuck with me, though not as much David Warner. That and "Waxwork" pretty much cemented my early crush on that badass British actor.

  5. That Darla chick was hot. Overall, the movie lacks both conflict and chutzpah, and still rests in the shadow of Once Bitten. Also, this review reminds me of a song:


    You're were on Benson, you were on M.A.S.H./You're French, you're gay, and you suck

    You were in Police Academy 5, now you're on Deep Space 9

    You were in My Best Friend is a Vampire/ I wish you would fucking retire

  6. "...rests in the shadow of Once Bitten."

    Well put, Bullstuff.

    Oh, and I can't believe that's an actual song.