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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Retro Review: Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

Vampire In Brooklyn
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, Allen Payne, Kadeem Hardison
Genre: Comedy Horror
U.S Box Office Gross: over $19 million 

Plot:  Max is a vampire who knows no mercy and has no regrets. He has come to New York City in search of Rita, a police detective who is unaware of their unique blood bond. As Max attempts to transform Rita into his vampiress, her devoted NYPD partner, Justice finds he has much at stake in protecting her from an age-old evil 

'Not So Much Terrible, But The Equity Of Horror & Humour Is Not Quite There'

Dubbed a horror version of Coming to America, Vampire In Brooklyn is considered nowadays to be a horror comedy cult; and although it is still not as widely received today as it was over 20 years ago, it certainly has its moments and a uniqueness that carves out an identity of its own as a film, as well as performances that punctuate the film's intensity and suspense aspects. 

A vampire going by the name of Max is in need of blood - human blood and his unlucky victim turns out to be Rita, an NYPD cop, as he seeks to turn her into a vampiress. 

Watching Eddie Murphy as Max, I kind of cannot envisage somebody like him in a role such as this; however, as demonstrated in Coming To America and The Nutty Professor, he is no stranger to playing different types of characters and in make-up as well. But Max is not Eddie; his mullet-like haircut is also similar to Jean- Claude Van Damme's in Hard Target. This is also the most un-Eddie Murphy like performance coming from Eddie Murphy himself and he carries himself, excellently, & as restrained it is. That, and he brings out that charm and charisma. Thankfully, this is not crazy, wacky Eddie, but rather cool, calm, subdued - yet also effective Eddie. His accent/voice as Max didn't annoy me, but more it was part of a character performance that he delivered in this film.

Though a lot of people may think it is lame seeing Eddie as a vampire and won't take this film seriously, this film had me on the edge of my seat at times and the story was engrossing. 

The cursing, the foul language could have been toned down, though; I didn't like the references to women as b****es. Angela Bassett was terrific in What's Love Got To Do With it and Strange Days, but here she is a lot more vulnerable, as Rita falls victim to Max's appetite for human blood. Her performance isn't as strong, nor good compared to her turns in those movies, but she fared okay. Her co-star Allen Payne was not bad and his character, Justice seemed likeable enough and he made for an interesting love interest. Whilst a lot of people may not care for his role, I think it was good to have a foil for Max to compete for Rita's affections. The romantic subplot love triangle between Max, Rita and Justice, was all right and it made the film watchable. Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett look good together. On the other hand, the two characters I didn't like were John Witherspoon's Silas Green and Kadeem Hardison's ghoul character, Julius; I couldn't stand Julius, he was annoying, talkative and swore too much - the antithesis to his role in A Different World

For all the criticism and flak this film received, Vampire In Brooklyn is for me one of the few curious takes on horror and whilst it isn't so refined, it offers something different, with that being a horror comedy with an African-American slant. The story, though is somewhat generic, was compelling and engrossing from beginning to end (for me at least) and whilst some people, especially horror fans, would've liked it to have been a lot scarier and gory, here, the gore factor was just about tolerable enough for me to stomach. The weakest aspect, however, was the comedy; this is a comedy horror film after all, but nonetheless, it just didn't come through and it seems that there is some dissonance between Wes wanting to shoot the film as a comedy, & yet Eddie wanted it to veer more towards a straight-up horror, without the humour. & because of that imbalance of the two, that made the film a bit off-key. The jokes didn't quite work also and a lot of them also resorted to foul language, which I didn't like so much. 

Is it Eddie's best performance? Undoubtedly, No. Is it new, different, refreshing to see from Eddie? Absolutely. His accent as Maximillian draws similarities to Count Dracula, and he also plays the roles of a preacher and some Italian criminal in prosthetics too. 

And whilst it could do with a few more light-hearted and humourous moments, Wes Craven does employ some visual flair throughout this film, and it looks every inch a horror film would turn out to be, and this coming from the guy responsible for A New Nightmare and the Scream movies, and it's so good and effective. 

The world and audiences in 1995 weren't quite ready for Vampire In Brooklyn, and whilst Wes Craven was far more successful with the Scream trilogy (forget the fourth film), with a few improvements in certain areas, I could see this film do better a couple of years ago, amidst the whole Twilight phenomenon. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst Vampire In Brooklyn continues to divide audiences to this day with most of the feedback being negative and the low ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, which I was already aware of and though it's not the most amazing horror film I've seen, I do think it garners far more hate than it ultimately, and rightly deserves. I for one enjoyed it. 

It's entertaining with a good and original narrative that develops well and the plot twists and suspense are good. I also thought the dramatic aspects worked sufficiently. That comedy/horror hybrid idea - but for the jokes-, notwithstanding that it was a good one to take, is mismatched: too much horror and not enough good comedy.

The performances are good, although Kadeem Hardison as Julius was too much of a jerkass for me to really like him. And Eddie Murphy as the bad guy was an interesting surprise, and as he much as he hates that mullet, he came to life as so-called Blacula, Max.

Vampire In Brooklyn could've been a truly corny, irksome horror comedy with a really hammy performance by Eddie Murphy as a vampire, but thankfully, this never transpired and although it is not at the pinnacle of his other films alongside Trading Places, 48 Hrs, Coming To America, it is still watchable in a way and is an intriguing take on the vampire formula. Particularly one in an African-American cultural context. 

Die-hard horror fanatics and critics may take a loathing to this film, but I still found this one to be not too bad. 


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