Review: What Were You Expecting From 'Vampires Suck'?

Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg have a laundry list of failings as filmmakers that it’s hard to know where to start. Their cinematic literacy doesn’t extend beyond, “Cameras capture images” and “Once someone invented this” but they sure know their trailers. Their previous work, including “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie,“ “Meet The Spartans” and “Disaster Movie,” offered riffs on modern blockbusters released only months before, usually based off character beats utilized in these films’ ad campaigns. Occasionally, the storylines of these “movies” (a charitable delineation) would borrow entire plot points from films they were satirizing, proving that they had seen one of two of the films being mocked. More often than not, an actor dressed as Hellboy would suffice.

“Vampires Suck” is the duo’s first attempt to recreate an entire pre-existing narrative with minimal digressive parodies, and as a result, staying on point results in, very briefly, their first ever actual film. An actual film in that it has a beginning, middle, and end, with some lip service paid to character arcs. There are stray moments where a cutaway to the “Jersey Shore” cast or Alice of “Alice In Wonderland” punctuates an attempted joke, but for the most part, there’s a story to be told. So we’ve moved beyond trailers. Crawl before you walk.

The story is that of the first and second “Twilight” films, providing the most interesting insight into Seltzer and Friedberg’s thought process. Previously, the duo took aim in every sort of popular target, but in “Twilight,” they’ve almost found a worthy ally. Why is it that the two would take such a contemptuous view of films that are only barely better than their own? Spoofing “Twilight” is a zero-sum game, as any right-thinking person finds the source material already pretty hysterical. But that couldn’t stop the prolific spoofmasters, who never met a scene that couldn’t spotlight someone getting hit in the crotch, or a moment where a normally-dignified actor is forced to mug shamelessly to sell poorly-conceived wordplay gags.

As is, the worst thing you can say about “Vampires Suck” is that it’s predictably redundant, which is a lot better than racist, hateful, or even incompetent. By following the rules of the assignment — recreate entire sequences from “Twilight” without a straight face to communicate its worthlessness to the most oblivious and ardent fans — the focus remains steadfast. Entire sequences and plot points are replicated from the original films, sometimes with the exact same camera angles and musical cues, posing the essential question: do you have to have an affinity for what you make fun of?

“Airplane!” borrowed from several pop culture sources in order to create its then-groundbreaking laugh-a-minute parody style, but in essence, it was a straight takeoff of “Zero Hour,” a fringe disaster movie from the era. While lines of dialogue from that film were reprised in “Airplane!” the jokes came from the earnest re-creation of the milieu, and the suspense of the film was treated with an unexpected sincerity, a respectful creative choice that nonetheless reflects that it’s the filmmakers who enjoy the original film, and by laughing you’re confirming your own feelings about the silliness of “Zero Hour.”

In “Vampires Suck,” which follows Bella and her torment over selecting sparkly vampire Edward or feral, lupine Jacob as a mate, the approach seems to be disdainful, even hateful. Jacob’s wolf-pack are re-imagined as a prancing singing troupe, and the vampiric Cullen clan is brought to life as a group of friendly bloodsuckers with wavering disdain for Bella. The need for a let’s-put-on-a-show shit-eating grin on everyone’s face suggests the mockery in place is more important than the topic being mocked, a concept that goes from aimless to distasteful quick, with a closing punchline that implies that the true suckers are fans of Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling vampire series, and not the people who found “Epic Movie” worth more than a shrug. The effects and editing are haphazard, reflecting the film’s relatively quick shooting schedule and turnaround. Though, while studio films don’t get much cheaper than this, the picture is an equal on a technical level with both the chintzy original “Twilight” films, as well as most blockbusters from “Vampires Suck” distributor Fox: you’d swear those guys use the exact same forest for every blockbuster and semi-blockbuster they release.

It’s less a story of its own than a checklist, one that gets extremely tiresome fifteen minutes in when it becomes clear the experience of watching “Vampires Suck” is very nearly the same as watching “Twilight.” It’s a similar, though much more irritating experience, than hearing the sub-Rifftrax commentators found online offering supposed pithy critiques over footage of “Battlefield Earth” and the like: you provide no insight into what you’re discussing, but you’ve made us sit through it again.

Normally these productions have been able to con legit talent onto the cast, but “Vampires Suck“ is littered with central casting types alongside mediocre second-string “MADTv” castoffs. The biggest name may be Ken Jeong, playing one of the members of the evil Volturi, who gets to provide an example to all filmmakers curious about what happens when you give no direction to a sub-talented comedic performer. Diedrich Bader features as Bella’s stern father and nails the Leslie Nielsen straight-man role, distinctly reflecting that, yes, a has-been sitcom star can be above such material. Meanwhile, former Kids In The Hall member Dave Foley dispiritingly appears in the final scene, and with his minimal dialogue, it’s likely he recorded his scenes almost completely off-set, where less people could actually confirm his physical presence in this film. Foley previously logged time in Uwe Boll’s “Postal,” which means he stands alone in not calling “Vampires Suck” a career low. [F]