I decided to give this a go one slightly hung-over Saturday morning. I expected to be out by the first commercial break (and as this was on Chiller TV, that was due to be really, really early) but I found myself pleasantly surprised and quickly engaged by a charming, capable cast and first-rate direction.The entire cast handled well the delicate balance of playing out an absurd premise with relatively straight faces, but you could tell they were having a good time. Ralph Macchio and Jeremy Sisto were a lot of fun in their smaller roles, but the leads were truly standouts. Jake Hoffman and Kris Lemche both have great timing and an easy charm while Devon Aoki, well, let's just say that when her boyfriend tells her that she's beautiful, he ain't lyin'.As Horace the Vampire, John Ventimiglia stole every scene he was in, and I'm embarrassed to say that this 'Sopranos' fan had no idea that it was Artie Bucco who was chewing up the scenery.Some of this brought to mind 'Repo Man' (and from me that's no small compliment)and while not a classic of that magnitude this was a lot of fun to watch. When I see it on the supermarket rack I'm gonna buy it because I look forward to seeing it again, sans commercials. I also see that writer/director Galland worked again a few years later with Ventimiglia, Lemche and quite a few others from this cast in 'Alter Egos'. I'm looking forward to seeing that as well.
I should have known, but curiosity got the better of me. A movie titled like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead is something irresistible to me, much like Rugsuckers from Outer Space or Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead. Whether or not the movie itself is very good always remains to be seen. The film purports itself to be clever just by its title- a take off on Tom Stoppard's play which itself was a take-off on the classic Shakespeare tale. It could perhaps even work as a Troma movie. But what it turns out to be is a, ahem, romantic comedy with vampires and a weak, limp-noodle screenplay by first-time feature-filmmaker Jordan Galland, who writes stuff that should be clever but isn't clever enough by half.I'm sure some will find the dialog witty and spot-on for the tone Galland is after, which I suppose is something of a cross between straight-up horror and romantic comedy. The story follows an unlikeable theater director, Julian Marsh (played with equally lame and dull screen presence by Jake Hoffman), who responds to an ad looking for a director to helm an upcoming off-off-off Broadway production of Hamlet. Turns out the ad was really looking for a director who could "easily be controlled", this being Theo (John Ventimiglia, who all but steals Robert Downey Jr's persona for the performance), who is in fact a vampire but hides it oh-so-not conspicuously... except, of course, from Julian, who thinks this re-vamp (no pun intended) of Hamlet called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead and is a take-off on the classic, is just dandy.That is, alas, until several things happen, which include his best friend and actor Vince (funny but not really that funny played by Kris Lemiche) is bitten by Theo the vampire and his two 'girls', and Julian's friend-girl (not quite girlfriend due to his philandering) is cast as Ophelia and, also, turned into a vampire, AND that he gets an instructional video from a society that is looking to get a Holy Grail Theo has that he will use to kill the whole cast and the audience opening night. As all of this goes on, we see scenes and dialog roll along that are, at best, amusing. There are few laughs to be had in some scenes, such as the actors playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern suggesting some changes to their characters (albeit one of them becoming a running gag that turns less funny as the film goes along), and it's also a pleasant surprise to see Jeremy Sisto appear as a detective, however in only a few precious scenes where he can only do so much.I can't say how this will do with audiences. Some will come to already knowing that they'll enjoy it, or perhaps their sense of humor goes for the more obvious than mine does. I love over the top horror and bad puns and jokes, but the problems in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead all come back to a few key things: the script is full of lame running gags and one-liners, the characters save on occasion for Ventimiglia's Downey-like vampire or Aoki's sexy girl-turned vamp, aren't interesting, and the lead character (and actor) are not convincing as a protagonist. In fact, the script takes itself a little too high on itself as a meta-work to really be a crazy over-the-top horror comedy, and when it could be a good horror movie, save for the first time we see Theo and his girls sucking the blood out of a guy in an alley, it's not scary or much atmospheric.Some laughs pick up in the climax, when things start to turn around and Hamlet finally appears (!), but by then it's a little too late to save the rest of the movie. No one has dimension enough to care about them and to take it seriously, and it's not funny enough to be a funny-crazy-bloody comedy. I really came in hoping for the best, and it's been given a nice little grass-roots promotional campaign (outside the theater in NYC there was a guy with a full poster hanging around his neck and with fliers and discount beer at the local bar et all), but the film itself was just... weak. It needed more teeth gnashed at the viewer, or a sense of 'screw it all' and go for broke, instead of such clever insights like, say, title cards with "Long Day's Journey into Fright." Ho-Hum.
Kevin G Shinnick
I sometimes wonder if I am watching the same film as some of the major reviewers. Reuters,The NY Times,and many others have slammed this delightful indie film that is finally getting a release(it was shot in 2007).The quirky horror comedy with a NY Off-Off Broadway Theatre backdrop held my attention from the moment it started and when it was over I wanted to watch it again! The "True" story of HAMLET is finally to be told, and it involves vampires(having seen so many groups try to update/improve Shakespeare, by placing JULIUS CAESAR in space for example, the idea of a group having a bloodsucking Gloomy Dane seemed less far fetched to me!).The cast is wonderful (kudos Hoffman,Ventimiglia,Zien,and Lemche ), the jokes actually work, and the technical aspects are slick but not overly flashy (no quick cuts to make the film seem more exciting than it is ). As a working union actor and a long time horror fan(including working on SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE),I think I can offer an informed opinion to how well the film works as a satire on theatre and the ever-growing fright genre. Recommended to anyone who likes quirky original well acted cinema.
This is, definitely, one of the funniest films I have ever seen in my life! I don't think I've even taken more than a 5 min. break from laughing! The only things I don't like about this film are that I didn't get to see more of Hamlet (Joey Kern), I would like to hear and see more of the bizarre adaption of the play, "Hamlet"; there weren't any lyrical songs in the film and I prefer the piano version of the score, played by Sean Lennon. Both Jordan Galland and Sean Lennon did a great job with the other 2 songs they composed together, though. Other than that, this film is great for those who love comedies and people in need of a great, whole-hearted and hardy laugh.