Sunday, February 20, 2011

Indie Flix : Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead

It's rare that movies I watch on a whim are actually good.  Mind you, most of the films I watch are pretty sure to be bad.  Obviously, there are some that surprise me, but I generally know what to expect.  So when I found a movie with a silly title and no major release, I was very skeptical.  Surprisingly, I actually liked it.  Not in the 'it's stupid as hell and I laughed' way either.  While it's a bit pretentious and may not be for everyone, I had a good time with it.  As I stated, this 2009 film did not get a real release in any major outlet.  Thankfully, it does have a DVD and Blu-Ray release, as well as being on streaming via Netflix.  Guess how I saw it.  The film is a bit complicated to explain, but I'll try.  Basically, a guy gets hired to direct the titular play, only to find out that some of the events are real, tying Shakespeare's play to vampires.  Plus, Ralph Macchio shows up.  I'll get into it in more detail later.  Let's get out our Danish stakes, because I just found out that...
The film begins with a man waking up in bed with a woman he doesn't really know.  This is our hero (Justin Hoffman), who has spent the last several months with one night stands, since he lost the love of his life.  Oh yeah, his bedroom is also in his father's Doctor's Office.  Seeking a job, he answers a Personal Ad  for a Directing job in a play.  The night before, a woman was doing a silly, one-woman dance show there, only to be killed by some vampires.  This is a minor plot-point, so let's not focus too much on it.  After meeting the weird people behind the show, our hero is hired to Direct the play.  It's led by Horace, a man who is clearly a vampire.  Our hero gets his best friend hired to play Hamlet, which is one of the few good moments he's had recently.  The bad moment: meeting up with his ex-girlfriend (Devon Aoki), who is now dating an Italian businessman (Macchio), who acts like a mobster.  They pretend to be gay so that the guy isn't threatened, but that doesn't entirely work.  When Aoki finds out about an opening in the play, she coerces her way onto the set and gets the job as the ill-fated sister of Hamlet.  We see the rehearsals and learn that this play is very...well, odd.  In the play, Horatio and Hamlet are both vampires, but the latter turns against him.  Yeah, that's happening.
Things turn even weirder when a homeless woman slips some information to our hero's friend.  She explains that she is part of a group that knows the truth about the play.  He convinces the guy that the people behind it are vampires, leading him to an all-Garlic diet.  This works for a while until they just up and kill him.  The play must go on, however, as our hero ends up playing the lead.  On the plus side, the tragic events lead Aoki back into our hero's arms and bed.  Macchio looks into the play, finding out some odd things about Horace and his friends.  Eventually, the woman gets to our hero and presents him with a DVD explaining about their group.  They explain that the play is a trick by vampires to have a human put it on, allowing them to kill the entire audience.  Oh yeah, Hamlet was also suggested to Shakespeare by Horace (who is actually Horatio), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern led the push to get the Stoppard play written & Hamlet find the Holy Grail to cure vampirism.  In addition, the play is also a chance for Horace/Horatio to draw out Hamlet once and for all.  To see where this all the movie.
A vampire film that doesn't suck- cool!  The plot of this movie is certainly odd, but I got into its quirky charm.  The plot is silly and wrapped all around itself, sure.  I liked the characters, appreciated the dry wit and found the story easy enough to follow.  It's a lot harder to explain than to follow it.  The acting is all well-done, even from Macchio- who I'm not the biggest fan of.  He plays his simple role to perfection.  The film was shot in 2009 on a Hi-Def Handicam, but doesn't feel cheap.  It has all of the polish of a major studio film, which is a credit to those involved.  My only real complaint is the silly Title Cards they kept using.  They didn't add anything and felt a bit pretentious.  Even so, I can live with them.  If you like quirky films or Meta films, I highly recommend this.  I can't say that it will appeal to everyone, but I'm just quirky enough to enjoy it.  Even if you're on the fence, it is available to watch for free- provided that you use Netflix and their streaming service.  It's rare that I say this, so take note- check this movie out (with no conditions per se).
Up next, Mondo Bizarro celebrates two years of shitty movies with...a shitty movie.  This one is a combination of the worst studio releasing DVDs right now and a classic film that shocked audiences 80 years ago.  Stay tuned...

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