Monday, 16 May 2016

BLOODSUCKING BOSSES



Directed by Brian James O’Connell, Starring: Fran Kanz, Pedro Pascal, Joey Kern, Emma Fitzpatrick. Horror Comedy, US, 2015, 80mins, Cert 15.

Released in the UK on DVD on 16th May 2016 by Entertainment One.


Given its European premiere at FrightFest 2015 (when it was known as BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS), this low-budget comedy horror now finds itself re-titled for its DVD release presumably to make it more palpable to sit on Tesco shelves. Described rather flatteringly as “The Office meets Shaun of the Dead” (it’s not a patch on either and actually features vampires rather than zombies – but let’s not split hairs too much), it does however serve up a few reasonable gags during its belated bloody finale.


Evan (Fran Kanz - the likeable stoner from THE CABIN IN THE WOODS) is trying to get his noncompliant sales team to actually do some work whilst his girlfriend and HR manager Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick) is giving him the cold shoulder after his abject failure to reciprocate her declaration of love toward him. Seems Evan’s heart is instead focused on finally being able to remove that temporary ‘acting’ label over the ‘Sales Manager’ door sign. Unfortunately Evan is shit out of luck, as his boss has instead chosen to bring in ruthless outsider (and former college enemy) Max (Pedro Pascal) to increase productivity by fair means or foul. While the office lighting dims, and his colleagues gradually becoming paler and uncharacteristically work-focused, Evan comes to the realisation that Max is gradually turning the employees into vampires (or vampire fodder), and it’s left to him and slacker friend Tim to rescue Amanda and take the fight to Max’s vampy sales-force.


Co-written by Dr. God (a Los Angeles comedy group apparently), the first 50+ minutes largely rely on crudely drawn characters delivering a script straining every sinew for laughs which overstretches to the point where the dialogue merely snaps back in the characters faces rather than being snappily witty. 

Ironically, the comedy only really begins to bite (no pun intended) once the splatter and vampire stakings are eventually introduced. The exploding gory dispatchments are effectively milked for comedic effect, and the dry-humoured lift scene earns another tick. Not sure what Matthew Lillard’s grinning cameo was meant to achieve (my immediate reaction was: he played ‘Shaggy’ in the SCOOBY DOO movies, wouldn’t Fran Kanz also make a great ‘Shaggy’?) Granted he’s no Ricky Gervais or Simon Pegg, but Kanz does seem to have the knack of getting you to root for his underdog persona – especially when he’s drenched in vamps blood. 


Not an obvious contender for induction into the comedy/horror hall of fame by any stretch of the imagination then, but it doesn’t entirely suck either (unlike that lazy pun which clearly does).


Extras: Bloopers, Behind the Scenes, Commentary with Dr. God (no, really!).

***(OUT OF 5*)

Paul Worts

Monday, 2 May 2016

THE SIGN OF FOUR (1983)


Directed by Desmond Davis, Starring: Ian Richardson, David Healy, Cherie Lunghi. Crime, UK, 1983, 97mins, Cert PG.

Released in the UK on DVD, Blu-ray, download and on-demand on April 25th by Second Sight.


“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”


This adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel was the first in a planned series of six Holmes stories to be filmed for TV by producer Sy Weintraub. In the end only this and THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES were made (also available from Second Sight).


Directed by Desmond Davis (CLASH OF THE TITANS 1981) from an adaptation by Charles Edward Pogue, it’s an uneven rambling narrative which eschews mystery by revealing it’s murdering perpetrators almost right from the off, and cheats us out of seeing any of the pivotal events in India which led to the formation of ‘The Four’. Stolen treasure, a vengeful one-legged bogeyman and a drainpipe climbing cannibal dwarf fail to instil nearly as much impact as they should. A travelling fair/freak show with a ghost-train ride and a set piece on a carousel seem somehow incongruous, although they do give Ian Richardson’s sprightly humorous Holmes some derring-do moments. I loved the ‘break-neck’ steamboat chase down the River Thames (passing the Royal Naval College going the wrong way). And the icing on the cake: the PSYCHO-like Hermann strings desperately screeching during murders most foul.


Eagle-eyed viewers might spot the clumsily inserted Baker Street shot cribbed from Billy Wilder’s THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. And whilst on the subject of eyes, I just must mention young dewy-eyed Cherie Lunghi who looks like she’s permanently on the verge of bursting into laughter as the wronged ‘Mary Morstan’. Perhaps she’s inwardly suppressing her mirth at the preposterous flirtations of David Healy’s Dr. Watson. (At least they do not announce their engagement in this version – although had this been included in Pogue’s adaptation I feel sure it would have triggered one final burst of Hermann horrific shower strings – and appropriately so for once!)


Full disclosure: I was first introduced to that oft quoted Holmes line that I couldn’t resist using as the tagline not via the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but instead from Dario Argento’s TENEBRAE. I would, therefore, recommend Holmes expert David Stuart Davies’ audio commentary included on the disc as I strongly suspect he approached the great detective from 221b Baker Street from a purer source than a giallo set in a semi-futuristic Rome.


P.S. My favourite line of dialogue from this adaption (doubtful it’s in the novel) is – and I deliberately provide you with no context whatsoever dear reader: “Best stay clear of old Alfie - he not only bites – he swallows!”


Extras: Audio commentary by ‘Holmes’ expert David Stuart Davies.

** (out of 5*)

Paul Worts


This review was originally published on the FRIGHTFEST website.