By Alexander Goodlive
With all the hate that The Twilight Saga gets (and rightfully so) for destroying the image of what a vampire is and should be, few realize that vampire movies have always existed outside of household Anne Rice fetish material. While it is tempting to blame the downfall of modern vampires on Stephanie Meyer, a movie came out in the 80s that, if held to the same standards, would be equally as blasphemous in the eyes of many a Hot Topic shopper.
My Best Friend is a Vampire is the story of Jeremy Capello (Robert Sean Leonard) feeling sick and turning pale after a night of passion with a strange older woman (Cecilia Peck). It turns out she was a vampire, being hunted down by the glorious slice of spiral-glazed HAM Professor McCarthy (David Warner) and his inept sidekick Grimsdyke (Paul Wilson). Jeremy deals with the questioning from his best friend Ralph (Evan Mirand) and his parents about his mysterious change in attitude and appearance while McCarthy hunts him down. There’s also the love story where Jeremy is inexplicably attracted to the band geek Darla Blake (Cheryl Pollak), and you know she’s a band geek because she wears glasses and a beret. Interesting contrast to her role a few years later as the most popular girl in school in Pump Up the Volume. Amazing what glasses can do.
When Capello goes through the change, he meets a mysterious older man named Modoc played by that guy who’s in so many things but you can never remember his name (Rene Auberjonois), and his parents notice that an older guy in a BMW always seems to be picking up his son late at night. Capello learns that he’s a daywalker vampire, which Modoc explains is different from an undead vampire because… comedic convenience. He introduces him to a butcher who sells him beer cans with pig’s blood, and gives him a handbook called “Vampirism – A Guide to an Alternative Lifestyle.” Because Capello is a daywalker, he can be out in the light with no problems (but also no sparkles), he only ages a year for every ten he’s alive, and he has mind control powers that are summoned by… pointing at his temple.
Capello can’t stop obsessing over Darla, but blows it on their first date because he gets tempted to bite her neck. The vampire hunters think Ralph is the vampire, and Prof McCarthy hams it up in his communist… er, vampire hunt (seriously, they don’t even try to hide it, his name is McCarthy!) and Jeremy does all he can to protect his friend, asRalph tries to avoid getting a stake through the heart from that guy from Time Bandits. Finally, Capello’s parents end up discovering his vampire handbook and think that, of course, he’s gay! Alternative lifestyle, get it?
It sounds ridiculous. That’s because it is. But it’s also a great deal of fun. It hits every 80s cliché you could possibly imagine, including a montage with one-hit wonders, and the hot girl made nerdy by glasses. Even with the Meyer-esque twist on vampires for the sake of a typical 80s teen comedy, it’s so ludicrous that it turns out being so much incredibly enjoyable to watch. Warner is over the top as usual, Leonard’s transition into a vampire isn’t terrible, and the chase scenes, while cliché, are still fun to watch, if completely implausible. If you took out the whole “being a vampire” thing, it could be mistaken for a bad attempt at a John Hughes flick, and maybe it still is.
Alexander Goodlive is an English/cinema double major at the University of Pennsylvania, commuting from Harrisburg. He has five published books, hosts the snarky Internet show “Jaded Hope,” and writes weekly for lordsofpain.net under the alias Al Laiman. In his spare time, he’s a stand-up guru, and recently placed well in the championship round of International Underwater Basket-Weaving
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