REVIEW: There’s No Such Thing As Vampires (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Logan Thomas.

In a darkened cinema, Joshua (Josh Plasse) crashes into a late night screening of Nosferatu (1922). Half-naked, splashed in blood and pursued by some barely seen presence, he hysterically claws his way onto stage to warn the baying crowds, but they only laugh and jeer at him.

If this moment recalls both It Follows (2014), and in particular the opening of Wes Craven’s Scream 2 (1997), that’s probably the point. Indeed later when a film studies PhD suggests a Halloween (1978) drinking game whilst exhorting the virtues of silent cinema it’s not a leap to see him as a homage to Scream’s uber-geek Randy. For Logan Thomas’ retro vampire Western is enthralled to the cinematic tradition of horror, locating itself knowingly within its history and wearing a patchwork of references like a Transylvanian cloak.

This idea of lineage becomes more important as the plot progresses, for something dark and ancient is chasing Joshua. Escaping the cinema he takes to the road, a shadowy figure in a large van now following close behind [an image that evokes both Duel (1971) and – perhaps more importantly – Jeepers Creepers (2001), a film homaged more heavily as time goes on]. Driving for his life across the desert Joshua crashes into Ariel (Emma Holzer) and, stealing her car, tries to persuade her that his pursuer is in fact a vampire. Soon she’s convinced and the couple race to make it back to civilisation before the creature catches up, or the sun goes down.

The evident affection Thomas has for the genre is both saving grace and partial downfall. It’s now over two decades since the meta-boom of the late 90s, and seeing horror characters quasi-comment on their own situation feels itself like a retro quirk of yesteryear, whilst simultaneously still eliciting a warm and comforting glow (potentially for the same reasons). However by the the time the final 20 minutes rock around it feels like everything has been thrown into the cooking pot like some unholy gumbo, whose ingredients are all good [see above, plus a healthy pinch of Near Dark (1987)] but that struggles to find its own flavour. Still, for an audience wanting comfort food that reminds them of the greats, its a welcome bowl of chow just like mamma used to make.

Tim Coleman

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS VAMPIRES has its world premiere at FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition on 28th August 2020.

Published by Tim Coleman

Film critic. Screenwriter. Academic.

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