Fresh off his WAXWORK triumph, Anthony Hickox did this before stumbling into an abyss of shame called HELLRAISER III and he enlisted all-star assistance to do it. David Carradine, Deborah Foreman, John Ireland, and Bruce Campbell all show up and succeed to varying degrees at distracting me from horror-comedy that does not make me laugh.
Look, guys, at how weird that looks! It's super weird and quirky! And if you like quirky, you're perhaps also going to like SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT. Seems that vampires have tired of hiding on the sidelines and preying on the living, so they've set up a town called Purgatory out in the desert. They slather on sunblock and swill this pus-like synthetic blood sub, a decade-plus before True Blood. The machine that makes the pseudoblood has gone rogue, so its inventor is called to town to repair it. But all vamps are not happy being domesticated sunscreened fancylads and tensions mount, then erupt. Also, there are two other humans and also Bruce Campbell as a mysterious stranger on a quest. This film has a lot of plot.
Despite how irritating I find most campy-on-purpose things, SUNDOWN has several applaudable elements. I love how the vamps' fashions mostly look hideously antique, like Euro vacationers in the 1800s or pilgrims from proto-America. The latter also leads to Carradine addressing Ireland as "pilgrim", John Wayne-style, in one of the film's most inspired bits. The cinematography occasionally succeeds here, too—I liked the overhead shots and some of the battle scenes, which also offer fine editing. The acting's pretty solid throughout, too, if not overly memorable WITH THE EXCEPTION of Bruce Campbell and Deborah Foreman, who just bury the rest of the cast entirely with their comic timing and presence. I felt a little sad that the pair of them didn't have more scenes because, holy cow, the movie gets fun when they're around.
Alack, tonight hasn't been all rainbows and milkshakes for me. I've ranted about comedy and horror hybrids before, so I'll spare you that. I will say that I'm probably automatically predisposed to dislike things if I feel like my aunts or most over-50 people would enjoy them. Sorry! SUNDOWN is very Tim Burton-esque in a bad way. The comedy that's here is often situational and very unsubtle and insistent upon itself. Like the movie is constantly nudging me, demanding to know why I'm not laughing at the child actor hijinks or the vampire diner bit. I DO WANT TO ENJOY MOVIES, OKAY, IT'S JUST NOT WORKING OUT THIS TIME. Maybe it's me or maybe it's the script, which probably could've been tightened (and shortened—this gets close to two hours in length). SUNDOWN sometimes feels like a sitcom pilot that got stretched out to feature length and there's not really enough there to make an impact. It's not garishly bad, but it is pretty forgettable once you're done, which is kind of an indictment, given the talent on hand here.
If you are an aunt or a baby boomer or use "fun" and "nice" and "cute" as positive descriptors, this will probably work for you. Good luck with it and stay off of my blog. Everyone else, move to the next title in your vampire queue.