Vampires Suck: Why These Seltzer/Friedberg Parodies Don’t Work
Look, there’s no point in wasting too much time on the individual reasons why Vampires Suck doesn’t work. It’s the newest film by the Seltzer/Friedberg team that brought us Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Date Movie, and other parodies where the first joke must be the use of the word “movie” in the title, implying that what the audience is about to see is in fact worthy of that label. The problem doesn’t lie so much with specifics, though I will say that Vampires Suck comes closest to anything resembling a “good idea” that this “comedy” team has had. The problem lies with what Seltzer and Friedberg define as parody. They believe simply making a pop culture reference is enough to get a laugh, rather than using things such as wit and joke-writing. They’re wrong. Very very wrong. They’ve been prolific, making five films in five years, and Vampires Suck is the least cringe-inducing of the five to some degree. It’s the most innocuous. But that’s like saying a guy who murders his family is more innocuous than a serial killer.
Unlike their other films, I can actually confidently give a very thin plot description, showing improvement on their part, at least in terms of focus if not comedy writing. Becca Crane (Jenn Proske) just moved in with her dad (Diedrich Bader) in the gloomy town of Sporks, Washington. There, she meets Native American Jacob White (Chris Riggi) who acts strangely like a dog. She also meets a family called the Sullens and falls in love with their mysterious beautiful son Edward (Matt Lanter). She agrees to go with him to the prom, where the theme is a famous anti-vampire festival held in Volterra, Italy, and not coincidentally the setting of the end of New Moon. Meanwhile, three vampires are hunting Becca, vampires that look eerily like the members of the Black Eyed Peas. While that’s the plot, there are then a bunch of non-sequitur references to all sorts of pop culture references, most of them pertaining to vampires or things that teenagers, the target audience of this film, would understand.
Let’s start with what has improved. This movie looks more expensive than the previous ones, which were obviously not spending their very meager budgets on sets. This seems to have been shot in similar locations to the actual Twilight films, if not the same sets. Jenn Proske actually manages to be funny in this film, making her the first actor in all five of their films to emerge looking good. She perfectly replicates Stewart’s acting style, absolutely roasting her in the process. The movie is at its best when no one talks or tries to tell jokes, but rather the camera watch Proske twitch, exhale, pull her hair back behind her ears, and look around awkwardly while slumping her shoulders. She belongs in a better movie with a better script. Finally, the mere presence of a quasi-plot means that the random pop culture references are less numerous than in the previous films by a healthy margin. They try to keep all of their “jokes” Twilight-related, which makes the film seem to have a single purpose.
However, if that purpose is to create a Twilight parody that work, they’ve failed. Simply mentioning Twilight references isn’t enough. In order to parody something, there needs to be commentary, and that commentary can’t simply be “doesn’t this suck?” Also, their idea of telling us something sucks is to have a character explain that this moment is exactly like the sucky thing that happens in Twilight. There’s absolutely no grace to their joke-telling whatsoever. I’ve seen multiple scripts written by people in high school that are funnier. It’s not hard to be funnier than a movie that doesn’t make you laugh. Schindler’s List is funnier. Then, there’s the pop-culture references. Simply mentioning Jersey Shore or Lady Gaga isn’t enough. Movies like Airplane and Naked Gun used pop culture references on occasion, but they were witty, they snuck up on you, and they fit into the proceedings. These are expected, dumb, and they don’t fit at all. Shooting Alice from Alice in Wonderland doesn’t make it a parody. It makes it bad writing. Maybe if they focus on plot and casting people who want to make every frame funny like Proske, they can make me laugh in the future. Until then… their streak of unpopped films is untarnished.