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Written by / 11/30/2012 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

AMY HECKERLING'S VAMPS & JOE DANTE'S THE HOLE

title: VAMPS year: 2012 cast: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter, Malcolm McDowall rating: *1/2
The saying “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” usually refers to really great movies – but it can also be said for those really bad ones that start out intentionally cheesy and keep piling it on… and on and on and on…Well here’s an attempt to revive “Cringe Cinema” to younger audiences…  

We begin with two pretty girls waking up in plush coffins. They’re vampires and talk like your average airhead teens. But it turns out one of them dates back to the 1800’s...

Alicia Silverstone’s Goody is just that. Passive and non-violent, she only bleeds filthy rodents, never humans, and had lived many years but fell in love only once during the 1960’s to a hippie radical who, now older, is in the form of (a noticeably aged) Richard Lewis. 
Krysten Ritter as Stacy
And then there’s Stacy, played by Krysten Ritter, the more naïve of the two as she falls in love with a fellow college student with the last name Van Helsing, whose father (Wallace Shawn) may finally have a reason to wield that wooden stake again.

Unlike Goody, who recalls historic events like they were only yesterday, Stacy had changed twenty years ago and her memories go back only to the 80’s and 90’s, the era when writer/director Amy Heckerling reigned: FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH is one of the best high school sex comedies ever made, and CLUELESS shaped 90’s teen cinema. But VAMPS fails on almost every level, trying much too hard to be modern with references to social websites, iphones and ipads; while the constant jabs at the ever-maligned Right are much too forced (and distractingly slanted) even for Hollywood.

The Vamp girls live an idyllic existence, roaming from nightclubs to their apartment and are sporadically summoned by their leader, Cisserus, who revives their everlasting clock. Iconic actress Sigourney Weaver plays the bloodthirsty siren leaving a trail of corpses at her wake (including Pizza guy Taylor Negron from RIDGEMONT) and hams it up to an embarrassing level. On the lighter side, the usually formidable Malcolm McDowell tones down Vlad the Impaler, part of a group of reformed flesh-eaters who gather at a "Bloodsuckers Anonymous" meeting (harboring another FAST TIMES veteran Scott "Arnold" Thomson). McDowell is collecting a paycheck here, and alas, it’s probably not a big one.  
Brian Bakker (Mark Ratner from FAST TIMES) as a possible victim
There’s a joke a minute, and few are funny. Attempting to spoof bad b-movies, VAMPS becomes one in itself. The glossy cinematography resembles a straight-to-video release while the special effects are the kind of Computer Generated fare you’d see on a cheesy You Tube video. 

But there are two sides to the coin. One aspect of really bad horror flicks is that once you start, you can’t stop watching. This will make you stay tuned in, to see if it can get any worse. It does and often comfortably so.

Alicia Silverstone, who looks great twenty years after CLUELESS, is sweetly likable as the Vamp with a bleeding heart of gold. She may have to sacrifice herself for her best friend, who, having found true love, might have a real (if shortened) future. If anything else, you’ll believe these “young ladies” really care for each other. It’s too bad they don’t have anything really funny to do, or say, in the ninety minute eternity herein.
title: THE HOLE year: 2009 cast: Haley Bennett, Chris Massoglia, Nathan Gamble, Bruce Dern rating: **
Notable directors from the 70’s and 80’s who, for whatever reason, haven’t worked in a while, recently turned-in movies that haven’t lived up to their past successes… or failures: The John Landis outing BURKE AND HARE has average moments and a fun buildup but ultimately gets lost, never sure if it’s a comedic satire or a gory thriller with comedy thrown in. John Carpenter’s THE WARD plays out like a mediocre cable movie and Joe Dante, whose horror classics PIRANHA and THE HOWLING led to a successful collaboration with Steven Spielberg in GREMLINS and then a hit/miss string with EXPLORERS, INNERSPACE and THE 'BURBS, has a new – or relatively new – film titled THE HOLE.

Set in a middle class neighborhood, a family consisting of a single mother, teenage son and his little brother move into a two-storey house where, in the center of the dark basement is a nailed door covering a mysterious Hole which, once unlocked, leads into a shrouded oblivion.
"Looks like a pretty big plothole to me."
The boys are Dane and Lucas, and unlike the kids who build the spaceship in EXPLORERS, they lack the creative spark to keep the intrigue going. Their sexy next door neighbor Julie, by her looks alone, moves the pace along: the trio films inside the Hole but, later on, can’t make out much more than foggy images on the TV set.

Soon they forget about this phenomenal enigma until weird stuff starts occurring around them. And here’s where the story picks up some, and Joe Dante’s talent as a suspenseful director comes in handy…

The palpable inner-fears of each kid lurks within darkened rooms, sneaking around shadowy corners backed by fitfully tense music... A dead girl stalking Julie is scarier than the clown puppet that hunts down Lucas (POLTERGIEST, anyone?)... But the puppet, more stop-motion than C.G.I., is reminiscent of the good old days when special effects looked more awkward and eerie than digitally streamlined. Although it’s an intriguing premise, the problem with THE HOLE is the acting – while Chris Massoglia looks the part of a leading young man, he’s way too lethargic in an intense predicament. His expressions hardly change from scene to scene, which makes the escalating weirdness seem secondhand for the audience to partake.
Haley Bennett as Julie
Haley Bennett fairs better as the damsel in distress (although there needed more distress), and young Nathan Gamble doesn’t seem scared enough, especially when being attacked by that demonic clown. Their mother (Teri Polo) comes and goes while cameos by Dante stock actors Bruce Dern (THE 'BURBS) and Dick Miller (GREMLINS) are a nice distraction but ultimately serve as filler to the proceedings. 

The ending, after Dane finally journeys into The Hole to face his own ultimate fear, is a bit too “out there,” resembling Joe Dante’s possessed kid segment of THE TWILGIHT ZONE MOVIE, sharing the bizarre nightmarish world where cartoons and Film Noir collide. This aesthetic at least carries the Dante signature. Too bad the story and acting falls considerably short.
Chris Massoglia as Dane
Bruce Dern provides exposition
Dick Miller cameo as a spaced-out pizza man
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