Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2010)

june10front2I was a little hesitant to actually sit down and watch Jordan Galland’s horror comedy since its box describes it as being akin to a Woody Allen film as well as an homage to Shakespeare, because let’s face it, horror fans just don’t care about Shakespeare much. But what I experienced was something of a mixed bag of a horror comedy that is both very intelligent and very entertaining. Not only does the film manage to subtly breakdown famous stage plays and literature of all kinds, but it’s a horror comedy very much in the vein of the eighties comedies in which our hero is an inept schlub who is oblivious to the horror around him until it’s much too late to do anything about it.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead” adds a new twist to the horror comedy by adding a story within a story within a story with heroes that are too stupid to pull off destroying a vampire lord because they’re either too moronic or too self-involved to really make any progress in their goals. That’s made apparent when Julien answers an ad to direct for local theater manager Theo his play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead” that posits the theory that the entire scenario of Hamlet involved vampires and was turned in to melodrama by Shakespeare at the behest of the vampire lord Horatio.  If this all sounds much too high brow, Galland’s film is firmly planted in the horror comedy genre first and sneaks in some intellectual looks at Shakespeare while we’re not looking allowing for all the audiences to truly soak in the experience.

If you’re looking for blood splatter and fanged demons, you’ll get it, and if you want a second look at classic Shakespeare, you’ll get that too. Galland combines a rather talented assortment of character actors to make up the lunacy which includes the fantastic John Ventimiglia as the flamboyant and ravenous Theo, Bijou Phillips who is great as one of his inept brides, and there is of course the stand out Kris Lemche who is literally laugh out loud funny as Julien’s best friend who is cast as Hamlet and is approached by a vampire hunter to stop Theo before it’s too late. There’s also Jeremy Sisto in a walk on role who is equally laugh out loud hilarious as an inept cop who simply never can make heads or tails of this situation before his eyes even when he’s being attacked by vamps.

Ralph Macchio is memorable as simple-minded mob boss Bobby Bianchi, and Devon Aoki is absolutely angelic and gorgeous as Anna, the woman who resembles the real life Ophelia who catches the eyes of Theo when she insists on being cast in the play.  Jake Hoffman is the exact kind of hero you’d find in any Woody Allen comedy as this sexually insecure, befuddled, and often disheveled man who is much too self-centered to notice the chaos being wreaked around him even if someone is being bitten in to in front of his eyes. Galland combines the individual talents of this truly admirable cast to make up what is both a very funny and very creepy vampire film that plays out like an actual stage performance by the time Julien realizes he’s in the house of a nest of vampires and can do nothing about it.

Galland skillfully combines all of these plot threads and sews them together in to one solid epic story with a grand plot of Theo’s that is a bit convoluted but makes perfect sense, while also adding some interesting touches to vampire lore. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead” truly surprised me, in the end, and I suggest it for any horror geek looking for a new kind of horror comedy. A delightful mix of intelligence, hilarity, scares and unbridled talent, “Rosencratz and Guildenstern” is an excellent meta-movie with jabs at modern theater, literature, and horror providing an interesting twist to the vampire mythos while also lulling us in to submission with the beauty of Devon Aoki.