Along with being one of my earlier horror movie memories, Jim Wynorski’s “Transylvania Twist” also happens to be one of the earlier horror movie satires that predates “Scary Movie” by almost ten years. It lampoons the slashers of the eighties, it tackles horror movie clichés to a fine art, and even props a few music videos here and there. A mix of “Kentucky Fried Movie,” some “Monty Python,” and a dash of “Young Frankenstein,” Wynorski’s “Transylvania Twist” is an admirable and often giggle inducing attempt at spoofing the entire horror genre and the fads of the mid to late eighties by staging some raucous old fashioned television commercials (with a horror twist of course), while also positing its own plot line in the process. After a hilarious prologue involving a hapless busty traveler and three demented slasher icons getting more than they bargained for, we meet Dexter Ward, a young man who visits his dead uncle at his funeral and is shocked to discover his uncle has yet to kick the bucket.
Draped with a buffet and Widows for hire, Dexter’s uncle’s funeral ends on a low note as he emerges from his coffin fully conscious and reveals a prophecy from the evil Lord Byron Orlock. Dexter travels to Transylvania with Orlock’s niece Marissa (Teri Copley who is bona fide scream queen material) to gather her inheritance and touch base with him. But all is not as it seems when Victor Von Helsing arrives to also meet with Orlock. Along the way we’re given way to a full fledged musical number and occasional hit or miss gags that worked merely because they were charming and not so much laugh riots. There’s a riff on the Honeymooners, the weather in Transylvania, a misuse of the word Grammy, and even Keith Richards suffers the brunt of the jokes.
There’s even a gag involving massive streaming blood shed after a stake to the heart that predates Mel Brooks’ own gag in “Dracula Dead and Loving It.” While I’m not about to proclaim “Transylvania Twist” a horror comedy masterpiece, it’s a surefire amusing bit of comedic fare that at least tries. Which is more than you can say for ninety percent of the comedy films in modern cinema. The prologue makes for some juicy satire on the evolution of horror icons, Wynorski bashes the implementing of cheap shock scares (“There are so many other ways to get someone’s attention in a room!”), and there’s even a hilarious running gag during crucial exposition involving filming through book stacks that eventually leaves the camera man lost and looking for the actors.
Wynorski’s comedy is not as goofy as I remember it, and thankfully it’s much more of a solid and contemptible horror comedy that works at entertaining the audience rather than patting itself on the back. And often times I couldn’t help but giggle at the fun puns and easy one-liners. So if Teri Copley is the foil, and Ace Mask is the hero, who is Steve Altman supposed to be? Because he sure as hell isn’t the comic relief. What a comedy film need with comedic relief is beyond me but actor Steve Altman does very little to draw laughs from me, especially when it’s apparent he’s trying much too hard to induce laughter from the audience. Whether he’s delivering some gruesomely ridiculous one-liners or chucking his horrific impersonations, Altman adds very little to the proceedings here.
I was never sure if Altman’s character was supposed to be the reluctant hero, or just a goofball, and most times neither could the script. Sometimes the character Dexter is a bumbling moron, and other times he’s a valiant hero. When he’s neither, he merely just stands around throwing out goofy one-liners and flat impersonations that do little but add a superfluous comic element that isn’t necessary when we have jokes and sight gags on the screen every single minute of the film. Co-star Steve Altman bogs down what is an otherwise charming and funny attempt at a horror satire with 1989’s “Transylvania Twist” still a fun time to be had, especially by folks tired of the modern attempts at humor that just don’t even try. Teri Copley is sexy, Ace Mask is demented, and the sharp comedy fills in the rest for a rousing ninety minutes. I loved the 3D sequence.