There’s a new vampire movie out that makes Twilight look like Oscar material. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead is a mouthful of a title for 85 minutes of farfetched plot that repeatedly tries to piggyback on other, better stories.
Take the film’s title, for example, which young writer-director Jordan Galland borrows from Shakespeare by referencing two spies sentenced to death at the beginning of Hamlet and also from Tom Stoppard, who turned the minor characters into heroes of his 1966 hit absurdist play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
In the undead version, Julian Marsh thinks he’s hit it big when he’s hired to direct a Hamlet adaptation. What Julian doesn’t realize is that he’s working for a bunch of vampires who intend to eat the play’s audience and turn the cast into bloodsucking brethren. Julian casts his best friend as Hamlet and the ex-girlfriend he still loves as Ophelia, unwittingly ushering them right into the veiny hands of Theo, the vamp clan leader (and Horatio, in his adaptation). John Ventimiglia (The Sopranos) goes Transylvanian in this role to become, as New York Times critic Mike Hale aptly points out, a Javier Bardem-inspired villain.
Throughout the film, Ventimiglia delivers some lines that fall short of Addams Family macabre humor. Right before Theo attacks an innocent actress he’d been stalking, he tells her,“Fifteen more minutes of that insufferable rehearsal, and I was likely to be strangled by the noose of boredom.” Fifteen more minutes of Galland’s film, and I was likely to turn it off. Thankfully, 85 minutes isn’t very long, though Galland’s decision to divide his story into chapters like ‘Grave New World’ and ‘The Importance of Being Honest’ doesn’t reward viewers looking for originality in this zany tale.
If the plot isn’t enough to sink your teeth into, maybe experiencing the progeny of great talent in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (Jake Hoffman stars and the film is scored by Sean Lennon) will carry you through the film—on piggyback, of course.