The Vampire Diaries DVD Review

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With nearly as many movie titles as sequential lives of vampires themselves, The Vampire Diaries Part 1, aka Thicker Than Water, aka Dark Sabbath is actually all about identity crisis of a different kind, in this devilish and spicy marinated vampire brew of bratty burb teen, stylishly rude angst and undead wicked charm. The Vampire Diaries also navigates a smooth segue from classic gore lore into present day, dressed to kill dysfunctional rotting family tree demonology.

Written and directed by Phil Messerer (Hollywood Hustle) as part of a similarly delicious warped trilogy in progress, The Vampire Diaries tips at the high end of the terror meter, by tapping tabloid style into what is most sordidly ordinary. Eilis Cahill is Lara Baxter, a sarcastic goth teen loner with a unique talent for killer insults that could give Ellen Page’s Juno some serious competition. Lara obsesses about vampires and casts a concocted homemade spell or two, while tolerating a freaky family comprising a failed crippled former Bulgarian ice skater mom, fake full time doctor brother, and smug goody two shoes twin sister Helen (Devon Bailey). Helen starts to experience suspect vampire symptoms, following a ritual curse carried out by her sullen and frankly utterly surprised sibling.

Messerer is adept at balancing shock, sick humor, sibling rivalry, summoned up ancient vampire history more or less, and perverse personality disorders. In one freaky interlude, mom frets over how to feed the family vampire without having to resort to homicide, and wonders if going around the country robbing blood banks might be just the thing.

Though the director certainly has a gift for smirky cutting conversation and crafting character pathology with bloodthristy weirdness to spare, the storytelling does tend to get anemic and thin out as it proceeds along. This is especially so during the sudden appearance from a distant century of a dapper dandy vampire ancestor, a feeding frenzy carried out on assorted born again Mormon sacrifices, and something referred to much too fleetingly as Maurice Duchamp’s infamous bordello of blood down in NO, sorry, I missed the point. But the macabre journey along the way, rarely ceases to playfully astonish and amaze.

Sugar Factory Films

Unrated

3 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.