Raymond (Jackson Hurst) is the quintessential, all American, 1960s dad. He’s got a beautiful wife, a loving sweet-sixteen daughter, a great career, a gorgeous home… sure, he’s got a little blood addiction, and maybe he can’t go out in the sun, but nobody’s perfect, right? That’s right, Raymond is a VAMPIRE DAD, and while his family may look picture perfect on the outside, things are not what they seem in the Wallensky home. You see, Raymond was “turned” by the goddess of the Underworld, Victoria (Sarah Palmer) on a fateful Halloween night. Now it’s up to his doting wife Natasha (Emily O’Brien) to keep their family secret from getting out.
VAMPIRE DAD has charm in abundance, zany humor in spades, and character (and characters) like you wouldn’t believe. Natasha’s brother, Bob (Barak Hardley) is a mortician – highly convenient when it comes to getting Raymond his much needed blood – and is exactly the image of doofus bachelor brother circa 1963. Susie (Grace Fulton) is perfectly perky, perfectly selfish, and perfectly sixteen. She has a boyfriend, Jimmy (Michael Naizu), that no one in the family can stand, who straddles the perfect line of beatnik and counterculture hippie – delicious 1960s insubordination oozes out of every pore. Pop art interstitials pepper the punchy, vibrantly “technicolor” scenes, creating an undeniably unique aesthetic. The score, by Oliver Goodwill, utilizes Hammer horror style orchestral stabs and surf rock to delightful success.
Undeniably successful and satisfying is the makeup work. Department head Ana Gabriela Quinonez and her team created a perfect bubblegum world with their makeup designs, and the looks on both men and women alike create a perfect dreamy 1960s picture. The creature and monster makeups are classically silly, reminding us of the horror schlock we all love from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Victoria’s looks are more ageless – as is she, and the performance by Sarah Palmer is Marilyn Monroe meets Elvira – snarky, sexy, and simply delicious. Vampire films are a lot more than teeth and blood – and while vampires are known as the cheapest monsters to make, they’re also among the easiest to flub. Bravo, Quinonez and crew, and major kudos as well to the hair and wardrobe team (Wardrobe: Amanda Boleman, Tara Zepeda) for making these characters scream to life – or afterlife.
One way that VAMPIRE DAD falters is by trapping its actors in a relatively simple script – without a lot of room for play. In many ways I can see VAMPIRE DAD being a hugely successful stage romp – and the actors seemed to have gotten the same note. Their performances are over the top, campy, and play to camera far too often, but for me, this added to the fun and old-timey goodness of the movie. Nomadic accents, particularly from O’Brien as Natasha, are distracting but somehow equally charming. Hurst, as Raymond, has some facial tics that are ridiculous and exaggerated, but they add to the silly, otherworldly quality of his performance. Every performance is laced with trite cliches, but rather than taking away from the film, they add to the believability of this sixties satire.
VAMPIRE DAD takes silliness to the next level – a modern Mad Monster Party – trapped in 1960s aesthetics and sensibilities but with a decidedly 2020 attitude. It’s everything I love about vintage Halloween – the camp, the cleverness – it’s beautifully nostalgic and makes me think of candy corn and the Monster Mash (stay tuned all the way to the end for a treat). I’m sure VAMPIRE DAD will join the lexicon of beloved Halloween classics, and I for one can’t wait for another viewing come my favorite time of year.