Studio: Scream Factory
Director: Brian James O’Connell
Writer: Dr. God, Ryan Mitts
Producer: Justin Ware, Colleen Hard, Brandon Evans, Brett Forbes, Patrick Rizzotti
Stars: Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, Emma Fitzpatrick, Yvette Yates, Justin Ware, Marshall Givens, David F. Park, Neil Garguilo, Joel Murray, Joey Kern
Dumped by his girlfriend and surrounded by slackers, an overworked sales manager discovers his office has been overtaken by vampires.
Tightly-wound office monkey Evan is so sure he has a juicy promotion in the bag, he can barely be bothered with how he blew it by responding to his girlfriend’s “I love you” with a timidly whispered, “…no.” Of course, securing that promotion hinges on how well he does on a pitch presentation for an erectile enhancement pill with the unfortunate side effect of turning one’s penis green. If only Evan could get his slacker buddy co-workers to pull their weight and chip in.
Turns out it doesn’t matter anyway, as big boss Ted has other plans. Those plans involve passing over Evan in favor of hiring Max, a slick-suited charmer who stole Evan’s other girlfriend in college, and aims to do the same with his current one. But when Evan begins finding bloody bodies around the office, and those bodies later return as chalk-skinned power employees, Evan fears he may have to take down mysterious maestro Max for new reasons entirely. If only Evan could convince everyone that vampires have taken over their workplace.
You’re going to hear “Bloodsucking Bastards” described as “Office Space” with vampires, probably more than once. That’s not only because the analogy is easy to make, but also because it fittingly describes the film’s style of drily jabbing at the bleak world of cubicle drudgery, just with exploding undead corpses thrown into the mix. Perhaps a better way to put it is to say that “Bloodsucking Bastards” would fit perfectly on a double bill with “What We Do in the Shadows” (review here), what with the clever way it blends mundane monotony and supernatural satire.
“Bloodsucking Bastards” is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based comedy quintet Dr. God. Member Brian James O’Connell sits in the director’s chair while the other four feature in the cast, though only in supporting roles.
Among the impressive things one can cite about their group is that while they make their first film a showcase of writing and acting talents, they do so without turning “Bloodsucking Bastards” into an overindulgent vanity project. This isn’t a demo reel advertising Dr. God in neon lights. It aims to be a smart, funny, polished, and entertaining ensemble comedy above all, evenly distributing laughs across every character.
Then again, if anyone were to be arrested for stealing scenes as a standout, it would have to be Joey Kern as content underachiever Tim. Channeling a slightly smarter Paul Rudd from “Our Idiot Brother” with a Will Forte mustache, Kern brings a balance of disinterested malaise and infectious affability to create the kind of consistently aggravating personality who is impossible to stay mad at. This is the kind of well-meaning goof incapable of seeing the hilarious irony in a line like, “Damn! For a head of HR, you look f*ckin’ sexy!”
Despite its off-the-wall premise, “Bloodsucking Bastards” doesn’t wade in the shallow end of cartoonish, buffoonish, or freshman fraternity humor. The movie never needs to shift gears either, keeping joke arrival times at a steady pace and maintaining a consistent tempo of cynical irreverence.
The cast also plays slacker stereotypes without turning them into clown-like caricatures. Credit director O’Connell for knowing where the line marking over-the-top is, and keeping everyone and everything pitched just far enough below it for surreal silliness to feel surprisingly grounded.
Numerous names can be called out for praise, but cinematographer Matt Mosher and editor Andrew Coutts earn special recognition. Mosher’s camera always knows the right place to be, whether it is framing a profile two-shot of Tim and a vampire juggling like old times or panning for a perfectly-positioned reveal, while Coutts edits with the same precision the actors exhibit in their timing. It isn’t just the cast participating in the humor. The camera and cutting contribute to the comedy in equal measure.
A straightforward story comes with the price of being predictably familiar, even though going gangbusters on an original idea in that regard is low on the list of the movie’s main objectives. Also, the movie is either missing a scene or else “Bloodsucking Bastards” concludes with an “ah, hell with it” ending where one showdown doesn’t have a visible outcome and another uncertain fate is resolved with a line of dialogue. Tougher to please viewers may be flustered by the fumbling of plot points that aren’t as creative as the comedy.
Yet with an entire entourage in front of and behind the camera continually bringing that comedy to the forefront, “Bloodsucking Bastards” keeps its fun and its funny fully charged, even when beats miss the mark or bounce off a wall. For anyone who has ever felt trapped in a soulless office, had to share a cubicle with a photo printer, or wondered why the workplace has so little natural sunlight, “Bloodsucking Bastards” is just what the doctor ordered for an eerily appropriate horror-comedy.
Review Score: 80