Director: Thomas Aske Berg, Fredrik Waldeland
Writer: Thomas Aske Berg, Fredrik Waldeland
Producer: Thomas Aske Berg
Stars: Thomas Aske Berg, Brigt Skrettingland, Kim Sonderholm, Marit Sanden, Ruben Jonassen, Martha Kristine Kastad, Henrik Rafaelsen, Linda Tveiten, Ingvar Skretting, Kathrine Junger Ims
A rural farmer has difficulty adjusting to his new life after a vampiric Jesus Christ turns him into a creature of the night.
One single scene in “Vidar the Vampire” explains everything there is to know about the movie’s attitude as well as whether or not it jives with personal proclivities for horror/comedy entertainment. After 33 years spent as a local loser living with his devoutly religious mother, rural farmer Vidar Harr prays to God that he might finally receive sexual satisfaction from flesh, instead of from the pages of Playboy. Vidar can hardly believe his eyes when his plea is actually answered, with Jesus Christ himself seemingly appearing while bathed in bright light inside the family barn.
Unexpectedly, Jesus is a vampire. More unexpectedly, Jesus compels Vidar to receive the body of Christ in a manner that involves swallowing something other than Holy Communion.
This is the moment when the camera cuts to a behind-the-butt shot of Jesus’ scrotum swaying in Vidar’s face. This is the same moment when anyone spontaneously uttering “not my tempo,” or worse, in J.K. Simmons’ voice would be well served to find the nearest exit aisle asap. Yes, “Vidar the Vampire” is really going to go there and then some. Whether you will ultimately be offended or amused, you had best be prepared.
Come to think of it, a second scene reinforces the irreverence illustrated above. Then again, the sight of a mustached man suckling his mother’s breast before biting it off seems like relative child’s play in light of oral sex performed on a Dracula/Jesus hybrid.
That’s really the worst of it though, and isn’t as graphically odious as it sounds. I confess I hit a hurdle in that instant when our hapless hero began his transformation, thinking that “Vidar the Vampire” was putting its train on a track toward tastelessness purely for cheap shock value. I was not at all anxious to take a presumably juvenile ride.
I soon saw something in the sendup aiming higher than low-level laughs, however. I’m not sure I entirely understand what the filmmakers were going for, nor would I necessarily be quick to deem their satire ‘smart.’ But the humor is honest and slickly subversive in an unashamed manner that can be savagely provocative, provided plentiful punches in Christianity’s mouth don’t get your goat.
Surprising absolutely no one, regional film councils in Norway wanted absolutely nothing to do with monetarily supporting the movie through a cultural arts grant. Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland were forced to self-finance their film, which for only $60,000 USD, pulls off a startlingly sharp presentation. The efficiently produced effort incorporates an ambulance, several large locations, a harness rig for a levitation effect, and so on. This isn’t a minimal point-and-shoot quickie staged in someone’s backyard. Regularly changing scenery widens perception of the small scope story, creating a crisp look that meager microbudgets usually cannot buy.
I could go into detail about the acting, which by and large does a terrific job of keeping comedy at a consistent tone without peaking too far in unintended directions. I could also offer observations on spotty editing. For instance, “Vidar the Vampire” is a short feature that concludes suddenly, yet dillydallies with overdone details in sequences such as a revivalist spiritual healing and Vidar’s first funeral.
But the real topic of discussion will always come down to content. Certain to be seen as obscenely blasphemous by some, getting into “Vidar the Vampire” isn’t about having a thick-skinned sense of humor regarding religion, even though the plotline parodies the life of Christ using a sex-starved, clinically depressed sad sack with a thirst for human blood. It only requires enough of an open mind to see someone else’s cynicism applied as controversial entertainment.
The movie’s material unquestionably crosses lines that can be understandably problematic. Yet a lot of its uncomfortable comedy comes from a kernel of intelligent introspection. Seen as disrespectful spittle or as a “South Park”-styled spoof, “Vidar the Vampire’s” scathing indictment of religion highlights the absurdity of how anyone can interpret, or more accurately, misinterpret the ‘Word of God’ to mean anything anyone wants.
Uncouth at times, occasionally raw at others, the movie might also be a metaphor for stunted puberty, the filmmakers’ personal therapy for reconciling romantic failures, or maybe just a cocky jab at Jesus for the simple sake of saying “f*ck it.” One thing is for certain, to appropriate a critic cliché that genuinely applies in spite of its usual hyperbole, I can confidently claim you’ve never seen a vampire movie quite like this before.
NOTE: The film’s Norwegian title is “VampyrVidar.”
Review Score: 70