Comedy Oddities: Rockula

rockula indexThere’s not many films like Rockula, and probably with good reason as it’s such a weird mess. A sort of horror musical comedy it features what may well be the world’s most rubbish vampire, who has a strangely sentient mirror reflection who often mocks him for being so naff, while the film also comes with a romance that is far more complicated than it needs to be and a selection of songs which contain some of the silliest lyrics ever written.

The overly complicated plot sees Ralph (Dean Cameron) and his mom Phoebe (Tony Basil) as vampires, living together for a ridiculously long time, but for the past four centuries every twenty two years Ralph’s met up with his romantic interest Mona (Tawny Feré), only for her to be murdered two weeks after that by a one legged pirate using a ham bone. Due to this crazy situation Ralph’s a virgin, and a miserable one at that, and when the film starts he’s pretty despondent due to Mona constantly dying, but after a very brief decision to ignore her this time around he can’t resist trying to save her again. But will he manage it on this occasion? Or will she once again be ham-boned to death?

This is the kind of musical where nearly all of the songs are sung on a stage with a band present, or as part of a music video, and though I normally struggle with musicals in this form for once Rockula still delighted. Both Mona and Ralph are in different bands but the songs they sing are fun, with that being especially the case with Ralph’s as all are sung with him happily declaring that he’s dreadful at being a vampire, but dear lord is he a horny fella too.

That means we get lyrics like “He won’t hurt a fly, If it wasn’t for Red Cross donations this vampire would die”, “There was a girl named Mina, she wanted my wiener” and “There’s a party in my pants, would you like to take a gander”, and those three examples are some of the less embarrassing lines, if I quoted some of the more awful ones you’d all but certainly refuse to believe that they were recorded by the actors without any one walking off the set and never returning.

It’s not just the lyrics which are absurdly strange either, Mona works with video director and funeral home owner Stanley (Thomas Dolby), though he calls his business a “Death Park” and sells all manner of crazy coffins, including one that inexplicably constantly rotates, while he has another which plays audio snippets of the voice of the recently deceased. Dolby’s an acclaimed singer but he oddly doesn’t provide any vocals here, but he is the campiest villain I think I’ve ever seen, a gorgeously strange over the top individual who talks amusing nonsense in every scene he’s in.

Also on the camp front is Ralph’s mother Phoebe who has a slightly creepy relationship with her son, seemingly not caring about him knowing way too much about her private life, and Ralph can turn in to a bat, too. Which might not sound camp, but given the weird bat-like creature he transforms in to is one of the strangest creations I’ve seen you’ll have to trust me that he falls in to that category.

On the downside the film takes a good while to get going, it being a late eighties / early nineties piece means there’s the odd dodgy joke which hasn’t aged well (most of which are delivered by Ralph’s reflection who is quite the cad) and bar Mona and (sometimes) Phoebe its treatment of women isn’t exactly admirable, with way too many of the female cast on hand to look sexy and wear very little but they do little else.

Despite that there’s a lot to like about the film, it’s a film where someone gets hit by a car but keeps on singing, Bo Diddley is part of Ralph’s band somewhat oddly, it’s a movie shot in the very late eighties so it naturally features some hilarious haircuts and clothing, the adverts for Stanley’s Death Park are so weirdly funny they could have come out of an episode of Mr Show, while at one point Ralph’s band features three children singing a song called “The United States Of Beat”, and there’s a couple of dream sequences which are plain silly, the best of which sees Mona forced to walk a plank while being whipped by pirates.

As you might have guessed from the above this is by no means a good film, but it is an often funny one, and some of those laughs are even intentional. There’s a definite sense that the cast know they’re involved in something really rather idiotic but give it there all nonetheless, and as with nearly all good comedies it doesn’t outstay its welcome getting everything wrapped up within 90 minutes. If you can forgive its weaker elements it could even be a film you’ll be quite fond of, though it’s unlikely anyone would ever admit that in public.

A very, very generous ★★★

Alex Finch.
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You can watch Rockula in full on youtube here.

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