My notes on vampire comedy The Night Watchmen, which screened at the Fantasia Fest.
Blimpo the Clown, a Baltimore institution, succumbs to a mystery illness while touring in Romania – and his entire troupe similarly expire, only to rise from their packing crates as vampires when shipped home. A former death metal rocker (Max Gray Wilbur), known only as Rajeeve because he’s inherited the last guy’s nametag, joins a crew of night watchmen in the receiving facility and has to bond with three foulups – Ken (Ken Arnold), Luca (Dan DeLuca) and Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) – and fed-up reporter Karen (Kara Luiz) to survive through the night as a vampire outbreak spreads through the city.
Director Mitchell Altieri is one-half of The Butcher Brothers (with Phil Flores), a team who have tackled vampires relatively straight in The Hamiltons and The Thompsons (and also made a fair fist of the April Fool’s Day remake). Here, he’s working from a script by co-stars Arnold and DeLuca ad Jamie Nash (Exists) which is more concerned with the Paul Blartish antics of its mostly useless, pretty callous comedy nightwatchmen than the undead. You’d think the big pitch of this one would be vampire clowns, but Blimpo and company have a relatively minor role – with hordes of blandly-dressed office-workers transformed instantly into fang-mawed, frothing feral creatures which act more like zombie-vampires than most screen vampires. Now this idea’s out there, someone’s going to make a clownsferatu reboot of Vampire Circus and it’ll either be ghastly or awesome … in the meantime, this is choppy nonsense with the occasional half-decent joke, reasonably staged gore effect or fight scene and a few okay character beats.
James Remar guest stars as an old-timer who issues awful warnings and gets turned early, allowing the night watchmen to test out whether a plastic mop-handle will serve as a stake (no) or what the effect of a bullet to the brain is on this breed of shambling undead (a geyser of black blood that spatters everyone in the room, but no fatality). Among the splat pack, Diona Reasonover has the most attack. It might make an interesting double bill partner with the tonally similar Fantasia Festival choice Vampire Cleanup Crew, though that sells its romantic angle more successfully than this does the inept and callous Ken’s attempts to get with the irritated Karen.