Robert Pastorelli, Revenant (Modern Vampires) (1998) Going against the late ‘90s trend for supercool vampire hunters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Vampires) this scrappy, engaging little picture presents Van Helsing (Rod Steiger) as a comic fanatic who hooks up with gangbangers to pursue his crusade. WW II era vampire Dallas (Caspar Van Diem), who cuts cigars on his teeth, returns to Los Angeles, though he is on the outs with Dracula (croaking Robert Pastorelli), who rules the undead from his nightclub empire. Dallas seeks Nico (Natasha Gregson Wagner), a waif he turned twenty years ago, and effects a My Fair Lady transformation on her.
Having lived as the Hollywood Slasher, a serial killer dressed as a hooker, Nico becomes an attractive, unpredictable young woman who reconciles her ultra-violent streak with childish joy in shopping and hanging out. Among Dallas’s associates are Zsa Zsa Gabor-accented diva Ulrike (Kim Cattrall), genial Vincent (Udo Kier) — ‘let’s get together and kill some people’ — and Richard (Craig Ferguson) and Rachel (Natasha Lyonne), who run an art gallery and jack up post-mortem prices by murdering the painters they exhibit. Rachel is eternally pregnant with a vampire baby.
Director Richard Elfman and screenwriter Matthew Bright, following their demented Forbidden Zone and Shrunken Heads, are loose cannon filmmakers, throwing in too many characters and sometimes reaching too far for sick humour. A tied-down Ulrike hurls racial abuse at the gangbangers, begging them to have sex with her so she can bite and infect them – Cattrall tries hard with this, but the scene pushes so many rape/race buttons it should come with multiple trigger warnings.
However, Revenant has an appealing live-wire performance from Wagner and funny turns from most of the supporting cast. Steiger and Pastorelli deliver initially amusing if one-note readings of the roles of the great antagonists of vampire fiction. This Count has diversified, running a body-disposal service, while vampires have taken over California’s most important political offices and live blatantly among self-absorbed humans who swarm in LA’s all-night clubs and cafes and galleries. Among the favours Elfman pulls in are make-up effects from Rick Baker and a catchy score co-written by his brother Danny.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.