Though it has nods to Blood for Dracula and Love at First Bite, this 1980s vampire comedy is more like a bloodsucker version of those ‘high school guys desperate to get laid’ flicks that flooded out in the wake of Porky’s and Lemon Popsicle.
Everyguy Mark Kendall (Jim Carrey) is introduced pressuring his girlfriend Robin (Karen Kopins) to put out in the back of his ice cream truck, then venting his frustration at her refusal to go all the way while every other vehicle in the parking lot rocks with teenage shagging. I’m not sure this scene ever played as sympathetic rather than creepy-rapey – and Once Bitten keeps throwing in schtick that’s a) tired, b) not funny and c) offensive … one of Mark’s pals (Skip Lackey) hits on a woman in a bar but is horrified to find he’s chatting up a man in drag, and later his attempt in the school shower room to inspect Mark for puncture wounds on the inner thigh leads to a panic cry of ‘fag alert’. Peter Elbling (‘Dragula’ in Disco Beaver From Outer Space) turns up as a bookshop proprietor who clues Robin in on vampire lore – using a phoney Indian accent of the Fisher Stevens-in-Short Circuit kind. And the hero’s salvation comes when, in a variant on Blood for Dracula, his girlfriend finally has sex with him in a coffin so the Countess (Lauren Hutton) can’t get her third helping of virgin blood before Halloween and withers into an old lady in a hairnet. The punchline is a rocking coffin.
Carrey is already pulling faces and working on physical comedy – playing air guitar with his leg – but gets no material to work with, since even his transformation into a semi-vampire doesn’t involve anything terribly funny. Hutton is poised and occasionally amusingly nasty to incidental characters, and the odd coven of vampire minions from different historical periods – with personalised coffins to reflect their origins – is an interesting idea. Cleavon Little strides through the whole thing in style as a camp gay vampire sidekick, but also doesn’t get any jokes worth telling. Kopins gets the best line (‘he loves me because I’m sweet and pure so fuck off’) and at least shows some moves in the Pre-Halloween prom scene where Robin and the Countess have a dance battle over who takes Mark home to chew on. It has a couple of very 1985 songs – ‘Once Bitten’, ‘Hands Off’ – that’d set anyone’s fangs on edge.
Written by David Hines, Jeffrey Hause and Jonathan Roberts from a story by Dimitri Villard (whose other script credit is the forgotten 1996 Richard Attenborough romantic drama In Love and War); it seems to be the only theatrical credit – not that it graced many cinemas before becoming a VHS commonplace, by long-serving TV director Howard Storm.