If ever a movie were missold, this breezy vampire film from the Clueless team of writer-director Amy Heckerling and star Alicia Silverstone is that soldier … the trailer makes it look like a peppy sit-com in the My Best Friend’s a Vampire vein (with heavy reference to things being in something’s vein) and it doesn’t hold back from tired garlic jokes. But it’s actually a surprisingly affecting movie about female friendships and ageing, with a last half hour that downplays the laughs and goes for floods of tears as Goody (Silverstone), turned in 1841, has her whole life catch up with her in Times Square and finally turns to sparkling dust in the wind.
In a variation on the Lost Boys formula, prime vanpires (‘stems’) can turn humans but their offspring get their real age back if the stem is killed. Goody and 80s club kid Stacy (Krysten Ritter) work as exterminators in order to get rats to drink from, rack up endless evening class college credits and go the clubbing route. They abstain from human blood, except for one gruesome fillip where Goody extends her tongue through the nose of a rock drummer who has a nosebleed from cocaine, but diva stem Cissero (Sigourney Weaver) murders at will, bringing down the wrath of humanity on the Extended Life Form community.
Vlad Tepesh (Malcolm McDowell) is in a Sanguinary Anonymous group and knits to stave off his tendency to impale things, Renfield (Zak Orth) is a clubbing accountant and the current Van Helsing (Wallace Shawn) works for Homeland Security. When Stacy gets together with Van Helsing’s son (Dan Stevens) and falls pregnant, Goody has to help destroy Cissero to save the baby at the expense of her own life.
Heckerling, of course, is best known for acutely observed teen social studies, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High on, but this focuses on characters who have literally been teenagers too long. Goody, stuck with a name no one would give a girl these days, mixes and matches outfits from her successive youths but is finally impatient with the i-pad generation, and prodded towards self-sacrifice by meeting up with an old boyfriend from the 60s (Richard Lewis) who is still a radical lawyer and whose ailing wife (Marilu Henner) is saved by vampire blood donated by sleek Vadim (Justin Kirk) in a silly, sexy scene.
Weaver is fun as a fashionplate nosferatu sociopath who hides out in Grant’s tomb, and there’s a weird slapstick climax involving her severed head perching on Grant’s bones to battle the Van Helsings. It has a sweet, varied soundtrack selection to match its heroines’ eclectic tastes and a bright, glittery look appropriate to the tone.