Our impression of the vampire has changed quite a bit in recent years. They tend to be thought of almost like rock stars these days. Heck, even one of Anne Rice’s vampire novels, Queen of the Damned, had her vampire character Lestat becoming an actual rock star. Folks go for sexy vampires now more than the haunting qualities that Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee brought to vampire parts. Back in 1990, however, we weren’t quite there yet. Our film today brings us a vampire who becomes a rock star, but is a bit more of a dweeb than most blood-suckers. You’ve faced Dracula, now get ready for Rockula.
This one gets a little complicated…so brace yourselves. The story focuses on a 400 year old vampire named Ralphie (Dean Cameron…Chainsaw from Summer School) who lives under an unfortunate curse. Many moons ago he met the girl of his dreams, Mona (Tawny Fere). Sadly, she was killed by her jealous ex…a pirate. Whenever she dies, she is reincarnated so that 22 years later Ralphie gets to meet her again. Problem is, every time he meets up with her again he is unable to stop her from being killed and having things start all over again. This time, Ralphie has no intention of going through the pain of meeting and losing Mona again. However, fate intervenes when she accidentally plows into him with her car.
This incarnation of Mona is a up-and-coming singer under the management of her slimy boyfriend, Stanley (Thomas Dolby). Ralphie ends up telling Mona that he is in a band too and ends up creating an act with a bunch of his pals from a bar (including Bo Diddley)…he dubs the band Rockula and plays up the vampire angle as part of his act. Of course, they become an instant hit.
Things are also going well on the romantic level for Ralphie and Mona, though a strange dinner with Ralphie’s mom (Toni Basil) leads to him having to admit to Mona that he is a real vampire and that they have known each other in previous lives. To prove it he changes into a weird bat creature right in front of her. But Mona isn’t the only one who learns about Ralphie’s secret. Thanks to a psychic, Stanley also learns the truth. The psychic woman then starts to manipulate Stanley to get him to dress as a pirate and kill Mona. Now Ralphie has to man up and save the girl he’s loved for centuries.
I can just imagine the way Rockula came about. The title, most likely, came first. Dracula…but he’s a rock star…Rockula! After that there was just the pesky problem of actually coming up with a story. The idea of a rock star vampire is not a bad one, but where this film has a problem is with the really dumb backstory with reincarnations and death by pirate. It’s so unnecessarily complicated that you can’t help but roll your eyes when the characters have to do big scenes of plot exposition just to explain in all. Just having it be a comedy about a vampire rock star who falls in love with a singer would’ve been enough.
One of the biggest disappointments of the film was Dean Cameron in the lead role. Cameron was fantastic as Chainsaw in Summer School…a lovable underachiever obsessed with gory movies. Here the charisma he gave Chainsaw is nowhere to be found. Ralphie is a bit of a drip, to be honest. It should be said, also, that Cameron actually plays somewhat of a dual role, also appearing as Ralphie’s reflection, who is a bit of horndog. Now, I’m still a bit lost on how a vampire has a reflection, but okay. The reflection character is just plain annoying really and adds nothing to the proceedings.
I did enjoy Tawny Fere as Mona, however. One of her best moments is an impromptu music video that she and Ralphie launch into as their love blossoms. The scene is a bit jarring at first. I mean all of the sudden I was like, “Oh, so this is a musical now?!” In a strange way, though, the scene kind of works. Toni Basil also gets a similar moment where she starts singing and dancing without warning. Basil is actually a good fit for this role and brings a nice quirkiness to her character. Thomas Dolby, on the other hand, doesn’t fare so well. One would’ve thought that writing the theme song to Howard the Duck would rank lowest on his resume, but this performance is much lower on the food chain.
There are a few clever ideas in Rockula, but the film gets too convoluted for its own good. Even the cast struggles to make sense of it all. If you want to mix horror and rock music, stick with Alice Cooper.