Vampire Swipes Right (Vampire in Brooklyn, 1995)

Vampire In Brooklyn was a meeting of minds. Eddie Murphy was coming off a string of films and sequels that were not failures, but not grand successes. Eddie states he agreed to make the film for the studio for the rights to the Nutty Professor.

Maximillion is the last of a clan of Caribbean vampires who arrives one night in Brooklyn via a large freighter. He is seeking a woman to be his queen, and to help him, turns small time hood Julian into a servant ghoul.

Maximillion is searching for a woman born of a vampire and he discovers police detective Rita ( ridiculously gorgeous Angela Bassett) is the woman he is seeking. As he tries to enter her life, he runs into competition from her partner.

Vampire in Brooklyn really feels like a movie competing with itself. On the one hand, it is a gory vampire flick. On the other hand? It is an Eddie Murphy comedy that has the things you expect, like Eddie in various costumes as side characters. One is an Al Sharpton styled preacher which does result in an amusing scene where he bursts into flame and convinces the congregation to rush outside.

It is not that comedy and horror cannot mix, and honestly it is hard to tell where the conflict lies. I have read accounts that Eddie and the other writers intended this to be a more serious vampire film and it was Craven who altered the tone. Other accounts suggest that Craven pushed for Eddie to play the role more serious and Eddie did his own thing.

The movie is full of terrific performers, and so there are plenty of fun bits. Kadeem Hardison’s Julius finds himself falling apart as his body begins to rot, which results in a lot of funny moments as he freaks out. John Witherspoon is funny. And I think it is the problem…these are all talented performers and creatives…but it often feels like they are all working in totally different movies.

Dead and Buried and Back Again (The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1988)

Taking inspiration from author Wade Davis’ book of the same name, Wes Craven explores spirituality and politics. This is not a direct adaption of the book, with Bill Pullman playing Dr. Dennis Alan. Alan is sent by his employer (a pharmaceutical company) too Haiti to investigate the stories of Christophe, a man who died in 1978, but has reappeared from the dead.

While there, Alan starts to work with Dr. Marielle Duchamp, who is treating Christophe. With her help, he is introduced to practitioners of Voodoo who are open to teaching him how to make the toxins that produce the zombie state. Dennis is convinced there are medicinal uses that would revolutionize medical care.

However, Haiti is in a state of revolution, and runs afoul of the local corrupt constable Dargent Peytraud (played with ominous relish by Zakes Mokae). After a threat to his life Alan realizes he cannot escape Peytraud’s grasp and returns to Haiti to help the friends he has made and confront Peytraud.

For the two thirds of the story, Craven plays things a bit coy. Any horror moments could simply be happening in his head, under the influence of hallucinogens. Up until the moment he returns to the United States, Voodoo is treated pretty respectfully. But then the film swerves into horror fantasy with a spiritual showdown between Alan and Peytraud.

The effects in the film are really solid with all sorts of creepy imagery. But what really stands out is the beautifully shot scenery. Filmed largely on location in Haiti, the cinematographer John Lindley takes full advantage of the environments.

Wade Davis has expressed some disappointment with the film for how it sensationalizes Voodoo, while the whole point of his book was to present it as a valid religion alongside the more popular and accepted religions of the world. He does not seem to lay this at Craven’s feet, whom he has suggested was trying to make something less in the horror vein (Davis had hoped for something more like the Year of Living Dangerously). He feels the studio kept the pressure on to provide them with a Wes Craven thriller.

While the film has some tonal flaws, it is still a very strong return to form for Craven, especially after Deadly Friend. This is Craven managing to bring his more intellectual ideas alongside his thriller instincts. And it works. This is an engaging film worth a watch.

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