With this year’s very successful science fiction hits Mad Max: Fury Road and Turbo Kid already being referred to as “cult classics” in the making, the definition of the B-movie in the digital era must fit a different rubric beyond, for example, the use of practical effects or references to earlier films and aesthetics. The horror comedy has always been a genre prone to B-status – but can they all achieve the love that the ironically-adored low-budget classics of the past have? That’s the question facing a film like this week’s new release, Bloodsucking Bastards.
Bloodsucking Bastards stars Fran Kranz (the lovable pothead of Cabin in the Woods) as Evan, a halfway competent manager at a telemarketing company whose promised promotion is stolen by an old rival, Max. After finding his coworker’s dead body in one of the men’s room stalls, and witnessing the slow-death and conversion into stellar, undead employee of another of his favorite office pals, Evan suspects that Max is a vampire, turning the staff into a deadly army. With the help of his friend Tim, girlfriend Amanda, and the security guard, Evan must try to protect whatever humanity remains in the office place.
Aspirationally a combination between Office Space and Shaun of the Dead, Bloodsucking Bastards is rife with potentially comedic material; unfortunately, the first hour or so of the film fails to deliver on real laughs and plods blandly along. The jokes tend to fall flat, many of which seem to be improvised and rely on tired office or bro-related material, but without self-consciousness or irony.
On the other hand, part of what’s made for the effectiveness of past horror-comedies – like An American Werewolf in London, for one example – is not just good laughs, but also real scares; in the case of Bastards, the violence is fairly hidden for the majority of the film, and it’s disappointingly lacking in suspense overall.
But it’s not all bad. Kranz is a charismatic light amidst the generally forgettable (and occasionally distractingly awful) performances – though he’s no Bruce Campbell. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but when the effects are as apparently high-budget as these, it seems fair to bring some expectations to the table. In that regard, the twists in the final half an hour are somewhat rewarding; Bastards isn’t rewriting the game, but it’s not entirely unoriginal, either. And maybe that’s the real problem: it’s not very good, but it’s not bad enough to be great.
CONCLUSION: If you’re looking for a vaguely enjoyable, thoroughly blood-drenched re-hash of Shaun of the Dead, Bloodsucking Bastards will fit the bill – but is anyone really searching for that?