Directed by: Chris Nolan
Written by: Chris Nolan, Laurie Nolan
Featuring: Lucas Grabeel, Adrian Slade, Drew Seeley
While browsing the used DVD rack at my local video store, I came across something called I Kissed a Vampire. A little over two years old, the film's cover art featured some gothed-out teenagers with fangs posed like a Harlequin romance cover, and the box blurb read something along the lines of "It's a love child between Glee and Twilight!"
How's a girl to resist?
I had never heard of this project before, but apparently it was a popular web series in its heyday and it garnered quite a following of pre-teen musical fans. The timing of it couldn't have been more impeccable, and if the film had been pitched in the early 2000s, it likely wouldn't have gotten greenlit at all. But the producers and creators struck while the iron was hot and managed to catch that perfectly balanced cross-demographic of adolescent vampire fanatics and people who were eating up the safe, poppy music of projects like Glee and The Voice.
The movie has a very small cast, with only three characters you actually care about, so it's easy enough to break down. First, you have nerdy, awkward teenage boy Dylan (Lucas Grabeel, who fans will recognize as Ryan from High School Musical), who serves as our protagonist and narrator. He's in love with the sweet blonde Sara (Adrian Slade), a pouty-faced fresh-scrubbed little thing who desperately wants Dylan to man up and make a move. And then we have the foil to Dylan's romantic woes, a sexy bad-boy vampire with enough guyliner to rival Jack Sparrow and Thomas Dekker at the same time, who goes by the ridiculous name Trey Sylvanie (Drew Seeley, also from High School Musical).
The movie begins with Dylan suffering a nightmare about Trey at a carnival, trying to lure him into a life of vampirism; when he awakens in a cold sweat, he realizes he's sensitive to sunlight and has a craving for the red stuff. He books an appointment with a parapsychologist who is sympathetic to his plight after he divulges to her that, a few weeks ago, a pretty foreign exchange student told him that she was interested in him and had an affinity for all "red-blooded American boys," and shortly afterward he was bitten by a bat. He went to a special dentist, who filed down his massive canines, but of course they've grown back since then. The parapsychologist's only advice is that he has to be honest with Sara, because he's still in love with her despite his nocturnal cravings, and she assures him that if Sara really cares for him then this will be an obstacle they can overcome together.
Dylan and Sara go on a date where he intends to tell her the truth about himself, but he cuts out early when he realizes that all he can think about is a very different kind of necking than she has on the brain. Frustrated in his room later, Dylan is pacing and thinking about how hard life's going to be as one of the undead when a goth-rock boy appears on his bed. Trey Sylvanie's his name and being the resident badass Dracula is his game, and he offers to tutor Dylan in the ways of the vampire — his most sage advice is to "go for the throat" of life and take what you want without fear of consequence. This goes against Dylan's modest good-guy personality, but Trey assures him that they're different than other people and morals go by the wayside once you drink your first drop of blood. He invites Dylan to a party, but before he can leave, Sara shows up in a huff, demanding an explanation for Dylan bailing on her during their date. Trey immediately swoops in, taken aback by Sara's beauty, and invites her to the party too. The three find themselves in a vampire club where Trey is regarded as a VIP and scantily clad goth vampire chicks fall all over him in lust. Trey only has eyes for Sara, however, and after a seductive dance he entrances her and gives her a little nip on the neck before Dylan pushes him away.
As time passes, Dylan realizes that Trey has infected Sara with the vampire virus, and he's losing the girl he loves to Trey's hypnotic spell. Their only hope is a hack-job scientist named Dan Helsing who creates hokey folk remedies and anti-venoms and who claims to have an antidote for vampirism; Trey is closing in on them, determined to claim Sara as his next vampire bride to add to his skanky goth harem, and Dylan's time as a human, and as Sara's beau, is running out.
The movie has only a three-star rating on IMDb, but I feel that's a little harsh. It's cheesy, of course, and the songs are the watered-down auto-tuned pop stuff you'd expect from the people involved with High School Musical. But I feel like the target audience for this film is the same girls who clutched their pearls every time they see Robert Pattinson on the cover of Teen Beat, and really, for those people, I think this movie is fun as hell. The sets are lush, with great ambiance; Trey's castle in particular is a big, sweeping affair with velvet chaise longues, a checkered floor, chandeliers…the whole thing kind of looks like where Meatloaf lived in the "I Would Do Anything for Love" video, actually. The cinematography clearly channels '90s boy-band videos (think Backstreet Boys' "Everybody") during the music sequences, with lots of up-angle shots and swooping camera rigs. The music is pretty generic but I did find myself with a bit of an earworm after — it's carefully orchestrated pop music that fits right at home with this Disney Channel crowd of teenagers.
Think Justin Bieber with fangs.
But the vampires in this movie do have bite; they eat people, there's a little bit of blood, they can't hang out in the sunlight and they don't sparkle. Sure, they have choreographed dance numbers, but at least they aren't completely toothless so to speak. Trey, in particular, and his sinister "main girl" Luna Dark have no regard for human life and play with people like pawns to get what they want.
Is the movie perfect? No, absolutely not. But it's not meant to be. It's fun and shallow, and taken at face value, it's an enjoyable little piece of fluff. It's going to remain a guilty-pleasure staple on my shelf, and I think if you have people in your life who are into Glee, Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, they'll at least get a kick out of this musical. I imagine a lot of teenage girls who were firmly Team Edward would enjoy the dark, brooding sexiness of Trey Sylvanie and his stalker obsession of perfect little Sara, and the flick fills a hole on my DVD shelf that I didn't even know was there. But really, it boils down to this: Who can be mad about a vampire rock musical anyway?