Writer-director Ken Roht’s Vampire Burt’s Serenade is a drug-addled musical starring the Backstreet Boys’ Kevin Richardson as the titular character, and Diva Zappa, the youngest child of Frank, as the main zombie. What more does one need to know? From that tiny description, you already know if this movie is for you or not. But, let’s take a look and see if it lives up to the fun promised by its ridiculous premise.
The comedic-horror movie starts when Burt bites his friend Todd (Brandon Heitkamp), turning him into one of the undead. Todd isn’t pleased with and fights the urge to feed off people as best he can. Of course, being a vampire does mean he must feed at some point. Thus, at the club The Bootleg, Todd bites his girlfriend Connie (Diva Zappa), and while she was angry at first, she winds up loving sucking blood out of people. However, she gets bitten by a zombie, morphing her from a bloodsucker to a shambling corpse (I think? More on this confusion in a bit).
Being virtually indestructible, Burt lives a vice-heavy life, so he and Todd make their way over to Candyland. Candyland is a drug den/ art space run by Clare Dare Human (Sharon Ferguson), who does art installations for the very wealthy and slightly deranged. Over the years, Burt has been around and has developed a rotten reputation. Thus, after his latest massacre, the denizens of the Bootleg descend upon Candyland to finally rid the world of Burt. Of course, all of this is conveyed through a lot of songs; and I do mean a lot given the film’s barely 80-minute runtime.
“…after his latest massacre, the denizens of the Bootleg descend upon Candyland to finally rid the world of Burt.”
For those reading this and thinking that the movie sounds remarkably similar to The Bloody Indulgent from 2014, you are not wrong. It is, in fact, the same movie, sort of. A lengthy legal battle ensued over the film, though specifics of who was suing who over the movie’s rights and why have proven challenging to discover. But, after several years, somebody won, and now a re-edited, slightly retooled version is out as Vampire Burt’s Serenade. Oddly enough, though, it appears that The Bloody Indulgent is still available on some VOD and streaming platforms.
No matter, we are here to review this newly minted version of the musical horror-comedy. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The biggest problem with Vampire Burt’s Serenade is its utter lack of world-building. When Burt turns Todd at the very beginning of the movie, fire spews from his mouth. Vampire myths and lore have been around for several centuries, but only a few distinct traits have made their way into the public consciousness at large. They must consume blood to live, sunlight hurting them to some degree is a given, along with hypnosis, and shapeshifting powers are elements that audiences can instantly recognize.
Minor changes here or there, such as changing into a bat, wolf, mist, or just basic shapeshifting, are also acceptable without leaving the audience asking any questions. However, adding a rather strange new trait to being a vampire and not exploring it, such as Roht does here, is confusing. Why and how do the vampires spew fire? Is it only during and immediately after feeding? Don’t look for answers here. Other world-building items, such as how Candyland even exists, are also entirely glossed over. Also, why or how can a zombie bite overpower a vampire’s? Again, the screenplay fails to explain itself here despite the need to, so the audience can actually understand what is happening.
"…Richardson sheds off his more serious public persona and is infinitely charming..."