I really wanted to hate this movie.
When it was first released, it seemed like everyone and their mother was getting a review copy. Not me. Pitiful pleas to the producers yielded promises, but no screener. Bitterness welled up inside of me. I began to resent all the other reviewers who got to see this movie, raving about it from the rooftops.
Finally, I got it in a lot of other discs from the distributors. I sat back, sadistic grin on my face, determined to despise the hell out of “Strange Things Happen At Sundown”.
I was very disappointed. The movie is great.
A wickedly funny take on the vampire genre, “Strange Things Happen At Sundown” tells the story of the working class undead underworld. Jimmy Fangs (DeVito) and his crew are long-in-the-tooth (pun intended) mobsters have been ripped off by a deadbeat deadfella wannabe named Marcel (Green). They hire a thousand-year-old ruthless, sadistic vampire called “The Reaper” (Gonzalez) to take him out. They’re all being stalked by a mysterious woman in black vinyl (Sapron) who seems to want everyone dead.
“Strange Things” manages to do a lot of things at once where most independent movies fail entirely. It’s bloody, it’s funny, there are distinctive characters, and a fully-realized story that progresses from a beginning, middle and end (even if it is sprawling and told from multiple points of view). And it does a good job of turning the overworked vampire genre on its ear by creating a thoroughly believable world that plays by its own rules. Hell, there’s even a “don’t blink or you’ll miss her” cameo by Jasi Cotton Lanier (“Severe Injuries”)!
Some people may be daunted by it’s length, and there are a few spots where the action does seem to lag, but truth be told these “dead spots” only last a couple of minutes before you’re being dragged along the narrative path once again. Overall, the acting is very good—DeVito being the best, with the voice of “The Reaper” (Robert M. Lemkowitz) coming a close second. “The Reaper” also provides the film with its funniest running gag—he’s an ancient being that fears nothing but his psychotic, former-countess wife who flies into a hysterical rage over the tiniest bit of disarray. It’s shot very well—Fratto and company work very hard to hide the low-budget seams with fast camera work, and rapid editing. (Kudos to them, further, for using the camera to move through the frame, rather than letting it go static, without making it jump around like a Mario Van Peebles film—again, a balancing act that they pull off flawlessly nine times out of ten.)
Like I said, I wanted to hate this movie. It wouldn’t let me.