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By James Teitelbaum | October 8, 2009

Lara (Eilis Cahill) is a sixteen-year-old goth girl spending her miserable existence in a small town in upstate New York. Through her diaries (presented as voice-over) we learn that she loathes her Barbie doll twin sister Helen (Devon Bailey), her introverted and immature medical student brother Raymond (Michael Strelow), her ineffectual father (Anthony Morelli), and her stern, matronly mother (JoJo Hristova). None of these people appear to like each other very much, but when Helen ends up turning into a vampire the family must pull together. Raymond uses his medical knowledge to figure out what is happening, Lara contributes her knowledge of vampire lore, Helen is the bloody MacGuffin, and mom keeps the family together (dad is ejected from the story after the first scene).

Although the “The Vampire Diaries,”which will screen at the Philadelphia Terror Film Festival this month, has no obvious jokes or any humor that might be described as either physical or visual, there is an undercurrent of goofiness that crops about halfway through this quietly bad film. Yes, there is plenty of gore here, and the film starts off by taking itself somewhat seriously. It seems as though part way through production someone on set looked around and said, “This is all rather silly, isn’t it?” At that point the performers begin to mug just a little, and the film subtly cops to being a bit ridiculous, letting the audience in on the fact that “The Vampire Diaries Part I”is in on its own joke.

This is a very good thing, because what follows is far too goofy to be handled in any other manner. Raymond conveniently turns gay so as to lure boys home from clubs, for his vegetarian vampire sister to reluctantly feast on. The family collectively debates good and evil and life and death within the context of vampire lore and its tangled connection with Christianity. The attempts at philosophy are trite, but they break up the monotony between scenes of gore – which is really what most viewers are on board for. An ancient vampire (we know he is old because he is parading around modern New York in 17th century clothing) shows up and sinks this already somewhat leaky boat with a thoroughly inept performance (by John Morr). To be fair about the cast, Devon Bailey – in her debut role – shows promising glimpses, and Eilis Cahill gets her job done adequately.

Apparently the producers of this film intend to make two more installments of “The Vampire Diaries.” However, given that a television series with the exact same name – based on a popular book series – has debuted on The CW Network this autumn, I’d be surprised if this indie series were allowed to continue under its current tag.

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