*(I am the DJ, he is the vampire)
A couple evenings ago, in my latest adventure in nothingontvso scrollthroughmycablecompany’s OnDemand serviceandlookfor theworstmovieIcanpossiblyfind, I got all the way to the “R’s” until I found something that interested me. There were actually two movies that caught my eye: Rabid Grannies, a low-budget horror film from Belgium about guess and Rockula, a 1990 musical/comedy about a vampire looking for love and rock stardom. How tough of a decision is that? It’s like trying to decide between puppies and rainbows.
After much deliberation, I chose Rockula because it also stars musicians Toni Basil, Thomas Dolby, and Bo Diddley and I was in the mood for some authentic 80’s cheese to get me in the mood for fake 80’s cheese, Rock of Ages, this weekend. (Yes, I will be witnessing Tom Cruise thrust on a 20 foot screen, all for you. You realize I’m risking getting audited by doing this? You’re welcome.)
I’ll be back for you rabid grannies, don’t you worry.
Ralph (Dean Cameron, Summer School, Ski School, Ski School 2) is our hero. He’s a centuries-old vampire with magnificent eyebrows and a tragic tale. He’s been cursed to meet, fall in love with, and lose the woman of his dreams over and over. He’s up to his fourteenth lifetime of this. The woman is always named Mona and bites it on Halloween after being struck with a hambone by a pirate with a rhinestone peg leg.
Am I going too fast? Just so we’re clear:
Ralph’s true love Mona is always killed on Halloween after being struck with a hambone by a pirate with a rhinestone peg leg.
You need a visual, don’t you? Okay, here:
In every incarnation, it’s the same. The worst part? It always happens before he can get any, so Ralph is also a 400 year old virgin.
And you thought you had problems!
Ralph decides that in this lifetime, which happens to be in magical 1990, he’s going to stay home and avoid meeting Mona, thus saving her. This plan lasts exactly five minutes before she accidentally hits him with her car. Now Ralph is determined to save Mona from that hambone-wielding rhinestone peg-legged pirate and break the curse once and for all. But first he has to make her fall in love with him. But how? How do doofy, awkward virgins get girls?
By becoming rock stars of course!
So Ralph starts a band called, wait for it, Rockula, with his group of friends that inexplicably includes Bo Diddley and wouldn’tchaknow, they’re an instant success! Mona is impressed of course. Cue the falling in love montage!
But wait! This is a vampire story, and you know what that means. There’s another guy, Mona’s ex-boyfriend and owner of a booming local coffin shop, Stanley (Thomas “She Blinded Me With Science” Dolby).
So in addition to protecting Mona from the inevitable upcoming rhinestone peg-legged pirate with a hambone attack, Ralph must also compete with slimy Stanley’s attempts to keep them apart. On top of all that, will she still love him after he reveals that he’s a vampire?
From the fun animated opening sequence to the final song, Rockula is every bit as campy, cheesetastic, and bizarre as I hoped it would be. Why have I never heard of this before? How is this not a cult classic? I’m legitimately angry about this. So many Halloweens this could have been a part of!
The music is that delightful 80’s synthesized goodness and though most of the songs are forgettable by the end of the movie (except for the one that goes “Heeeeyyyy Rock-u-la”- that one will get stuck in your head), they’re perfectly entertaining at the time, especially combined with the imagery I can best describe as a daytime soap’s idea of a hip rock music video. It’s worth noting that all of the actors and actresses did their own singing in the movie. Now that’s not saying they were spectacular, but it deserves a toast. Don’t forget, there was no such thing as autotune back then. (Damn you Cher.)
It’s evident while watching Rockula that the cast knows exactly what kind of movie they’re making and are clearly having a blast hamming it up the entire time. The MVP award must go Toni Basil, who steals the entire movie as Ralph’s mom (you’ll see why later). If you only know her from “Mickey” and her occasional appearances as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance where she uses the term “street” way too much, you’ll have a whole new love for her. Thomas Dolby is also delightfully over-the-top as dastardly Stanley. His best moments (as well as the film’s funniest) are in the Beetlejuice-esque Stanley’s Death Park commercials. Dean Cameron is a great everyman, or everyvampire I guess, as Ralph and fares just as well as Ralph’s swarmy alter-ego in the form of a reflection (more on that in a minute). Tawny Fere (Mona) is, well, she’s very pretty. Sadly she never managed to make it big in Hollywood, most likely because Tawny Kitaen had a monopoly on hot, big-haired actresses named Tawny.
Every pop culture depiction of vampires has its own rules and world. Sometimes they turn into bats, sometimes they need to be invited in before they can enter a room, and sometimes they fucking sparkle.
One myth that nearly all vampire fiction has seemed to agree upon is that vampires cannot see their reflection. But not Rockula.
Not only can Ralph see his reflection, it isn’t just a reflection, it’s another Ralph (also played by Cameron). Sort of his own Mr. Hyde, Ralph’s reflection gives him terrible advice and tells really corny jokes. But unlike Ralph, his reflection isn’t a virgin. He gets lots of the sex. Inside the reflection. Even though there are no women on the other side. Are they real? I know this is a stupid thing to nitpick over, but it’s never explained and I wasted like, ten seconds trying to figure it out. I mean, they took the time to point out and show that everything in the background of Ralph’s reflection’s world is reversed, but not how actual other people who are not in the world the mirror is reflecting got inside. Is it not solely a reflection of what’s presented in front of it but rather an alternative reality where sluts hang out? I know. I’m going to stop now, we’ll just tack it on with these others.
As I mentioned, every vampire story has its own vampire rules. Rockula has none. Sunlight? No problem, slap on a little sunscreen. Garlic? Ralph loves it! Crosses? Ralph can correctly identify which century any particular crucifix was manufactured. Human blood? No need to actually bite anyone. Just call up the local medical lab and arrange for a daily delivery, milkman-style.
If it weren’t for the gigantic vampire fangs that Ralph and his mother sport, no one would ever know they were vampires. Actually, scratch that. No one even seems to notice the gigantic vampire fangs. Even when Ralph tries to use it to convince Mona that he is, in fact, a vampire, she replies with “Oh, it just probably just runs in your family.” Can you blame her?
Wait, I just remembered, Ralph does have a little trick, I’ll let you discover that on your own.
It really doesn’t matter that Rockula doesn’t follow any of the traditional vampire policies though, since the whole vampire thing is really just there to give the movie its awesome title and I’m just using this gripe as an excuse to have another beer. Because this is definitely the type of movie to kick back and pop open a few with friends.
Do you need any more than this?
Find this tragically underrated gem and make it a part of your next Halloween. Or your next Tuesday.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time the lip-synching doesn’t match up.
Take a Drink: when Tony Cox (You know! The little guy from Bad Santa) appears on screen.
Take a Drink: every time Toni Basil is awesome.
Take a Drink: at every Stanley’s Death Park commercial.
Take a Drink: every time someone wears neon Spandex. (Take two when Bo Diddley does. Oh yes, he does.)
Take a Drink: every time you wonder what favor/blackmail/financial problem could have possibly convinced Bo Diddley to appear in this movie.
Chug: every second it takes until you figure out the identity of Madame Benoit. (It shouldn’t take you more than 0.5 seconds.)
(If you grew up/lived through the 80’s ) Take a Drink: every time you think to yourself “I thought that was cool?”
Take a Drink: when you spot the Rocky Horror reference.
Fun Fact: Adam Shankman, director of Rock of Ages, has a bit part as a panty-stealing shuttle driver.