Between What We Do in the Shadows and Bloodsucking Bastards, it’s an excellent time to be a fan of deadpan vampire comedies. The latter, which features Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal as the bloodthirsty new sales manager at a corporate office, boasts a clever script, a hilarious cast, and rivers of gore. What else do you need?
Bastards, with a script originally penned by Ryan Mitts, hails from the hive mind of Los Angeles comedy troupe Dr. God; Brian James O’Connell has the directing credit, but it’s clear from the start that this film was a collaborative effort. And that’s part of its magic. The bones of the story are, admittedly, rather familiar if you’ve seen Office Space or Shaun of the Dead, but it feels like a knowing homage, not a rip-off. At any rate, the actors (mostly up-and-comers aside from Pascal and Joel Murray, who played Freddy Rumsen on Mad Men) all mesh perfectly; the relationships are believable because they’re all buddies in real life.
The entire movie takes place within a single office, where production values are low but interpersonal drama is high. Acting sales manager Evan (Fran Kranz of Dollhouse) is the only employee in a pool who actually gives a damn, but he’s distracted, having just been dumped by his girlfriend, head of HR Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick). Everyone else, including Evan’s best friend, committed slacker Tim (Joey Kern), spends the entire day goofing off, playing video games, watching porn, and dodging boss Ted (Murray) and that one nerdy guy in the office who lives only to collect money for sports betting pools.
But those male-enhancement drugs aren’t going to sell themselves, so Ted unexpectedly brings in outside help: Max (Pascal), a slick, smarmy corporate type who says things like “Sales is seduction.” He’s also an old college rival of Evan’s. Once he’s installed in what used to be Evan’s office, things start getting mighty strange mighty fast: people start going missing; the formerly mousey receptionist morps into a femme fatale; a onetime scruffy ne’er-do-well is suddenly a slick-haired model employee. It’s all due to Max ... and it’s not a spoiler to say Max is, well, a vampire.
That’s pretty much the entire premise, and the characters are all familiar types. And, yes, the whole “being an office drone will drain the life out of you” is a rather obvious (if 100 percent accurate) metaphor. Bloodsucking Bastards could have been a fun-but-forgettable lark, but it’s got the huge advantage of having a cast with amazing chemistry. The dialogue is scripted, but the actors were also given the freedom to improvise when it felt right.
This leads to wonderfully weird non sequiturs, as when Tim and the office’s gung-ho security guard, Frank (Marshall Givens), pause their vampire-staking quest to reminisce about the Kelly Clarkson concert they attended the night before. Or when someone says they fear going into the building basement ever since someone found a “whimsical gimp mask” down there. The movie is full of rapid-fire jokes and asides, delivered with complete nonchalance, and the humor is wonderfully on-target and unforced.
But, yeah, it’s also a horror movie (though not scary at all, not for an instant). The Shaun of the Dead comparisons really come into play when Evan, motivated by heartbreak and the sudden realization that he’s actually hero material, busts into the vamp-infested office to rescue his beloved. But instead of zombies, the good guys (and gal) are taking on vampires, which enables Dr. God to make use of gallons and gallons of fake blood (seriously, it is GORY), the creative use of which makes up for the fact that there are relatively few other special effects.
If the fight scenes feel way more awkward than the comedy, who cares? These office workers aren’t Buffy or Blade; they’re desk-dwellers who looked up how to kill vampires on Wikipedia, fashioned some wooden stakes from whatever’s around, and hoped for the best. Fortunately for us, Bloodsucking Bastards emerges as one of the best horror comedies in recent memory.
Bloodsucking Bastards opens today in select theaters and is also available on demand.