Written by Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy, and Chris Ver Wiel
Directed by Luca Bercovici
It’s the final of the three films in the Dean Cameron trilogy brought to us by Midnite for Maniacs (the others being Summer School and Ski School), and while Rockula doesn’t have “School” in the title, it does have a lot of songs, so if you ever wanted to see a vampire Elvis impersonator, Rockula has you covered!
Right off the bat (ha!) you know Rockula is going to be great because it has animated opening credits. Well, maybe not great, but it can’t be worse than Catalina Caper, the lowest-grade movie with animated opening credits of them all. Most others rate far higher, and Rockula is some fun fun cheese that if you saw while you were a young, impressionable child, you will have fond memories of for the rest of your life. If you are first exposed as a cynical adult, you’re probably going to be far less amused.
I do remember Rockula from cable as a kid, but not overly so, it’s one of those movies that sort of blurred together with several other films to create a sort of super film that never existed. So Rockula can’t live up to the hype of the most memorable moments of a dozen or so films. But it does have its charm, and Rockula is a movie that deserves a chance.
Ralph is a good vampire boy, in that he isn’t bloodthirsty, he can’t even stand the sight of blood, and just wants to play his music. Also he’s forced to relive a curse again and again because long ago he failed to save the life of his beloved Mona, and ever since history keeps repeating herself as she gets reincarnated, only for them to be destined to meet, fall in love, and for her to swiftly be killed off by a ham bone due to the reincarnated rage of a pirate. It’s a curse, except this time there is the added danger that he knows it might be the last time through.
Rockula does a few things wrong, and a few things very right. One thing right was packing it with musical talent. Not only is there (the mostly wasted) Bo Diddley, but Ralph’s mother Phoebe is played by Toni Basil of Mickey fame, chewing up all the scenery she can get her hands on. She’s joined by She Blinded Me With Science‘s Thomas Dolby as the villainous Stanley, whose obsession with Mona (Tawny Fere) leads to the conflict with Ralph. Thomas Dolby also chomps on the scenery, he and Basil seem to be in a contest to see who can be the most ridonkulous, and the winner is the audience. Dolby is snobbish and obnoxious (snobnoxious???), which of course means he’s a rich casket salesman who also is a music manager of Mona (and her ex!) We are treated with some of Stanley’s commercials for his casket business, which are not only specifically made to look like awful late night cable local business commercials, but they feature some incredibly cheesetastic gimmick caskets (and my favorite little detail, a two women wandering in the background of a commercial who end up fighting each other by the time it’s over!) Mona’s sidekick Robin is played by Nancye Ferguson, former wife of Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, and she headlined the Devo spinoff group Visiting Kids, which also featured Autumn Kimble, Alexandra Mothersbaugh, and Scarlet Rouge Newton. And they show up as well, because this is Rockula! Nancye Ferguson also doesn’t get enough to do, despite her character being another visually interesting component.
Dean Cameron is great as the neurotic Ralph, the friendly vampire. I love his purple pajamas with gold fat bats drawn on it, which sort of foretells that Ralph himself turns into a fat dumpy tiny bat. The movie specifically reminds us that vampires can’t see their reflection with Ralph’s mom, then immediately reveals Ralph can see his reflection. Or more importantly, his reflection talks to him, because it’s all in his head. Or is it? Even the movie admits it is confused, but isn’t going to give up such a wonderful source of Dean Cameron reacting to himself playing two different personalities, so enjoy the plot device! Mirror Ralph is a confident ladies man who pushes Ralph to be more than just a guy who lets fate kick him in the balls every 22 years. Ralph battles for the heart of his love, deciding that this time will be the time to break the curse. He sort of has to, as Stanley’s plan is not to kill Mona, but to freeze her, which means Ralph will lose her forever if he doesn’t stop it.
Horror musicals are still rare, but we’ve seen them become cult favorites again and again. Rockula falls a bit short despite some fun camp, the songs themselves don’t stand out, but I give Rockula credit for trying a lot of different types of songs, including a vampire rap song which isn’t as terrible as it sounds. Still, with Bo Diddley as part of Ralph’s band, they should have been rocking. My favorite song is the big finale, with Vampire Elvis rocking out.
Both Toni Basil and Tawny Fere had parts in Angel III: The Final Chapter, while Susan Tyrrell (who plays Chuck the Bartender) was in the first two Angel movies. That’s not really as big of a connection as I thought…I mean, I meant to show a trivial connection. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Rockula has a lot of heart and a lot of talent, but doesn’t gel together into something memorable. But it does do something different, and that counts for a lot, especially here at TarsTarkas.NET, as we’re always on the lookout for something different. Too bad The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone isn’t related, because that would be something worth seeing. But by itself, Rockula is something that will be very special to a small group of people, and that in itself is a victory. Basically, you probably already know just from the descriptions and photos whether Rockula is your bag.
Rated 5/10 (logo, rocking skelly, sunscreening, bad santa, neon ghosties)
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