Rockula

Rockula

Film review by: Witney Seibold

Luca Bercovici’s “Rockula.” Oh my effing lord. What a bizarre movie. What a baffling, baffling thing. Who made this? Who is it for? Where did these ideas come from? Is this thing real? Yes, dear reader. It is.

Perhaps a mere description of events of what happens in the insanity-inducing “Rockula” can convey the sheer overblown mindfudgery it contains. Perhaps not. Perhaps this 1990 oddity from their director of “Ghoulies” cannot really be understood. While the idea behind a rock ‘n’ roll vampire musical is an idea I can swallow, I’m not sure why the film had to be this off-the-wall. This convoluted. Have this much batshit-crazy insanity.  Contain a scene of Bo Diddley in a bright yellow spandex bumblebee outfit rapping with Dean Cameron and Susan Tyrell. Yes, that actually happens in the movie. Comparisons to the epic “The Apple” are tempting. “Rockula” doesn’t quite match the sheer wondrous insanity of “The Apple” (“The Apple,” after all, tried to be about BIG things like God and the record industry), but it actually does saunter up the “The Apple’s” front door in the night, and gives it a good hard scratching.

“Rockula” doesn’t really take place in reality. It seems to take place in that weird heightened version of reality that music videos take place in. Indeed, at one point, the film actually becomes a music video. But more on that later.

So here’s the premise of “Rockula:” Ralph (Cameron) is a vampire who has been a virgin for centuries. He is destined to lose his virginity to Mona (Tawny Fere), who is reincarnated every 22 years. One night every 22 years, Ralph and Mona meet, they fall hopelessly in love, and then Mona is then bludgeoned to death by a rhinestone-peg-legged pirate wielding a hambone. You read that correctly. Ralph will repeat this process until he finally bags Mona. This premise is clear because the screenwriter bothered to have Chuck (Tyrell in a blonde pixie cut) explain it all to our hero near the beginning of the film in a fit of obvious exposition. Ralph, despondent over failing so many times over the centuries, is determined not to meet Mona this time around.

Oh yeah, how does he know Chuck? Chuck is the bartender in his favorite bar. Bo Diddley is the musical act in said bar. Tyrell and Diddley look drunk for most of their screentime.

Ralph meets Mona in a car wreck, and they are, naturally, instantly drawn to one another.

Anyway, there are some obstacles for our hero to overcome, of course. One of them is the fact that his intended is already dating a douchebag funeral home owner named Stanley who is played by Thomas Dolby. Yes, the same Thomas Dolby who sang “She Blinded Me with Science.” Dolby doesn’t just play his role, he rips it to shreds. Not a chance to mug or shriek or smear smarm on the screen is passed up. He plays the part like he’s part high school acting hopeful and part high-strung chicken.

Mona is, meanwhile, an aspiring pop star who seems to go for other rock stars. Ralph in an attempt to impress Mona, recruits Tyrell and Diddley and a few others to form a rock band he calls Rockula. All his sings are about being a vampire. One of his songs is a rap. The rap will have you clawing your own face off. Yes, Diddley wears that yellow spandex outfit. The rap conatisn the following couplet, reportedly one of Penn Jillette’s favorites: “You can read the commentary by William Safire./ He was the DJ< I am the vampire.”

Let’s make things even more surreal. Let’s cast Toni Basil as Ralph’s vampire mother. Let’s have her be an insatiable flirt who seems to have a new man home every night. Let’s see her take a bath with Tony Cox. Let’s dress her in wild rockabilly outfits and hairdos (which she actually looks terrific in). Let’s give her some unwarranted song and dance numbers (which she actually does quite well). Let’s let her chew scenery with the same gusto she chews necks. Let’s have her hiss at various characters at seemingly random points throughout the film. Shall we? Well, we’re treated to all that.

Oh, another odd conceit: Ralph is constantly having conversations with his reflection in the mirror. His reflection self is better looking, more confident, and is even seen groping a hot lady from time to time. He asks his reflection for advice, and the advice is largely encouraging, but sometimes his reflection only mocks him. I would have been willing to accept this conversations-with-your-reflection conceit, had the film no already pointed out that vampires cast no reflection in a mirror; Toni Basil at one point goes to admire her new outfit in a mirror, but then remarks “Oh yeah, I forgot.”

But then, at the end of the film, the reflection breaks out of the mirror to perform an Elvis-style vampire rock number. What? Is the reflection a spell? A representation of his id? Of his conscience?

Ralph can turn into a bat, too. But not all the way. Twice in the film, he manages to shrink into a dwarf-sized bat thing.

Anyway, Ralph’s rock star scheme works, and Mona falls for him. Things are romantic, but still chaste. When they finally get a chance to run off to a corner to kiss, the film becomes a music video for a few brief moments, and Ralph and Mona picture themselves as being lost amidst a camp of hobos where they lose each other, but are reunited by little hobo girls.

Anyway, Dolby gets some hits from a mysterious gypsy that he needs to dress like a pirate with a rhinestone peg leg, and bludgeon Mona with a hambone. Since he’s clearly mad, he feels this is a good idea. He’ll then freeze her corpse in a cryogenic chamber he’s developed himself. To what end, I couldn’t tell you.

The film’s most golden moment arrives when Ralph has decided to take Mona home for dinner. Mona is escorted in by Basil, and there’s a lot of clucking and cooing going on. Ralph is annoyed by his mother, and, in a fit of impatience, squeals “Mom! What’s for dinner?!” Then, out of nowhere, a 6’5” wrestler type in a wrestling outfit and apron appears on screen for the first time and bellows “Meat ‘n’ potatoes! Who’s askin’?!” It’s a moment that must be seen to be believed.

I have a strong constitution for over-stylized, flipping insane, dated horror rock musicals with convoluted plots, melodramatic overacting, and strange oblong cameos, so I was able to absorb “Rockula” in a spirit of weary acceptance. Anyone else may be hurt by this film and hurt bad. This is the kind if film you need to seek out if only to confirm its existence.

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