Speaking through a character articulating more like a teenager than an academic, Vamp U tries to coolly distance itself from the massive shadow of looming vampire franchise Twilight. Quoth Vamp U, “I don’t read that shit.”
But woe is the heavily mistaken Vamp U, a movie that shares with Twilight a shameless embrace of simple hormonal spectacle through images of a bastardized horror subgenre, all with the goal of titillating its audience to leave them wanting to see more. While Vamp U may not have shirtless hunks and extensive love triangles, it has the stereotypical young man’s equivalent, featuring dominant college girls wearing black and a lustful gaze. If one is looking at this college sex comedy strictly in terms of genre, then sure, this isn’t Twilight. But in terms of looking at formula, don’t let this movie and its large amount of testosterone fool you, this is constructed to be Twilight, for bros.
Or maybe their dads? As it turns out, the story for Vamp U unfolds less like a fist-pumping, beer cheers-ing moment for sex-crazed dudes, but as a kinda creepy triumph for the older guys actually paying the college tuition. Adam Johnson (an actor who could also make decent tips as a Gerard Butler impersonator) plays a middle-aged vampire named Wayne Gretzky (… oh, I get it…) who lost his bite after the passing of his true love, Mary (Julie Gonzalo). Because of her death, he has “limp” teeth, in which his fangs do not fully develop when it’s feeding time. Thus, Wayne, his weak chompers and his diet of animal blood are stuck currently teaching history at a university, in which he offers cutesy personal takes on various icons like King Arthur and President John F. Kennedy (because he was there, ha ha ha!). He has the undying support of two of his students, including the amazed Tom (Matt Mattson) and Fred (Maclain Nelson) who are essentially on the sidelines of the vampire action throughout the film.
However, this all changes when the professor falls for a new student, the nubile Chris (Gonzalo). Her similar appearance to Mary and general innocent college girl charm wins Adam and his vampire hormones to the point of putting the sharpness back in his fang,s so-to-speak. Without having control, he then turns Chris into a reckless blood-lusting vamp, who wants to infect the whole college. First on her list are her pajama partying sorority sisters, including Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect, Project X). After them, it’s all the frat boys whose sex drive and simple brains make them easy ‘n sleazy targets.
In the film’s attempt to balance college sex with vampires to hold the attention of (stereotypical demographics) young men and their frat brothers, Vamp U underwhelms both of its playing fields and subsequently narrows its potential viewing demographics. This is a vampire college sex comedy that isn’t for vampire fans and it won’t play well for those looking for simple, old-fashioned college sex stuff either. If anything, I suppose this movie is mostly for vampire eroticism fanatics? Who like storylines involving older men seducing college girls? Is there a big market for that?
Vamp U catches up with its marketing of “Sorority Girls Suck!” tagline far too long down the road, indicating that there is no strong reason for the movie to waste its time with the professor love story. Maybe it’s to make use of the casting of notable face Gary Cole, (who plays Gretzky’s human confidant and middle-aged bro)? Vamp U even namedrops Woody Allen a couple times, as if to divert the attention of the viewer to be mindful to accept an age dynamic that’s more common with an Allen film than a college sex comedy. But, an obvious expected spoiler, the college-aged shenanigans do take main stage and much of the film’s focus on the older professor’s sex life only fits next to Allen for sharing the same gratuitousness. When acting in his films, Allen placed himself with beautiful leads simply because he could and the same seems to go for Vamp U’s main storyline.
If films are always to be judged on how successful they are with reaching the goals they set themselves, then it feels necessary to warn this movie’s potential main viewers out there (especially anybody with interest in vampire eroticism) that this college sex comedy struggles to even deliver the basic “goods” one might expect from a representation of the supposed sexual free-for-all that is college, especially from a movie that features many references to the act of sex and uses sexual politics as its means for logic.
As in, if viewers turn to a movie like Vamp U to provide a live-action alternative to simply Googling images of only Google knows what, then disappointed they shall be, as even walking meat like Alexis Knapp has complied to more skin-heavy roles in other moments in her filmography. Here, Vamp U is a sex comedy too lazy or unjustly proud to humor its tempted viewers, forcing them to settle for the relatively tame image of seductive college girls dressed in black corsets (which Will Ferrell would likely call “trampires,” judging from his appearance last year on Conan).
The only successful jokes that Vamp U has to offer concern the placement of vampire code through the slow analytic speeds of its stereotypical college students. To preserve their bit of amusement, I won’t spoil these jokes, as they did cause a couple of little laughs or “chortles” as they may better be defined. And while he isn’t given that much material to work with, there are glimmers of hope that Mattson’s Jack Black-like acting would bring bigger laughs to this movie, but Vamp U shows itself to lack comedic creativity in its concept. The film rarely gets beyond the punch line of “vampires on a college campus, LOL.”
Vamp U is a self-proclaimed indie comedy that seeks to cash in on pop culture’s current fascination with vampirism in contemporary society, but this time by placing it in a land that promises unapologetic hormonal shenanigans along with Monster Energy product placement, college. Essentially, this movie has equally forgettable National Lampoon movies AND the appeal of Twilight to blame.
One certainly can’t blame the filmmakers for striking while the iron is red hot on the subculture of vampires, but at the same time one does wish that there was more happening with this movie. If it’s possible for a college sex comedy to lack inspiration from college, sex and comedy, then welcome to Vamp U. In terms of experiencing big jokes, watching a Twilight film is much more likely to be a funnier choice.