This Reginald the Vampire review contains no spoilers.
For years, frightened mortals have been driving stakes into hungry creatures of the night, beautiful, but deadly in their eternal allure. Often coming up dry, results are universally messy, and mostly unappetizing. Now Syfy sticks a straw into the heart of the vampire mystique, and it’s yummier than it sounds. Reginald the Vampire stars Jacob Batalon as the new bloodsucker on the block, and he’s fairly gluttonous. Best known for playing Spider-Man’s best friend Ned Leeds, he is now buddying up with the undead, and battling the genre’s most insidious stereotypes.
The series is based on Johnny B. Truant’s Fat Vampire novels, and it is a well-balanced horror-comedy meal, fairly lean, even. Vampires have always been portrayed as sexy beasts, ready to feed on an already enraptured prey, caught in the thrall of supernatural sensuality. Reginald sprinkles garlic on that stereotype, along with other spices. He also mixes a mean slushy, loves corn chips, and can’t get enough pizza. Many words are exchanged over this specific dietary concern, which only makes it grow in comedic nutritional value.
Reginald is a newly-turned vampire, and old habits die slower than he did. Because he overindulged as a person, Reginald runs a very high risk of falling into old patterns. At first it appears Reginald the Vampire will be about how difficult it is to be an out-of-shape vampire. Chasing down dinner, glamouring leaner prey, and upholding an impossible level of perfection is initially exhausting. At one point, Reginald offers his prey $20 just to slow down. But even at a leisurely pace, the novice vampire doesn’t have the stomach for it. He’s got a sweet tooth because he has a creamy middle. It’s not that Reginald is a finicky eater, he’s just not bloodthirsty. Batalon makes it appear he prefers what’s in the fridge. He also maintains the character’s personal curiosity, and a visceral empathy.
Reginald’s sire, or maker, Maurice is played by Mandela Van Peebles, and the family presence is represented in old movie posters, like Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, and his backstory. Savannah Basley plays Angela Hibbert, the formerly revolutionary vampire who sired Maurice. She doesn’t believe his newly recruited comrade meets the standard of perfection which serves as the basis of Reginald the Vampire’s conflict, action, and social commentary.
The vampires present themselves as an exclusive club. Members are cut-throat and runway ready. Reginald, a vampire for the fast-food crowd, can’t get past the velvet ropes. He is caught in an eternity as ugly as his human life, and the same superficial bias. “It’s very similar, being told you don’t have any value because you were not beautiful by societal standards,” Batalon told Den of Geek during early media interviews.
Yes, vampires can eat regular food in the universe of Reginald the Vampire, they just have to supplement it with the deep reds. The series invents its own mythology. One of the benefits which comes with being turned into a vampire is any particular gift a person had in life is multiplied in undeath. Maurice could run pretty fast as a young man, but as a 70-year-old vampire he is blocks away before people realize he was thinking of leaving. Reginald was a very intelligent person in life, in death he’s almost a genius, especially compared to the other vampires.
The human romance at the center of the series is more conventional. Sarah Kinney (Em Haine) is the reason Reginald is a reluctant vampire. Liquid diets always come at a cost, and all vampires have to be tortured by something more than their next meal. Sarah’s twist is she escaped the religious cult she was raised in, and her family isn’t ready to let her go. Thailey Roberge plays Claire, a 12-year-old Slushy Shack regular, who becomes a confidante, and will hopefully end up as some kind of bargaining chip in the growing melee of the story arc. Claire would do well in a hostage situation, it appears she is made for it.
Created by suspense mystery serial icon Harley Peyton, Reginald the Vampire merges comedy, romance, and horror in a distinctive way. Much of the camera framing is reminiscent of Twin Peaks, and the characters are tinged with eccentricities. A Slushy Shack human resource manager played by Marguerite Hanna has an obsession with conspiracies like MK Ultra testing, but when she hears a similar story from a co-worker, she asks for a urine sample. Nikki (Christin Park), a mesmerizingly cold blooded, centuries-old vampire assassin, skips on her way to assignments, and is moved to bloody tears by karaoke. Park brings a special infusion into the mix, with multiple layers of magnetic ambiguity.
Quirky, rather than twisted, Reginald the Vampire is relatable and underplayed. The action sequences are low-key but effective affairs, the performances are nuanced, and the humor comes from the characters, rather than a series of jokes. The personalities, good and evil, bring you back as much as the story, which is intriguing enough to keep interest, but not as much fun as the developing interplay. The suspense and comedy are distributed evenly among the troupe, and plenty of blood to go around. Oh, and there’s a projectile vomiting scene romantic enough to kill any mood.
Reginald the Vampire premieres Oct. 5 at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.