As anyone who’s enjoyed those modern trash classics Freeway and Confessions of a Trickbaby will testify, no one combines dirty violence, seedy sex and malicious wit with quite the panache of their writer/director Matthew Bright. Revenant (released in the US with the rather clunky title Modern Vampires) is a delightfully unwholesome vampire yarn, written by Bright and directed in chaotic style by Richard Elfman (brother of composer Danny, who provides a spoofy main theme).
Casper Van Dien plays Dallas, a smooth talking bloodsucker who returns to modern LA after years in an exile imposed by the city’s vampire boss, Count Dracula (Robert Pastorelli). Dallas hooks up with his old friends, a collection of urbane socialites who enjoy only the best food, best parties and best blood. But there are new threats to the vampire way of life. A pretty young vamp called Nico (Natasha Gregson Wagner) is posing as a Hollywood hooker and preying indiscriminately on her unlucky punters (LA's vampires ensure their survival by keeping a low profile), while the most feared of all vampire-hunters, Dr Van Helsing (Rod Steiger), is in town to take revenge on the one who feasted upon his son.
Revenant's cast attack the material with impressive exuberance – Van Dien, Wagner and Steiger give it their all, and there are performances to savour from the likes of Kim Cattrall (playing a fanged version her Sex & the City character), Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson, Trickbaby-star Natasha Lyonne and the great Udo Kier (who loses his head in gruesome detail).
Bright and Elfman cram in a ridiculous number of characters and subplots, and while most of it does come together for a chaotic climax, the whole thing is assembled pretty loosely. Much of the film is out-and-out hilarious, especially the gun-toting, inner-city gang that Van Helsing recruits, and the complete disregard for taste has to be admired – I have simply no idea what to make of a bizarre borderline rape scene near the end that’s played entirely for laughs. There’s sex (Wagner in particular has trouble keeping her clothes on) and gore aplenty, some knowingly ripe dialogue, and Bright has fun messing with vampire tradition (he reinvents Van Helsing as a reformed Nazi war criminal). Revenant may be trash, but it’s classy trash.
Offbeat American director. Made his debut in 1980 with the musical cult classic Forbidden Zone, co-written with Matthew Bright, who also provided the screenplay for two of Elfman’s other films – urban voodoo comedy Shrunken Heads and the vampire yarn Revenant. Brother of composer Danny Elfman, with whom he founded the band Oingo Boingo and who often provides music for Richard’s films.