Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Undead

Posted on March 14, 2011

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It was almost inevitable, really.

First things first, to paraphrase Julian Marsh (Dustin Hoffman’s son Jake), my initial reaction upon learning about this film’s existence was: Shakespeare & Zombies, together at last! And to quote Theo Horace/Horatio (John Ventimiglia): “NOT ZOMBIES! VAMPIRES.”

Having cleared that up, the film follows theatre director Julian Marsh, who gets a job on an off-Broadway adaptation of Hamlet written by a pallid creep named Theo Horace, who is obviously a vampire but is also Horatio; as in Hamlet’s mate in Shakespeare’s play.

Because Horatio and Hamlet (Joey Kern) were real, see. And vampires. And the play Horace has written is an autobiography. And he’s written it as an elaborate trap to:

  1. secure an all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty audience for himself and his brides, and
  2. lure Hamlet – now a vampire slaying ex-vampire, after drinking from the Holy Grail – to some kind of final showdown.

Oh, because despite being human again, Hamlet’s still immortal or something. Like Wesley Snipe— I mean Ryan Reynolds.

Try to keep up.

Add the Karate Kid (Ralph Macchio) as a soy milk-drinking mafioso with a water-pistol delivered antibacterial hand wash business (Germ-O-Whack); a hypochondriac Sikh – a sick Sikh! – called Hugo Pepper (Waris Ahluwalia); a bumbling odd-couple buddy cop duo (Jeremy Sisto and somebody else); a secret society of vampire hunters called Rosecruicians & Goldenstonians; and the dumb, narcissistic title characters. Now mix.

Obviously the film is a riff on Tom Stoppard’s absurdist masterpeice Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, but just as that play relegated the action of the work it references, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to the background, so too does Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead reduce Stoppard’s story to its barest bones. As with both the Bard’s and Stoppard’s plays, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead‘s plot revolves around a play within a play (or film) but that’s pretty much where the similarities begin and end. Although apparently the play has Stoppard’s imprimatur and it works  Shakespeare’s mysterious references to Hamlet drinking hot blood into its mythological etiology, both of which lend it an authority it shouldn’t have.

Because really, it’s just a dumb, low-budget vampire flick. I was expecting it to be unwatchable C-grade crap but although it doesn’t all work it is surprisingly watchable – and not even in a ‘so bad it’s good’ Lesbian Vampire Killers ironic kind of way; although it is ironically self-aware and its funniest moments come when its genre parodying is most hammy. “The vampires hate garlic. It’s one of the many random rules,” deadpans one character. Trolololol.

Check out the preview below or visit the official website.

Related: a review of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

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Posted in: DVD / TV