Transylmania (2009)

TransylmaniaReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Oren Skoog, Patrick Cavanaugh, James DeBello, Jennifer Lyons, Paul H. Kim, Irena A. Hoffman, Musetta Vander

Directed by David & Scott Hillenbrand

Upon first viewing the trailer for Transylmania, I found myself nonplussed by the very notion that such a film was actually going to get a theatrical release. Online I learned that it was intended to be the third installment in the direct-to-DVD Dorm Daze college sex comedy franchise and has been sitting on a shelf for about two years. Again, begging the question, why was this getting a theatrical release? The answer it would appear comes down to someone desperately hoping the vampire angle would be enough to sucker the Twilight audience into wanting to see this unholy melding of Transylvania 6-5000 and every lousy sophomoric T&A comedy from the 80’s, directed with clueless aplomb and written by two guys whose rapier wit should be restricted to posting R-rated “Gilligan’s Island” fan fiction on the net.

I went into Transylmania with the lowest of expectations and quickly came to realize I had not set the bar nearly low enough. I have always said the two worst kinds of bad movies are unfunny comedies and films that are boring; Transylmania pulls off the dreaded double whammy. The first time I felt compelled to check my watch to see how much longer it had to go, I was mortified to realize that only fifteen minutes had transpired; sitting there stone-faced as irritating people engaged in one flat joke after another, I would have sworn at least twice that amount of time had passed.

The only mild amusement I experienced for ninety-six godforsaken minutes of my life I’ll never get back stemmed from an error on the theater’s part; they were showing the film in the wrong ratio, causing the picture to look slightly stretched out. Every female on the screen had the same body type as Fiona from Shrek. One actress I could tell was a skinny blonde with nice legs, but coming down the stairs in a micro mini with the projection as off as it was, her long legs looked like a pair of giant cankles that went all the way up to her hips. I also helped pass the time by playing “spot the boom mic”. Not sure if this was also due to the aspect ration being out of whack or simply directorial incompetence, but the boom mic got more screen time than most of the supporting actors.

TransylmaniaWhen a movie is this grueling, you struggle to find something, anything, to speak about in a positive light. The best I can come up with here is Musetta Vander as a bumbling, black leather clad, vampire-hunting professor. Vander tries to make the most out of her insipidly scripted role, and a scene she has at the very end was the first and only time I ever came close to laughing during the entire ordeal.

What little constitutes a narrative revolves around a college doofus named Rusty. (He struck me as being Steve Zahn’s unfunny kid brother. Oh, and Crispin Glover called; he wants his haircut back). Rusty has talked several of his dimwit friends into transferring for a semester over to a Romanian university (once a vampire’s castle) so that he can finally hook up with his hot Romanian Internet girlfriend. Rusty just happens to be a dead ringer for the castle’s former vampiric proprietor, Radu. Radu just happens to have picked now to return in order to free his evil dead love’s soul trapped inside a music box. Mistaken identity antics follow. Or in the case of the airhead blonde that gets possessed by the spirit of Radu’s girlfriend whenever the music box is opened, dual identity shtick occurs. Somewhere in heaven Sherwood Schwartz receives another royalty check.

The performers have all been left to wither and die on the vine because their annoying characters have only been given one personality trait: ditzy blonde, potheads, prudish and hard partying twin sisters, wimp, hunchback hotty, guy who thinks he’s a real stud but constantly hits on trannies, and so on. That writers Patrick Casey and Worm Miller give us a megalomaniacal midget mad scientist in a robotic ghost costume kidnapping women to create a new Frankenstein body for his hunchback daughter and still fail to come up with a single funny thing for him to say or do is symptomatic of how their script fails to capitalize on any of the fantastical elements provided by the Transylvanian setting. Don’t even get me started on the lameness of the vampire humor.

Okay, just one example of the lameness.

TransylmaniaRadu and Rusty are dressed identically and end up facing one another through a hole in the wall. Vampire Radu for no particular reason begins making moronic faces as if he thinks he’s looking into a mirror, and Rusty instinctively mimics every stupid face Radu makes. Yes, that old gag. And then Radu walks off, pauses in a moment of confusion, and says to himself in his fake Dracula accent, “Vait. I don’t have a reflection.” What a punchline. Where’s Eddie Deezen when you need him?

A brief word about pot humor. Just having a character pause mid-sentence to take a hit on his bong does not make me laugh. Someone needed to explain to the writers that there is more to high comedy than merely having a character get high.

Even the raunchy side of Transylmania fails to titillate. It consists of a few random boobies here and there, all belonging to random strippers and Radu’s harem, mixed with a few sex jokes that would have been considered lame even by Bikini Carwash Company standards.

The jokes primarily fall into one of three categories: belabored, lazy, and obvious. That is, when there actually is a joke. Sometimes the actors are instructed to just mug for the camera in spots where the jokes failed to materialize. Farting horses, competitive vomiting, gay jokes, and pratfalls, pratfalls, and more pratfalls: not one laugh. Transylmania is to comedy what gas station hot dogs are to nutrition.

If you want to see a truly funny movie by the Hillenbrand Brothers, then seek out Pinata: Survival Island. That idiotic creature feature was not meant to be a comedy, but it turned out a thousand times funnier than their latest. The only thing Transylmania succeeds at is making us realize how we’ve all been way too hard on the Scary Movie sequels.

As if it came along 25 years too late, in the same mold as those Eighties sex comedies that appeared in regular rotation in the 1990’s on USA Network’s “Up All Night”, the ones that would have had me switching the channel very quickly from “Up All Night” over to Joe Bob Briggs’ “Monstervision” on TNT, perhaps there is a chance for Transylmania to be looked back upon by some with a certain degree of kitschy fondness a decade or two from now, but I only just saw it less than 24 hours ago and can assure you it is a strong frontrunner for the worst theatrically released movie of the past year.

1/2 out of 5

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Scott A. Johnson

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  • MeAndMyMeatCleaver

    As I said on LJ
    Foy, my friend, I share your pain. I saw it too. My friends dragged me (my vote was The Road). I got 3 total laughs out of it. That’s two more than Date Movie. Out of the 7 people in the theater, total laughs, 24.
    But I do have one GOOD thing to say about it – it was not of the new “parody” style. Not an endless references to other movies (a few rip off jokes for other comedies though. My friends swore they were homages. I decline to believe this), but more of a 80s style teen comedy. Still a failure though but it wasn’t painful.

  • elric300

    I had nearly forgotten that this opened this weekend. Seriously, who releases a film like this in frigging Dec.? That’s just begging to get beat up.

  • jesstro

    the most ironic thing of all of this is… why would a great movie like Paranormal Acitivity get limited release, and some retard fodder like this get the green light to go everywhere? And to top it all off, this costed way more than Paranormal… who makes these half-assed decisions anyways?… my gears have been grinded.

    • Rob

      The same people who let the Prom Night and Stepfather remakes go wide and theatrical while dumping Trick ‘r Treat straight to video.

    • AngryChairr

      Let’s be fair; Paranormal Activity isn’t a great movie. It’s an overhyped movie masquerading as a great movie because “it’s subtle.” PA was a freak accident. There are hundreds of movies like it that get tossed to DVD each year because they really are mediocre (like PA). It was a success because of its innovative approach to marketing, not because it was genuinely scary/good. The grass roots Internet drive that it ran had an us vs them mentality towards big studio horror so people pretty much told themselves they were going to like the movie regardless of how good it actually was because they wanted it to succeed.

      As to why Transylmania got greenlit, it was because it was going to be a direct-to-DVD sequel to an established franchise that makes most of its money in rentals. It probably would’ve made a meager profit had it stayed in that business model It just had the misfortune of Twilight becoming bigger than Jesus. So some idiot thought they could cash in on that by playing this as a Scary Movie-style spoof of that series. It was purely timing.

      I’m not defending those idiots, but pointing out there is a very clear line between art and commerce. Art (unestablished/non-franchise horror films) is a risky proposition because there’s no guarantee it’s going to sell, while commerce (remakes) already has an established audience that can be marketed to. Hollywood isn’t in the business of making art; it’s in the business of making money. To lament that they aren’t releasing quality films is moot because only a few specific companies are even interested in making prestige pictures (Focus Features, mostly).

      • Sirand

        PA is, in fact, a great movie…and it’s success it primarily due to that. People can go on about the marketing and hype till they’re blue in the face (we heard all this stuff when Blair Witch hit too) but to those of us who saw it in its infancy, it was an incredible experience.

        • AngryChairr

          Yeah, I saw it a while ago, bud. Average at best, boring at worst. I’m not some Johnny-Come-Lately hipster hating on the movie because it’s popular. I can deal with the lack of a plot because that doesn’t make a good movie.

          What got me was the characters. People go on and on about how likable they were; sorry, they’re not. I didn’t empathize with the boyfriend one bit. If anything, I didn’t see this as a ghost story; I saw it as an indictment of the male ego. He’s such a douchebag that you’re left wondering what she ever saw in him from the beginning. All he does is mock her the entire movie in a very snide and condescending manner. I was actually very glad he died by the end of the movie.

          The scares were also fairly obvious for a movie based on its “subtlety.” Doors slamming and loud noises are the exact shit people complain about in hack studio horror, but it gets a free pass here, why? Because it’s low-budget? There’s a ton of more inventive low-budget horror.

          • Rorschach

            AMEN. These were my feelings on PA exactly. The boyfriend’s douche behavior and (even though he’s caught evidence of the paranormal ON CAMERA and even gleaned audio from this thing) his refusal to fucking TAKE IT SERIOUSLY…were major irritants, and totally just took me right out of the movie.

            You hit the nail on the head. It made me jump a few times, but other than that…I just didn’t feel it warranted the “scariest film of the decade” and “scariest film I’ve ever seen” moniker that it got from everyone under the sun.

            The one that shocked me the most by saying that was Creepy. I mean, the guy is a veritable FOUNT of knowledge on the horror field…he’s seen so MANY horror movies, been on the cutting edge of the field…I can’t believe that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is the scariest movie HE’s seen. Maybe some schmuck from TIME magazine, I could buy that line. But Creeyp? He watches some hardcore, messed up, mind-damaging shit, man! LOL, I can’t believe THIS movie could have scared him that badly.

          • Uncle Creepy

            I never said it was the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I did say that the flick was one of them them though. I’m as jaded as they come. It takes a LOT to even make me raise an eyebrow. When Deb and I first saw PA we were alone. In the dark. Without knowing a single thing about it. And it really worked for me, and lots of others too evidently. Sorry if you didn’t dig dude. Maybe it was spoiled by the hype for you!

          • Rorschach

            Yeah, I do think you might be right in that. Had I seen it as you did, totally unknowing and unprepared, I would more than likely have had a similar reaction. However, I saw it after putting up with about ten days worth of hype from my friends, and was REALLY expecting more than what I got.

            I will give you this…the attack scene jolted me pretty badly.

  • Styling Shatner

    As someone who’s worked in a cinema before, the boom mic thing would be because of it being the wrong aspect ratio. So, you can’t blame the movie for that. But, it’s clear that even shown correctly it’d still be a half knife flick. From the first time I saw a poster of it a few months ago and looked it up online, I knew it’d be a shit film and from all appearances I was correct.

  • AngryChairr

    Just as another aside about the USA Up All Night/Monstervision connection — the villain is a vampire named Radu. Sound familar? Yeah, I never thought I’d see the day when a movie in wide release is cribbing ideas from Charles Band. Too bad more people will see this garbage than Subspecies.

  • Minion

    I bet you anything that next Halloween this will be in a double disc set for $5 at Wal-Mart along with Stan Helsing.

  • Rob

    This thing flopped and flopped hard. 1007 theaters and it made $274,000 total this weekend. That equals $272 per theaters.