Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead.

These mineshaft posts don’t get indie often enough… certainly not with movies anyway. Whenever I mention any type of “indie” game it gets no attention whatsoever, so maybe I should try to mention an indie film? 

I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead last weekend at the National Film Board of Canada building. When I first heard about it, I was thinking it would be zombie related, but I watched the trailer to see that it was filled with vampires. Shakespearean vampires. 

I’m going to give a little more plot summary than usual, since I imagine most people haven’t heard of this movie. It’s about a young loser type guy who discovers the opportunity to direct an odd adaptation of Hamlet. He meets a very creepy theatre owner, who has written a version of the play that has a vampire twist to it. Of course, it becomes apparent almost immediately that the theatre owner himself is a vampire as well, and that the play is a little more than just an offbeat adaptation. The story gets pretty wacky towards the end, as we learn that if someone drinks from the Holy Grail they can reverse the vampire curse. Yeah that’s right, the Holy Grail is in it too. There’s also a secret society that’s trying to get the Grail. The plot is a little scatterbrained at points, but it manages to pull through quite well by the end.

It’s pretty great. It has relatively high production values for an indie flick, with some pretty well known actors as well. Ralph Macchio is in it a fair bit, and he has a fantastic character. Seriously, this guy should become a Bruce Campbell or a Sid Haig type star. Jeremy Sisto also puts in a fun performance as a police officer who is slowly getting wise to what’s going on. 

Unlike Hamlet 2, the movie manages to balance the Shakespeare jokes with the story jokes. It doesn’t require a thorough knowledge of Hamlet, or of Tom Stoppard, but if you do know either or both, there are a few jokes in there just for you. The vampires are of the more classical variety, somewhere in between the hillbilly hotness of True Blood and the demonic monsters of Buffy. 

So, why should you try to see this over any other indie film that’s coming out soon? Well, it doesn’t force the “indie charm” of the story. The previews might look a little cutesy in places, but the film manages to have clever lines and witty puns without seeming full of itself. It isn’t a complete horror goof with as much horror cliche as possible to get you to laugh either. It plays some of the horror moments straight, and gives you some other ones to chuckle at. In the end, the story is concerned with the characters, not with getting you from joke to joke.

I was pretty pleasantly surprised by it. I don’t know what kind of release it will get, but if you get a chance, go see it if you can. This is the type of thing that might actually make NOW magazine worth reading.


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