Bloodsucking Bastards [thoughts + spoilers]

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Title: Bloodsucking Bastards

Director: Brian O’Connell

Screenplay: Ryan Mitts, Dr God

Cast: Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, John Johns

Plot: For forty five minutes an ordinary sales department goes about its daily routine, with a few people being murdered in quick scenes. Then Fran Kranz and Jay Mohr’s son realise everyone’s a vampire and go on a killing spree.

Subplot: The company is doing badly so everyone is turned into a vampire to increase efficiency despite there being no logical reason for vamps to have a strong work ethic.

Subplot 2: Fran Kranz said ‘no’ to his girlfriend when she said she loved him and now she’s not talking to him. This is the obstacle he must overcome in the film.

Subplot 3: The secretary secretly pines for Fran Kranz, gets turned into a vamp and pretty much forgets about her previous character trait. I can’t even remember her dying to be honest.

Notes:

It wasn’t terrible, but I laughed once during the whole film.

I’ve come up with some possible reasons why.

i] Better on the page than on the screen

The lines and the plot mesh well together, you can tell some of it was improv, but it still worked to a decent standard.

Mitts and Dr God probably laughed a lot to themselves writing these lines…’we’re losing quite a lot of guys, boss.’ ‘It’s okay, they’re mostly marketing.’

In isolation, that’s a funny line, but coming after 724 other lines aiming for the same thing, it has zero effect.

Probably too harsh, but the whole thing just comes across as a collection of sitcom scenes, really.

ii] Constant comedy

Not in a good way either.

Everyone is a comedian. They don’t have personalities, they have smart mouths. There are no regular people in this film apart from perhaps Fran Kranz and his girlfriend.

iii] Small world, cheap set

The budget may have been slight, I don’t know, but you can still capture the depressing blandness of an office environment without much cash. BB does not do this. I can’t even remember what the office looks like, what colour the walls were, what the background props were.

In Psycho, you had the three birds on the wall of the motel. Not sure what they were symbolising, if anything, but I remember them.

BB just has nothing memorable in the set design at all.

iv] Unrealistic office environment

I’ve worked in three offices before and none of them were anything like this. If some guy is not selling anything, he gets fired. In BB, Jay Mohr’s son just sits on his ass, trying to be funny. Actually, there’s about three of them who do this and it’s hard to tell the difference between them, if there are any.

In the Office TV show, you knew the characters, they were just like people from your own workplace, and everything they said was half-realistic, half weird and slightly exaggerated e.g. Gareth, David Brent.

In Office Space, Gary Cole was the boss a lot of us have all had, passive-aggressive, kind of sleazy, pedantic. His lines were funny because they were mundane and repeated a lot.

In BB, every single line is an attempt at comedy. Which is dangerous as, if the lines aren’t surprising or genuinely witty then the whole thing’s gonna fall flat.

And that’s just what it did.

Okay, it was watchable, but between the 25 minute mark and the part where they realise there are vamps in the office, I was wavering. In fact, I did stop it and go to sleep and then picked it up the next day. There’s only so far you can go with comedy when there’s nothing much interesting going on in the plot. This is probably why most sitcoms are only 22 minutes long.

v] Not as clever as it thinks it is

The twist, if you can call it that, is when Fran Kranz bursts into his boss’s office and tells him that everyone’s a vampire and Pedro Pascal is the ringleader. The boss grins and says, yeah, that’s why I hired PP.

Everyone in the cast looks surprised, probably because they know how to make a script work, and this isn’t it.

It’s a throwaway twist – it’s not that funny, it doesn’t make any sense even as satire because vampires don’t have a legendary work ethic, and the tone of the film hasn’t been satirical enough to earn it.

Was the film trying to be satire all the way through?

Maybe it was…maybe Dr God really was critiquing corporate culture…but I don’t see how. To do a decent satire, there has to be an element of realism to it, the characters have to play it straight even though the situation is ridiculous…at least that’s my definition of satire…

In BB, almost all of the characters were over the top, witty and…yeah, some of the lines weren’t bad, but it’s not funny if there’s no surprise and it doesn’t come from character.

I hate the Big Bang Theory, but even there, a lot of the jokes come from the character personalities/traits e.g. Sheldon doesn’t know how to interact with other people.

In When Harry Met Sally, which isn’t even a satire [I think], Harry and Sally only say funny lines about 21% of the time. The rest of it is normal people talking normally. Kind of. Well, it’s still a movie, so there’s some façade, but they still have real problems.

Jay Mohr’s son doesn’t have any problems, he’s just lazy. And every line is an attempt to make you laugh.

But if you don’t have the mundane lines too then it’s hard to have the comedy, especially for a movie.

Man, this thing was 84 minutes…

Anything good?

The security guard character was okay, as was Pedro Pascal. Fran Kranz played exasperated well, and Jay Mohr’s son [the best friend] made the most of his lines.

Actually, the best friend was probably the best acting wise…but he had no character change to work with. Just be lazy and say your lines in a lethargic way.

How to fix this?

Instead of watching a guy be predictably lazy for 84 minutes, why not give him some self-awareness? Maybe he’s gonna get fired if he doesn’t sell anything, so he has to try to change his ways, but struggles to do it…

Or maybe he tries to become a corporate sleaze like Pedro Pascal and this creates conflict between him and Fran Kranz?

I don’t know, but there needs to be something.

You could probably say the same thing about most of the characters, except Fran Kranz who has to win back his trophy girlfriend.

Female roles?

There were three or four women in this, but two main ones: the girlfriend of Fran Kranz and the secretary who’s only trait was to be interested in Fran Franz. I think she also half gets her tits out later.

As you can probably guess the girlfriend doesn’t really get any of her own scenes, she’s either in the orbit of Fran Kranz or Pedro Pascal and that’s it.

She doesn’t even really have much of a personality. Most of what she talks about is her reaction to Fran Kranz’s ‘no’. She doesn’t get any witty lines. She shows ‘strength’ by rejecting Pedro Pascal’s advances and kicking him in the balls.

The secretary at least gets to play a vamp and change her line readings a little bit. But she still doesn’t have much to do.

Yup, it’s Fran Kranz’s world, they’re just living it.

Does every film need to have strong female characters in it?

Ideally, yeah, but doesn’t have to. Most films don’t. In fact, I’m not a fan of cramming women into roles if all they’re gonna do is pad out bikinis and lust after Vin Diesel. If it’s gonna be done properly, they need to be written well and have discernible personalities e.g. if they are a scientist, give them scientific curiosity, not science jargon and a crush on the male hero. And this is coming from a guy who used to get excited when someone like Jennifer Beals or Vanessa Angel ended up in low rent erotic thrillers…

Actually, I think this is a problem with smaller parts in general, not just for women, but for anyone who’s not the star. For example, if you take the number of black people in the US [around 13%] and say, okay, roughly 13% of all parts should be black characters then it doesn’t really help anything cos the studios and casting directors will just end up putting token black characters in the smaller roles or background, when it should really be that roughly 13% of all movies should have a black lead character. And the same goes for women. 51% of movies should have a female lead, and not just the lead wife/girlfriend character. I mean, it’s not hard to make it happen, and I don’t think many people would even complain as long as the story’s good and the characters are well written. Or if there are talking robots in it too.

Seriously, I live in Hong Kong and couldn’t give a shit that all of the TV shows or movies here have nothing but Chinese people. I don’t have to see a reflection of my own physical self or culture to relate to a character or story, I just need good writing.

But then…it’s probably tougher for minorities who’ve grown up in a culture that doesn’t really represent them. For example, if you’re Chinese American and you don’t know how to speak Mandarin or Cantonese and only understand American culture then you can’t just fall back on Chinese movies to see yourself represented. Honestly, this is something I won’t ever figure out because it’s just not part of my experience, but it’s something I often think about, especially as I’m now in a mixed race marriage and might one day have a mixed race child. I guess this is why so many books get written about mixed culture people, it’s an inexhaustible topic…

What else?

Ah, there’s the problem of screenwriting and directing too. That’s even more imbalanced than acting…I guess because there are many parts in the movie to cast, but there can only be one director and one screenwriter [or 15 if you’re working on Transformers], so the opportunities are limited.

Where does this problem come from?

Honestly, it’s hard for me to understand because a] I’m not involved in movies, b] I’m not a woman, c] I’m not a minority [okay, technically, I’m a minority in Hong Kong, where I live, and if I wanted to act in HK movies then it’d be tough, but that’s different as I’m not native here and my Cantonese is shit, so I wouldn’t expect to have opportunities, but in the US or UK, the minorities are actually native, can speak the language, know the culture etc. so there’s no excuse for them to be excluded], and d] I do zines where there is complete parity as anyone can make one. Seriously, one of the most popular zines is written by a white guy [Cometbus] and no one says a word cos there are loads of other great zines [Moss Piglet, Morgenmuffel] written by women/different races/LGBT etc.

I’m guessing that there are more opportunities in independent movies for women and minorities, though I don’t know any figures…

But in Hollywood, and even in the writing world, it’s a narrow hole they’re all trying to squeeze into, and 99% of people get rejected. In writing it’s probably different, as there’s never really any evidence that you’ve been rejected for gender/race reasons as it’s always a form rejection. You know, the vast majority of the rejected in the US must be white people as they make up the majority of the population, so I don’t buy into a conspiracy at the mid-point of that industry. Probably at the top of the tree…that’s the only reason I can think of for Franzen or McEwan getting any kind of attention, they’re mates with the publishers and professors and review editors…but in Hollywood they’re judging people on their appearance and the casting directors preconceptions of what that part should be e.g. the latino drug dealer stereotype, instead of the latino law professor or superhero. Or are the casting directors being told which type to cast in specific roles?

I don’t really know how to change any of this in the acting world…maybe more risks by the studios with different kinds of scripts with different types of characters…but in the writing world I know it would help if there were more people positively recommending books from other countries and women and minorities…and more zine stores in poor and minority neighbourhoods where the working class could get more opportunities to write and read…for example: 56a info shop in Brixton, various zine places in San Fran…then the ones interested in being writers would grow up with options and information on where to try to get published and if the submissions are proportionately representative then it should sort itself out, and if it doesn’t then the problem really isn’t at the root, it’s at the top or in the middle, with the gatekeepers and the media, and those fuckers would be the ones who need to be dealt with.

Or maybe it’s not the writers, but the content that’s the issue? Especially in writing, for example, if you’re gay and you write something like ‘The Matrix’ or ‘The Avengers’, then there’s no problem. But if you write a script where the main superhero is gay then it might be rejected. So you’d end up with female/LGBT/minority writers writing and directing the same things as usual instead of bringing their own culture/perspective into the mix…which is weird, cos I’ve always believed that the best writing comes from writing out your own experiences, not trying to write for market.

That ran on a bit…

But, anyway, back to BB…we’ve seen this male-dominated office environment done before in Office Space and probably lots of other smaller film trying to mimic Office Space, and it’s just a bit too familiar.

Would be nice to see something different, specifically a film where not every female character is pinned to the coattails of Fran Kranz.

Anything else?

The script guy is called Dr God.

Will there be a Bloodsucking Bastards 2?

There was barely enough for an 84 minute movie, so, no, I don’t think so.

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