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Film / Rockula

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Rockula is a movie released by Cannon Films in 1990, and one can arguably call this a very.... unique.... film.

As the movie was in production in 1988, it's a quintessentially eighties movie in clothes, hair, makeup, and general vibe. The heartbeat of the film is the protagonist, Ralph La Vie — a nebbishy, insecure, low rent vampire played by Dean Cameron, of Summer School and Ski School fame. Ralph doesn't display a whole lot of vampiricity; and, for someone supposed to be 400 years old, he's decidedly lacking in any of the sort of wisdom, knowledge, or even perspective which comes with age and experience. As such, this vampire nerd fittingly lives with his mother, Phoebe La Vie — gamely played by Toni Basil, well known for her Mickey song. On the other hand, both Ralph and his mother have obtrusive vampire fangs, always blatantly visible and yet never commented upon by others, at all..

Mona, Ralph's girlfriend of centuries before was murdered by a pirate with a rhinestone peg leg, who dealt death with a large hambone. Since our protagonist did nothing to stop the murder, he's now cursed to have his love reborn every 22 years, only to be killed again — in the same bizarre way — when she reaches age 22. And, naturally, when he meets her again in this life, she's a sultry rocker whose heart can only be won by his own sultry rocking. This includes an entire number in a club which is entirely about how he is a vampire, and later abominably raps on the same subject (managing therein to rhyme William Safire with vampire). Understandable that people would take that as a joke, though, when so many rappers relay exaggerated histories of pimpin' and hustlin' — why not pimpin' and vampirin'? But when it comes time to convince his reincarnated gal pal that he really is a vampire, the most he can do is transform into a squat half-man half-bat looking thing. He twice pops up from getting hit by a car with no ill effect, and yet is easily bounced from a club, gets beat up by two random homeless dudes, and barely holds his own in a duel with the villain, Mona's spurned love interest Stanley — who, holy crap, is none other than Thomas "She Blinded Me With Science" Dolby, whose occupation seems to fluctuate between semi-abstract avant garde music video director and coffin/gravestone pitchman. Stanley, veritably, is more like a vampire in many of his coffinary interests and evil-plot tendencies. Even his automobile seems more appropriate as a vehicle for a vampire to be driving.

The final fight between Ralph and Stanley takes place in the back room of the central club for musical performances where Stanley (remember, he sells coffins, too) has set up a mist-filled cryogenic eternal hereafter storage chamber. Stanley gets the upper hand and is about to do Mona in, but then Ralph transforms into his pygmy half-man half-bat form, which simply surprises Stanley into falling over into his cryogenic coffin. Curse broken, bad guy defeated, lovers united, mother forgiven (forgiven? Oh yeah, turns out mother Phoebe was behind the curse thing all along, thinking no girl was good enough for her little vampirikins).

And, why yes, Bo Diddley also appears in the movie. Wearing all spandex.

With the exception of a few, the songs in this appropriately musical production range from camembert to cheddar in their cheesiness. Almost all pop, nothing really rocks with any kind of edge. There's the big power-ballad duet, which for some reason mostly takes place in a weird village-of-the-homeless (the existence of such a place, populated by equal parts thuggish men and precocious little girls, is actually the creepiest thing in the flick), all of which turns out to be a dream or a music-video within the film or some such directorial blip. Later, Phoebe sings what is arguably one of the best songs in the film, while wearing a cape and a corset, and being fawned over by a bald and mustachioed professional wrestler-type wearing a silver shirt and Scottish kilt. This song is then followed by a shortened version of Dolby's Budapest by Blimp, which had just been released around the time the movie entered production.

This film provides examples of:

  • Basement-Dweller: Exaggerated with Ralph, who's been living with his mother for four centuries.
  • Bat Out of Hell: One of Ralph's few vampire elements is that he's able to transform into a bat, though an ugly-looking anthropomorphic one stripped down to his boxers.
  • Curse: Ralph lives under the curse that his lover, Mona, will repeatedly die at age 22 every Halloween before midnight, and come to life every 22 years later.
  • Evil Brit: Stanley falls on the hammier end of this trope.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Ralph. He never attacks anyone for their blood, and generally seems rather harmless.
  • Gratuitous Rap: "Rapula (He's The DJ, I'm The Vampire)". As rappers go, Ralph isn't gonna be a Beastie Boy anytime soon.
  • Hand Wave: Ralph can go out in the sunshine because he puts on sunblock.
  • Immortal Immaturity: Ralph is 400 years old, but still acts like a teenager.
  • Mirror Monologue : Ralph, whose reflection talks back. A lot.
  • Miss Exposition: Chuck, the bartender. Complete with Let Me Get This Straight... for good measure. It seems to be her primary role in the film, other than playing drums in Rockula.
  • My Beloved Smother: Phoebe has keeping Ralph and Mona apart for the past 400 years because she doesn't want Ralph to leave her.
  • New Jack Swing: While there are a few minor songs in the genre played in the movie, the most notable one is The Night, sung by Phoebe (Toni Basil), which is exclusive to the movie.
  • Our Vampires Are Different : Ralph can see his reflection in the mirror (it doesn't match his movements, and in fact he spends a lot of time arguing with it), spends half the movie out in the sunlight (thanks to sunblock), and exhibits nothing resembling a compulsion (or even a scant desire) to drink blood.
  • Parental Betrayal: Subverted. Ralph tries to do everything to win and protect Mona, but it turns out Phoebe, under the alias of "Madame Ben-Wa", has been helping Stanley organize Mona's death. It's only because she doesn't want to her son to grow up and leave her.
  • Reincarnation: Mona is, from one generation to the next, reborn and ultimately killed until the curse is broken.
  • Romantic Vampire Boy: Ralph, big time. His reflection, on the other hand, is a bit more of a player.