DANNI AND THE VAMPIRE [REVIEW]

SALEM HORROR FEST 2020

Over the last five or so years, I’ve watched people uproot from their mundane “nine to five” lives to move into vintage V.W. Westphalia vans, R.V.s, camper trailers, tiny homes, even the backseats of their cars in search of something better. Given the world we live in today, it makes sense that we’d seek out that extreme change. In Danni and the Vampire we are introduced to Danni, played by Alexandra Landau, in the backseat of her car, scribbling on a map of the United States, crossing out cities until landing on an unscathed California.

We follow Danni to California, where her past quickly catches up to her. Matthew, played by Derek Ocampo, a monster slayer from an organization called C.R.I.E.S., wants to recruit Danni to kill a vampire they have imprisoned. Margaret, played by Caron Clancey, a supernatural activist belonging to #SUPNAT, a rival faction, wants her to save the vampire from the C.R.I.E.S. organization’s brutal hands. Both know she is responsible for the Jersey Devil’s disappearance, but Margaret knows that she didn’t kill it. She set it free, and it felt good. Why not save another hopeless creature of the night? Danni agrees to save Remy the vampire, played by Henry Kiely, which sets us off on a neon blood-splattered, schlockfest, rom-com journey you had no idea you wanted to see but will most likely love if you can ignore budget constraints and embrace the handmade quality of a micro-budget flick made by a crew of friends. 

Writer/ Director Max Werkmeister has a lot to say about current American culture; I’d argue Danni and the Vampire is on the same level of a statement as Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America. Remy is a vampire who prefers to get his blood from donor banks and bad people. At the same time, Danni is willing to do anything to make him happy, like stealing a struggling church from a priest and leaving the community without a place of worship so Remy can live his dream of starting a vampire sanctuary. The C.R.I.E.S. organization, a fitting boo hoo acronym, is represented by the ticking time bomb Kaine, played by Scott Vermeire, a man set on killing all supernatural creatures. On the other side of the aisle, we have Margaret, the #SUPNAT ambassador keyboard warrior, unsure how to handle the outcome of their monster justice movement when it manages to work, minus a celebratory pizza party. Max Workmeister is the man behind the camera holding up the mirror, saying, “Look at you fools.” 

Danni and the Vampire is a D.I.Y. approach to the genre with a similar heart almost to the level of Bad Taste. The comedic style also reminded me of the early Peter Jackson efforts. Although, I wish they would’ve embraced the constraints more given the limited budget they had on the production—a few steps further into the weirdness. More neon, more practical monsters, and gore would’ve made this comedic romp all the better. Henry and Alexandra’s performances are the saving grace of this picture. Seeing them together and watching their relationship develop made it hard to look away. This isn’t Alexandra’s first time playing Danni. Her debut was in Max’s student short film, The Jersey Devil. It is clear he has established a unique comedic voice and style of filmmaking and has grown as a filmmaker. He has a clear eye for the absurdity of the world we live in and doesn’t shy from showing us that none of us know what the hell we are doing. We are all lost creatures.

Pick up your badge and check out Danni and the Vampire here at Salem Horror Fest 2020.

The Horrorculturist reviews Danni and the Vampire at Salem Horror Fest 2020