‘Therapy For A Vampire’ is is a genuinely funny vampire comedy that takes a playful look at its characters and at vampire lore. There is lots of visual humour and the film is well photographed. Writer-director David Ruhm seems to have researched his subject and wrings laughs from little-known facets of folklore.
Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10.
A vampire film sets up a fantasy world where our rules of logic do not exist as we think of them. In our world, people do not turn into bats and fly away. Since the rules of vampires are already illogical they are fair game for comics and satirists. We have had a number of very funny send-ups of the order of the vampire world. The best vampire comedies that come to mind are ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ (1967), ‘Love At First Bite’ (1979), and ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ (2014).
Fully up to competing with any of these is a new comedy from Austria’ ‘Therapy For A Vampire’, a German film with English sub-titles. The movie is beautifully filmed and genuinely funny throughout. Along the way, it quite neatly skewers vampire folklore. The photography is atmospheric and must be watched closely to pick up on all the humor in just the photography. Even the shadows join in the fun.
The setting is Vienna of 1930, though it is a parallel Vienna with no political unrest. An unshakable emotional depression has the vampire Count von Kozsnom (played by Tobias Moretti) by the throat just as he so often has his victims. The Countess Elsa von Kozsnom (Jeanette Hain) no longer gives him much pleasure. In truth, the Count misses the female vampire love of his un-life, Nadila.
Meanwhile, the Countess Elsa obsesses over the fact that she does not know her own face. Vampires do not reflect in mirrors and they do not photograph. There is no way the rules of vampiredom allow a vampire to see his or her own face. That is a problem not usually covered in vampire film. The Count is seeing analyst, Dr. Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer) and Freud suggests that the Countess have her portrait painted by a local artist, Viktor (Dominic Oley). Viktor has problems with his model Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan). Complicating matters, Lucy may just be the current reincarnation of Viktor’s model.
The film was written and directed by David Ruhm who fills it with playful gags, too many to catch on a single viewing. This is a film the viewer needs to watch every minute and subtitles do not help the matter. It follows the classic rules of vampires and lets them produce the laughs. Shadows on walls subtly refuse to behave. Werewolves occasionally pop up for just a flash here and there.
There is one piece of genuine vampire folklore that never seems to have shown up in the films or contemporary prose. Vampires in the lore are compulsive counters. Drop a pile of poppy seeds in a vampire’s path and he will be tied up for hours finding and counting seeds. Bram Stoker never mentions it, but this really is part of the legends.
Tobias Moretti is not seen much in the United States, but he has a feel for comedy and, like Woody Allen, he is blessed with a naturally comic face. Here the physiognomy works well and his comedy works. One would think that satires of vampire films would have worn themselves out by now, but this film does catch the viewer off- guard. I rate ‘Therapy For A Vampire’ high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
‘Therapy For A Vampire’ will open in US theatres on 10 June 2016.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper