Hawk and Rev Slay Vampires and Audiences Alike in Horror-Comedy

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Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers

Comedy and horror, though wildly different avenues for creative storytelling, share a common bloodline. Both rely on stock situational premises that slowly build tension until reaching a climax centered around surprise. Their divergence rests upon intent: where the culmination of a joke (hopefully) is to make an audience laugh, the pinnacle of any horror scene (hopefully) is the invocation of fear. Some filmmakers understand the structural thematic genre links and aspire to craft cinematic fusions between the two, but the results aren’t always silver screen sublimity: for every Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein or Evil Dead 2 or Zombieland, a dozen cadavers like Idle Hands, My Boyfriend’s Back and Dark Shadows lie D.O.A. at the movie morgue. It’s a precarious tightrope to walk: too many comedic yucks dilute the yuckiness of the horror and vice versa, but brave souls continually endeavor to strike that perfected balance.

It’s with this striving heart that Clumsy Tiger Productions, RBG Films and Loaded Image Entertainment embark on Hawk and Rev: Vampire Slayers, the latest entry in the slapstick-splatter subgenre. Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one: grown-up schizoaffective security guard Philip ‘Hawk’ Hawkins (triple-threat writer-director-actor Ryan Barton-Grimley) camps out in a tent on his parents’ front yard, indulging in paranoid, cinema-inspired conspiracy theories both mundane (he admittedly reported a Russian invasion to authorities because he “…saw Red Dawn too many times”) and supernatural. His current, perhaps delusional, belief is that a trio of bloodthirsty vampires has infiltrated sleepy Santa Muerte, California, and in the quest to eliminate the perceived undead scourge Hawk recruits his friend Revson ‘Rev’ McCabe (Ari Schneider), an avowed vegan pacifist who practices Tai Chi on the beach and provides the perfect counterpunch to Barton-Grimley’s sophomoric, sarcastic slacker anarchism. Together they develop into a dysfunctional Dynamic Duo who eventually add an assortment of oddballs to their motley crew of misfit night-stalkers: attractive mystery novelist/religious supply store owner Theo (Jana Savage), who may or may not have slept with a vampire at some point in her adventurous amorous lifestyle, and one-eyed, hard-boiled ex-military nutcase Jasper, a self-described ‘lone-wolf vampire hunter’ who exhibits a Rambo-meets-Snake-Pliskin attitude and may not be entirely what he claims…

 There’s plenty for a fan of humor-tinted horror to admire in Hawk and Rev: the hilarity is unbridled and raunchy, scarlet-soaked and seeped in sardonic self-referentialism (everything from Fright Night to From Dusk ‘til Dawn to Pulp Fiction, Predator, The Karate Kid and even Network are alluded to at one point or other); at times it seems like The Lost Boys as produced by Adam Sandler, and such is the veneration for that ‘80’s Joel Schumacher-helmed Corey Feldman teenage fang-fest that the movie could very well be titled The Further Adventures of the Frog Brothers (right down to the Reagan-era synth score), though Barton-Grimley ensures his proceedings are superior to any of the miserable, middling Direct-To-DVD Lost Boy series sequels. The Odd Couple-style pairing of Hawk and Rev themselves as characters is ripe with full-auto machine gun banter, but the broadness of the comedy causes a loss of focus the farther along it goes until what begins as a witty exercise devolves into tired self-parody.

Ironically, the key to success for a film like this lies in how seriously it takes its monsters; the line between self-examining satire and outright spoof is thin (compare 1987’s Monster Squad to Leslie Neilson’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It and one will easily distinguish the disparity), and Hawk and Rev doesn’t quite pass the test. Unlike more prosperous unions of comedy-horror like Tucker and Dale Vs Evil and Shaun of the Dead, there’s too much zany, over-the-top silliness once the final villain and their motivations are revealed to be taken genuinely; instead, the ultimate result feels entirely like a hyper-active, crack-addled Saturday Night Live sketch drawn out to farcical feature length and left to decompose in a shallow grave with its collection of nostalgic in-jokes and one-liners. What remains on the skeleton, however, is an abundance of blood-spattered enthusiasm, enjoyable and energetic, that serves as both a love letter to the fun spirit such films possess and an antidote to the overwrought, grim-‘n-gothic representations of the undead so common in latter-day vampire movies.

While improbable to inspire repeat viewings, Hawk and Rev: Vampire Slayers offers a bounty of amusement that will more than satisfy anyone seeking guffaws with their gore, and it’s with that in mind that I give it an extremely respectable 3.5 (Out of 5) on my Fang Scale. “Mother F-ing vampires” indeed.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0