Paramount // 1995 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 25th, 2002
A comic tale of horror and seduction.
The early '90s weren't a good time for superstar Eddie Murphy. Plagued by disastrous box office receipts (anyone see Harlem Nights? The Distinguished Gentleman?), Murphy was having a pretty hard time convincing audiences that he could still make the laugh. In 1995, someone made the head-scratching mistake of taking Eddie Murphy and horror director Wes Craven (A Nightmare On Elm Street, the Scream trilogy) and throwing them together for the comedic-horror disappointment Vampire In Brooklyn. Also starring Angela Bassett (The Score, What's Love Got To Do With It?) and Kadeem Hardison (TV's A Different World), Vampire In Brooklyn sinks its teeth on DVD care of Paramount.
As if Brooklyn doesn't have enough problems, now it has to contend with the last remaining vampire on the planet. Maximillian (Murphy), a suave, dashing Jamaican bloodsucker, has come to New York to search for his one true love who he desires to keep as his mate for all eternity. Recruiting a young street hustler named Julius to be his servant (ala Renfield from the original Dracula), Max sets up shop in a local apartment complex as he prowls the city. Setting his sights on Rita (Bassett), a tough as nails cop who's tracking a string or murders, Max must wine and dine Rita if she's to live among the undead with Max. Along the way heads will roll, blood will spurt, and Max will take a bite out of the only city more dangerous than himself!
Would you eat a saltine cracker smeared with bubblegum flavored toothpaste? How about an ice cream sundae topped with sardines and pesto? No? Well then why in the name of all that is holy would you want to watch a horror movie starring Eddie Murphy?!?
I guess at the time this seemed like a good idea. "Hey!" said one studio executive, "I think that we should do a vampire movie with Eddie! Let's get that Freddy Krueger guy to direct, and we'll also throw in that goofball from A Different World to lighten things up. While we're at it, let's have Eddie look like a cross between Wilt Chamberlain and Barry White! It'll be funny! No, it'll be scary! No, it'll be a romance! Wait...it'll be all those combined! We can't lose!"
My guess is that this studio exec no longer works at Paramount today. [Editor's Note: And you'd be correct -- not a single one of the six producers have made a movie at Paramount since. They all seem to have moved to Dimension.]
So what went wrong? Everything. Vampire In Brooklyn doesn't gel as a horror movie or as a comedy (though the latter is really what it leans towards) or as a romance. The sticking point in this film is the fact that Eddie Murphy just isn't a scary guy. Even with a set of protracted fangs and a devilish looking goatee, Murphy fails on every level to be truly terrifying, or even mildly menacing. His accent doesn't help either -- Murphy sounds EXACTLY like his character from the much funnier Coming To America. While I think Murphy can often come across as too cocky for his own good, I do think he's a talented performer who deserves better than this lead weight of a movie. Bassett and Hardison, the two supporting leads, also fail to do anything truly entertaining with their roles. Bassett looks slightly embarrassed to be in this dud, and Hardison tries like the dickens to grasp at every quip and joke he can find -- sadly, his 1995 humor feels a bit outdated in 2002. Hardison's character slowly decays as each scene progresses (watch his hand fall off! HA! Now his ear! HAHAHA! Now his EYEBALL! I'm busting a gut), but the make-up effects seem cheap and thrown together. In fact, another trap Vampire In Brooklyn falls into is that the effects just don't stack up to today's horror movies (or even yesterday's, for that matter). When Eddie Murphy's character starts to transform back into a human, the dissolve used for this scene looks like it was stolen from the original Lon Chaney, Jr. version of Universal's The Wolf Man. There isn't a single, solitary scene with director Wes Craven's stamp of originality on it -- this is easily one of the worst films in his canon (not counting the hideous sequel The Hills Have Eyes Part 2). The screenplay by Charles Murphy, Michael Licker, and Chris Parker never fully exploits Max's dark side, nor does it ever really terrify. By the end of the movie, I felt like there was a whole other act that I had missed during the feature.
Vampire In Brooklyn is an intriguing movie in as much as it's probably the only time we'll ever see Eddie Murphy playing a vampire. This isn't to say that the man shouldn't branch out and try something new -- let's just stick to something a little less...well, different, shall we, Mr. Murphy? (Wes, this goes for you too!)
Vampire In Brooklyn is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the movie may suck like Bela Lugosi, the transfer for Vampire In Brooklyn is exceptionally tight -- the colors are bold and solid, the flesh tones natural, and the black levels even and dark. I only spotted a few instances of grain and dirt in the picture, and nary a hint of edge enhancement or digital artifacting. This is a pretty nice looking picture from Paramount.
Audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This new remix sounds good, though ultimately it's not all that impressive. Surround usage was mostly utilized for ambiance and background noise. There are a few instances where the rear speakers are engaged, but this is a slightly subdued track. All aspects of the dialogue, effects, and music are free of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Surround track in English, a Dolby Stereo track in French, and English subtitles.
I'm sure this will come as a complete shock -- Vampire In Brooklyn's only extra feature is a theatrical trailer for the film presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Both Wes Craven and Eddie Murphy were scraping the bottom of the barrel when they made this stinker. While Paramount's transfer looks good, it still can't cover up the fact that this movie should be buried somewhere in a desolate part of Transylvania where no one can ever find it.
Vampire In Brooklyn is found guilty of featuring schlocky scenes of horror and many moments of unfunny comedy.
[Editor's Note: After Patrick submitted this review but prior to its posting, we learned that there is a flaw with the audio that Patrick did not notice -- the center and left rear channels were somehow swapped during mastering of the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Paramount is aware of the problem and it will be fixed in future pressings, but if (and maybe that's a big if) you were planning on purchasing it, you should wait for the corrected version).]
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer