Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead combines Shakespeare’s Hamlet with vampires in Manhattan. This comedy has some clever touches that make it mildly diverting, but it loses steam as characters lose their blood to the undead. The catchy title and offbeat blend of subjects could draw audience attention and help DVD sales.
Julian (Jake Hoffman, Arrested Development and Dustin’s son) is unemployed and unmotivated. His nightly female conquests are disappointed to discover that they leave his bedroom through his doctor father’s waiting room. Julian still carries a torch and runs errands for his ex-girlfriend Anna (Devon Aoki, Sin City) who is involved with a mobster (Ralph Macchio, The Karate Kid).
Julian’s father (Broadway veteran Chip Zien) arranges for his son to interview for a job directing Hamlet. The production’s coming together in an off-Broadway theater and it’s a strange adaptation written by a very pale Romanian, Theo Horace (John Ventimiglia, The Sopranos). Theo is a vampire who has recently bitten into an auditioning dancer. Ventimiglia is convincing as an otherworldly figure. Theo has two sexy female companions who describe themselves as his “slaves.”
Unaware of Theo’s identity and desperate for employment, Julian takes the job and arranges for Anna to play Ophelia and for his best friend, Vince (Kris Lemche), to be Hamlet. Vince is warned by a street woman (Geneva Carr) that he’s in danger. She reappears in different disguises and is a member of a secret society that reportedly knows the truth about Theo. She provides a DVD of Theo’s history featuring an animation to demonstrate how he’s turned the actors in his stage productions into vampires. Theo hopes to lure the real Hamlet who has used the Holy Grail to cure himself of vampirism. Hamlet has used the Grail to undo Theo’s legacy and turn his victims back into humans.
The most amusing parts of the film are the rehearsals of Theo’s small-budget version of Hamlet. These scenes mix high-brow references and twists on Shakespeare’s classic plot with low comedy. Hired from the internet, the actors playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a mismatched pair providing some enjoyable on-stage banter. Carlo (Carlos Velazquez) is dim-witted while Mickey (Mike Landry) is classically trained. Various on-stage characters wear the white make-up of vampires. Eventually some of the actors become the “real” thing. A clueless policeman (Jeremy Sisto, Law and Order) investigates the casualties.
Director/screenwriter Jordan Galland played Rosencrantz in a high school production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In his feature debut, Galland moves his good cast at a lively pace. As everything is played for laughs, the film lacks tension. The lighthearted score by Sean Lennon (son of John and Yoko) helps set the mood of the film. The storyline becomes repetitious as Theo and his associates keep turning more of the cast into vampires. The opening performance of the stage production leads to a lackluster confrontation between Theo and the real Hamlet (Joey Kern) who turns out to be an air-head.
Distributor: Indican Pictures
Cast: Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, John Ventimiglia, Ralph Macchio, Kris Lemche and Jeremy Sisto
Director/Screenwriter: Jordan Galland
Producers: Jordan Galland, Mike Landry, Russell Terlecki, and Carlos Velazquez
Running time: 82 min.
Release date: June 4 ltd.