Filmmaker Gerard Ciccoritti's febrile follow-up to his previous vampire tale, GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990), is a wildly recursive chiller set against a filmmaking backdrop--DAY FOR NIGHT (1973) with night creatures.
Rising actress Camilla Turner (Wendy Gazelle) portrays the heroine in an arty, low-budget horror production about a legendary pool hustler vampire. Camilla has visions of Baisez (Silvio Olivierio), a seductive, spectral vampire in search of a body to possess. To gain immortality, Camilla tricks
him into using hers. Sometimes Camilla is herself, sometimes she's physically transformed into Baisez, and the shooting schedule suffers accordingly with the leading lady's mysterious illnesses and absences.
After Camilla-Baisez kills off the actor who plays the vampire snooker champ, Baisez successfully auditions to play the part. Camilla's fiance, film editor Matthew (Mark Soper), figures out what's happening, and challenges Baisez to a winner-take-all billiards match on the soundstage, mirroring
one in the script. Baisez, no longer incarnated in Camilla, tries to kill Matthew, but the editor destroys the fiend with sunlight. Then Matthew slashes his own wrists, and forces vampire Camilla to conjoin with him just as she had done with Baisez. Taking the name of her screen character, Camilla
haunts city poolrooms by night.
The outright shocks in THE UNDERSTUDY, like a decapitation and assorted impalings, aren't very scary and almost seem beside the post-modern point, made by one character's soliloquy: "The vampire is the perfect movie star.... The shape changes, it lives forever in the dark, it feeds on us, and
vanishes in the light." Creepier than all the plastic fangs is how eagerly Camilla accepts vampirism as an embodiment of the immortality and power that cinema can only pretend to convey. Ciccoritti knows his lore, treats the dubious premise seriously, and pays tribute to Dreyer's 1932 classic,
VAMPYR (which Matthew complains has just been computer "colorized" for TV). Still, it's hard to swallow the film-within-a-film-that-becomes-reality premise, a vampiric version of THE HUSTLER (1961), with billiard balls resounding like gunfire thanks to the living dead's supernatural pool-cue
prowess. Olivierio is convincing as both sexual stud and ghoulish predator, and may or may not be the cab-driving urban blood drinker slain at the end of GRAVEYARD SHIFT. Either way, this quasi-sequel stands up on its own, although traditional horror-and-gore fans might find its self-referential
puzzles not their cup of tea. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1988
- Rating: R
- Review: Filmmaker Gerard Ciccoritti's febrile follow-up to his previous vampire tale, GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990), is a wildly recursive chiller set against a filmmaking backdrop--DAY FOR NIGHT (1973) with night creatures. Rising actress Camilla Turner (Wendy Gazelle)… (more)