REVIEW: There’s No Such Thing as Vampires (FrightFest 2020)
With a title like There’s No Such Thing as Vampires, the concept of this film is an intriguing one. From the start, we see a man named Joshua (Josh Plasse) fleeing for his life, claiming he’s being chased by the undead. Naturally no one believes him, meaning he’s got himself into an impossible situation. He soon collides, quite literally, with a woman named Ariel (Emma Holzer) as she’s distracted by a phone call and ends up crashing into the back of a very panicked Joshua, who is shirtless and covered in blood. Not your everyday occurrence, that’s for sure. With his car unable to start, he frantically gets into the driver’s seat of Ariel’s car and demands that she joins him, otherwise they’ll both die. She reluctantly agrees, and this is where our story really begins. As the duo flee this mysterious creature in Ariel’s Chevrolet, you’d expect the film to take us on a thrilling journey on the highway filled with twists and turns and scares right? Wrong.
The main problem I had with There’s No Such Thing as Vampires is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Its tone is all over the place, there’s some moments that could be interpreted as amusing, yet they fall flat on their face. It doesn’t have the smoothness required to really blend horror and comedy, if that is indeed the angle it was trying to go for. The pacing is weird and seems to go from 0 – 100 and then grind to an abrupt halt for no reason. The characters are quite two-dimensional, there’s not really any incentive to root for or care about them, as callous as that might seem. I’m fine with irritating or ‘bad’ characters, but even then, a little backstory would be nice. Even just a tidbit to get a feel of what they’re like as people.
It also seems to shoehorn in references to classic horror films that are about as subtle as smacking someone with a sledgehammer. There’s no effort to properly reference or integrate them into the narrative, they’re just there for the sake of it. There’s even a painful discussion about John Carpenter’s Halloween, where one of Ariel’s friends reveals he doesn’t know anything about the film and proceeds to alienate Ariel’s other friend. Why we actually care about this interaction is anybody’s guess.
However, it’s not all bad. There’s No Such Thing as Vampires has a couple of redeeming features which is why I couldn’t rate it any lower. One big positive is that the soundtrack is very good, and it’s impressive that director Logan Thomas was heavily involved in it. The soundtrack really adds atmosphere to the film, which seems to compensate for a lack of depth in other areas. It especially works well later on in the film when the characters visit a police station, if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean. There are a couple of effective jumpscares as well, which even worked well even on my laptop so I can imagine it would be even better on a larger scale. The presence of the vampire is creepy and mysterious, with some surprisingly good special effects to accompany it.
In fact, when the truth about the vampire is revealed and we learn a little more about it (but not enough!), I was impressed with how well the role was acted. This was the stand-out performance for me, piquing my interest again in the third act. Overall There’s No Such Thing as Vampires is a good concept that’s poorly executed, and left me feeling disappointed as the credits rolled. There just wasn’t enough substance to keep me interested, and I couldn’t get past the ridiculous, unsubtle references to popular horror that were too jarring to take seriously. It also has quite an ambiguous and strange ending, almost like it trailed off and wasn’t entirely sure what was meant to happen next. I imagine this is the kind of film that will attract a very specific fan base, and unfortunately I’m not part of it. But if you’re a fan of low-budget, campy horrors that aren’t to be taken that seriously, you might have a fun time with this.