November 17, 2015 Vampire in Brooklyn Still Has Bite 20 Years Later
As 2015 draws to a close, Horror fans reflect on the tragic loss of Horror legend Wes Craven, but it also gives pause to reflect on his earlier films celebrating their own anniversaries. A master of Horror with a flair for Comedic elements, on Friday October 27, 1995, Craven directed Vampire in Brooklyn was released in theaters across the USA. The only Horror related film released the week of Halloween, Vampire in Brooklyn starred Comic legend Eddie Murphy, along with Angela Bassett (Boyz n the Hood 1991, Strange Days 1995), Allen Payne (New Jack City 1991, House of Payne 2006), Kadeem Hardison (A Different World series, White Men Can’t Jump 1992), John Witherspoon (Friday 1995, The Wayans Brothers series), Zakes Mokae (The Serpent and The Rainbow 1988, Waterworld 1995), and Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner 1982, Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988).
Murphy wrote the script along with Vernon Lynch and older brother Charles Q. Murphy. Eddie, as is his usual style, played not only the main character but another two minor characters. At the time, Murphy was under contract to Paramount Pictures which began with buddy cop film 48 Hrs in 1982, followed by the Beverly Hills Cop series, and of course the classic Coming to America in 1988. Interesting, Vampire in Brooklyn completed that contract, and twenty years later is considered a Horror Comedy Cult classic to many.
Set in modern times, Murphy stars as the main character Maximilian, a debonair Vampire. Maximilian arrives in Brooklyn, New York via ship in search of the daughter of a Dhampir Vampire from his home in the Caribbean. Once he finds her, he will be able to survive during the daytime as well as the night. Until such a time, he enlists the help of a loser named Julius (Hardison) by turning him into a ghoul. Julius continues to decay throughout the film, which leads to a number of comedic situations.
Maximilian’s quest is not an easy one. He discovers that the daughter he seeks is also a tough independent NYPD detective, Rita Veder, played by Angela Bassett. The head Vampire encounters his first challenge. Vedder recently lost her mentally ill mother, who coincidentally was also a paranormal investigator in the midst of investgating murders associated with Maximilian’s ship. After suffering from troubling visions, Rita suspects she is losing her mind, just like her mother. Rita’s complicated life forces Maximilian to consider more drastic tactics to draw her into his world. He initiates a series of events to ensure Rita falls in love with him. It is not long before Rita is completely enraptured by Maximilian and life as she knew it changes drastically. She must choose between her destiny, and what is right.
Due to the films graphic language and violence, it received an R rating, with other countries following suit. Upon its release during the Halloween season, it broke even at the box office. However, it received mostly negative reviews, and many considered it neither funny, nor scary. Murphy’s vocalizing the frustration surrounding his Paramount deal at the time of writing and filming of Vampire in Brooklyn may have played a large part in the film’s commercial success. Although, Craven’s skills as a director were never questioned. Another reason Vampire in Brooklyn may have not succeeded in terms of financial success could be because the film was so different than other films, and therefore viewed as difficult to sell. Over the course of twenty years along the uniqueness, Vampire in Brooklyn has achieved a cult status with fans worldwide, and several of the stars have continued success.
During the time of Vampire in Brooklyn’s production, Murphy mixed his personal style, which involved playing multiple characters and having African American action leads, with the kind of Horror films he enjoyed as a child. The result was having the Comedy and Horror work side by side without overlapping. This created quite a unique viewing experience, which in large plays a part in the films continued success with fans now. Additionally, Murphy was quite convincing as a Vampire, and at times frightening. Sadly, it is the only Horror related role of Murphy’s career, minus Disney’s 2003 Family flick The Haunted Mansion. With that said, two decades later, Vampire in Brooklyn has aged quite well and is a fun Comedy with just enough of a Horror bite for true fans of the genre to sink their fangs into.