It’s hard to pass up a new vampire movie—especially one that looks a little more grounded than some of the supernatural action flicks we’ve been getting lately. Sure, it’s a comedy and the main character is a Yiddish bloodsucker who still looks like he wasn’t really cool until the 50s and 60s, but I’m digging the road trip idea. Blood relatives is another one of those movies that almost went under my radar, but the trailer convinced me to review it. This one was advertised correctly, but it still didn’t give me exactly what I expected.
This is a project that seems very personal to Noah Segan (Knives out), who is the writer, director and lead actor in the film. He plays Francis, a guy who really likes his car and travels around the country, laying low and doing his vampire thing. He may be enjoying the low life, but it doesn’t look like a glamorous or joyful existence. True, this story is about him not wanting to accept that he is a father, when Jane, played by Victoria Moroles (Teen Wolf, Liv and Maddie), show up. It turns out that her mother is dead and she wants to find her father. There’s little reason for an argument or need for a paternity test since she has fangs and can walk out into the sunlight, making it clear she’s half-vampire. She’s only 15, so I wonder how vampires in this world can have children, but it’s not meant to be, and we shouldn’t think too much about it.
For those who love vampire lore and understand various interpretations of these nocturnal creatures, there is unfortunately not much new here. It’s kept simple, and a lot of the old folklore is used, like the hassle of having to be invited in and how Francis always makes sure. It’s funny – almost quaint – but also obvious. Keen observers will note names like Dr. Seward and Quincey Morris appear as the film pays tribute Dracula. The vampires here have some limited basic mental powers, but it’s all purposefully left rather vague. There’s also a hint of a werewolf character that’s more for laughs and doesn’t go anywhere, just for a little extra fun.
Blood relatives has a few rough moments as it touches on themes of despicable people, loss and unwanted responsibility, but this is far from a monster movie. Even the bloodier scenes don’t quite feel like horror, just physical comedy. The grossest is the two stars sharing a meal of raw meat straight out of styrofoam. Most of the humor is upfront, but it’s often subtle and dry as the little moments of absurdity highlight having a vamp deal with these very real things. That said, there is a gag gag that feels completely out of place, but the surprise makes it work.
Many of the scenes are downright charming and much of that is attributed to the two main actors. Segan’s Francis feels so out of time, out of place and like he’s probably the little one of his own brood, while Moroles is incredibly expressive and likable – even when she lets her vampiric nature consume her. The film is incredibly human in a way, even though the two main characters are supernatural. There were several moments where it was easy to forget they were vampires as you simply see an unwilling father and a lost little girl. The theme of being a single parent is obvious, but the script approaches it in several different ways, some unexpected. I was surprised when Francis actually made the changes to be a typical single parent (apparently vampires can get a beer gut) and even went to a therapy group for single parents.
The script may be one of the sticking points for some viewers. There’s the road trip angle and some really good scenes, but it’s all about pushing the budding relationship between the two relatives. Although there is no major conflict or conclusion, we see their adventure continue. I kept expecting there to be consequences for her actions, or for someone to realize what he was and cause trouble for the couple, but the climax feels as ordinary as any other scene. It’s simply over when the film feels like we’re about to reach the peak of its potential.
Viewers don’t necessarily need bigger things or an epic battle at the end, but just more generally. I think most viewers would have liked to have had more time with these characters and know more about the world they live in. What we have is entertaining and thought provoking, but it never feels like it quite captures the audience. Blood relatives won’t be for everyone, but for those who give it a chance, it’s a film that could be instantly endearing. I personally think some people will get more out of it with repeat viewings, but no one can say it overstays its welcome – it’s just a nice quick bite before it hits the road.
Like ComingSoon’s audit policy explains, a score of 7 corresponds to “Good”. A successful piece of entertainment worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.